Sunday, March 13, 2022

Speaking of Rick Scott

Florida Senator Rick Scott is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. A couple weeks ago he released a manifesto -- a policy agenda and an ideological justification -- defining what Republicans want to accomplish if they can win control of the Senate in 2022. Of perhaps I should say what they'd do if they had the power to do it, which will take more than a mere Senate majority. You can read about it here. (The full plan is here, hyperbolically titled An 11 Point Plan to Rescue America: What Americans Must Do to Save This Country.) I'm especially struck by the deep paranoia in the preamble:

The militant left now controls the entire federal government, the news media, academia, Hollywood, and most corporate boardrooms -- but they want more. They are redefining America and silencing their opponents.

Among the things they plan to change or destroy are: American history, patriotism, border security, the nuclear family, gender, traditional morality, capitalism, fiscal responsibility, opportunity, rugged individualism, Judeo-Christian values, dissent, free speech, color blindness, law enforcement, religious liberty, parental involvement in public schools, and private ownership of firearms.

Let's start by returning to basics. The political terms Left and Right came from the early days of the French Revolution. In the assembly, supporters of the monarchy and aristocracy sat on the right, while opponents -- the people who coined the slogan "liberty, equality, fraternity" -- sat on the left. Those labels stuck with us, because while titled aristocracy is pretty much a relic of the past, the right has adapted to defend hierarchy in whatever form (usually wealth), while the left, having liberated us from many forms of hierarchy (aristocracy, slavery, and to a large extent discrimination based on sex and/or race) continues to champion greater equality.

Left and right is one of many axes that can be used to plot political tendencies, but it is especially important in times of great inequality, like ours. Politics is, after all, the practice of power, and power tends to follow (and in the hands of the right reinforce) inequities in wealth. There is some disagreement as to what equality means to the left: most agree on equal rights and treatment under laws that are decided in a democracy where every person has an equal vote, but not everyone would extend democracy to the workplace (aside from certain rights, like a minimum wage, and a right to join unions). And while most on the left support progressive taxation, only a few think it's possible to level incomes and savings.

However, those differences rarely matter to those on the right, who see any limits on wealth or the prerogatives of the rich as an attack on all they hold dear (i.e., their perch in the hierarchy). And when you're as far to the right as Scott is, that puts most of America on the left. And while Scott is an outlier by historical standards, it should be recognized that he speaks for the majority of Senate Republicans, and as such for the majority of the Party.

Sure, Scott makes a further qualification when he charges "the militant left," but that's an oxymoron -- in America at least, the left is profoundly anti-violence, action limited to dissenting speech, the occasional demonstration, and campaigning for votes -- using a term that is most often used posthumously to describe people killed by occupying forces (e.g., in Israel/Palestine, or by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan; I expect the Russians to follow suite in Ukraine).

Scott's trying to add an air of menace to "the left," but his examples only show how far out he's perched on the right. Most corporations are well to the right of center -- they do, after all, control most of the nation's wealth. Sure, some marketers try to present themselves as anti-racist, which drives far-right culture warriors (like Scott) crazy -- cf. Vivek Ramaswamy's recent book, Woke, Inc., or Glenn Beck's hysterical The Great Reset: Joe Biden and the Rise of Twenty-First Century Fascism (sure, pun intended). And news media and Hollywood are companies too, their owners well up the wealth hierarchy. Academia is nominally non-profit, but easily swayed by rich donors, as is a government which reports more to donors and lobbyists than to the public.

Also note that those supposedly left-controlled institutions all have pockets that are totally aligned with the far right, like Fox News, the Koch Network academies and "think tanks," the Federalist Society-selected 6-3 Supreme Court majority. But it's never enough, because the more they get, the more extreme they become.

How extreme is indicated by the list of things they claim the left wants to "change or destroy" -- the implication is always destroy, as they dogmatically insist that any change is intent on destruction. As someone who's pretty far out on the left -- for a crude estimate of how far, I voted for Nader in 2000, so if the left is all D+G voters, I am at least in the leftmost 4.7%; I voted for Kerry over Nader (and several other leftist candidates) in 2004, so I'm not in the leftmost 1.0%; I explained that decision here -- I thought I'd go down this laundry list and see how menacing my own views are:

  • American history: It is what it is, and no one can change or destroy it -- although the right (not the left) wants to sanitize it so Americans can feel better about themselves, and especially not notice the disgraceful history of conservatism, especially on race.

  • Patriotism: Let me start by noting that the people who opposed to aristocracy in and after 1776 (at least through the writing of the US Constitution, which banned issuing titles) were the same ones who called themselves patriots. They were the original American left, and were opposed to the right, which called themselves "loyalists" out of deference to the British crown. The left has held closer to the nation's founding ideals than the right ever has, and the left has demonstrated more concern for and solidarity with the majority of the US population than the right ever has. On the other hand, the right has appropriated the symbols and jargon of patriotism so crassly and jingoistically, often in the celebration of militarism and the pursuit of imperial adventures abroad, that many leftists naturally recoil from their posturing. So, sure, let's change patriotism back to its original ideal, extended to support equal rights for all.

  • Border security: As a leftist, I can imagine national solidarity extending to international, but I also recognize that each nation has its own laws, which are delimited by borders, which therefore need to be secure. So there seems to be no disagreement, but for years nativists (mostly Republicans, therefore often but not necessarily on the right) have used "border security" as a code word for railing against immigration, often in bad-faith negotiations which never delivered on promised reforms. (The most important is that the US has several million undocumented immigrants, a situation that needs to be cleared up in order to restore due process.) I don't particularly care about immigration as an issue, so wouldn't mind expanding or contracting legal immigration. The points I would insist on are: that the "undocumented" problem be cleared up, with due respect to the immigrants; that future policies be flexible enough to minimize additional "undocumented" immigrants; that immigrants have rights and protection to keep businesses from taking advantage of them; and that the cruelty and lack of due process evident in recent "border control" end. It's worth noting that some leftists are much more pro-immigration than I am. Also, that I put a lot more emphasis on improving standards of living elsewhere, mostly by supporting progressive democratic governments elsewhere and not rigging the world economic system against them, so people have less incentive to emigrate. Also, put an end to the wars that produce so many refugees.

  • The nuclear family: I have no problem with the nuclear family. Unfortunately, some people have trouble, and they may need help and understanding. However, policies cannot provide people with a nuclear family. The best we can do is to remove or limit some of the obstacles in the way. Doing so will only increase the strength of nuclear families. I don't see why this is a left-right issue. However, as with patriotism, the right has sought to anoint itself as the protector of "family values," eventually coming to believe its own delusions of grandeur.

  • Gender: Another non-issue, except when politicians (almost always on the right) attempt to legislate discrimination. Can they possibly believe that if we aren't cruel enough to LGBTs all children will want to grow up that way?

  • Traditional morality: Is usually the right morality, and is generally a good guide to living one's life, as it has been for hundreds or thousands of years. Except that we live in a world where many people have divergent views on personal morality, in which case law should only enforce moral views where acts impinge on others' rights. We have many cases where prohibitions were justified by a reading of "traditional morality," and those prohibitions have turned out to be cruel and unnecessary. Again, this is not strictly a left-right issue, but it is most often the right that wants to divide people up and persecute or discriminate against those they disapprove of. Leftists tend to be more wary of power, and more respectful of diversity.

  • Capitalism: Is a system that allows individuals (and groups) to take independent initiative and produce goods and services that ultimately benefit society. That is a laudable endeavor, one we should broadly support. However, it is a process which is fundamentally flawed, but the flaws are such that they can be mitigated with fairly painless regulation and tax and public spending policies which solve most of the attendant problems. It would take a huge book to detail all of these, but for present purposes let's note simply that the right chafes at any regulations or policies not strictly in favor of business, and assumes that any limits imposed on business are aimed at destroying all business. (Unlike right-wing ideologues, actual businesses often lobby for regulations, especially to guarantee minimal quality standards and eliminate unscrupulous competitors. And while no business likes to pay taxes, they do want to have a viable government to protect property rights, enforce contracts, and provide sound money.) One problem is that as right-wingers have increasingly swallowed their own propaganda, they've lost grip on reality, including any sense of their own very real flaws.

  • Fiscal responsibility: I accept that government has a responsibility to provide sound money, and that doing so imposes fiscal restraints on government. The Keynesian maxim that government should spend more than it takes in during recessions and run a modest surplus during boom times seems like a fair starting point -- and was practiced in the US between WWII and the Vietnam War. However, starting with Reagan in 1981, Republicans have repeatedly run up record deficits while in power, while turning into deficit scolds when Clinton and Obama were in office -- both sacrificed programs to reduce deficits, with Clinton turning the only surpluses since 1969. This shouldn't be a left-right issue, but Republican deficits go to tax breaks for the rich, increasing inequality, and to build up the military (an important profits program for their donors). All Scott's plank proves is that Republicans expect to never get called out for their hypocrisy.

  • Opportunity: Big difference here. The left supports free public education, allowing people to develop their skills as far as they can go. The right wants to make education rare and expensive, a rung in their hierarchy reserved for their own kind. America was once touted as a land of equal opportunity, but with Republican hegemony over the last 40 years has become one of the world's most inequal societies, and opportunities for all but the rich have suffered. Education is not the only factor here. Unions are also important. So is finance that all people can use, to buy homes and start businesses. These aren't novel ideas. They were (far from perfectly) incorporated into the GI Bill, which led to 20+ years of record economic growth. Since the Republican-driven turn to predatory finance and "winner-take-all" oligarchy, with virtually all productivity gains claimed by the rich, opportunity and hope have suffered. Republicans like Scott only offer more stagnation and decay.

  • Rugged individualism: A queer, macho-infused term, meant to celebrate the rare few who beat the odds as opportunity for most people diminishes, while denying the fundamental truth that nearly all significant developments are group efforts, facilitated by a society and culture that encourages initiative. The more opportunity, the more people will turn into self-styled "rugged individuals," so I don't see how the left can be accused of wanting to destroy them. Taming them, maybe. After all, what good does it do to for someone to achieve great success only to turn into a flaming asshole?

  • Judeo-Christian values: Not a left-right issue, although both sides can easily pick values they approve of. Like "traditional morality," most such values have stood the test of time, and few are uniquely Judeo and/or Christian. By the way, I always trip over that phrase, knowing that it is almost always used by Christians who know naught about Jews and care even less for Judaism, but somehow like the ecumenical ring of it (without going overboard and acknowledging related religions like Islam and Baha'i). I often hear people saying that we could solve all our problems if only people would "open their hearts" and turn to God and/or Jesus. I appreciate the sentiment, but have no idea what they are talking about, let alone how it would work. Turning politically to the left, on the other hand, would express the values that matter, in a program that is sensible here and now, with no divine intervention required).

  • Dissent: This one is pretty rich. Sometimes I think the only thing the left has ever been able to do is to dissent. Sometimes dissent triggers a conscience in people with more power, and that leads to change -- as when civil rights were restored in the 1960s -- but that always starts with a minority expressing dissent. You know who doesn't like dissent? The right. They're the ones passing "gag rules" and bans, and threatening demonstrators. Sometimes -- not often in the US recently, but famously elsewhere -- they form goon squads to attack demonstrators. Often they let the state do their dirty work for them. The left will never take away your right to dissent, because we recognize that dissent is a necessary check against abuse of power -- even, if we ever get any, our own.

  • Free speech: See "dissent," which I read as extending to the right to assembly and petition, but really starts here. I will add one thing: the right to free speech has been extended by the right-wing-dominated Supreme Court to apply to corporations, and that money they expend on political campaigns is protected as free speech. This in effect legalizes bribery, making it an assault on the integrity of democracy. Money has many pernicious effects on speech. It amplifies some speech at the loss to other, giving more power to influence to those willing to spend the most (you can see why the right likes the idea). Advertising is perhaps the least free speech of all. It would be in the public interest to curtail it as much as possible: not to prevent the flow of the ideas expressed, but to limit the distortions introduced by money.

    While most efforts to ban free speech come from the right, the left is often charged with one of its own, against "hate speech." It seems to me that one should be able to oppose something without passing laws against it and prosecuting offenders -- an instinct that strikes me as much more prevalent on the right. Analogously, one shouldn't assume that legalizing something (drugs is a major example) implies endorsement.

  • Color blindness: This is a recent complaint from the right, a weird one given their long support for racial (and many other forms of) discrimination. The logic is fair, and in the long run the point is well taken: if we don't officially recognize race, it should cease to matter, and the scourge of racism will have left us. However, there are several problems with this, starting with the bad faith of the people on the right pushing this line. On the one hand, they seem to want to sweep all evidence of the legacy of racial discrimination, which was mandated by law over 350 years and in many cases continued less formally over the last 50 years. On the other, the complaint about tracking people by race often comes from people who are complaining about discrimination against white people, something they wish to prohibit. This is just one of many categories where the right's capacity to imagine themselves as victims of discrimination and injustice they regularly practice on others is simply galling.

  • Law enforcement: We all agree that we need just and reasonable laws, and we need them enforced, simply and fairly. But we have difficulty doing this: some laws are bad (especially against drugs), and enforcement is often arbitrary and capricious, with some people largely exempt from scrutiny, while others are singled out for attention, sometimes to the point of harassment. The task is greatly complicated by the millions of guns in civilian hands, and that increases the likelihood of police using their own guns: one result of this is that over 1,000 Americans are killed by police each year. The criminal justice system has problems beyond police: the courts are slow and often prejudiced; the quality of legal defense is ridiculously variable; the prisons are badly run, and there is little effort made to equip convicts for their return to society. And all this takes place in a broader context that often includes poverty, miseducation, lack of housing and public health, and much more. The right has this psychology that insists that crime can be fixed by passing harsher laws, hiring more police, and allowing them to act more impulsively, especially because they are unwilling to consider any of the other aspects of the problem (especially inequality, lack of social services, and guns). Given their repeated failures, some people on the left suggested that instead we might redirect some of the money going to police to other social services that might be more effective. They came up with a slogan ("defund the police"), and Republicans seized on that as a threat to terrify their base. It's highly unlikely that anyone is going to cut police funding anytime soon. Indeed, it's likely that the reforms needed to improve policing will take more money, not less. But the real problem is much more systemic, and that's where we need to turn left for answers. What the right's been doing just doesn't work.

  • Religious liberty: Another quaint turn of phrase, one that sounds like something no one objects to -- freedom of religion, which for many of us means freedom from religion -- yet means something very different. Republicans have lately been pushing a line that if someone can claim that their objections to a law are rooted in their religion, they shouldn't have to follow the law. Moreover, if one owns a business, one's religious exemption can be used to set policy that governs employee benefits (e.g., a Catholic business owner opposed to birth control can deny employees health insurance which pays for birth control, even though the federal government requires that all insurance policies provide that benefit). In practice, so far at least, this "religious liberty" doctrine has mostly been used to permit certain people to act as bigots, which is a big part of why Republicans are so enthusiastic about this novel form of legal reasoning.

  • Parental involvement in public schools: Another piece of weasel wording, inoffensive on its surface but designed to allow a few politically-active right-wing parents to harangue school boards and educators over policies like masks and banning books and other matter that for whatever reason offends them. Such people have always been around, but they've become even more of a plague recently, as Trump and Fox have riled up the would-be culture warriors to an ever higher sense of righteousness and persecution, while the right's estimation of education has shifted from suspicious to downright bothered. In theory, politically-active left-wing parents could do the same thing, but they generally have too much respect for education and knowledge and understanding to stoop so low. (I use "they" instead of "we" because I've never been a parent. Besides, I still bear scars from my own horrifying experience of school, which I understand is the exception rather than the rule for people on the left.)

  • Private ownership of firearms: Not an issue I care much about: I think guns are dangerous, wasteful, and stupid, and I think they cause more problems than they solve, but I'm not keen on prohibiting things that people crave (e.g., drugs). That said, the right's obsession with guns is unhealthy, bordering on insanity. Their paranoia about regulation ensures that many guns will wind up in the hands of criminals, incompetents, and the mentally ill. Their "stand your ground" laws turn a reasonable argument for self-defense into a license to kill. Their embrace of assault weapons makes mass shootings much more likely. The flood of guns threatens police, and makes them more likely to shoot unnecessarily. It's only a matter of time before their rhetoric inspires right-wing militias and "lone wolves" to attack their imagined enemies. (Oh yeah, that's already happened, but could get much worse.) And they've made it hard to do any sort of research on the actual impact of guns in America, so it's hard to rationally debate even modest reforms.

It bears repeating that Scott's list consists of a bunch of buzz phrases that have been tuned to elicit emotional responses from their followers, and possibly befuddlement from anyone not in on their jargon. Most are so anodyne you might think we have more common ground than is commonly supposed. On the other hand, Scott omits a long list of things we do want to change (or even, rarely, destroy -- one I can think of is the patent system, but most Democrats haven't figured that out yet, as they look for band-aid solutions to exorbitant drug prices). I wouldn't trust him to list them anyway, as he clearly has no grasp of who we are or what we believe.

The introduction is followed by a page of bullet points meant to illustrate the dire threats facing America. They're short enough I can quote them (in bold, followed by my notes -- if missing, just assume I'm laughing, or aghast):

  • Our government has created the highest debt in human history

  • Americans are afraid to speak their minds for fear of being silenced and canceled by the woke elitists -- which is why folks on the right are so timid and circumspect.

  • Our children are being poisoned by a false political agenda in their schools

  • Inflation is a tax placed on us by politicians who waste our money -- this shows zero understanding of inflation, or of tax.

  • Our inept withdrawal from Afghanistan dishonored the sacrifices of thousands of Americans and encouraged our enemies -- so we should sacrifice more, to deny our folly further?

  • Our porous southern border is a national crisis

  • Our cities are overrun by theft, violence, and a 30% increase in murder

  • Our government is making us less energy independent and killing jobs -- and that's why we blocked the Green New Deal?

  • American war fighters are being indoctrinated with left-wing woke foolishness and kicked out of the military because of the 'Big Brother' vax mandate

  • Our government is eroding our work ethic by paying people not to work

  • We are allowing biological males to destroy women's sports

  • Our kids are taught to hate America and divide each other by skin color

  • The FBI is spying on concerned parents who speak out at school board meetings

  • Washington's economy is growing, America's economy is shrinking

  • Lethal drugs are pouring into our country from China and our southern border

Remember, this is a list of what Republicans regard as the worst problems facing America: nothing about inequality, climate disasters, a globe-straddling military that constantly sucks us into wars and other conflicts, environmental degradation, predatory and monopolistic businesses, loss of labor rights, loss of privacy (including the right to make reproductive decisions), mass incarceration, racism (except as affects white people), inadequate health care, rising personal debt (mostly due to shortchanging education and health care), the growing assault on public health laws and workers, declining life expectancy.

But if it sounds like all Scott is doing is complaining, read on to the "11 Points": Republicans have bad ideas too (some staggeringly so). In the following, the bold is quoted from the top-line summary, followed by brief comments, usually referring to the following details.

  1. Our kids will say the pledge of allegiance, salute the Flag, learn that America is a great country, and choose the school that best fits them. Public schools will be required to indoctrinate students in the core pieties of Republicans. Teachers can be fired if they fail to tow the line. Given this degree of thought control, one wonders why they'll continue to tout private schools, but they help divert resources and political support from public schools, and further their stock line that government is bad and business is good.

  2. Government will never again ask American citizens to disclose their race, ethnicity, or skin color on any government forms. Two lines later they have the chutzpah to quote MLK (you know which quote), but don't dare attribute it (lest you credit an authority who had less pleasant things to say about America and race). I suppose it's a measure of progress that they're ducking the issue, but you still know what they mean.

  3. The soft-on-crime days of coddling criminal behavior will end. We will re-fund and respect the police because they, not the criminals, are the good guys. They want to rub salt into the wounds caused by police abuse of power, giving police more immunity, encouraging police to clamp down on "mostly peaceful protests," and directing prosecutors to prosecute more cases (except "based on political ideology," which almost certainly means their supporters can't be charged. They're not yet running on pardons for Jan. 6 insurrectionists, but that's where they're heading.

  4. We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump. This is their anti-immigration plank. Enforcement will be more draconian than ever, including using the military. Reform will never happen. Dissent will be quelled by "strip[ping] all federal funding from 'sanctuary cities' and prosecut[ing] any elected officials who flour our immigration laws."

  5. We will grow America's economy, starve Washington's economy, and stop Socialism. Their plan to "stop Socialism" is to simply outlaw it. ("Socialism will be treated as a foreign combatant which aims to destroy our prosperity and freedom.") The Washington/America dichotomy is pure fantasy, but serves their purposes: slash government, push functions down to the states, or (better still) privatize them). This is also the place where they promise to force everyone to pay at least some income tax, regardless of how little income they make, so they will "have some skin in the game" -- a tax increase on the poor that I've seen estimated up to $1 trillion over 10 years. They also want a prohibition on debt ceiling increases ("absent a declaration of war"), to force balanced budgets on pain of destroying the federal credit -- something which has never been in doubt despite the record deficits Republicans have routinely run up.

  6. We will eliminate all federal programs that can be done locally, and enact term limits for federal bureaucrats and Congress. This expands on their desire to inhibit and eviscerate federal government. They present a number of bizarre planks. The worst is probably their extension of the 12-year term limits nostrum to government civil service employees, making it more difficult to hire and retain knowledgeable workers. (They make an exception "for national security reasons," possibly a sign that they realize the CIA and the military doesn't do anything useful.) Or maybe the most bizarre is "sell off all non-essential government assets, buildings, and land, and use the proceeds to pay down our national debt." There's also an only slightly veiled threat against Social Security and Medicare, which they assume will go bankrupt. And these are people who are asking voters to entrust the everyday workings of the federal government?

  7. We will protect the integrity of American Democracy and stop left-wing efforts to rig elections. After all, rigging elections is their job. Still, they're kind of cagey on how they do it.

  8. We will protect, defend, and promote the American Family at all costs. This includes most of their planks on abortion ("a tragedy") but they talk much more about adoption, including promises that the crop of unwanted babies will be trafficked through "faith-based groups." They're also against porn and "deadbeat dads," and want effective federal laws against obscenity.

  9. Men are men, women are women, and unborn babies are babies. They continue, "to say otherwise is to deny science," although this seems to be the only place where they claim science supports their bigotry.

  10. Americans will be free to welcome God into all aspects of our lives, and we will stop all government efforts to deny our religious freedom and freedom of speech. The operative word here is "our"; yours may be treated differently. A clue on how to tell the difference is "No tax dollars will be used to pay for any diversity training or other woke indoctrination that is hostile to faith." You see here how what they like about religion isn't the "golden rule" or commandments on forgiveness and charity, but how convenient it is as a justification for bigotry and cruelty. They throw in a few planks on social media, like "all social media platforms that censor speech and cancel people will be treated like publishers and subject to legal action." Unclear how they square this with federal laws against obscenity and their plan to treat socialists as "enemy combatants."

  11. We are Americans, not globalists. A set of insane foreign policy planks, starting with "A world without American leadership would be a very dark world," illustrated by the complete abdication of American leadership that follows: withdrawal from the UN, extortion against allies that "don't pay their fair share for their own defense," a "New Monroe Doctrine" which lays claim to all of the Western Hemisphere, threats against Russia and China, a promise of punishing wars followed by no help rebuilding, a vow to "end all imports from Communist China until a new regime honors basic human rights and freedoms," a return to autarky, and total supplication to Israel (ironically, the one "ally" that doesn't begin to "pay its fair share"). Also a plank about taking "climate change seriously, but not hysterically," adding "we will not adopt nutty policies that harm our economy or our jobs."

The preamble to the U.S. Constitution starts with a number of good reasons why the Founders felt that we needed a strong and honest federal government:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Given the vagaries of politics, that promise hasn't always been realized, but we have never before seen as systematic an assault on the founding principles of this nation as we see in Scott's 11 Steps. They're seeking to impose a thought control regime, from pre-school on, including the explicit banning of anything socialist or "woke." This will be enforced by police, who will not be held to account for any abuses of power or even lapses of judgment. They will undermine the ability of the government to regulate business and markets, destabilizing an economy that will shrink substantially as they eviscerate government, which will be hampered by shrinking trade, and which will likely collapse completely when the government is forced to default on its debts. The foreign policy planks are likely to plunge the US into further wars abroad, and while having a nation of morons armed to the gills may deter anyone else from invading here, it's likely to deteriorate into an even more gruesome civil war. And in all this "doom and gloom" I'm sure I'm skipping over other calamities (e.g., natural and manmade disasters caused by neglect to critical infrastructure and the hubristic ignorance over climate change). And somehow Scott thinks his plan is what it takes to "rescue America." More like finish it off.

I used to joke that Newt Gingrich's famous 1994 publicist stunt should have been called "The Contract on America." But what Gingrich aimed for was pretty placid compared to the wrath and fury Scott seeks to unleash. And it's not that the Republican Party is all that much crazier now than it was back then. It's sobering to read how deranged its leading "thinkers" were in 1994, or even in 1980 when Reagan ran, or even in 1964 when Goldwater was nominated. What's changed isn't so much the Republicans as the ability of the nation to keep chugging along as they did their worst. That's harder to do now because the wounds and scars are mounting up. Yet somehow, Republicans seem to be able to escape scrutiny, let alone blame, for their many mistakes over the last 40+ years, and having gotten away with their act so far, they see no reason to change. They claim to have exclusive claim to patriotism and religion, even though there is no lack of Democrats with equal claims. They claim to represent business, even though business invariably grows more under Democrats. They claim to represent aggrieved workers, even though most of the problems workers have were brought on by Republicans. They talk about things like deficits and energy independence, even though the numbers are strictly opposed. They claim to be "color blind," but where's the evidence for that? They lie, they cheat, and they steal, yet the monied media never holds them accountable. So what's to stop them from doubling down and doing even worse? At least back when GW Bush was president (and Karl Rove was his "brain"), they tried to disguise their sinister plots (remember Healthy Forests?).

Yet during the 40-year era from Reagan to Trump, they managed to change America a lot, in ways almost always for the worse, but in ways they wanted. Inequality is greater now than ever before. In the world, America is more loathed but also more feared than ever before. And even when they crashed the economy, it bounced back more profitable than ever for the very rich. And even when they blew trillions on wars that accomplished nothing, they kept building back their arsenal. So why are soldiers like Scott so miserable? Why do they sound so desperate? Won't they ever be satisfied? It seems: no. They're in it for the fight, so they're going to keep kicking no matter how badly they got you down. Like the scorpion, it's their nature. Reminds me of an old Mort Sahl joke. He explained that Charlton Heston once said he hopes that his children will some day live in a fascist America. Sahl added: "if he were more perceptive, he'd be a happy man."

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