A few days ago I wrote a lengthy post debunking the cherished theory on Twitter that the GOP leadership kowtows to Trump because Trump holds blackmail material on them.
I received a few follow-up questions and comments.
(Note: Some of this will be familiar to long time readers, and I apologize for the repetition).
Cheryl said this:
Yes, of course Trump is compromised. He is compromised by decades of entanglement with the Russians. He is compromised because he took Russian money.
In fact, in 2018 when “collusion” was the word on everyone lips, I argued that “collusion” was completely inadequate to describe the Trump’s connection with the Russians. It was much deeper than mere “collusion” or even “conspiracy.”
Trump is compromised because he and the Russians have committed crimes together. This is really a chicken-and-egg argument. Which causes what? People have the idea that Trump does Putin’s bidding because he is terrified that Putin will expose him.
A few days ago, I argued at length that Russia has been beckoning America’s far right wing for decades, presenting Russia as the savior of the [white] Christian race. They infiltrated right wing organizations.
A subscriber to my blog asked this:
The GOP doesn’t think they are dismantling the Republic. They think they are making America great again. They think they’re taking us back to the time America was great.
True democracy didn’t come to America until after the 1950s, the women’s rights, and Civil Rights movement. We’ve always had robust democratic institutions, but they (mostly) protected white men.
A portion of the GOP has been trying to dismantle the New Deal since it was passed. They argue it was an unconstitutional infringement on their personal liberty. The argument against Brown v. Board (the 1954 case that declared segregation in schools illegal) is the same.
Even Justice Rehnquist, as a law clerk, argued that Brown v Board was wrongly decided. He didn’t think the federal government had the right to outlaw segregation. We’re still riding the backlash from Brown v. Board of Education.
A lot of people don’t like what America became after the 1950s. They want to take us back. They think they are saving the Republic from the errors of liberal ways. They think that America careened off the rails in the 1950s and the 1960s. They think they are restoring America to goodness and purity.
This is when Russia entered, offering something to everyone. To the people who resented Brown v. Board, they offered the promise of white supremacy.
To people like Trump who wanted the trappings of wealth, they offered that. Notice, though, that Trump has only the trappings of wealth. His “empire” is heavily leverage and mortgage. He floats on debt. There’s no real value propping it up.
Back to the chicken v. egg. People who subscribe to”the GOP kisses Putin’s ring because they are compromised” theory imagine a scenario like this:
- GOP Leader did something he shouldn’t have done.
- He wrote about it in an email.
- The Russians hacked his email.
- GOP leader is terrified his crimes will be revealed so he does Russia’s bidding.
Nope, here’s why.
Anyone who watched the impeachment trial must understand that the GOP isn’t afraid their “crimes” will be revealed. Their crimes are revealed every day. No one in the Fox-GOP bubble cares.
We just had GOP Senators dump stock after classified briefing that we were about to hit a crisis. They dumped the stock while reassuring the public that nothing was amiss. The Fox-GOP did not care. Their voters did not care. They are not afraid crimes will be revealed.
When you are backed up by a propaganda network and the president is a cult leader whose very word is the “truth” to his followers, you don’t care about facts. The truth doesn’t faze them. Fear of blackmail assumes that they are afraid of the truth.
The truth has no meaning (and presents no obstacle) in the Trump-FOX-GOP. Liberals accuse Trump of projection. The idea that the GOP leadership is kowtowing to Putin because they are afraid is projection. It’s the only way a liberal can imagine anyone bowing to Putin.
Trump is entangled with Russia because he wants the US to be like Russia. He and his cronies want to BE Russian style oligarchs.
Yup. The idea that the GOP does what they do because they are blackmailed is a bit of wishful thinking. It’s much worse.
The best answer to this question comes from Richard Hofstadter’s classic work. “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”
Hofstadter conducted a review of American politics from before the founding of the nation through McCarthyism and noticed a pattern among a small impassioned minority on the fringes of the political spectrum.
He called their behavior the “paranoid style” in politics. The paranoid style afflicts radical movements on the left as well as the right, but because Hofstadter wrote just after the McCarthy era (and early 20th century fascism) he focused more on the right wing.
Those embracing the paranoid style of politics believe that unseen satanic forces are trying to destroy something larger in which they belong. The “something larger” to which they belong is generally phrased as “the American way of life.”
They “feel dispossessed” and that “America has been largely taken away from them and their kind.” They are “determined to repossess it and prevent the final act of subversion.” They therefore adopt extreme measures.
They will stop at nothing to prevent what they see as an impending calamity.
Hofstadter wrote all of that in 1964.
If you think nothing like this has ever happened, you don’t know what to do. Look at it this way: Liberals (in the classic sense) view our history differently from the Fox-TRUMP-GOP.
The liberal view goes like this: America started out with some great ideas, but “we the people” was limited to white, mostly landowning and educated men. As “we the people” has expanded to include more groups (women, minorities, etc) we are approaching our founding ideals.
Liberals see the slope of American history like this.
The Fox-GOP sees American history in the complete opposite way. Their view: In the beginning there was almost no federal government. Privileged white men had almost complete personal liberty.
The Fox-GOP view is like this.
To achieve equality, we needed a strong federal government, agencies, and regulations. We needed to stop all that cheating and grabbing. (I’ve explained in detail elsewhere.)
These two views have been in conflict since the founding of the nation.
The battle has to be fought in each generation, because the reactionaries are not going away.
We push forward. They push back. The graph looks like this:
It never ends, unless we all give up, at which point we slide into autocracy
Originally posted on Musing about Law, Books, and Politics.
Re-posted with permission.
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