TYRANNY V. GOOD GOVERNMENT

9 mins read
United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. Aerial. The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the Federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall.

The GOP believes that it is

  • tyranny when a government takes steps to save lives, and
  • good government when the wealthy get tax breaks.

That’s because the GOP is the party of hierarchy. They don’t believe fairness and equality are possible.

Hierarchy people think there’s a natural order. Some people belong on top. Others belong at the bottom. For them, the purpose of government is to allocate power. When they are in power, they try to grab more. They cynically assume everyone sees government this way.

Fairness folks believe equality is possible, so for them, the purpose of government is to create fairness, to give everyone equal opportunity, and to prevent cheating.

Yup, for decades, the GOP has done a good job masking its ideology. They cloaked it in pretty word and dressed it in lies. They knew without the lies, they’d never cobble together a majority.

That’s why they’ve spent decades building a propaganda network. Without the propaganda (if history and political psychology is our guide) they’d have about 33% of the population. That’s the number that seem to naturally gravitate toward right wing nationalist parties.

Hierarchical people see democratic government as giving handouts to those who don’t deserve it and hampering people who can get things done. When hierarchical presidents go to work, they think about how to maintain the hierarchy—with them at the top.

When democratic presidents go to work, they try to figure out how to make life better for people, like setting up panels to deal with pandemics and finding ways to make health care available for all Americans.

This person quibbled with my use of the word “hierarchy” You can see my response.

I tried to explain that government is not just about allocating power. It’s about creating fairness. He responded with a comment so cynical that it made me shudder:

(I removed identifying information from his tweet, which seems fair if I’m criticizing him and he can’t respond.)

Notice that he doesn’t believe there are any historical examples of “fairness” governments.

Hierarchy people know that any political actions they take have one goal: To increase their own power and beat back anyone trying to encroach their power. Because they don’t believe in fairness or equality, they think all people see government as a way to power.

That’s why they always think they are victims. They believe everyone else is trying to displace them in the hierarchy. They feel victimized by people demanding equality, because they don’t believe in equality so they think people want to displace them.

I’ve talked about the differences as authoritarian v. non authoritarian. Now I find that the hierarchy v. democracy-equality paradigm explains more and better fits the facts. (is “paradigm” the right word?)

For example, seeing the distinction as hierarchy v. equality explains the GOP obsession with abortion, which comes down to a woman’s “place” in nature.

The hierarchy-power v. equality-fairness distinction comes from the study of fascism. According to experts in fascism like Prof. Jason Stanley, fascism isn’t an ideology, it’s a set of tactics for maintaining power. Fascism assumes a hierarchy.

Mussolini said, “Democracy is beautiful in theory. In practice it’s a fallacy.” When you don’t believe democracy is possible, government is all about power and who can grab it.

I’m trying to get to something else: The ideology behind the grab for power.

Oh, look. Someone came along and proved my point about cynicism and hierarchy:

If I say, “FDR was a fairness president,” a hierarchical person will say, “Whatabout the Japanese internment camps?” Whataboutism is used by hierarchy people to prove fairness doesn’t exist.

Fairness is an ideal that we work toward. There’s never been complete fairness partly because there are always such strong forces working against fairness.

Fairness people are stunned that anyone would compare a government order in a pandemic to close businesses to a Nazi death camp.

The GOP offers a false dilemma: Either we all go back to work or the economy collapses and people starve.

There’s a third option of course: The government reallocates resources and uses the vast resources of the US to make sure nobody is hungry and everyone can get through this pandemic. But the Trump-GOP won’t do this. They won’t even take steps to get testing.

Part of the reason is because government action to help people goes against their ideology. The best historical comparison that I can think of is President Hoover, who, during the Great Depression, thought the government should do nothing. So he did nothing.

A lot of people died. Hoover lost the next election in a landslide and we got Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a fairness president (who I know a little bit about).

FDR gave us social security, minimum wage, a 40 hour work week, protection for workers, and the GI bill.

Yes, it’s frustrating to be living through a pandemic with a president who is 10 times worse than Hoover. One thing we learn from FDR is that winning elections by large margins allows us to make rapid changes. That’s why we all have to focus on November.

Yes, exactly. Fairness people—watching the GOP try to reopen before providing protection—are tearing their hair with anger and frustration: How can they be so cruel? Can’t they see the vulnerable will suffer? Hierarchy people, on the other hand think nature will take its course, or it will be “God’s will,” or “of course people with more resources can make it through this more easily.” Or “Pence doesn’t have to worry. Meat packers do. That’s life.”

Good question. The answer is “both.”

All through US history, fairness people opposed the hierarchy people. If we’d had all fairness people writing the Constitution, there would have been no slavery. Hamilton said without that compromise, there would have been no union. Jim Crow was hierarchical.

Thanks, Dave.

After I posted this Twitter thread, I found this very interesting thread which provides another way of seeing the hierarchy v. fairness paradigm. The view from the far right wing is essentially this: The “weak pulled the short straw and should carry their burden with dignity.” Click to read the thread on Twitter:

It’s another way of explaining why the Trump-FOX-GOP is cool with the vulnerable dying.

If what you need after reading all of this is some humor, here you go. Click here and enjoy:

Reposted from https://terikanefield-blog.com/tyranny-v-good-government/ with permission


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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