Smashing the Patriarchy

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10 mins read

The Democratic convention just ended. Without a doubt, it was the best convention of my lifetime. The Democrats rocked it. Tomorrow, I’ll write more about the convention.

First, the news from this morning. Another member of Trump’s 2016 campaign was indicted and arrested. The indictment is here.

Steve Bannon (former Trump advisor), Brian Kolfage, and two others were charged with a fraud scheme: They lied to get money from Trump supporters to “Build the Wall” Yup, the wall Mexico was supposed to pay for. The wall that’s supposed to protect us from those scary invaders at the border (sarcasm).

The fraudsters told donors that Kolfage would “not take a penny in salary or compensation.” In fact, Kolfage took 350K for personal use, including 20K monthly salary. He used it for things like a golf cart, jewelry, and payments toward a boat (cue boater jokes). Steve Bannon pocketed a cool $1,000,000:

(I had to make sure I got all those zeroes in there)

Being fraudsters, they took steps to hide what they were doing. Kolfage took 20K per month salary, which he concealed by passing the funds indirectly through non-profit shell companies with sham invoices. In Oct. 2019, the defendants learned from a financial institution that they might be under criminal investigation, so they took additional steps to conceal the scheme, using messaging applications on their phones and removing false promises from their website.

What makes this indictment so damning is that many of the people they are cheating are ordinary workers who really couldn’t afford to give money. But they were true believers. They were easy marks. You can’t spin that as political. They scared people, then cheated them.

Like Kamala Harris, I know a predator when I see one. 

And here you have Don, Jr. giving a speech endorsing the fundraising scheme:

The president himself reportedly also gave the fundraising project his blessing. (I suspect Kris Kobach may find himself in a bit of trouble soon as well.)

I could fill a book with all the GOP lawbreaking during the past four years alone. Heck, I could fill a book on the crimes of Trump’s 2016 campaign officials. 

You’re probably wondering what all of this about GOP lawbreaking has to do with smashing the patriarchy. I’ll explain. All that GOP lawbreaking makes sense from the viewpoint of reactionist politics: They want to go back to the 1920s (or earlier) when there were almost no restrictions on white men.

The word “Again” in “Make America Great Again” signals reactionism.

Political psychologists Capelos and Katsanidou define reactionism as “a forceful desire to return to the past.” Reactionaries pine for the good old days when white men had almost unlimited personal freedom.

You see, laws guaranteeing women and members of minority communities rights equal to white men are fairly recent. 

For most of our history, we had slavery, Jim Crow, and women as chattel. Women or members of minority communities who succeeded did so rarely and against great obstacles.

White men could basically grab whatever they wanted.

  • When the frontier was open, they could grab land.
  • Before modern rape and sexual harassment laws, they could grab women. (For more on rape as a property crime and a history of rape laws, see this post.)
  • Before the New Deal and regulatory agencies, they could cheat, manipulate markets, and fix prices. 

Those Were the Days” (Remember Archie and Edith singing this song? Basically, Archie is now president of the United States).

When the frontier was open, white men who didn’t want to follow the rules had a place to go. 

Take, for example, Donald Trump’s grandfather. You know how the Trumps got rich, right? 

Sources:

DJT’s grandfather (an immigrant from Germany) went West and learned that “mining the miners” was more lucrative than mining for gold. He ran taverns and brothels and returned east with enough money to buy choice property in Queens.

He had a premonition that Queens (then rural and sparsely populated) would see a building boom, but he died before he could build a real estate empire.

Fred Trump, DJT’s father, made a large fortune when he figured out how to cheat.Returning WWII soldiers were eligible for home loans under the new GI bill. There was thus a need for single family homes. The FHA offered building loans. The FHA allowed builders to recoup part of their expenses, so Fred set up shell equipment companies.

He rented himself equipment at inflated prices and billed the government for tacked on expenses that never occurred. When he submitted costs, he added a 5% architect’s fee even though there was no architect.

He submitted falsely high estimates, did the work for millions less, and pocketed the difference. When he was hauled before the Senate probe into public corruption, he escaped punishment because there were no specific laws against what he did (now there are).

He partnered with ‘Willie” Tomasello, who in turn partnered with some of NY’s most powerful crime families, the Genovese and Gambino families. Through his mob connections, Fred secured masonry and other supplies at bargain prices. He paid laborers below minimum wage.

His son, DJT, laundered money for Russian mobsters. (For more on that, see this post.) Then he cheated on his taxes.

You see, the Trump’s and men like him never actually added value. They took advantage of people and situations. They cheated.

They grabbed. 

Then they strutted around as if they were superior when in fact, the laws that existed (1) kept women and minority communities from competing with them and (2) denied their victims any recourse.

The laws before the New Deal mostly maintained the hierarchy.  The governing philosophy of 19th century America was a hierarchy with white men at the top and Black women at the bottom. The doctrine of paternalism held that women and minority communities were better off under the dominion of white men.

The New Deal and modern civil rights legislation sought to create fairness and smash the 19th century patriarchy. 

When Bannon said he wanted to wreck the “establishment” he meant the laws and regulatory agencies that prevent white guys from grabbing. 

Although America was founded as a liberal democracy, women and minorities were not included until fairly recently.

The theme of the Democratic convention is ‘we the people’ because the democratic idea is that laws should create equality, not maintain a hierarchy. In other words, women and minorities have been trying since the founding of the nation to smash the patriarchy. The modern Civil Rights and women’s rights movement brought us close. The GOP is trying to take us back.

When the GOP moans about the “deep state,” they also mean the laws and regulations that prevent them from grabbing.

They’re breaking the laws that hem them in, laws they don’t think should exist. (For the GOP, “law and order” means “put Black men in jail and maintain the hierarchy.”)

How do we stop them? Vote in November.

Read the breakdown of Bannon’s indictment as a Twitter thread here.

Read the second part, Smashing the Paternity, as a Twitter thread here.


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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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