Coping With the Slander Virus: Verbal and Legislative Assaults in the GOP Grasp for Power Without Responsibility, 1980-2023
By Charlie Barber, The LAST WORD, Filed to the High Plains Reader, Fargo, ND, March 4, 2023
“The 1980s were the triumph of upper America…Despite the armies of homeless sleeping on grates, political leaders—even those who professed to care about the homeless—had little to say about the Republican party’s historical role, which has been not simply to revitalize U.S. capitalism but to tilt power, policy, wealth and income toward the richest portions of the population.”
– Kevin Phillips, The Politics of Rich and Poor…in the Reagan Aftermath, 1991
“Our House (Earth) is Still on Fire.”
– Greta Thunberg, No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, 2021
“God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
– Aeschylus, 525/524-456 B.C.
“…although the devil be the father of lies, he seems, like other great inventors, to have lost much of his reputation, by the continual improvements that have been made upon him.”
– Jonathan Swift, “The Art of Political Lying.” 1710
“The distinction that really matters is not between violence and non-violence, but between having and not having the appetite for power.”
– George Orwell, “Lear Tolstoy, and the Fool,” 1946
“President Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Presidents’ Day was an important moment in American foreign policy, and also an equally important moment in public relations for the Democratic Party. It showed America’s support for a free and independent Ukraine, but not from an imperialistic position. Republicans haven’t had a coherent foreign policy platform besides U.S. imperialism, and now find themselves pulled in various directions as potential conservative presidential candidates try to figure out what exactly they want to pretend to believe in.”
– Mark Sumner, “Slava Ukraini! Daily Kos has always been a war blog,” Daily Kos, 02/24/23
“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d, As home his footsteps he hath turn’d,
From wandering on a foreign strand!”
– Sir Walter Scott, “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” 1805
– Brad Paisley/Volodymyr Zelensky, February 24, 2023
“Railroads like the one involved in last month’s fiery crash and toxic chemical release in Ohio would be subject to a series of new federal safety regulations under bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday by the state’s two U.S. senators (Sherrod Brown – D; JD Vance – R). But even before Congress acts, (federal) regulators plan to step up inspections of the tracks that carry the most hazardous materials.”
– AP/Bismarck Tribune, 03/02/23
“Wonder Woman is no ordinary comic-book superhero…Superman owes a debt to science fiction, Batman to the hard-boiled detective…Wonder Woman isn’t only an Amazonian princess with badass boots. She’s the missing link in a chain of events that begins with the woman suffrage campaigns of the 1910s and ends with the troubled place of feminism fully a century later.”
– Jill Lepore, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, 2014
Bullies prefer soft targets. It is the hallmark of their moral cowardice. Violent bullies tend to be men of varying ages when it involves mass shootings at schools, churches, college campuses, and social gatherings, or individual assaults in homes, hospitals and locker rooms. Legislative bullies, like those in the North Dakota House and Senate, also prefer soft targets like transgender folk, books, and teachers they would like to “burn.” These bullies come in female form as well.
From North Dakota to Texas; South Dakota to Florida, legislative and gubernatorial assaults on personal privacy, individual bodily and intellectual integrity and freedom of inquiry, are attempts to solve non-existent problems, hatched by narrow minds. Broader issues of realistically facing up to climate change, and the larger evils of savage capitalism and organized bigotry remain unaddressed. These patently pathetic and sometimes lethal decrees are triumphs of ignorance, arrogance and fear; over tolerance, King Lear’s, “None Doth Offend,” and Christ’s “Beatitudes.”
Americans need to “grow up” and stop heeding “Chicken Littles” like FOX’s Tucker Carlson and the entire MAGA GOP. Our children and grandchildren in school, or who frequent local gymnasiums and watering holes, are not in danger of catching a “Transgender, or LGBTQ Virus” “Grooming” is for horses, hairstyles, and regular bathing; not young people whose physiological makeup is determined from birth. Kudos to North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum for behaving like an adult in vetoing some of this toxic, Police-State-intrusive, legislation in the past. His is a thankless task; with Legislators who prefer doctors who prescribe Ivermectin over those who prescribe Covid vaccines, and fear any idea or person who might challenge them to “think.”
In Red States, alas, Governor Burgum’s occasional courage is the exception rather than the rule. Verbal assaults on science and sanity, and the utility of the public interest, have been norm in the GOP rather than the exception since the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as President in 1981. I asked my animal friends to explain to me why he took down his predecessor Jimmy Carter’s solar panels from the White House roof, and declared war on the efficacy of government.
High Plains Reader: Dear Friends. When I was 10 years old in 1948, I thought that “Eleanor” was FDR’s First Lady’s third name. My big little ears picked up my conservative GOP father’s reactionary GOP friend describing her as “That Goddamned Eleanor Roosevelt.” My father’s friend was always nice to me, but his vehement hatred for FDR’s widow seemed strange.
Putin: Perhaps you were too young to understand political verbal bullying and slander, but I’m sure you knew about such evils on the playground.
HPR: Oh yes! And in my home as well. I became adept at passive aggression in defense of what I wanted to make of myself, as opposed to what my parents wanted me to be. But I made sure that they could brag to their friends about my sterling character, while secretly gnashing their teeth at my non-conformity. As an adult I switched to candor, and faced the music when it pissed off people technically more powerful than I. Passive aggression’s price was too high.
Lena: Such early signs of political jiu jitsu were like typical teenaged behavior, I suppose; but mental agility has required a spine to go with it to stand up to likes of GOP verbal bullies since President Ronald Reagan’s assault on government itself. The “Great Communicator” lied about Government’s mandate to “promote the general welfare;” to aid his private sector sponsors and cronies in raiding the public treasury for their own benefit: “Privatize, privatize, let no source of public good evade your eyes” (apologies to Tom Lehrer’s The Great Lobachevsky).
HPR: Indeed. House Speaker Kevin “Custer” McCarthy’s (R-CA) “Last Stand” of White supremacy may not be the last such effort, but it is definitely the most pathetic. Abetted and jerked around by fake male and female “freedom fighters;” McCarthy is peddling unconvincing conflations of independence with sadistic narcissism that have passed for American Conservatism since it devolved from the Heritage Foundation, Reagan (Pat Buchannan/David Stockman) through Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney to Donald Trump.
Brenda Bison: For one thing, Democrats are no longer soft targets, especially their women. State Senator, Machaela Cavanaugh (D-Omaha), is single handedly holding all legislation in Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature hostage to her filibuster in defense of transgender youth against sick and punitive Legislation aimed at them by MAGA GOP legislators there.
Rasputin: Vladimir Putin’s 21st Century “Commissars,” who have avoided falling out of high buildings, could also tell you that Ukrainians are no longer soft targets, if they ever were. Would-be “Czar Vlad’s” genocidal “Last Stand” of Tsarist/Soviet Imperialism, like Kevin McCarthy’s pale imitation, also may not be the last such effort, but, in a military sense, it is quite pathetic.
Agatha Alligator: American democracy was a much softer target for Vlad Putin in 2016 than Ukrainian democracy proved to be in 2022. President Joe Biden recognized a kindred spirit in Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky instantly, and brought his own experience, political skills and tempered steel spine to the task of making American traditional values and institutions (our “Better Angels”) harder targets for bullies: first out of his fellow Democrats, then Congress, and then of the European Union; all in the teeth of unremitting lies, deceptions, and cowardice – magnified by the speed and proliferation of 21st Century media and the ill will of oligarchs.
HPR: It’s exciting, but daunting, and fraught with way too much unnecessary tragedy: The U.S. is seeing its “Democracy on offense” since 2018, filled with the power of women; building momentum in 2020 despite Covid-19, and in reaction to the murder of George Floyd, the lynching straw that fractured the camel’s back of white supremacist violence. Crucial CEOs have stepped up to join women and minorities in combatting dark moneyed Clerical Fascism in the Courts, violent rhetoric of rightwing media moguls and their mouthpieces, a money bags NRA, and an enabling GOP. The war in Ukraine is both a mirror and a catalyst for the fights for freedom, in the U.S., EU Europe, within Russia and China themselves, and in Israel, Turkey, Kurdistan and Iran in the Middle East. However, the buck for freedom’s price stops in the U.S.; at the Oval Office of Joe Biden, and on Capitol Hill. The price is high, but it always has been.
Irena Raccoon: Although Russia’s long term economic future is bleak, the old order of “divine right of money bags” remains. A local Ukrainian source (KyivGuy) reports that “at least 1200 international corporations still operate in Russia maintaining production facilities or distribution/ service chains, employing thousands of Russians, complying with Russian conscription activities and paying taxes to (the) Russian government. They include about 100 U.S. corporations (Daily Kos, 02/25/23).”
HPR: “Business as usual” overrides concern for bystanders impacted by mayhem created by careless billionaires (Elon Musk), megalomaniacs (Vladimir Putin) and other wealthy sadists (Rupert Murdoch). Corporate greed in Russia doesn’t sound much different from behavior of Norfolk Southern, FOX “News” or the GOP towards the train wreck in East Palestine, OH. With a Trump GOP Senator like JD Vance, and a Progressive Democratic Senator like Sherrod Brown agreeing that “regulation,” like “infrastructure” is not a dirty word, perhaps there’s hope that ordinary citizens will benefit from “bi-partisanship” not being considered a dirty word.
Mr. Crying Wolf: Perhaps, but not if demagogues like Florida’s GOP Governor Ron DeSantis can help it. He’s doing his best to label and libel “tolerance,” “history,” and “Democrat” as dirty words, and to throw the ill-defined word “woke” around like Joe McCarthy threw “Communist.”
Jim Crow XV: A typical bully, DeSantis terrorizes soft targets like New College; dictating their curriculum, and threatening academic tenure through white supremacist board members.
Becky Badger: DeSantis’s Presidential dreams may take a hit, however, if harder educational targets in Florida, like the Universities of Florida, Miami, and Florida State see their most distinguished professors fleeing the state; and even worse: student athletes, in disgust, hitting the transfer portal to play for Coach “Prime” (Deion Sanders) in Colorado, or in the Big Ten, Big East, Pac 10, or ACC. Their loyal alumni, some of them millionaires, will not be amused.
Mr. Swamp Fox: Also, if the man who would be Mussolini thought that Mickey Mouse was a soft target, he is badly mistaken. Corporations routinely threaten to leave a State for a lot less than what DeSantis has done to the Walt Disney brand, as well as its tax status. I have already heard Mickey and Minnie Mouse rehearsing new duets: “Georgia on My Mind,” and “Nothin’ Could Be Finah than to be in (N.) Carolina.”
Ms. Recovering Republican Lap Dog: DeSantis and the post-Trump GOP MAGA crowd, like Trump himself, are the end products of the nihilism that took over the Republican Party in the “Greed is Good” era of Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes. In playing false with traditional Conservatism to pack the judicial system with reactionary judges, Mitch McConnell bears as much responsibility for contemporary assaults on democracy, science and common sense as Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and their enablers, but he will not, of course, accept that responsibility. Establishment media will let Mitch off the hook, since he now fights for his political life against the monstrosity he helped create; and grudgingly supports an increasingly popular President Biden and his Democratic coalition, albeit quietly and subtly.
Prudence Possum: Elitists on the New York Times editorial board may wish to give Mitch a pass on his iniquities, but one of his disillusioned staffers will not, it seems. One of them penned a short, poetic memo to describe how badly Mitch’s master plan to take the country back to before the New Deal, when Dixiecrats and Wall Street were in control, has gone awry. One of our swamp friends found it stuck in a corner of one of the secret Senate passages that are no longer secret:
Moscow Mitch is Having a Twitch……………………………….Headless Horseman
If hurling insults always worked, I guess
The GOP would never lose its pow’r;
But now I fear that in this very hour,
Our lies enlarge our sick and sorry mess.
I packed the Court with right wing eejits, who
I hoped would turn the clock back just a tad
So rich and fancy folks could hold their wad
Against Equality, both old and new.
Instead, I have a “Fascist Five” today
That courts such yahoos; I can scarce believe
Could find a Senate bathroom with a map!
A second term for Biden’s now in play.
And if that screws the GOP; I’ll grieve
In public; but not really give a crap.