Polarization Between the Majority and Minority

“The modern Republican Party is about using the power of the government to enforce the beliefs of a radical minority on the majority of Americans.”
~Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American

“I would add that my friend George Lakey, a scholar of non-violent social change, is a great believer in both polarization and crisis as when you sort things out and make progress. And I feel in some ways something’s coming to the head or the situation in the U.S. is coming to a head as a rising majority faces a minority that refuses to give up domination power-control, including over truth and fact.

“I feel like — well you know the the rainbow coalition I mentioned — the majority will win in the end, but not necessarily in the short term. And for human rights, for the climate crisis, for a lot of things, what happens immediately matters. But we will be a non-white majority country in a little over 20 years and the Republican Party has tooled itself to be the party of white grievance. Part of why they need voter suppression is because they’re losing the ability to win elections outside of the really red states and and regions.

“So it feels like the crisis and the sense of things coming to a head is upon us, and figuring out how to win and as soon as possible. You know I’m not a strategist, but I am — as a writer and a historian — a great believer in the importance of describing something accurately is the beginning and to treat a disease first you have to diagnose it.”
~Rebecca Solnit, The “Crisis of Truth” in Democratic Societies

“As Michelle Alexander reminded us recently: “The whole of American history can be described as a struggle between those who truly embraced the revolutionary idea of freedom, equality and justice for all, and those who resisted.” She argues that we are not the resistance; we are the river that they are trying to dam; they are the resistance, the minority, the people trying to stop the flow of history.”
~Rebecca Solnit, The American civil war didn’t end. And Trump is a Confederate president (quoting We Are Not the Resistance)

Where is the demos in democracy?

What do Americans think as a people and a public? That is the eternal question in a country that was made famous by being founded as the first modern democracy. Among serious thinkers, the conventional theory of representative government has been that public opinion generally determines public policy, on average if not in every detail. This is what supposedly gives a public mandate to the political elite to rule on our behalf, as an approximation of self-governance but without direct democracy. Well, that is the theory. Is it true? To question this political dogma, in the past, was considered unpatriotic and seen as an attack on the very ideal of democracy. But times have changed, as has faith in claims of democratic representation.

Let us explore where Americans stand on the issues. This year’s Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) values survey, Dueling Realities: Amid Multiple Crises, Trump and Biden Supporters See Different Priorities and Futures for the Nation (full data and visual summary), brings us some lovely info about the American population and conclusions can be offered (by the way, PRRI is self-described as “an American nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization” that Media Bias Fact Check rates as “Least Biased and High for factual reporting” and FiveThirtyEight grades as A/B). There is a decided shift showing a larger pattern across the board. It could be suggested that Donald Trump’s administration does not represent the direction the country is heading in, assuming there is any hope of actual democracy functioning in the slightest.

Neither is the Republican Party in alignment with the general public nor with Independents. And Republican Fox News viewers are shown to be living in a separate alternative reality — older, whiter, and more right-wing than the average American, although not as far right as the audiences of the Daily Caller, Breitbart News, and the Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh radio shows (John Gramlich, 5 facts about Fox News). With total lack of awareness, Pew describes the audiences of most media sources as ‘left-leaning’ while not acknowledging that most Americans are ‘left-leaning’ (John Gramlich, Q&A: How Pew Research Center evaluated Americans’ trust in 30 news sources); but left of what, left of Fox News? Then among the religious, white evangelicals are extremists and, among Christians, a minority. Yet the media and political elite obsess over white evangelicals, as if they were the very definition of religiosity and representative of the religious majority — they are not.

These three combined demographics (Fox News viewers, white Evangelicals, and Republicans) represent a minority — not exactly new information. Based on the acronym FER, they’ll henceforth be referred to as ‘Ferengi’. This demographic is situated within the American public and society somewhat in the way that the patriarchal and profit-obsessed Star Trek Ferengi (with their capitalistic religion) represented an alien presence and minority worldview within the socially liberal United Federation of Planets. Even though the Ferengi were not members of the Federation and held themselves apart from Federation society, they nevertheless were tolerated and accepted as part of the Federation’s open and diverse liberal culture of social democracy and democratic socialism, which included being allowed to do business within Federation territory.

Similarly, the American demographic minority that we shall now call ‘Ferengi’ are opposite of and in opposition to the American majority that is progressive, liberal, and leftist across every category of views and values, issues and policies (the metaphor of a political spectrum being a relative concept; how can the American people be on the political ‘left’ if they are the majority public opinion that defines the ‘center’ of American society?). Yet these American Ferengi are given equal rights and freedoms that are protected by the very social liberalism and social democracy that contradicts their preferred ideology of patriarchal authoritarianism, caste-based social Darwinism, xenophobic identity politics, fascist corporatocracy, and theocratic aspirations. This is the Ferengi vs the Federation, neither equals nor enemies but awkwardly situated together.

This Ferengi demographic is a variety of what one could call Faceless Men, in honor of the masked assassins cult in Game of Thrones. The Faceless Men can change guise, in the way that reactionaries co-opt ideological rhetoric and adopt ideological identities. This makes the Faceless Men hard to pin down, but in the case of the Ferengi we at least have some demographic identifiers to clearly mark boundaries. That is the purpose of naming the Ferengi in creating a specific demographic category that has been defined a favorite disguise of the Faceless Men. Speaking of a ‘conservative’ movement is too vague and misleading. Certainly, not all conservatives are Ferengi and maybe, as one might argue, not all Ferengi are conservatives. Interestingly, a large part of the American population self-identifies as ‘conservative’ while holding views that are mostly or entirely on the political ‘left’ (an equally large but opposite pattern on the political left is not found in any data). These confused and inconsistent pseudo-conservatives (i.e., symbolic ideology) may or may not vote Republican, but it is highly unlikely that most of them are Ferengi in being white evangelicals who regularly watch and trust Fox News. That is an important distinction to keep in mind while reading further on.

Before moving on, let’s clarify what kind of understanding is implied by this insight and analysis. Yes, American society is and always has been broadly liberal, as a product of Enlightenment thought and revolution, not only the American Revolution but also several major populist revolts during the colonial era and continuing revolts over the centuries since — the Spirit of ’76 is the American Spirit, from the War of Regulation and Shays’ Rebellion to the Coal Wars and the Battle of Athens. The word for ‘democracy’ was not as familiar in early America, but the ideals and ideology of democracy (along with proto-socialism, proto-Marxism, etc) had already begun to take hold with the English Civil War, which had immense impact in shaping early American culture and politics. What is often misunderstood is that conservatism is not traditionalism, as conservatism did not exist until after the revolutionary period. Rather, it’s a variant of and reaction to liberalism, both of which followed the failure and fall of traditionalism that conservatives as reactionaries sought to replace. The reactionary mind is the shadow of a liberal society and, as liberalism has increased, the reactionary has intensified. We live in a reactionary age, as the stress and anxiety mounts, with collective insanity taking hold and collective trauma having become a scar — we are in need of healing.

With an immunocompromised psyche, we all are vulnerable to infection from this virulent mind virus (as based on the terrain theory of ideological immunity). We all contain the potential of becoming Faceless Men. The Ferengi are simply an extreme example of the reactionary, among the first victims of the mind plague, and so our purpose here is not to scapegoat them but to explore what is central to defining American society, not unlike the way the Star Trek Ferengi as a contrast helped shape the Federation identity. As such, the demographic of Ferengi in American society are used as a foil to highlight the qualities of liberalism, in terms of both its ideals and failures, its strengths and Achille’s heel. The Ferengi serve a necessary role in the public imagination and the political narrative. Reactionaries become possessed by and identified with the shadow of society, what we have collectively denied and cast out but cannot make go away. They carry the burden of what we haven’t yet learned to handle. And, maybe in line with Arnold Mindell’s thought, they fill an essential social role that must be represented and fulfilled. The reactionary mind is the return of the repressed. It holds up a mirror to our society, if we dare look.

Despite being a miniscule minority, the Ferengi have an outsized influence in society and the psyche. But we should emphasize the most basic point for our purposes here. These overt reactionaries are a minority that are located at the radical fringe. Never forget that. The public opinion of the American public, suppressed and silenced, is something entirely else. The political polarization is not between two equally sized groups but between the broad disenfranchised majority and one specific privileged minority. Still, one way or another, we will be forced to face what the reactionary represents. The reactionary is not only those others but something within us, but that is an issue to be saved for another day. Let us summarize these initial comments with a reassuring thought. Shadow or not, the reactionary mind is not normal and we need to recognize this truth, to constantly remind ourselves of it. We are not defined, as individuals or as a society, by our worst impulses.

What kind of country is America?

In looking at the recent PRRI values survey, we are given a picture of America as seen by Americans, the differences within public opinion and the commonalities. So, what kind of country do we Americans believe we live in? Let’s go straight to the top, God. Most Americans no longer believe God has granted the United States a special role in history. Once having been an article of faith among the majority, only 40% of Americans still hold to this conviction in the shared political religion that dominated during the Cold War, although 64% of Republicans are holding strong to their sense of divine entitlement as the Elect and presumably all of the divine privileges that go with it.

It isn’t solely a partisan divide and maybe as much about specific kinds of religiosity. White evangelical Protestants, unsurprisingly, are totally into American theocracy as seen with their strong support of Donald Trump hand-picked by God as the Chosen One to rule over the Chosen People, albeit this is a slight interpretation of the data on our part. Then again, if much more weakly, black Protestants are barely holding onto a sense of America’s divine status; and many of those black Protestants would be evangelicals as well, though not Trump-idolizing. But most mainline Protestants, Catholics, etc don’t see it that way. As in the past, the divide continues to be primarily within Christianity, not between the religious and non-religious. For all of American history, Christians have been on both sides of public debates, from slavery to abortion.

Interestingly, back in the 19th century, it was evangelicals, as a minority religious group, who were among the strongest defenders of the separation of church and state — how things have changed. It was also evangelicals who were supporters of Populism, Progressivism, the Great Society, and the New Deal. Evangelicals weren’t always reactionaries (similar to how libertarians, as leftist anarcho-socialists who originated in the 19th century European workers movement, didn’t begin as reactionary right-wingers either). Like the majority of mid-20th century Protestants, some famous leaders of the religious right and political right, supported a pro-choice position for abortion in the post-war era. In how conservative religion has been co-opted by right-wing reactionaries since then, evangelicalism has been taken on as one of the many deceptive guises of the Faceless Men.

Besides those two groups of primarily evangelicals, all other measured demographics are probably more prone to believing America has fallen under a divine curse. As for Christians in general, they’re just not buying this divine patriotism and nationalistic idolatry. On the other hand, no demographic, not even white evangelicals, thinks that America is and always has been a Christian nation, not even after four years of the Chosen One, President Donald Trump, ruling the land. America has not been made great again, even if assuming it ever was great. So, it’s hard to know what God’s favor could mean anyhow, as there have always been much more religiously devout countries out there. Indeed, church attendance in the US has been dropping, particularly in the so-called Bible Belt. God looks down on America and says, “No respect, no respect, I tell ya.”

After these rough past few years, the evidence is becoming less and less clear that we are the Chosen People. This calls into question our American Exceptionalism and hence our divine mandate to rule the world as the largest empire in history. But the survey didn’t ask which country now has gained God’s favor in replacing America’s divine status. We’ll have to wait to find out the results on that one, as God works in mysterious ways. For certain, God doesn’t hold the sway he once did here in the grand ol’ US of A, as only 39% agree that believing in Him is necessary for morality. About an equal number (38%) thinks that religion causes more problems than it solves. So, maybe God should look for a more hospitable place to call home.

America has stopped being the moral beacon for the world, according to Americans (74%), whatever might be God’s opinion on the matter. Huddled masses of immigrants take note. Most Republicans don’t see this nation as a good moral example with 55% taking this negative view, when only 33% agreed in 2018. Not even White evangelical Protestants can get on board with a belief in national moral superiority at this point. So, obviously, Trump’s brand of Christian ethno-nationalism wrapped in an American flag hasn’t inspired a populist flood of moral religiosity to buoy up the erectile dysfunction of flaccid public confidence and impotent patriotism. It turns out that there is more to religion than waving a Bible in the air while posing in front of a camera or at least there used to be. The average Christian doesn’t appear to be swayed by such superficial displays and ritualistic performances. It’s easy to forget that most Christians, like most Americans, hold many leftist views. A large majority of Democrats, liberals, and progressives are and always have been Christian; and this majority might grow as Christians, including evangelicals, are turning left; despite formal religious adherence being on the decline.

As opposed to social dominators using faux religiosity as a symbolic conflation to dress up reactionary authoritarianism, some argue there is evidence that genuine religiosity might actually somewhat lessen the extremes of social conservatism: “religious participation may moderate conservatives’ attitudes on other important culture war issues, particularly matters of race, immigration, and identity. […] Taking these results together leaves us with a surprising finding: conservative, Republican, churchgoing Trump voters take more moderate positions on many culture war issues than their self-identified moderate, independent, nonchurchgoing counterparts” (Emily Ekins, Religious Trump Voters: How Faith Moderates Attitudes about Immigration, Race, and Identity). That is as long as the religious in question are not white evangelicals, the driving force of the present religious right, who diverge not only from most Americans but often also many Christians. Church attendance, of course, will simply exacerbate the tendencies within one’s faith tradition. For white evangelicals, that pulls them further into the orbit of Ferengi identity politics.

Yet others argue this remains true for white Christians in general, as Ferengi sympathizers and fellow travelers. “The results point to a stark conclusion: While most white Christians think of themselves as people who hold warm feelings toward African Americans, holding racist views is nonetheless positively and independently associated with white Christian identity. Again, this troubling relationship holds not just for white evangelical Protestants, but also for white mainline Protestants and white Catholics. Moreover, these statistical models refute the assertion that attending church makes white Christians less racist. Among white evangelicals, in fact, the opposite is true: The relationship between holding racist views and white Christian identity is actually stronger among more frequent church attenders than among less frequent church attenders” (Robert P. Jones, Racism among white Christians is higher than among the nonreligious. That’s no coincidence.). The cold shadow of a dark past won’t be so easily thrown off. Even as conscious attitudes change, racism as a mind virus can burrow deep.

Nonetheless, the symbolic power of rhetoric aside, Christian nationalism itself, as a proxy for white supremacism or otherwise, does not hold much significance at this point. Americans have come to a consensus that America is no longer a Christian nation (74%) with a significant portion thinking it never was (22%). An increasing number think that this decline of Christian dominance is a good thing, at 39% which is up from five years ago when it was 29%. One can see a trend in falling religiosity and the weakening of theocratic impulses, as secular nationalism takes hold among the religious and non-religious alike. Maybe the culture wars and political spectacle of infotainment media (both corporate media and social media) has become our new shared religion, as we do devotedly worship it with the authorization it provides in shaping our sense of reality. People scroll their smart phones like rosary beads, bow their heads to their laptops as if before a shrine, and go into altered states as their eyes glaze over watching the boob tube. Churches have steep competition these days.

What’s the matter with America?

Let’s now move onto more general views of what is seen as mattering, since God no longer holds this place of pride. The majority of Americans generally agree with the majority of Democrats in how they prioritize most issues: coronavirus pandemic (respectively 60% & 85%), fairness of presidential elections (57%, 68%), health care (56%, 73%), jobs and unemployment (52%, 58%), crime (46%, 48%), terrorism (45%, 43%), abortion (36%, 35%), appointment of Supreme Court Justices (40%, 44%), federal deficit (36%, 31%), immigration (33%, 36%), and trade agreements with other countries (23%, 19%).

On the last four issues, Republicans are close to being in agreement as well. But on the first seven, Republicans strongly disagree with both the general public and Democrats. And on three other highly polarized and partisan issues (racial inequality, climate change, and growing gap between rich and poor), the average American is about smack dab in the middle between the two camps. Actually, they are leaning toward the middle on some of the others as well, although they have a general alignment with Democrats while, in those cases, Republicans are found on the complete opposite extreme. Two examples of the latter are 39% of Republicans seeing the coronavirus pandemic as critical and 33% with that opinion about health care, in contrast to 60% and 56% for Americans in general which is about equally distant from Democrats, though on the same side of the minority-majority divide as Democrats. So, in some cases, where Democrats have a strong majority view, that of the general public is a mere moderate majority; but, in both cases, in opposition to Ferengi and most other Republicans.

It gets interesting with a religious breakdown. When looking at the top three issues for each group, there is wide agreement about the coronavirus pandemic and fairness of presidential elections. There is a consensus on these two among most included religious demographics: white mainline Protestants, Black Protestants, White Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, Other Christians, and the non-Christian religious. That makes this the majority religious position about what is seen as central at this present moment. As such, there is a general focus and set of priorities that keeps religious Americans on the same page.

Also, Hispanic Protestants and the Unaffiliated put the coronavirus pandemic in their top three picks, but not fairness of presidential elections. White evangelical Protestants, interestingly, did agree about fairness of presidential elections, if by that they meant their minority position should eternally rule, while being alone in stating great concern for terrorism and abortion, indicating that they are highly motivated by thoughts of violence and death, if not the slow violence and mass death by other means (poverty, class war, air pollution, lead toxicity, lack of healthcare, racial oppression, war, CIA covert operations, economic sanctions, etc), and of course they love the widespread violence of law-and-order, militarized police, war on drugs, mass incarceration, and the death sentence in order to enforce and maintain social control. As another popular issue, healthcare was held up as important to four of these demographics: Hispanic Protestants, White Catholics, Other Christians, and Unaffiliated.

In general, most Americans want healthcare reform, and specifically universal healthcare with ever growing support and demand. It’s interesting to note how this is so popular with White Catholics who, by using divisive culture war rhetoric, were brought into line with the Republican Party in high rates of voting for Trump, partly as swayed by the Catholic Kellyanne Conway and the Catholic Steven Bannon. By the way, Conway once worked for Richard Wirthlin, the religious right pollster and advisor to right-wing politicians, including Ronald Reagan. This is how voters can be manipulated into betraying their own self-interests through symbolic ideology, how social identity politics as superficial groupthink of ‘values’ rhetoric can undermine the moral force of an actual moral majority.

Are Americans racists or socialists?

Here is a funny one. Almost half of Americans perceive the Republican Party as having been taken over by racists and the Democratic Party by socialists. The people in each party disagrees with that view, but it is amusing because of the lopsided quality of the accusations. Most Democrats don’t identify as socialist even as they wouldn’t take it as a slur against their good character, whereas Republicans understandably freak out when they get called racists. No one wants to be thought of as a racist, not even most racists these days. Despite the well-funded right-wing culture wars and class war, the left is slowly and belatedly winning the war of rhetoric.

That is because a growing number of Americans identify with the socialist label while an ever shrinking minority still openly embraces racist ideology. As Sarah van Gelder, in looking at other polling, explained the former: “While capitalism is viewed more favorably among all Americans than socialism, the reverse is true among those under 29, African Americans and Hispanics, and those making less than $30,000 a year, according to a Pew poll. And more Americans have a favorable view of socialism than of the Tea Party.” As the older generations die off and the country becomes a majority of racial/ethnic minorities, along with inequality growing worse, net positive view of socialism could become common or even mainstream in the coming decades. Socialism might become the new majority position before too long, in response to the extremism, atrocities, and injustice of corporatocratic capitalism and plutocratic social Darwinism.

At the very least, socialism is already part of socially acceptable public debate, albeit still contentious for the moment, at least as portrayed in corporate media and corporate-owned politics. Yet when it comes to racism, even Donald Trump feels compelled to deny it even while he is throwing out blatantly racist rants. The fact that racism has to be hidden behind lies, if open and obvious lies, demonstrates how shameful it is perceived. Everyone understands that racism is no longer acceptable (neither politically correct nor morally good), as public opinion has shifted far left on social issues. At the same time, public opinion is likewise going left on fiscal issues. Attempting to slander Democrats as socialists and fellow travelers doesn’t quite have the sting it did during the Cold War. Instead, it has had the unintended effect of normalizing ‘socialism’, as a word to be bandied about, no matter the lack of any shared understanding of what it means.

These changes are seen all across the board, as a recent Fox News poll proved, not to mention the hundreds of other polls that have shown the same. To take another key example, from 2015 to 2020, the majority switched from agreeing to disagreeing with the statement that the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life, and for as long as this question has been asked by PRRI this is the first time this response was seen. As the Cold War is growing distant, so is the War on Terror. But once again, Republicans stand alone in clinging to these old fears and animosities of a prior age of mass propaganda and bigoted xenophobia. Most Americans, instead, are focused on collective problems that are immediate and concrete: economic troubles, COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, etc.

There are some even more damning divides on racial issues. Once a minority position, an emerging majority (56%) has been persuaded that cops killing Blacks is part of a broader pattern, not mere isolated incidents. In 2015, 53% said the opposite was true. Yet, as always, Republicans (79%) and Fox News viewers (90%) cling to their worst hateful prejudices in presently siding with this institutionalized and systemic racist law-and-order, compared to 40% independents and 17% of Democrats. That is a vast gap in public opinion. This further demonstrates the persistent demographic pattern of the reactionary Ferengi as distinct from the progressive and liberal majority. As the rest of America wakes up to this sad state of affairs, the political right has remained steady with their cold hearts unmoved by pleas of injustice and oppression, violence and suffering.

But it is good to be reminded that they are a polling minority in their callous disregard toward racial minorities, whereas white Democrats have fallen almost exactly in line with blacks, such that we could look to radicalized white liberals as the canary in the coal mine. White Independents, now at 46%, have also edged down into seeing racist-driven killings as a problem; although White Americans in general are hovering right on the divide of public opinion with equal numbers going both directions. As for white Christian groups, most of them are still feeling a bit racist while steadily moving away from the hardcore racism of white evangelical Protestants (70%), their former reactionary alignment weakening as white mainline Protestants have dropped down to 57% racist and white Catholics at 58% (Tara Isabella Burton, Study: when it comes to detecting racial inequality, white Christians have a blind spot). For the time being, as summarized by PRRI’s CEO Robert Jones, it remains a conflict of worldviews between “white Christian groups — and everybody else.” That demonstrates that it’s far from only being about the hardcore religious right of evangelicals and fundamentalists, but it also clarifies the toxic brew of religiosity and white grievance.

What is the racial and racist divide?

To really get at racism, PRRI divided the polling sample into demographically equal sub-samples. They received questions about protests that were identical except in one way, by mentioning blacks or by not mentioning race at all. This was a brilliant way to get at people’s honest opinion and what is motivating it. Americans in general agree (61%) with the statement “When Americans speak up and protest unfair treatment by the government, it always makes our country better.” But Americans are almost divided (52%) whether such free speech and freedom to assemble also applies to “Black Americans” or if, instead, we should continue to disenfranchise and oppress racial minorities as is the pervasive, systemic, and institutionalized status quo of American tradition.

The only two measured demographics, as brought up in the PRRI report, that absolutely believe all Americans should have equal rights are blacks and Democrats, although many of the other demographics still mostly favored giving blacks such rights (the views of other races and ethnicities were not mentioned in the report but might be available in the raw data). The demographics of white conservatives all were strongly opposed to blacks not being violently oppressed and silenced, but to be fair they were less supportive and more divided on protesting in general. Even so, most Americans, no matter their race, are equal in their majority support of the citizen’s right to protest. Once again, conservatives are the minority even among whites.

But, of course, America’s racist history rears its ugly head the moment the question is racialized. The variations in demographics, though, are not entirely as expected. As most Americans support protesting on principle, even if only a slim majority holding to the same for blacks, there is nonetheless many white demographics that would defend this right for blacks. There are the college-educated, as always. Gender is the opposite of how typically portrayed. White men (50%) are more supportive of black protests than white women (44%), which might relate to white men being one of the key demographics where Trump saw declining numbers among his voters this past election, while Kellyanne Conway’s professional expertise has always been in helping misogynistic GOP candidates gain the white woman vote (in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton as a white woman lost the demographic of white women), similar to the role played by the ilk like Sarah Palin. So, white men can’t be blamed for everything. This also indicates that the Ferengi phenomenon is not merely an issue of The Man. The Ferengi do defend white patriarchy, but many of those defenders happen to be white women (for example, in watching Fox News, our mother has become a more rabid conservative and GOP partisan than our father).

Besides conservatives, it’s the white religious, including among mainline Protestants, who are among the most racist on this issue, as their majority support for protests drops to 35-38% when applied to blacks. This reminds one of why most Americans now assume that believing in God is not necessary for being moral, and increasing number actually takes religion as problematic for a free and democratic society. Obviously, the religious faith of these whites has not helped them to see all humans as the children of God with souls that are equal before God. When blacks are at issue, they don’t see souls at all, much less the content of their character, but just their bodies and the color of their skin.

A similar pattern is seen with White Christian groups being most likely to view Confederate flags and monuments as symbols of Southern pride, rather than racism. It’s strange that racism among whites tracks so closely with religiosity or at least religious identification, although other data shows many of these people don’t actually attend church (e.g., lower religiosity rates in the so-called Bible Belt). This says a lot about religion in America, at least as a symbolic ideology. Indeed, anyone familiar with American history knows that churches and religious leaders played an important role in defending and maintaining slavery, Jim Crow, sundown towns, etc. Yet religion was also central in blacks fighting back against oppression and injustice, as seen with the civil rights movement that included support of particular mostly white religious groups (e.g., Quakers).

The divide over racism within American Christianity is itself racial. The vast majority of black Christians believe in a God who loves all people equally, but this view of God’s universal love is not nearly so strongly held by white Christians. For all of our cynicism, this is a bit shocking to our egalitarian sensibilities in having been raised in a liberal church that was majority white. It might not be expected that the racial division would be this stark along religious lines, although it is a tired truism well known in the South that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. And this is an area where the Ferengi hold immense sway in creating the sense of a divided and polarized country.

Is there unity in diversity?

Even so, white conservatives and white Christians aren’t completely lost in fear and bigotry. Among Republicans, only 17% claim (or admit?) to prefer the U.S. to be made up of people of western European heritage. That is barely above the national average of 10% in support. Similarly, a mere 18% are bothered by the idea of America where most people are not white. It’s a little bit higher with Republicans at 27%, but that isn’t too bad with nearly three-quarters not in support. The numbers would have been starkly different not that long ago. The increase of immigrants and the growing number of minorities, not to mention the rise of interracial relationships, is having an impact on changing attitudes. It’s become normalized to show diversity in the media. It’s no longer perceived as strange and scary.

Still, the full and open embracing of diversity remains a divisive issue and the population is about evenly split. That is to say, even though white supremacy is not seen as the solution, Americans hold onto concerns about multiculturalism or whatever it is a symbolic proxy for (breakdown of communities? loss of culture of trust? social stress from rising inequality?). As expected, those who more fully embrace diversity are Blacks, other non-whites, the multiracial, and college-educated whites. It should be noted that these are growing demographics and, when combined, already represent the American majority. This is one of the many anti-Ferengi alliances, if typically unacknowledged in ‘mainstream’ media and politics.

Gender roles and social norms were another area the PRRI survey looked into. In a mirror image of opposing views, most Americans disagree (60%), contrary to most Republicans that agree (60%), that society punishes men just for acting like men. About an equal number of Republicans also think that society has become too soft and effeminate (63%). Both Democrats and Independents are in line with the majority in opposition to Republicans. The religious are evenly divided on this issue, as are men. That is quite intriguing, though, that half of men have no worries about these conservative or rather reactionary fears of a supposed decline of masculine and male-dominated society. Most women, of course, have little concern about this area of male identity politics. All combined, it’s a minority issue that has been held up as a banner of culture war by a single sector of the reactionary ruling elite.

These kinds of social issues related to egalitarianism vs authoritarianism unsurprisingly tend to sync with political issues, specifically attitudes about democracy. A two-to-one majority says the popular vote, not the electoral college, should determine the presidency. Once again, Independents (68%) side with Democrats (86%), opposite of Republicans (39%), in demanding greater democracy and a more representative government such that all voters are treated as equal no matter where they live. There is some other demographic variance, but still the majority are in favor — whites and non-whites, men and women, young and old. Republicans, especially Fox News viewers, are the outlier in being absolutely opposed to equal rights and full self-governance for all other Americans, no matter their residence or skin color. The Ferengi are fighting against the democracy that most Americans want, and this has been useful for the reactionary ruling elite in both parties by using the Ferengi to distract from the majority’s demands for fair representation — one of the ways lesser evilism guarantees continuously greater evil. In a society claiming to be a representative democracy, what greater political evil is there than a conspiracy to attack and destroy any possibility of a free society of self-governance?

The fear of certain demographics being given a seat at the table has been largely motivated by racism and xenophobia. It’s similar to how the ruling elite manipulate many whites to oppose social programs that help whites out of fear that they will also help minorities. This has been slowly changing in mainstream society, a sign of hope. “Majorities of Americans,” reports PRRI, “say that there is a lot of discrimination against Black people (75%), Hispanic people (69%), and Asian people (55%). Far fewer say that there is a lot of discrimination against either Christians (37%) or white people (32%).” Fewer and fewer Americans, across most demographics, want to continue the scapegoating of minorities as the portrayed enemies of a sought-after white supremacy, ethno-nationalism, and Christian patriotism. Following the pattern of declining bigotry and xenophobia, this includes majorities, in this case large majorities, of Independents and Democrats; as opposed by the Ferengi, of course (Emma Green, Most American Christians Believe They’re Victims of Discrimination; Samuel L. Perry, Andrew L. Whitehead, & Joshua T. Davis, God’s Country in Black and Blue: How Christian Nationalism Shapes Americans’ Views about Police (Mis)treatment of Blacks).

A large number of Republicans (52%) also feel compelled to admit that blacks face major discrimination, even as they hold to self-serving identity politics in believing that white people (57%) and Christians (62%) are the most oppressed people in the world. It’s worse with those Republicans (27-36%) who, in trusting Fox News, don’t think any minorities at all have anything to complain about, in contrast to whites (58%) and Christians (73%) who are experiencing genocide. On a positive note, there is no religious group that believes whites are more discriminated against than blacks in broad terms, but those in the snowflake demographic of white evangelical Protestants (66%) do self-identify as the most victimized Americans. The Ferengi once again stand out as unique and atypical; and, in this case, even being distinct from other religious whites.

Continuing open support of bigotry and prejudice, for certain, can’t be blamed on whites in general: Not All Whites! Strong and overt white identity politics is largely limited to Republicans, Fox News viewers, and certain Christians, especially white evangelicals. But even combined, these people do not form anywhere close to a majority among whites. Most white Americans disagree with this strong racialized worldview. They may not see the prejudice as applying as much to Asians (47%), but most of them do very much think it is undeniable among Hispanics (61%) and blacks (67%), whereas it’s not so much for Christians (38%) and whites (39%). So, on this issue, maybe about one third of all white Americans are either part of the Ferengi or in alignment with the Ferengi. It’s a significant minority, but still relatively small for how loud their voice is amplified by the power structure of media and politics.

Victimhood politics holds little merit with the typical white. The same goes across the education spectrum, as both those with and without a college degree agree with other whites, if to varying degrees. As for the majority of minorities, they are maintaining solidarity in agreeing they all experience more prejudice as compared to whites and Christians. The last part stands out considering non-whites have higher religiosity rates than whites, and yet the prejudice they experience is not identified with their religion. That makes sense. No police officer ever killed a black guy because he was Christian and no ICE agent ever deported a Hispanic because they attended church too often.

By the way, the tipping point for public acknowledgment of systemic racism was clearly seen years ago, as shown in previous PRRI polling. “The most striking thing about the numbers is their uniformity. Between August 2013 and August 2014, Americans of all stripes — Democrats and Republicans, young people and old, Hispanics and whites — showed an increase in the belief that minorities are unfairly targeted. And while a majority of seniors and Republicans [i.e., old conservatives ~BDS] still think the two groups (whites and minorities) are treated equally, each category showed a significant uptick in the number who see racial bias as a systemic feature of the U.S. justice system” (Sophie Kleeman, How Ferguson Changed America for Good, in One Striking Chart). In general, the leftward trend appears to have been going on for centuries, if we only have polling data to show the specific demographic details across recent decades and generations.

In this US, this kind of thing is mostly a non-issue at this point. Besides the standard ultra-right demographics, the average white individual doesn’t feel threatened by racial/ethnic minorities and diversity. It’s a minority of white Americans (40%), if a sizable minority, including white Americans without a four-year college degree (46%), that thinks that increasing diversity always comes at a cost to whites. As with a third of Americans overall (34%), only 35% of Independents and 17% of Democrats agree with this assessment of racial politics as a zero-sum game. If the Ferengi view of American society ever was the moral majority, which is highly questionable, it certainly no longer is and hasn’t been so for a long time.

It should be noted that as early as the 1980s, during the Golden Age of the Reagan Republicans, it was known that the reactionary right-wing of fundies was not a majority, moral or otherwise. In fact, the very concept of a “moral majority” was openly advocated and promoted as a defense against majoritarian rule and against democracy in general. Bill Moyers, in an interview with David Daley (Republicans Admit They Lose When Elections Are Fair and Free), said that,

I agreed with the Republican strategist, Ben Ginsberg, who said that David Daley has exposed, “The strategy of shadowy, but thus far, legal hacking, splicing, and dicing of congressional districts to secure Republican domination, and in turn, subvert the will of the American voter.”

That’s a Republican saying that. Admitting that gerrymandering was crucial to the Republican party’s strategy of undermining democracy. Some people were shocked, David. But I wasn’t. And I wanna take a step back here, I mean, back to 1980.

I was reporting for a documentary on the founding of the Moral Majority. Thousands of religious conservatives gathered in Dallas, Texas, to launch what is now the most influential base of the Republican party. Ronald Reagan running for the Republican nomination, spoke to them.

And one of the most influential Republicans of the past 60 years was there. Paul Weyrich was his name — right-wing Catholic, brilliant strategist, outspoken partisan [who] founded the Heritage Foundation, founded the Moral Majority, on and on and on. He really was an architect of the Republican domination today. Here’s a brief excerpt of what he said. It brought cheers from  those religious conservatives.

Paul Weyrich: “Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

This wasn’t anything new, not even in the 1980s. Ronald Reagan helped make conservatism respectable again, but he didn’t do it by winning majority support for hard right issues. His victory was rhetorical but highly effective, following the defanging of the once powerful political left by union busting, McCarthyism, Hollywood blacklisting, and FBI’s COINTELPRO; not to mention the propaganda and perception management campaign of the right-wing Shadow Network. The conservative rule he established was an elitism in defiance of the American people. Republicans were able to take advantage of racist dog whistle politics and covert class war to divide the voting public, even though the American majority was in many ways even more economically progressive than it is now. Support for extremely high taxes was so strong that it was barely part of public debate prior to that shift.

Republican presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to Richard Nixon, didn’t dare to speak a negative word about liberalism. It was a consensus among the majority in both parties that liberalism was how governments should be run, as Ike once argued. Reagan switched this around by incorporating a progressive attitude and co-opting liberal rhetoric for the purpose of conservative ends. He couldn’t have won the election by having been honest with the American people, as they fundamentally didn’t want what he was selling. So, it had to be deceptively packaged with empty and vague rhetoric of ‘values’.

The strategy was devious (Starve the Beast, Two Santa Claus theory, Wirthlin Effect, etc), in weaponizing symbolic ideology that was divorced from operational ideology (Poll Answers, Stated Beliefs, Ideological Labels) — that is to say rhetoric usurped reality and so narrative framing, not public policy, became the driving force of American politics. It no longer mattered what most Americans wanted, and that became even more true with the rise of dark money and oligopolistic corporate media. The winning narrative became a potent, if toxic, identity politics — specifically white grievance and victimhood made virulent through an old racist, elitist, and supremacist narrative of ethno-nationalism and xenophobia, politicized class anxiety and racialized class war.

This rhetoric of reactionary backlash and right-wing populism, combined with anti-democratic tactics (voter role purges, precinct closures, gerrymandering, ex-con disenfranchhisement, etc), simultaneously inspired and empowered a specific minority, the Ferengi, while demoralizing and disenfranchising not only all other minorities (Blacks, Latinxs, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, social justice Christians, progressive Evangelicals, mainstream Protestants, democratic socialists, Marxists, anarchosyndicalists, etc) but also and, more importantly, the majority of potential voters. When the political right talks about protecting the minority against the mobocracy of majority oppression, they’re only referring to one specific minority, the Ferengi demographic overlap of viewers who trust Fox News, white Evangelicals, and partisan Republican voters — basically, a specific segment of mostly older whites raised on white privilege and rabid Cold War propaganda that they internalized as the core of their identity; although also including some former white liberals and progressives that were indoctrinated later in life by the right-wing media machine (Jen Senko, The Brainwashing Of My Dad; documentary and book).

How bad is inequality?

Where the real debate is happening is whether racial inequality is tightly linked to economic inequality. Is a historical legacy of institutionalized and systemic racism, specifically the transgenerational effects of slavery and discrimination, from sundown towns to redlining, still contributing to a lack of economic opportunities for blacks? Is it holding many of them back from being able to work their way out of the racial caste of a permanent underclass? Americans in the past slightly leaned to answering ‘no’, but are now almost evenly split. With the shift continuing, the full acknowledgement of ongoing racial prejudice and oppression will be the majority position in the near future.

As with other issues, Republicans, Fox News viewers, and white Christians (i.e., the Ferengi) believe blacks are whiny and lazy losers who need to get over it, a culturally and/or genetically inferior sub-group that should passively submit to their deserved subjugation. These are the same people who think blacks shouldn’t be allowed to protest and so many of these concern trolls have started counter-protests to complain about blacks acting like they are equal to others when they demand to be treated as such. Independents did side more with Republicans in the past (62%, 2015), but have since (46%) moved toward Democrats (20%) with Democrats having likewise moved further left since five years ago (39%).

The same movement toward the ‘left’ has been happening with whites overall in following the example of Independents. So, most whites are forming a consensus with non-whites, which leaves the Ferengi ever more stranded in isolated extremism. Like the pressure building along a fault line, the realignment of public opinion will fully set into a new position with seismic tremors followed by a political earthquake. Even though building up slowly over generations and centuries, the final result will feel sudden and dramatic. The response by the Faceless Men will be ever more reactionary, likely involving increased violence. We will probably go through a period of right-wing hate crimes, terrorism, vigilantism, mob actions, insurrection, coups, etc before it settles back down into a new perceived social norm and established social order.

Where is the American public heading?

Most Americans are going left on most issues like this while a small minority on the right is often going further right, the latter particularly involving the symbolic ideology of reactionary identity politics. A polarization is happening but it’s between a growing majority on the left that is just now finding its voice and a shrinking minority on the right that is ever more isolated and radicalized, much of it having to do with who is and who is not caught in the right-wing news media bubble, social media echo chamber, and the political outrage machine. About continuing racial biases and disparities, it’s also polarization within religion such that non-white Christians, non-Christians, and the religiously unaffiliated (both non-white and white) are in opposition to a large sector of white Christians, particularly white evangelicals.

Now for a really divisive set of issues look at affirmative action and reparations. Slim but growing majorities support efforts to remedy racial bias and historical legacies in education and employment. It splits up, as expected in the mainstream narrative, with partisans on the two extreme ends and Independents closer to the middle. Also, blacks and Hispanics strongly favor such policies and practices, whereas whites are still slightly holding back their support but making strides in that direction. Quite likely, in the next decade if trends continue, the demand to help those disadvantaged and disenfranchised by transgenerational oppression will finally become a majority position for whites and a strong majority for the entire American public. That is to say a Scandinavian-style social democracy could become more probable or at least increased egalitarianism in general, although far from a predetermined outcome.

That brings us to another oft racialized issue, that of immigration. Most people think of it as a polarized topic in how it is used as a political football by politicians and gets used in dog whistle politics, but the reality is there is almost unanimous agreement across all of society. Even among Republicans, a large majority views immigrants as hardworking (79%) and as having strong family values (76%), along with a significant number acknowledging that immigrants make an effort to learn English (38%). The positive attitude toward immigrants is stronger among other demographics. Only a tiny minority disagrees about most immigrants being good people who contribute to their adoptive communities and potentially are a net gain for American society.

Generally speaking, Americans don’t see immigrants as a problem. They aren’t perceived as a cause of crime or disease in communities. Although divided in other areas involving immigration issues, there still isn’t an overwhelming majority who are drawn to scapegoat this population. Still, it is true that there is vociferous debate about whether or not immigrants burden local social services and compete for jobs, about which Americans are divided down the middle. As before, it’s only Republicans with a clearly negative view of immigrants. Among Democrats and Independents, it’s some combination of positive and neutral, depending on what is being asked about.

Other than the Ferengi demographic of Republicans (57%), specifically those who trust Fox News (67%), few Americans (31%), Independents (28%) or Democrats (15%), and few whites (36%), Hispanics (24%) or blacks (24%) would agree that “immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background.” Only 51% of largely non-Ferengi Republicans who don’t trust Fox News go along with those who do trust it, and that is considering so many Republicans who distrust Fox News probably have left the party at this point. It’s as much a media divide as anything else, between Fox News viewers and everyone else. But the divide probably would also be seen between white evangelicals and all others.

To be fair, there are also surprising divides emerging within demographics such as a significant minority of Hispanics having voted for Donald Trump (Natalie Jackson, Religion Divides Hispanic Opinion in the U.S., PRRI report). These intra-demographic divergent voters might have been larger in the second election. And, if so, this might have been partly motivated by his tough-on-immigration stance. To put it in historical context, even though the legal framing of immigration is a more recent invention by the political right, it must be admitted that public opinion on the topic goes in generational cycles following the pattern of increasing and decreasing immigration. With that in mind, one could note that immigration numbers these past couple of decades have been at a historical low point, which is probably why right-wing hysteria of moral panic hasn’t gained purchase in the public mind, beyond a few select demographics.

It goes on and on. Most Americans, including majorities of Americans in every major demographic mentioned but excluding Republicans and Fox News viewers (and possibly excluding white evangelicals), oppose building a border wall between the United States and Mexico (57%), oppose passing a law to prevent refugees from entering the country (62%), support immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children (i.e., Dreamers) to gain legal resident status (66%), and support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (64%). It’s mostly a non-issue, despite all the noise among a desperate elite attempting to ramp up the lingering support of the shrinking Ferengi fringe.

On the last issue of a pathway to citizenship, Republicans distrusting Fox News support it and all religious groups also support it, and among opponents of citizenship there are those who would still support permanent residency status (16%). Most Americans, even including most Republicans, along with every religious group, oppose an immigration border policy that separates children from their parents and charges parents as criminals (76%). This is an issue that is a bit more divided for the Ferengi with many Republicans and white evangelicals siding with the majority, with the only exception being the Fox News faithful. The dividing line is not conservatives vs liberals, not right vs left, but those trusting Fox News vs all others. Fox News, possibly being replaced by Newsmax, has been the dark beating heart of the most extreme element within the reactionary Ferengi.

What is wrong and what is irrelevant?

Let’s wrap this up. Most Americans across most demographics agree that something is amiss in American society and governance, some kind of failure or corruption or decline, but this has not made them entirely cynical and hopeless. The majority does want the government to do more, as a Fox News poll shows, in such a way that would actually benefit the public good and help everyday Americans. This faith in a government that could and should do right by the American people remains steady, despite the fact that polls show the majority no longer trusts big government, along with no longer trusting big biz and big media.

The thing is they want a government in which to place their trust with politicians who will honestly and fairly represent them. American idealism may be on life support, but it’s still hanging on with tenacity. This faith in good governance toward the public good includes guaranteeing all Americans access to affordable childcare (83%), guaranteeing all Americans a minimum income (70%), making college tuition-free at public institutions (63%), and a “Medicare for All” plan that would replace private health insurance with government-backed health insurance coverage for all Americans (62%). This is what Americans want and have wanted for a quite a while, much of this public support having developed during earlier administrations.

It’s far from limited to a supposed radical left-wing fringe. Along with Democrats and Independents, Republicans support guaranteeing all Americans access to affordable childcare (95%, 85%, and 71%, respectively) and guaranteeing all Americans a minimum income (88%, 69%, and 52%, respectively). But Republicans are mixed in what they support and what they oppose, and there is that ever present contrarian thorn in the side of the American public, that of Ferengi subset of Republicans under the sway of Fox News propaganda who always take the opposing position. It’s not that the Ferengi are more opposed to government but, rather, opposed to democratic governance that serves all Americans. Along with being reactionaries, they are hardcore right-wing authoritarians.

Most Americans, other than Ferengis, have a common vision of the kind of society they want to live in and what they consider important. There is a strong sense that climate change poses a threat that people fear will cause personal harm to themselves, their families, and communities (58%). Other polls show that most Americans want government to do more with stronger environmental regulations and protections. This isn’t abstract culture war bullshit but concrete threats in the real world and Americans fully appreciate what this could mean as it gets worse. Democrats and Independents of all races are in agreement. Many Republicans, outside of the Ferengi fringe, likewise agree. The same presumably would be true among self-identified conservatives, as seen in other data.

For many other issues, Americans show fairly strong and broad support. This is seen with once supposedly divisive culture war issue like abortion (60%), which is seen as perfectly fine even among majorities of the religious, the fundies aside. Most Americans think it should be legal in all or most cases. Many polls show this, including from Fox News — an ironic piece of data considering Fox News so heavily pushes this issue onto their viewers. Interestingly, previous PRRI data shows that immigration plays a role in shifting public opinion to the right, which is ironic in how native-born conservatives oppose the very immigrant groups that could bolster their numbers as a conservative movement. They might want to rethink that opposition considering that, though still a majority among Republicans, white Christians are in the minority for the first time in US history (Rachel Zoll, White Christians are now a minority of US population). Many Hispanics are also embracing the white identity, which could help maintain the ideological perception of white Christianity, although as Hispanics assimilate they become more liberal — so, a double-edged sword; maybe the Ferengi can’t win for losing. Here are the specifics from a 2018 PRRI poll:

“The largest divide is by place of birth. A majority (57%) of Hispanics born in the U.S. believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, compared to 36% who say it should be illegal in most or all cases. Among Hispanics born in Puerto Rico, 41% support abortion legality, compared to 53% who say it should be illegal in most or all cases. By contrast, only 33% of Hispanics born outside of the U.S. say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while nearly six in ten (59%) say it should be illegal in most or all cases. Place of birth also stratifies age groups. More than six in ten (63%) young Hispanics ages 18-29 born in the United States support abortion, compared to just 38% of young Hispanics born outside of the United States. Among seniors ages 65 and over, 44% of U.S.-born Hispanics favor abortion legality, compared to just under one in three (31%) foreign-born Hispanic seniors” (The State of Abortion and Contraception Attitudes in All 50 States).

The same goes for LGBTQ rights, as seen in the PRRI data. The majority, including among the religious, is on board with allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally (70%) and in enacting laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing (83%). In fact, the American majority were in favor of same sex marriage years before even DNC leaders (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, etc) came out publicly in support, demonstrating it isn’t a liberal and intellectual elite leading the way or manipulating the masses with cultural Marxism or whatever other conspiracy fear-mongering that Machiavellian demagogues and social dominators obsess about in their rhetorical bullshit.

Anyway, here is the demographic breakdown within the broad 70% support on the first of those issues: “Politically, the majority of Democrats (80%) and 50% of Republicans support same-sex marriage. Majorities of every major religious group support marriage equality, PRRI says. That includes support from 79% of white mainline Protestants, 78% of Hispanic Catholics, 72% of members of non-Christian religious groups, 68% of Hispanic Protestants, 67% of white Catholics, 57% of Black Protestants, and 56% of members of other Christian religious groups. The strongest opposition of same-sex marriage within religious communities comes from white evangelical Protestants, the study finds, with 63% opposing allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry” (Russell Falcon, American support for same-sex marriage is higher than ever, study finds). Once again, it’s within the Ferengi that minority opposition is found, and in this case even there it’s rather weak. The polarized divide is not within the general public nor between partisans but cleaving Republicans neatly in half. Give it a few years and the majority of Republicans will also be on board. It’s probably only Fox News and other heavily-funded right-wing media that is maintaining a countervailing force of resistance, without which the social liberal majority might already be absolute across all demographics.

Here is an important point. These issues are largely moot in the American mind, whatever may have been the case last century. Few think there is anything meaningful left to be debated. Basic tolerance and equality, rights and protections are central to democracy and most Americans want democracy, specifically with a lean toward more direct democracy and social democracy. Hence, culture war issues are now non-issues. Yet somehow these ideological corpses are resurrected from the dead by a corporate media and political elite that trot them out on a regular basis, presumably as a distraction from the issues Americans actually do worry about. As far as the average American is concerned, such issues don’t determine their vote nor much affect their life. So, to respond to the naysayers and malcontented, just shut the fuck up about it. Do what the American people want or get out of the way, quit being authoritarian assholes, and let’s move onto what really matters. The age of tolerating intolerance is over, let us hope.

And what might we conclude?

Here is the main takeaway point, as shown with this and so many other polls/surveys. We Americans are not a divided people. We are not fundamentally polarized within the larger population or rather the only polarization involves the leftist majority of the democratic demos on one side and the reactionary fringe manipulated by the authoritarian elite on the other. Most Americans agree about most things, but this is a silenced and suppressed moral majority. The American people want some combination of representative democracy and self-governance, probably for the very reason we undeniably know it is lacking and experience it’s lack in our everyday lives. Most of what politicians do is severely out of alignment with what most Americans support and value, and political elites seem conveniently oblivious to this self-serving corruption or else cynically antagonistic to it. The media elite are equally clueless or devious, as the case may be (Eric Alterman, America is much less conservative than mainstream media believe). Sadly, this has has led to much mind-fuckery where Americans become disconnected from their own values, a gaslighting of the American soul — as Eric Alterman has written about:

“A significant part of the problem appears to lie with the inaccurate use of labels. Without a doubt, self-professed conservatives consistently outnumber liberals in polls when Americans are questioned about their respective ideological orientations. Politicians, pundits, and reporters tend to believe that this extends to their views on the issues. It doesn’t. In fact it represents little more than the extensive investments conservatives have made in demonizing the liberal label and associating it with one unflattering characteristic after another. I delved deeply into this phenomenon while researching my 2008 book titled Why We’re Liberals. In the book, I noted that as a result of a four-decade-long campaign of conservative calumny, together with some significant errors on liberals’ own part, the word “liberal,” as political scientist Drew Westen observed, implied to most Americans terms such as “elite, tax and spend, out of touch,” and “Massachusetts.” No wonder barely one in five Americans wished to associate himself or herself with the label, then as now. Yet at the very same time, detailed polling by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press demonstrated a decided trend toward increasingly “liberal” positions by almost any definition.”

We Americans are far left of the elite. They do not speak for us. They do not represent us. They do not act on our behalf. This has been proven beyond any doubt. See: Larry M. Bartels, Unequal Democracy; Martin Gilens, Affluence and Influence; Martin Gilens & Benjamin I. Page, Democracy in America?; Lawrence R. Jacobs & Benjamin I. Page, Who Influences U.S. Foreign Policy?; Jarron Bowman, Do the Affluent Override Average Americans?; Matt Grossmann & Zuhaib Mahmood, How the Rich Rule in American Foreign Policy; Shawn McGuire & Charles Delahunt, Predicting United States Policy Outcomes with Random Forests; Patrick Flavin, State Campaign Finance Laws and the Equality of Political Representation; etc. Yet the political theater of partisanship is trotted out each election for yet more left-wing punching and lesser-evil voting.

How did it get this way? Consider the most important point. There is a single demographic, as repeatedly shown above, that is consistently far right on every issue and consistently in disagreement with the rest of the population. That demographic is partisan Republicans and Trumpian Republicans who are trusting of and indoctrinated by Fox News propaganda as aligned with an unprincipled religious right of white evangelicals that use politicized religion and symbolic religiosity (Trumpism After Trump? How Fox News Structures Republican Attitudes, PRRI report), as expressed through pseudo-populist demagoguery, social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism, and the Dark Tetrad (sociopathy, narcissism, sadism, & Machiavellianism); not to mention gun culture, militias, hate groups, hate crimes, and terrorism (e.g., decades of anti-choice violence). This isn’t a normal voting bloc but a militant movement seeking totalitarian power or rather manipulated by such ruthless and anti-democratic power-mongers, as seen with an aspiring strongmen like Donald Trump (and his Machiavellian sidekick Steven Bannon) who led an insurrectionist attack on the seat of government while president.

These Ferengi are opposite of Democrats, for sure, along with living on a different planet than most Americans. And they aren’t even like other Republicans, specifically not the disappearing moderate conservatives and civil libertarians, anti-fundamentalist Goldwater Republicans and anti-Bircher William F. Buckley Jr. Republicans, liberal-minded Eisenhower Republicans and laissez-faire Log Cabin Republicans; et cetera. But, maybe more importantly, they don’t slightly resemble the audiences of other corporate media; such as how those on the political left, as the data shows, tend to seek out a wider variety and more balanced selection of media sources (including right-wing media like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal). The rise of Fox News and right-wing talk radio, along with the alt-right media funded by dark money, as a nationwide echo chamber and ideological reality tunnel, was an entirely new phenomenon in history. In implementing the propaganda model of news media, it is an outrage machine that is highly effective in manufacturing consent by altering opinion, perception, and identity.

Fox News has increasingly become the propaganda wing of the Republican Party, particularly since Donald Trump’s takeover but going back several decades. “According to the poll, 55% of Republicans who say Fox News is their primary source of news say there is nothing Trump could do to lose their approval. This contrasts with only 29% Republicans who do not cite Fox News as their primary source of news who say the same.” (Rosie Perper, Fox News is part of the reason many Republicans don’t support impeaching Trump, a new poll reveals). Heck, even lacking college education doesn’t make one as dogmatically partisan as being brainwashed by right-wing media, in how mindless groupthink of the lesser educated still remains below majority level: “45% of Republicans who do not have a college degree say there is virtually nothing Trump could do to lose their support, compared to 35% of college-educated Republicans who say the same” (Fractured Nation: Widening Partisan Polarization and Key Issues in 2020 Presidential Elections). Watching Fox News is apparently the ideological equivalent to being reborn in the blood of Christ: “Virtually all Republican white evangelical Protestants (99%) and Republicans who say Fox News is their primary source of news (98%) oppose Trump being impeached and removed from office.” White evangelicalism, as the most extremist strain of white Christianity, does seem to be key.

“While the PRRI poll found that 77% of white evangelical Protestants approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing in office, only 54% of white mainline Protestants and 48% of white Catholics approve of his job performance. There are also divides along racial lines: 72% of Hispanic Catholics and 86% of black Protestants disapprove of Mr. Trump’s job performance. There is also widespread disagreement over whether Mr. Trump has encouraged white supremacist violence while in office. Seventy percent of white evangelical Protestants, 51% of white mainline Protestants, and 46% of white Catholics say that Mr. Trump has not had an impact on white supremacist groups, according to the PRRI poll. However, 78% of black Protestants say that Mr. Trump’s decisions and behavior have encouraged white supremacist groups” (Grace Segers, 99% of Republican white evangelical Protestants oppose impeaching and removing Trump, new poll finds). Racism, unsurprisingly, remains a schism in American Christianity and, as has always been true in American history, it largely falls along racial lines. Yet this schism is shrinking in the population overall, as even non-evangelical whites slowly but steadily turn away from America’s racist past.

This points to a central problem for the GOP and their Ferengi base. ““While White evangelical Protestants have declined as a proportion of the population over the last decade, from 21 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2019, they have maintained an outsize presence at the ballot box, somewhere between one-fifth and one-quarter of voters,” [Robert P. Jones, head of PRRI] said. He described this as a “time machine,” whereby the White evangelical Christians’ outsize vote “has the effect of turning back the demographic clock by nearly a decade. In other words, we’re living in the demographic realities of 2020, but our elections are being conducted, demographically speaking, in 2012 America.” […] White evangelical Protestants are the backbone of the GOP, but their geographic concentration and population decline mean Republicans are living on borrowed time” (Jennifer Rubin, Opinion: What the election tells us about religion in America). About Trump’s “underlying political bet he is imposing on the GOP,” it has been noted that, “Comparing the election results in 2018 with those in 2016, [political scientist Brian Schaffner’s] research found that House Republican candidates lost more ground among voters who agree that racism and sexism remain problems than they gained among those who do not” (Ronald Brownstein, The partisan chasm over ‘systemic racism’ is on full display).

That isn’t promising as a winning strategy heading into the demographically uncertain future. As the old pillars of conservatism can no longer be depended upon because of societal shifts, the right-wing elite will be forced to ever more turn to right-wing media machines to manufacture consent and rile support or otherwise demoralize the majority, disenfranchise voters, and undermine democracy. Public opinion and public policy might now be drastically further to the left, if not for the authoritarian influence of weaponized media and concentrated wealth, not to mention the destabilizing and anxiety-inducing high inequality. Yet no matter how large is the audience, Republican viewers of Fox News are a small percentage of the total population, as Fox News has proven with their own polling in showing how far left is the American majority. So, why does this miniscule minority have such an outsized influence in being treated as equal to the vast majority on the opposite side of public opinion? Why do the supposed ‘liberal’ Democrats and the supposed ‘liberal’ media figures accept this framing of false equivalency that silences not only most Americans in general but also most Democrats, Independents, and those portrayed on the political ‘left’? Why does all of the corporate media play along with this false narrative that is implemented as social control in disenfranchising the majority, even most moderate conservatives and principled libertarians?

However we answer that line of questioning, just for a moment imagine what the United States would be like without reactionary media, without endless outrage and fear-mongering. Imagine if Fox News politics wasn’t the dominant model of propaganda for an oligarchic rule. Imagine if all of the corporate media was broken up to the extent that most media was once again locally owned and operated or at least much smaller scale and diverse. Imagine if all big money was removed from politics, all legal bribery was made illegal, all corporate lobbyists were frozen out of public decision-making. Imagine if public opinion mattered, if the moral majority wasn’t silenced and suppressed, if government actually represented the American People. Otherwise, what is the point of all this public polling? If and when we the American public realize we are the majority and far to the left of the elite, then what? Maybe we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. The revolution has already happened in the public mind. Now all that remains is to follow through to where it leads.

* * *

More on PRRI polling:

Biden’s Conservatism

I wouldn’t necessarily argue about Joe Biden’s campaign promises or anyone else’s campaign promises, not even those of Donald Trump. But what does concern me is the actual political record of each individual. And in the case of Biden on Social Security, it’s a very mixed and not reassuring political history. That shouldn’t be dismissed lightly nor rationalized away with nice-sounding rhetoric. 

That said, what the Democratic Party does during the next administration is not limited to Biden, as there could be other political actors and the public putting pressure the DNC elite. Even if Biden at this point still wanted to cut Social Security, he would have a hard time accomplishing this end, even with bipartisan support, because of the extreme unpopularity of doing so. I’m sure someone would pull him to the side and explain to him that Social Security shouldn’t be touched, but in the past he took pride in ignoring that warning by grabbing hold of that third rail. He could get sneaky about cuts as he did in the past.

His decades of interest and willingness toward cutting Social Security remains a concern, not only Social Security but also Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits, etc — everything will be on the table, he said in the past to emphasize this point. Biden and other corporatist Democrats will have to be watched carefully in the coming years. Fiscal hawks like Biden might go slightly left, if we force them to do so, but that is far from guaranteed. We have almost no way to force him to do anything, other than by threatening with protests, riots, and revolts.

Behind the scenes, the corporatist Democrats will find ways to work with corporatists Republicans, and the corporate media probably won’t report on it or else will spin a narrative to hide the truth. This means we’ll need to watch the alternative media closely to stay informed. That is a depressing thought. I’d rather leaders who would do the right thing on their own without constant threat and scrutiny from the public, but the sad fact is Biden is not such a leader. 

Even so, I understand the hope of leftists that the Biden administration could be pulled left, however naive is this expectation. There is nothing in the recent history of the Democratic Party to cause one to think it’s likely. Let’s take it as an interesting experiment. And I’d love to be proven wrong. As one critc put it, if Biden suddenly becomes the next FDR, I’ll become a Biden Bro cheering him on. But if I’m proven right, will the loyal Democratic partisans ever admit to once again failing? Of course not. It will be lesser evilism again next election leading to ever greater evil each time. That is how we ended up here. 

Think about Biden’s kind of politics. Back in the 1980s, he was sometimes to the right of Ronald Reagan on fiscal issues, such as about cutting Social Security. Biden was one of the strongest supporters of GOP policy during that time, from cutting taxes on the rich to increasing military spending that created our present permanent national debt, not to mention his advocacy of the balanced budget amendment which was code for slashing everything that helped Americans. 

By the way, the permanent debt was created on purpose. It was part of the Starve the Beast Strategy, combined with the Two Santa Claus Theory. Reaganonomics was a continuation of Jimmy Carter’s austerity politics, but the Republicans realized how unpopular it was under the Carter admistration. So, they sought to force austerity and cuts to social programs in an indirect way. The idea was that by creating a massive national debt it would create a financial crisis, but this failed and the debt growing. And no matter how much they cut social programs and taxes on the rich, as also happened under Bill Clinton, there was somehow always more money for big biz subsidies and more war.

Obviously, there is nothing about cutting taxes while increasing spending that is fiscally responsible, but that wasn’t the purpose. They were hoping to dismantle the New Deal and Biden was all on board. As a Reagan conservative, it was Democrats like Biden who ensured Reagan had a conservative majority, even when he didn’t have a Republican majority. Biden remained friendly with Republicans and kept working with them. He supported the far right 1998 Republican budget, at a time when the GOP were well on their way toward ever greater extremism. 

This has continued into recent politics. The Obama/Biden administration for several years kept trying to cut Social Security by ensuring payments wouldn’t keep up with US inflation, but the Tea Partiers in power were too dogmatic to accept the lopsided deal in their favor. And it goes on and on. There are plenty of signs that Biden has not changed his stripes. A 40 year long political record speaks loudly, no matter what rhetoric he has thrown out to gain votes and win the electiion. Don’t be distracted by his words. Look to his actions.

One of Biden’s top campaign advisors is Bruce Reed who is a far right economic conservative. Reed is being made the Head of the Office of Management and Budget, a powerful position. Put this in context. Reed ran the commission that pushed for Social Security cuts, something he has been pushing since the 1990s. This isn’t the only fiscal hawk, along with other kinds of right-wingers (war hawks, corporate lobbyists, anti-environmentlists, etc), that is being brought into the Biden administration. There is Janet Yellen, Antony Blinken, Cedric Richmond, etc.

Putting fiscal hawks and opponents of Social Security into power is probably not what a president does if they genuinely are seeking to protect, strengthen, and expand Social Security. Biden does not appear to be signalling that he will allow himself or his administration to be pushed left — quite the opposite. Why expect someone like Biden to suddenly reverse the course of his political career, no matter what he claims to get votes?

Biden is the spirit of the Clinton Democrats or what used to be called New Democrats, what now is a moderate Republican (the reason he gained support from conservative Republicans like Bill Kristol). He was promoting Third Way politics and triangulation before there was a name for it, before the Clintons were in Washington. This has meant pushing right while punching left. He built his career on demanding fiscal responsibility by cutting benefits to the average person while ensuring big spending continues for wars, corporate subsidies, bank bailouts, etc.

We the public will have to go to heroic efforts in trying to even nudge Biden an inch to the left (at least on economic issues) or simply keep him from going further right, as he likes to do, by working with Republicans to get things done. That is what centrism meant to Biden in the past. He likes to get things done, particularly when the left doesn’t like what he gets done. He has stated in no uncertain terms that he hates the left and prides himself on beating the ‘socialists’, what used to be considered standard liberalism and progressivism.

To be fair, he might throw a few bones to the left on social issues.

* * *

Videos about Social Security (the first few are footage of Biden over the decades):

Joe Biden’s Decades of Trying to Cut Social Security and Medicare
Biden Calls for Cuts to Social SecurityJoe Biden Brags about Trying to Cut Medicare, Social Security, & More while Bernie Defends ThemBiden’s Record on Social Security
Biden Can’t Outrun His Social Security RecordBiden Can’t Stop Lying About His Social Security RecordBernie Relentlessly HAMMERS Biden’s Social Security LiesHuff Post Reporter: Biden’s documented history of trying to cut social securityEven Biden’s Staff DISTRUSTS His Ability To Discuss Social SecurityDavid Sirota: Biden’s Reported Budget Pick Tried To CUT Social SecurityBernie CALLS OUT Joe Biden’s Huge Lies On Social SecurityBiden Lies Lies Lies About His Social Security Record
Joe Biden Would Go After Social SecurityDear Joe Biden’s Older Supporters, He Wants to Cut YOUR Social Security!Did Biden Endorse Cutting Social Security and Medicare? ft. Brandon Sutton (TMBS 91)Joe Biden Keeps Trying to Cut Social SecurityJoe Biden’s Indefensible Record

Also, see these videos and articles about Biden picks for his administration, as an early sign of which direction he will go:

Saagar Enjeti: Biden’s Cabinet Is FULL Of Deficit Hawks, War Lovers and GlobalistsBiden’s Cabinet A Who’s Who Of Corrupt Corporate Lobbyists
Joe Biden Punches Bernie Sanders Square In The Balls With Cabinet Appointments.
Under a Biden Administration Bush-era Neoconservatives Own the Democratic Party. Not the “far left”

It seems Joe Biden wants Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the Senate, not his Cabinet

Snubbing both Warren and Sanders for moderates won’t please the left-most wing of the party, especially when Biden’s transition team reportedly seems more interested in courting Republicans than progressives. During the NBC interview, Biden said he wasn’t opposed to nominating a Republican who voted for President Donald Trump to his administration, but that political watchers shouldn’t expect that kind of announcement.”

Joe Biden Is Freezing Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Out of His Cabinet

“Though the summer months elicited a flurry of frenzied speculation about an ambitious liberal agenda on the near horizon, one only needed to take a cursory glance at Biden’s Wall Street donors, senior advisers, and public rhetoric to see what the character of his administration would almost certainly be. The appointment of figures from the likes of Uber, Lyft, Amazon, and JPMorgan to his transition team certainly does little to alter the general impression.

“Needless to say, the emerging character of the Democratic administration that will take office next year continues to give lie to the fable of a transformative, FDR-like agenda primary-fatigued liberals were so reassuringly offered throughout the late spring and summer. At this early stage, Biden could be using his transition to set the stage for a bullish one hundred days beginning in January. Instead, he’s surrounding himself with corporate operatives and freezing the Left out of his cabinet.”

Articles and quotes about Social Security cuts:

Social Security and Medicare Are Not Safe With Joe Biden

Did Biden Twice Vote To Tax Social Security While in the Senate?

“What’s True: While serving as a U.S. senator representing Delaware, Joe Biden voted for two pieces of legislation — once in 1983 and once in 1993 — that resulted in taxing some Social Security income of some recipients.

How Corporate Media ‘Factchecked’ Biden’s Calls for Social Security Cuts Into Oblivion

“Whatever clever dodges politicians propose for cutting Social Security, whether through “raising the retirement age,” “chained CPI” or “freezing” spending, it’s important for media outlets to cut through the jargon and inform citizens by accurately labeling what they want to impose on the US’s most successful anti-poverty program: cuts. Otherwise, these “guides” to Social Security debates should be understood by readers as apologies for austerity (Extra!, 5/99).”

Did Joe Biden Just Deny Calling for Social Security Cuts? There are videos of it.

Joe Biden, 1984 (Senate):

“So, when those of my friends in the Democratic and Republican Party say to me, ‘How do you expect me to vote for your proposal? Does it not freeze Social Security COLAs for one year? Are we not saying there will be no cost-of-living increases for one year?’ The answer to that is ‘Yes, that is what I am saying.'”

“Within the next 12 to 18 months this country will face an economic and political crisis of extraordinary proportions if Congress refuses to take decisive action on the deficits that we face.”

Joe Biden, 1995 (Senate):

“When I introduced the budget freeze years ago, the liberals in my party said, “It’s an awful thing you’re doing, Joe. You are… All the programs we care about, you’re freezing them. Money for the blind, the disabled, education…” And so on. And my argument then is the one I make now, which is the strongest, most compelling reason to be for this Bu…this amendment, or an amendment. And that is that, if we don’t do that, all the things I care most about are going to be gone.”

“I mean whatever happened to that old conservative discipline about paying for what you spend?”

“I’m up for re-election this year and I’m going to remind everybody what I did. At home, which is going to cost me politically. I… When I argued if we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well!I meant Medicare and Medicaid! I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government.And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time and I tried it a fourth time.

I introduced the Balanced Budget Amendment in 1984! It got nowhere. I’m one of those Democrats who voted for the Constitutional amendment to balance the budget. I introduced it on four occasions. Four occasions, entire plans to balance the budget, knowing I’m not president, and I’m not the leader. But for illustrative purposes. I tried with Senator Grassley back in the ’80s to freeze all government spending, including Social Security. Including everything.”

Joe Biden, 1988:

I introduced an amendment, notwithstanding my quote liberal credentials, of freezing the federal budget, absolute freeze. I did it for a simple reason: I sat on the Budget Committee for 11 years. And I’d find the same thing occur every time. We’d start off with grandiose ideas of how we’re going to cut the budget. We would never touch entitlements, we would never touch the defense budget, and we couldn’t touch the interest on the debt. Which meant that out of a trillion-dollar budget, that left us only $156 billion And what we would do each year is we would go out and cut out education, food stamps, Head Start, [welfare] payments, on down the line, everything that I cared about got cut, because at the very end, we’d say, ‘Well, we’ve gotta make some cuts.’ And that would be the path of least resistance.”

Joe Biden, 1995:

I am a Democrat that voted for the constitutional amendment to balance the budget. I have introduced on four occasions — four occasions — entire plans to balance a budget. I tried with Senator Grassley back in the 1980s to freeze all government spending, including Social Security, including everything.”

When I introduced my budget freeze proposal years ago, the liberals of my party said, ‘It’s an awful thing you are doing, Joe. All the programs we care about, you are freezing them — money for the blind, the disabled, education and so on. My argument then is one I make now, which is the strongest, most compelling reason to be for this amendment — or an amendment — that if we do not do that, all the things I care most about are going to be gone — gone.”

Joe Biden, 2007 (Meet the Press interview):

Tim Russert: “Senator, we have a deficit. We have Social Security and Medicare looming. The number of people on Social Security and Medicare is now 40 million people. It’s going to be 80 million in 15 years. Would you consider looking at those programs, age of eligibility, cost of living, put it all on the table?

Joe Biden: “The answer is absolutely. […] Social Security’s not the hard one to solve. Medicare, that is the gorilla in the room, and you’ve got to put all of it on the table.

Joe Biden, 2007 (Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner):

The American people know we have to fix Social Security. They know we can’t grow our way to a solution. They know we’re going to have to make some tough decisions. They’re ready to make those decisions. They’re ready to step up. We have to be ready to straightforwardly tell them what we’re about to do.”

Joe Biden, 2018:

“Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What’s the first thing he decided we had to go after? Social Security and Medicare. We need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That’s the only way you can find room to pay for it.”

FACT CHECK: JOE BIDEN HAS ADVOCATED CUTTING SOCIAL SECURITY FOR 40 YEARS

BIDEN’S FIXATION on cutting Social Security dates back to the Reagan era. One of Ronald Reagan’s first major moves as president was to implement a mammoth tax cut, tilted toward the wealthy, and to increase defense spending. Biden, a Delaware senator at the time, supported both moves. The heightened spending and reduced revenue focused public attention on the debt and deficit, giving fuel to a push for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

In the midst of that debate, Biden teamed up with Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to call for a freeze on federal spending, and insisted on including Social Security in that freeze, even as the Reagan administration fought to protect the program from cuts. It was part of the Democratic approach at the time not just to match Republicans, but to get to their right at times as well, as Biden also did on criminal justice policy. […]

“In 2014, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said at a conservative event that Biden had privately told him he was supporting of raising the retirement age and means-testing Social Security benefits. “I asked the vice president, don’t we have to raise the age? Wouldn’t means-testing and raising the age solve the problem?” Paul recounted, with Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee on stage, adding that Biden said, “Yes in private, but will not say it in public.” Paul hadn’t been paying close enough attention.”

PolitiFact Wrongly Lets Biden Off the Hook: The Truth About Social Security Cuts

In the speech, Biden says, “we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare” and that Social Security “needs adjustments.” Biden did not elaborate on what these “adjustments” were, but a look at his long history on Social Security is telling.
“In the 1980s, Biden sponsored a plan to freeze all federal spending, including Social Security. In the 1990s, Biden was a leading supporter of a balanced budget amendment, a policy that the Center for American Progress and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (two center-left think tanks who are hardly in the tank for Bernie Sanders) agree would be a catastrophe for Social Security.

“More recently, Biden led “grand bargain” negotiations with Republicans during his time as vice president. This “grand bargain” would have given Republicans structural, permanent cuts to Social Security in return for tax increases on the wealthy that would be rolled back as soon as a Republican president got elected to office.

“Time and time again, Biden kept coming back to the negotiating table, insisting that Republicans were dealing in good faith. Ultimately, the grand bargain fell through only because of hardline House Republicans refusing to make even an incredibly lopsided deal. Biden was fully prepared to make a deal that included Social Security cuts, including reducing future cost-of-living increases by implementing a chained CPI.

When Washington politicians talk about Social Security cuts, they almost always use coded language, saying that they want to “change,” “adjust,” or even “save” the program. That’s because cutting Social Security is incredibly unpopular with voters of all political stripes. When corporate-friendly politicians like Biden use those words, they are trying to signal to elite media and billionaire donors that they are “very serious people” who are open to cutting Social Security benefits, without giving away the game to voters.”

Biden’s Advocacy for Social Security Cuts Has Had Real Consequences

Going back to 1984, Biden has expressed interest in deals that would cut Social Security. He proposed freezing Social Security spending and periodically highlighted that desire; he voted for a balanced-budget amendment even after failing to shield Social Security from it; and he demanded that Social Security be “put on the table” during his last presidential run. He associates himself with a crowd known for foregrounding deficit concerns and fully willing to make “tough choices” on earned benefits like Social Security. Bruce Reed, Biden’s vice presidential chief of staff from 2011 to 2013 and a top campaign aide, was executive director of the Bowles-Simpson commission, which pursued deficit reduction and proposed increases in the retirement age.

“As a coup de grace, in 2012 and 2013 then-Vice President Biden helped lead a publicly advocated scheme to reduce future Social Security benefits as part of a “grand bargain” with Republicans. This cut did not reflect any of President Obama’s campaign promises, but it became part of a negotiation while in office—precisely the fear that liberals have with Biden, that he will revert back to dealmaking with Republicans that sells out core Democratic principles.

“Specifically, Obama-Biden sought to swap out the annual cost-of-living adjustment used to calculate benefits with the so-called “chained CPI,” which uses the concept of substitution. If the price of beef spikes, you could purchase lower-cost chicken instead to stay within your budget. This subsequently grows the inflation index more slowly than other government measures.

“Of course, no real substitute exists for the main drivers of elderly people’s budgets, namely housing, medical care, and prescription drugs, all of which typically rise faster than inflation. You can’t really substitute ham for arthritis medication. There’s a specific inflation calculation for the elderly, which takes this cohort’s higher costs into account, but for some reason it’s not used for Social Security benefits.

“The net effect of chained CPI would have been a Social Security benefit cut, which only makes sense if you think seniors get too sweet a deal with their $1,461 a month in average benefits. The average worker retiring at 65 would have seen a $650 reduction in benefits by age 75, and then $1,130 by age 85, according to economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Calling this a “more accurate” calculation of inflation masks the end goal of reducing future benefits (by about $230 billion over a decade, according to 2013 figures) and saving money within the system. […]

Chained CPI only dates back to 2002. It was an obscure concept mostly favored by deficit hawks and conservative ideologues until the Obama administration elevated itThe Obama-Biden proposal gave chained CPI the legitimacy needed for future administrations to implement it. It was not benign, not just a pose to show how extreme Republicans were. It was not just an ephemeral trial balloon in one negotiation in 2013. It has had long-lasting consequences for millions of Americans. And the vice president of the administration that set the trip wire causing chained CPI’s growth should be held accountable for his actions.

Recursive Knots of the Mind

In listening to the news media, there is often very little news being reported. It’s not for a lack of interesting stories and important issues to be reported upon. There is more than enough material to fill up the 24/7 news cycle without any repetition. On a particular news outlet, there was a panel discussing one of the many topics used to induce viewer outrage and hence advertizing engagement (i.e., profit), but it’s not relevant exactly what they were saying. Over the entire segment, there was mostly opinionating and speculating, as expected. There wasn’t much susbstance. What was interesting is how the media personalities wielded rhetoric.

The closest the viewer got to actual information was a quote that was given no context or additional support. The quoted material, taken in isolation, was immediately submitted to an interpretation that was an accusation of ill-intent and taken as having proven guilt. Then that was repeated, such that the interpretation came to be treated as an established fact that stood in place of the quote. The quote itself, that could’ve been interpreted variously, had been reduced and then expanded upon. The result was a declarative set of claims and conclusions, without any need for further evidence. The quote was discarded for it was never relevant in the first place. With belief-claim established as pseudo-fact, an entire narrative was spun as melodramatic infotainment.

What stood out was how most statements made were broad, sweeping generalizations and absolute assertions without any sourcing, argument, or qualification. Is that news? Not really. Rather, these agents of corporate media were, step by step, walking the viewers through the social construction of an ideological reality tunnel. The indoctrinated viewer could now re-create the ideological worldview as needed and teach others to do the same. It was fascinating to watch, as it was impressive in its own way. Yet it’s not as if there was anything brilliant or unusual about that ‘news’ segment or the hacks doing their job. It was all workmanlike but, nonetheless, highly effective in manipulating and moulding the audience. It served its purpose.

I’m not sure why that particular segment caught my attention. It was some random thing playing on the television in the background as I was passing by. But something about it caused me to stop and perk up my ears. It got me thinking about the power of language. The thing is this act of rhetorical manipulation wouldn’t be possible in all languages, although it’s a common feat in the global written languages that have had centuries to be adapted to literacy and the modern media environment. One common feature of the major languages is recursion. It’s so common that some took it as a universal trait of language, based on the assumption that it was built into a language module, a physical structure located somewhere in the human brain. Basically, the theory has been that we humans have a genetically-determined instinct for linguistic recursion, one of the building blocks of rhetoric that allows for these sometimes complex language games of persuasion.

That is the theory based on the linguistic cultures, primarily the United States, in which linguistic studies developed. “We tend to speak in sentences of multiple clauses,” writes Samantha Harvey, “not in clauses that have been separated out. Noam Chomsky has called these multiple clauses instances of recursion, and he thinks they’re what define human language. They reflect our unique ability to position a thought inside a thought, to move from the immediate to the abstract, to infinite other places and times. A circle in a spiral, a wheel within a wheel; a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own. In theory, an infinitely long, recursive sentence is possible, says Chomsky; there is no limit to the mind’s capacity to embed one thought inside another. Our language is recursive because our minds are recursive. Infinitely windmilling” (The Shapeless Unease, A Year of Not Sleeping).

This is, it turns out, not true for all cultures; or so one side has agued in an ongoing debate. With that possibility in mind, Julie Sedivy suggests that, “the languages that many of us have grown up with are very different from the languages that have been spoken throughout the vast majority of human existence” (The Rise and Fall of the English Sentence). Take the example of the Piraha. Their language lacks any evidence of recursion. That isn’t to say the Piraha are incapable of recursive thought, but that is not the same thing as recursive language and what it makes possible. Before exploring linguistic recursion, let’s establish what is the non-linguistic recursion. “If you go back to the Pirahã language,” writes Daniel Everett, “and you look at the stories that they tell, you do find recursion. You find that ideas are built inside of other ideas, and one part of the story is subordinate to another part of the story” (Recursion and Human Thought). Such basic recursive thought is true of all human societies and might be the case with some non-human species (Manuel Arturo Abreu, Organisms that do not exhibit recursion in communication still have the capacity for recursion).

There is much debate about who has recursion and who lacks it. Leading experts across numerous fields (linguistics, biology, mathematics, etc) have yet to come to a consensus on defining recursion, much less agreeing about its universality. Yet others point to the diverse ways recursion might show up: “[W]hen deer look for food in the forest,” Everett mentions “they often use recursive strategies to map their way across the forest and back, and take little side paths that can be analyzed as recursive paths.” But speaking of early hominids, Everett suggests that, “it would not have been necessary for them to have recursion to have language, at least according to the simple idea of language evolution as a sign progression and supported by some modern languages.” (How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention). That is to say, language was an early evolutionary development as was non-lingistic recursion, whereas the combination of the two was a much later cultual development. Linguistic recurson takes a cross-species neurocognitive ability and hijacks it toward advanced cultural ends.

This simple observation that syntactical recursion is culturally-structured, not genetically-determined, has been treated as if radical and heretical. “The dispute over Pirahã is curious in many respects, not least with regard to the fact that Everett is not the first linguist to claim that a language lacks embedded clauses and therewith recursion,” writes Robert D. Van Valin (Recursion and Human Thought). “In a series of important papers published in the late 70’s, the late MIT linguist Kenneth Hale argued that certain Australian Aboriginal languages lack embedding of the type found in Indo-European languages in their complex sentences and furthermore that one of them, Warlpiri, has a completely ‘flat’ syntactic structure. The latter claim was amended somewhat in the published version of the paper, but the point about the complex sentences remained valid. In the mid-1980’s, William Foley, a linguist at the University of Sydney, described Iatmul, a language of Papua New Guinea, as having non-hierarchical clause combining, i.e. no embedded of clauses in complex sentences, hence no recursion in the syntax.”

Beyond a total lack of recursion, there are plenty of other cultures where it’s severely restricted, of which Julie Sedivy gave some examples, from linguist Marianne Mithun, by way of contrast with English: “In English, 34 percent of clauses in conversational American English are embedded clauses. In Mohawk (spoken in Quebec), only 7 percent are. Gunwinggu (an Australian language) has 6 percent and Kathlamet (formerly spoken in Washington state) has only 2 percent. An English speaker might say: Would you teach me to make bread? But a Mohawk speaker would break this down into several short sentences, saying something like this: It will be possible? You will teach me. I will make bread. In English, you might say: He came near boys who were throwing spears at something. A Kathlamet approximation would go like this: He came near those boys. They were throwing spears at something then.”

So the question arises,” asks Van Valin, “given that such claims go back a good thirty years, and the most important of them was from a former colleague of Chomsky’s, why has Everett’s claim engendered such controversy?” We don’t need to answer that question here, but it’s good to be reminded that this kind of thought about the power of culture, similar to lingistic relativity, is not a new insight. Everett was far from alone in noting the lack of recursion in some culture. Yet he was viciously attacked by Chomsky and his acolytes. They tried to destroy his reputation. The sense of animosity remains in the field, as it was a fight for control and dominance. It wasn’t only about an obscure theoretical issue but an entire paradigm in framing human nature and the social condition.

What, you might wonder, is this recursion that has become the subject of an academic turf war? Why is it so important and what does it do? Through subordinate clauses with embedded phrases and qualifications, syntactic recursion makes possible the hierarchcial ordering of value and meaning. Without it, all that is available for human communication are simple declarative statements, what is called parataxis as opposed to hypotaxis. Hypotactic communication, particularly as develped in written language, allows an immense complexity of linguistic structure and thought-forms, an extension of hypothesis and speculation. Recursion spirals out into entire fanasy worlds of ideological realism that are reified into a perception of supposed objective reality (what Everett calls dark matter of the mind, what Robert Anton Wilson calls a reality tunnel, and what anthropologists call a cosmology), in which we lose the ability to distinguish between the communication and what is communicated. There is the idea that the medium is the message — well, this puts a hurricane-level wind into that sail. This is language as advanced social construction, the foundation upon which are built vast civilizations and empires.

Paratactic speech, on the other hand, hews more closely to direct experience and so keeps the individual grounded in immediate and present reality. This is why Buddhists use paratactic language, in eschewing recursion, as a mindfulness practice to dismantle the imagined boundaries of the ego-mind. They do this by describing experience in the simplest of terms, such as “anger is arising here and now” and not “I’m angry, as happens every Friday, because the boss always finds a way to give me work for the weekend, even though I told him I had family visiting, and any of my coworkers could do this work but the boss always expects me to do it.” The Buddhist rhetorical practice eliminates the interpretation, such as in English, of subject-action-result. Anger is not a thing or an event. It is simply an experience that passes.

This might relate to why, in lacking linguistic recursion, the Piraha appear less likely to get stuck in states of stress and worry, while less likely to suffer from mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, not to mention suicide being entirely unknown. There aren’t even what we might consider fundamental stages of development, in our speaking about the terrible twos and teenage angst. Piraha go from toddlerhood to being weened and then basically they’re a part of the adult world at that point with little fuss or frustration. And as adults, they get along well, such as apparently not holding onto anger with resentment and grudges.

This was exemplified by an incident that Daniel Everett recorded: ““I mean, what are you going to do to him for shooting your dog?” “I will do nothing. I won’t hurt my brother. He acted like a child. He did a bad thing. But he is drunk and his head is not working well. He should not have hurt my dog. It is like my child.” Even when provoked, as Kaaboogí was now, the Pirahãs were able to respond with patience, love, and understanding, in ways rarely matched in any other culture I have encountered” (Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes).

The same easygoing attitude was demonstrated in how they deal with a diversity of difficulties and conflicts, such as their informal process of ‘divorce’ where the abandoned partner grieves loudly and publicly for a few days but is perfectly fine when their former spouse returns to the village with a new spouse. Their serial monogomy, by the way, in such small tribes means that the majority of Piraha have had sex with the majority of other Piraha at some point — they are a close community. Maybe their language has much to do with their being able to simply experience emotions and then let them go. The lack of recursion might disallow them from easily getting stuck in constructed narratives and it could be noted that, although familiar with stories told by outsiders that they occasionally repeat, they do lack a native storytelling tradition. This might indicate a close connection between recursion and narrative.

But recursion, for all the attention it gets, is only one aspect of this far different cultural mindset. In making this point, Arika Okrent writes: “Ironically, in the 2005 article that began the whole Chomsky/Everett debate, Everett barely touched on the notion that the Pirahã’s lack of recursion might challenge the theory of universal grammar. Instead, his aim was to show that the Pirahã cultural commitment to immediate, concrete experience permeated the very structure of their language: not embedding one phrase inside another was just one of the many ways that the Pirahã prioritised the here and now. Other evidence he adduced for this priority included the simplicity of the kinship system, the lack of numbers, and the absence of fiction or creation myths” (Is linguistics a science?). It’s an entire cultural worldview.

Another linguistic factor is that it’s required one speaks very specifically in describing truth claims and attributing their source. The Piraha don’t and, according to the limits built into their language, can’t speak in broad generalizations and abstractions. Their knowledge, although encyclopedic in relation to the world around them, is limited to what they have directly experienced, what they can deduce from what they have drectly experienced, or what someone they personally know has directly experienced. They don’t even have any equivalent to ancestral or mythological knowledge about a perceived distant past. Everything is referred to in relation to its proximity to the broad here and now of living memory. This greater concrete specificity is observed among some other hunter-gatherer languages, such as the Peruvian Matses studied by David William Fleck (A grammar of Matses).

Such highly qualified but non-recursive language can also affect how one orients within time and space. We Westerners are used to the egoic perspective because it is built into our language, including referencing direction according to our individual view of the world. In giving directions, we’ll speak of turning left or right and going straight. But some tribal cultures like the Australian Guugu Ymithirr, as described by Guy Deustcher, express their sense of place according to the cardinal points in relation to the sun’s path in the sky. For another Australian Aboriginal group, the Pormpuraaw, cardinal directions also determined the perception of how time flowed or else how events are spatially related (see Lera Boroditsky and Alice Gaby’s work, Remembrances of Times East: Absolute Spatial Representations of Time in an Australian Aboriginal Community). Yet time and space to the Piraha can seem even more radically alien to Western understanding, as space-time collapses into an all-purpose sense of transience with phenomenal experience flickering in and out of perceived reality — as explained by Samantha Harvey:

“There is a Pirahã word that Everett heard often and couldn’t deduce the meaning of: xibipiio. Sometimes it would be a noun, sometimes a verb, sometimes an adjective or adverb. So and so would xibipiio go upriver, and xibipiio come back. The fire flame would be xibipiio-ing. Over time Everett realised that it designated a concept, something like going in and out of experience – ‘crossing the border between experience and non-experience’. Anything not in the here and now disappears from experience, it xibipiios, and arrives back in experience as once again the here and now. There isn’t a ‘there’ or a ‘then’, there are just the things xibipiio-ing in and out of the here and now.

“There is no past or future tense as such in Pirahã; the language has two tense-like morphemes – remote things (not here and now) are appended by -a and proximate things (here and now) by – i . These morphemes don’t so much describe time as whether the thing spoken about is in the speaker’s direct experience or not. The Pirahã language doesn’t lay experiences out on a past–present–future continuum as almost every other language does. In English we can place events quite precisely on this continuum: it had rained, it rained, it has rained, it rains, it is raining, it will rain, it will have rained. The Pirahã can only say whether the rain is proximate (here) or not” (The Shapeless Unease, A Year of Not Sleeping).

Anything more convoluted than that is, to the Piraha mind, unnecessary or maybe just unimaginable — not even requiring color terms, numbers, and quantifying words like ‘many’, ‘most’, ‘every’ or ‘each’. Their kinship terminology is limited as well, such as a single word for mother and father. And they have the simplest pronoun inventory ever recorded. Unsurprisingly, their lexicon for describing time is sparse.

“Time leaks everywhere into English,” Harvey writes, “some ten per cent of the most commonly used words are expressions of time. The Pirahã language has almost no words that depict time. This is all of them: another day; now; already; day; night; low water; high water; full moon; during the day; noon; sunset/sunrise; early morning, before sunrise. Their words for these are literally descriptive – the expression for day is ‘in sun’, for noon ‘in sun big be’ and for night ‘be at fire’.” Time, like color and much else, is described by the Piraha in practical terms by association or comparison to something in their everyday lives. There is no abstract notion of 3:30 pm or blue — such concrete thought creates a different mentality (see the work of Luria and Lev Vygotsky, as related to the Flynn effect).

The only temporal sense that can be expressed by the Piraha is in speaking of the immediately observable natural environment and it can’t be extended very far. Maybe this is because nothing they do requires much time and so time is as bountiful as the jungle around them. They don’t travel much and rarely over long distances. The food and materials they need are easily obtained near where they live. The practical application of time is barely relevant and they probably don’t perceive time in the way we do, as a finite resource and linear construct. Even the cyclical time of the mytholgical worldview would likely be unfamiliar to them.

Time is more similar to the flickering candle, such that it nether goes anywhere else as a trajectory nor repeats, simply shifts in the expansive and inclusive present moment. Experience comes and goes without any need to speculate and posit lines of causation or greater patterns and cycles. Time doesn’t need to be controlled or measured. The Piraha even lack the obsession some premodern people have had with astrology and calendars, as they would serve little purpose for them. Even seasonal changes are limited and don’t have much practical implication. There is no time of the year that changes from cold to hot or from wet to dry. So, the main foods they eat are available year round.

Their lifestyle remains constant, as does the surrounding nature within their traditional territory. These optimal conditions might approximate the stable environment for much of hominid and human evolution in Africa. Look at another unique example, the Pygmy tribes, some of which are the only surviving human populations with 100% homo sapiens genetics. The Pygmy live where human evolution began and one can see similarities to the Piraha. Both tribes, living in equatoral rainforests, have a simple culture that has been resistant to outside influence, even though each tribe has been in contact with foreigners for centuries.

This social solidarity and cultural resilience is impressive. Writing about the Piraha, Danel Everett said that, “My evangelism professor at Biola University, Dr. Curtis Mitchell, used to say, “You’ve gotta get ’em lost before you can get ’em saved”” (Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes). The problem for a missionary is that tribes like the Piraha and Pygmies aren’t prone to feeling lost and maybe, at least in the case of the former, it’s partly their language that offers protection against evangelical rhetoric. Prosyletyzing becomes impossible when there is no recursive and abstract language in which to communicate theology, mythology, and history — all that is required to translate a written holy text like the Bible.

Unfortunately, the study of traditional Pygmy languages appears to be limited, but there is plenty of interesting anthropological evidence. C. M. Tumbull, in 1961, observed a BaMbuti Pygmy who became disoriented in seeing open grasslands for the first time and thought distant buffalo were insects (Some observations regarding the experiences and behavior of the BaMbuti Pygmies). Distance perception and size constancy aren’t major factors if one has never stepped outside of the visual enclosure of thick jungle.

So, environment would likely be an influence on the immediacy principle since, in a dense forest, one cannot see very far. And that would surely become built into the native language. Another telling detail, similar to the Piraha, is that these BaMbuti lacked their own concepts about witchcraft and what Tumbull described as the ‘supernormal’, something they associated with outsiders such as the neighboring Bantu. As there is no distant visual space to a forest dweller, neither are there distant spiritual realities. With trees mostly blocking out the sky, maybe people have less tendency to ponder heavenly bodies and speculate about heavenly worlds.

There is some information about particular Pygmy tribes that maintained their traditional languages. If not entirely innumerate as the Piraha, the BaMbuti can only count up to four. As for what both BaMbuti and Piraha entirely lack, they have no terms for colors and so are forced to describe them by comparison. Also, beyond the simplest of decorations, these tribes don’t make visual art nor make much use of color as dyes. Rather than a focus on the visual, Tumbull states that, “the Pygmy has the most complex music in the whole of Africa.” In an environment that constrains vision, the auditory is so important that these Pygmy will even aim their hunting arrows by sound. This auditory orientation would strengthen the affect of oral culture and it’s accompanying mindset. Being so reliant on info from sound would emphasize the animistic sense of a world alive with voices. Indeed, rainforests are dense with noisy life.

This is hard for the modern Westerner to grasp, as we are immersed in a hyper-visual culture where non-human sounds of nature have been almost entirely eradicated. Also, as an agricultural civilizaton, the experience of open spaces and distant vision is common, even for urbanites. We value our large grassy lawns and parks, and we enjoy vacations to vast landscapes of oceans and lakes, mountains and canyons. This is particularly true of the United States where most of the population lived in farm communities until a few generations ago. Open fields and open sky have been common. Even with the increase of audio in new media, the visual still dominates. And the sounds that new media brings are detached from the sensory percepton of the environment we inhabit.

For the Piraha, it’s not that the visual is unimportant. Rather, it’s significance is transformed. They are obsessed with certain kinds of visual experiences but of a far different quality. The visual environment of agriculture and urbanization is largely static and inanimate, surrounded as we are with manmade objects and architecture with only an occasional intrusion by wildlife or stray animal. The Piraha, on the other hand, have to be constantly hyper-aware of other living beings as food sources but mostly as potential threats. Predators and poisonous creatures abound in the jungle.

Vision is central, even as it is constrained by the density of foliage. This surely shapes their amorphous sense of time, as shown in their language. They have a fascination and obsession with a certain kind of visuo-temporal phenomenon described by the aforementioned term ‘xibipiio’ that has no equivalent in English. The concept behind it is demonstrated by their habit of staring at flickerng flames, as they also enjoy watching people appear and disappear wiithn their visual field, such as around the bend of a river. This liminal quality is key to understanding their worldview and mindset. There is no time continuity of perception, no objective constancy of beingness.

This is felt in quite personal ways, as Piraha identity can flicker like a flame. There is something akin to spiritual possession in Piraha culture, although to their perspectve it isn’t possession. When the spirit is present, the former person is simply absent. When asked where the person is, the simple answer will be given that they are not there. This identity shift sometmes can be permanent. In the forest, a visitation by a spirit might lead to a complete change of identity along with a new name. The previous identity is no longer existing and will not return. This is an attribute of the bundled mind, a fundamental tenet of Buddhist thought as well. Buddhists seek to regain some essence of what for the Piraha is the social norm of lived reality.

This goes back to the non-recursve and paratactic quality of Piraha language. The shifting fluidity of perception and identity can’t be generalized nor extended beyond the known and experienced specifics. And this has social consequences. Maybe we have much to learn from them. Their apparent invulnerability to the highly developed rhetoric of prosyletyzing missionaries is admirable. That is a nifty linguistic trick that we could adopt as a tool in the development of our intellectual and psychological defenses. We don’t have to become like the Piraha, but it could be useful to develop this skill as a discipline of the mind.

When finding ourselves pulled into some linguistic manipulation or trapped in a rhetorical framing, we can stop and turn our attention to language itself. How are we speaking and how are others speaking to us? Then we can bring our language back down to grounded reality by speaking simple statements, as the Buddhists do with their mindfulness practice. Slowly, we can learn how to untangle the recursive knots of the mind. It might have the added benefit, as seen with the Piraha, of developing some immunity toward the alluring mind virus of authoritarian thought control. The social hierarchy of power is dependent on the conceptual hierarchy of recursive rhetoric. This might explain the memetic pull of the reactionary mind and might demonstrate how we can use linguistic jujitsu to rediirect these psychic energies.

What if authoritarianism doesn’t begin in the external world through distant institutions of power but instead begins in our minds, in the way we relate and communicate, as it shapes how we think and forms our identities at an unconscious level? Recursion is not only about the structure of language and the structure of thought. As a tool of rhetorc, recursion is how hierarchies are built. From kulturCrtic, here is a great explanation of the relevance by way of the distinction between hypotaxis and parataxis:

“In short, recursion enables the construction of complex hypotactic language units rather than just simple paratactic ones. Parataxis, as I am sure you are all aware, is when each of your sentences in a larger grammatical unit carries equal weighting. Paratactic units usually have few, if any clauses, and more importantly, none of the clauses are subordinated one to another in a hierarchical scheme. Hypotaxis, on the other hand, occurs when clauses in sentences, or in larger grammatical wholes, are subordinated to one another, focusing attention on what is considered of greater importance or value within the semantic, syntactic, or larger logistic unit. In other words, recursion, by means of subordination, allows for the rudimentary and foundational element of hierarchization. Hierarchy, socio-economic and political, we might here add, is also one of the hallmarks of post-traditional societies […]

“As cultural historian Marvin Bram contends in The Recovery Of The West, “Parataxis suggests coordination more than subordination, and any number of sequences rather than a single correct sequence. Parataxis de-hierarchizes the world,” where the flat, coordinate, and non-orderliness of a paratactic world seems rather primitive or prosaic to the ever more civilized and tightly structured hypotactic logistic” (The Politics of Recursion: Hypotaxis, Hierarchy, and Healing).

Parataxis versus hypotaxis is egalitarianism versus hierarchy, coordination versus subordination, participatory versus disconnecting. In our modern sophistication, we take the latter way of being as normal, even inevitable. How could humans be otherwise? Our assumption is supported by our WEIRD bias, as nearly all alternative possibilities in the Western world have been eliminated, as have most other cultures that could challenge this false and illusory belief. The Piraha are one of the few remnants of a different way of being. They are part of an animistic world that is alive with psychic presence that is intimately a part of their shifting and extended identities.

There is an odd element about this other way of being that could be easy to overlook as incidental. The paratactic is repetitive, rhythmic, and resonant. Without recursion to create hierarchical orders of value, of meaning and significance, there are other ways to emphasize what is being said and so direct focus. There can be a musical or poetic quality to languages that make use of this style of speaking, such as meter being much more important to ancient storytelling. To return to the Piraha, they don’t only speak their language as they also can whistle and hum it, depending on context, but it cannot be written. A sing-song quality to spoken language might have been much more common prior to widespread literacy, particularly as it is a useful tool for oral traditions of mnemonics.

The closest the modern mind gets to this is through psychedelic use. “Hashish, then, is an assassin of referentiality, inducing a butterfly effect in thought. In [Walter] Benjamin, cannabis induces a parataxis wherein sentences less connect to each other through an explicit semantics than resonate together and summon coherence in the bardos between one statement and another. It is the silent murmur between sentences that is consistent while the sentences continually differentiate until, through repetition, an order appears” (Richard M. Doyle, Darwin’s Pharmacy, p. 107; see full passage as quoted in Psychedelics and Language).

This might not be a coincidence. The past three millennia of post-bicamreal civilization has been a gradual replacement of non-addictive psychedelics by addictive substances, in particular stimulants (Agricultural Mind & Diets and Systems). These various plant-based drugs may have fundamentally altered the human mind at multiple points in human evolution. There are those like Terence McKenna that go so far as to suggest that psychedelics were at the origin of consciousness and language, but we don’t need to speculate about that here.

It should be noted that the Piraha aren’t known to use any drugs or at least none recognized by outsiders. Still, the human brain seems to have co-evolved with plant substances like the psychedelic DMT. There is evidence that our bodies produce DMT, maybe in the pineal gland, and so even the Piraha have DMT coarsing through their brains (Eric W. Dolan, Study provides evidence that DMT is produced naturally from neurons in the mammalian brain). Importantly, there might be various ways other substances, diet, cultural practices, etc affect DMT levels. The Piraha do have experiences such as contact with intelligent beings (i.e., spirits) that is common for those who imbibe DMT.

DMT is structurally similar to serotonin and melatonin, all of which is derived from tryptamine. Like serotonin and dopamine, DMT is a monoamine compound and DMT shares receptors with both. DMT causes the body to produce more serotonin and increases the release of dopamine. We all carry DMT in our brains. It may play important roles, such as how DMT allows the body to operate at lower oxygen levels. Other psychedelics that we imbibe also use the serotonin receptor.

* * *

Below is part of the post that is a work in progress:

hierarchicy, egaltarianism, partcipatory reality and social order, organic, anarchy, democracy,

rhetorical strategies, social construction, ideological realism, symblic ideology, symbolic conflation, metaphor, metonymy, locking mechanism, visceral/embodied,

narrative loops, counter-narratives, polarization, outrage

Joe, obsessing over the perfect pick-up line, had not asked out the cute girl at work.
Joe, having not asked out the cute girl at work, obsessed over the perfect pick-up line.
Joe, having been disfigured in accident, had not asked out the cute girl work.
Joe, having not asked out the cute girl at work because of his fear of rejection like happened last time he had a crush, became nervously obsessed with the perfect pick-up line as a distraction, the kind of obsession he had since he was disfigured in the accident, but he didn’t want anyone’s pity, especially not her pity, the one thing he dreaded more than rejection.

Take the example used by Everett: John’s brother’s house. This is a simple form of recursion and can be extended infinitely: John’s brother’s sister’s mother’s friend’s house. But the Piraha must state each noun phrase separately: ‘John has a brother. This brother has a house.’ Each additional noun phrase would be another sentence and so complicated thoughts could quickly become linguistically unwieldy. So, thinking complicated thoughts is, if not entirely precluded, strongly disincentivized by the structure of the language. The Piraha languge is a finite language, in the way chess is a finite game, but that still leaves much capacity for communication. In fact, the strict limitations allows for kinds of thoughts that aren’t possible in highly recursive languages, and this could shape kinds of behaviors, perceptions, and identities that would be alien to the literary mind.

Cultural tools such as linguistic recursion are like scaffolding that can be used to build structures according to various designs and for various purposes: cathedrals, apartment buildings, monuments, etc. But once construction is finished, the scaffolding can be removed and the structure will hold itself in place without further use of scaffolding, other than occasional need for maintenance, repairs, and renovations. With a lifetime of mental habits developed from reading and writing, speaking and hearing recursive language, it is built into our neurocognitive-cultural substructure and built into the institutions and systems we are enmeshed in — as part of what Everett calls “dark matter of the mind”. Recursive language, for the average person, is only used selectively and subtly such that it is rarely noticed, if noticed at all. But we are all intimately familiar with it in our experience. It slips past our guard.

One might qualify the role of syntactic recursion by acknowledging that other cultural tools might be able to achieve the same or similar ends. “Some oral languages do regularly embed clauses,” points out Julie Sedivy, “suggesting that writing is not necessary for complex syntax. But, as can be seen in a number of indigenous languages, longer and more complicated sentences often emerge as a result of contact with a written language.” The point remains that the most convoluted sentence structures all come out of literate and literary societies. Recursion remains the ultimate cultural tool for this purpose, but obviously no cultural tool is used in isolation. These highly developed cultural tools are primarily used in writing, not speech: “In current English, writing uses more varied vocabulary than conversational speech, and it uses rarer and longer words much more often. Certain structures (such as passive sentences, prepositional phrases, and relative clauses) appear more often in written than spoken language. Writers generally elaborate their ideas more explicitly through syntax whereas speakers leave more material implicit.”

Language is never static, though. These cultural tools are adapted to changes in media. “In fact, heavily recursive sentences like those found in the Declaration of Independence have already been dwindling in written English (as well as in German) for some time. According to texts analyzed by Brock Haussamen, the average sentence length in written English has shrunk since the 17th century from between 40-70 words to a more modest 20, with a significant paring down of the number of subordinate and relative clauses, passive sentences, explicit connectors between clauses, and off-the-beaten-path sentence structures.”

third man, ghost voice/note, repetition-compulsion, addiction, egoic consciousness, rigid boundaries

paratactic animal speech

writing as transformational: Julian Jaynes, Marshall McLuhan, WEIRD

* * *

The Politics of Recursion: Hypotaxis, Hierarchy, and Healing
by kulturCritic

In short, recursion enables the construction of complex hypotactic language units rather than just simple paratactic ones. Parataxis, as I am sure you are all aware, is when each of your sentences in a larger grammatical unit carries equal weighting. Paratactic units usually have few, if any clauses, and more importantly, none of the clauses are subordinated one to another in a hierarchical scheme. Hypotaxis, on the other hand, occurs when clauses in sentences, or in larger grammatical wholes, are subordinated to one another, focusing attention on what is considered of greater importance or value within the semantic, syntactic, or larger logistic unit. In other words, recursion, by means of subordination, allows for the rudimentary and foundational element of hierarchization. Hierarchy, socio-economic and political, we might here add, is also one of the hallmarks of post-traditional societies […]

As cultural historian Marvin Bram contends in The Recovery Of The West, “Parataxis suggests coordination more than subordination, and any number of sequences rather than a single correct sequence. Parataxis de-hierarchizes the world,” where the flat, coordinate, and non-orderliness of a paratactic world seems rather primitive or prosaic to the ever more civilized and tightly structured hypotactic logistic.  Bram continues:

Parataxis is concerned with the concrete thing itself, the local and contained, and the moment, rather than with relationships among abstract things and over-arching spatial and temporal schemes… Paratactic space and time make dramatic antitheses to their hypotactic counterparts.10

For example, a person walking down a forest path seeing paratactically will see much more than a person looking hypotactically along the same path but only seeing what is of interest to him.  The paratactic visual space will be fuller. As Bram concludes,

This phenomenon of paratactic persons taking in more of the world, living in a fuller world than hypotactic persons, has been reported time and time again by (hypotactic) travelers among (paratactic) traditional peoples. 11 […]

Yet, there was also born regret for the past poorly lived and anxiety over a future still uncertain, in short, the terror of an historical consciousness, and the realization that ‘one-day I too will die.’ As Bram reminds us,

In paratactic time there is little past because there are no complete logistic structures to be sought there, and there is little future because there is no need for a place in which to complete incomplete logistic structures.  There is certainly a present, gathering to itself much of the energy that hypotactic persons give to the past and future, and inhabited by full persons and full objects: a full present.  The present of hypotactic time often enough takes third place behind the past and the future, depleted of energy: an empty present. 12

But, what was lost in this transformation to the hypotactic word, in the subordination of thought and speech within the apparently universal grammar of literacy, univocity, and its newly appropriated voice – the sterile logic of syllogism and, finally, of mathematics?

The Shapeless Unease, A Year of Not Sleeping
by Samantha Harvey
pp. 42-51

Think of a sentence:

One day I’d like to write a story about a man who, while robbing a cash machine, loses his wedding ring and has to go back for it because his wife, a terrifying individual whose material needs have driven him to crime, will no doubt kill him if the ring is lost.

A sentence with multiple clauses, one clause buried within another like Russian dolls. If we take each doll out and line them up we get:

One day I’d like to write a story.
The story is about a man.
A man robs a cash machine.
A man loses his wedding ring.
A man goes back to the cash machine for his wedding ring.
A man has a wife.
The wife is terrifying.
The wife has many material needs.
The man is driven to crime by his wife.
The ring must not get lost.
The wife could kill the man.

We tend to speak in sentences of multiple clauses, not in clauses that have been separated out. Noam Chomsky has called these multiple clauses instances of recursion, and he thinks they’re what define human language. They reflect our unique ability to position a thought inside a thought, to move from the immediate to the abstract, to infinite other places and times. A circle in a spiral, a wheel within a wheel; a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own. In theory, an infinitely long, recursive sentence is possible, says Chomsky; there is no limit to the mind’s capacity to embed one thought inside another. Our language is recursive because our minds are recursive. Infinitely windmilling.

But then came studies on the Pirahã people of the Brazilian Amazon, who do not make recursive sentences. Their language doesn’t permit them to make the sentence I made above, or even something like When it rains I’ll take shelter. For the Pirahã it would have to be It rains. I take shelter. They don’t embed a thought inside a thought, nor travel from one time or place to another within a single sentence.

When it rains, unless I take shelter, I get wet.
Unless I want to get wet, I take shelter when it rains.
So that I stay dry when it rains, I take shelter.

For the Pirahã tribe there are no sentences like these – there is none of this restless ranging from one hypothesis to another. Instead, It rains. I take shelter. Or, I take shelter. I don’t get wet. Or, I take shelter. I stay dry.

The Pirahã seem incapable of abstraction. They seem literal in the extreme – their ability to learn new grammar rules through a computerised game, by predicting which way an icon of a monkey would go when a type of sentence was generated, was thwarted in almost every case by their inability to see the monkey as real, and therefore to care what it would do next. They became fascinated and distracted by the icon, or by the colours on the screen. One of them fell asleep in the middle of the test. ‘They don’t do new things’ was the repeated assertion of Daniel Everett, the only westerner who has ever got anywhere near knowing and understanding the Pirahã language and culture. They don’t tell stories. They don’t make art. They have no supernatural or transcendental beliefs. They don’t have individual or collective memories that go back more than one or two generations. They don’t have fixed words for colours. They don’t have numbers.

Yet they are a bright, alert, capable, witty people who are one of the only tribes in the world to have survived – largely in the jungle – without any concession to the modern world. A meal might involve sucking the brains from a just-killed rat. A house is fronds of palm or a piece of leather strung over four sticks in the ground. They have no possessions. Their language might involve speaking, but it might also occur through whistling, singing or humming. And their experience of the present moment is seemingly absolute. ‘The Pirahã’s excitement at seeing a canoe go around a river bend is hard to describe,’ Everett writes. ‘They see this almost as travelling into another dimension.’ 6

[6 This and every of Everett’s quotations here is from his paper ‘Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã’.]

There is a Pirahã word that Everett heard often and couldn’t deduce the meaning of: xibipiio. Sometimes it would be a noun, sometimes a verb, sometimes an adjective or adverb. So and so would xibipiio go upriver, and xibipiio come back. The fire flame would be xibipiio-ing. Over time Everett realised that it designated a concept, something like going in and out of experience – ‘crossing the border between experience and non-experience’. Anything not in the here and now disappears from experience, it xibipiios, and arrives back in experience as once again the here and now. There isn’t a ‘there’ or a ‘then’, there are just the things xibipiio-ing in and out of the here and now.

There is no past or future tense as such in Pirahã; the language has two tense-like morphemes – remote things (not here and now) are appended by -a and proximate things (here and now) by – i . These morphemes don’t so much describe time as whether the thing spoken about is in the speaker’s direct experience or not. The Pirahã language doesn’t lay experiences out on a past–present–future continuum as almost every other language does. In English we can place events quite precisely on this continuum: it had rained, it rained, it has rained, it rains, it is raining, it will rain, it will have rained. The Pirahã can only say whether the rain is proximate (here) or not.

They can then modify a verb to qualify the claims they make about it. If they say ‘It rained in the night’, the verb ‘rain’ will be modified by one of three morphemes to convey how they know it rained, i.e. whether they heard about it (someone told them), deduced it (saw the ground was wet in the morning), or saw/heard it for themselves. The Pirahã language and culture is not only literal but evidence-based. How do you know something happened? If the line of hearsay becomes too long, involving too many steps away from experience, the thing is no longer deemed to be of any importance to speak or think about. This is why they don’t have transcendental beliefs or collective memories and stories and myths that go back generations.

What a thing this is, to be so firmly entrenched in the here and now. What a thing. We are, I am, spread chaotically in time. Flung about. I can leap thirty-seven years in a moment; I can be six again, listening to my mum singing while she cleans the silver candelabra she treasures, that reminds her of a life she doesn’t have. I can sidestep into another possible version of myself now, one who made different, better decisions. I can rest my entire life on the cranky hinge of the word ‘if’. My life is when and until and yesterday and tomorrow and a minute ago and next year and then and again and forever and never.

Time leaks everywhere into English, some ten per cent of the most commonly used words are expressions of time. The Pirahã language has almost no words that depict time. This is all of them: another day; now; already; day; night; low water; high water; full moon; during the day; noon; sunset/sunrise; early morning, before sunrise. Their words for these are literally descriptive – the expression for day is ‘in sun’, for noon ‘in sun big be’ and for night ‘be at fire’.

Are there whole slices and movements of time that the Pirahã people don’t experience, then? If they can only speak in terms of ‘another day’, do they not experience ‘yesterday’ and ‘a year ago’ as different things? If something doesn’t exist in a language, does it also not exist in the minds of those who speak the language?

I wondered that when I tried to teach the perfect tense to Japanese students; there isn’t a perfect tense in Japanese. When I taught the sentence I have eaten I got blank looks, incomprehension. Why not just say I ate? Why say I have been to Europe when you could just say I went to Europe? I tried to illustrate: I ate (before, at some time you need to specify – this morning, all day yesterday); I have eaten (just now, I’m still full). Blank looks, incomprehension. In the perfect tense a period of time opens out, the past, not as separate from the present, but running up to and meeting the present. I have eaten; we’ve danced all night; it’s been a year. Do the Japanese not experience that segment of time? Or is it that they deal with it in other linguistic ways, or by inference and context?

Everett described the Pirahã’s mode of being as ‘live here and now’. If you live here and now, you don’t need recursion in language because there’s no conceptual need to join together ideas or states according to their order in time, or in terms of which causes which, or in terms of hypothetical outcomes. You don’t need a past or future tense if you’re living only now. You don’t need a large stock of words that try to nail down instances of time along a horizontal continuum from the distant past to the distant future, a continuum that also has an enormous elastic stretch into the vertical planes of virtual time, time as it intersects with space, time as happening elsewhere, real or imagined.

What would it be like to be a person of the Pirahã tribe? How would it be to not experience that continuum? For one’s mind to not be an infinitely recursive wheel within a wheel? It feels in some ways a relief, even to imagine such a mode of living, but it feels almost non-human too. And yet there the Pirahã are, as human as human can be. I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine being anything but submersed in time, it ticking in every cell. […]

As for the continual vanishing of the now, well, here is also the continual birth of the now. A live birth, from a living now; there are no deaths, there’s no hiatus. It seems to me that now is the largest, most predictable and most durable of all things, and that the question isn’t so much: what is time but a set of nothings? But more: what is time but an indomitable something? An unscalable wall of now. When I think of the Pirahã I don’t imagine them cresting the brink of a collapsing moment, each step bringing an existential vertigo. I imagine them fishing, skinning animals, drinking, painting their faces, building shelter. It rains. We stay dry. Their here and now seems as solid to me as one brick – it rains – laid on another – we stay dry.

What would it be like to live and think like the Pirahã? For the world to be continually xibipiio-ing? No mad spooling out of events through time, all chain-linked and dragged each by the next, one event causing another, one event blamed for another, one past pain locked into a present pain to cause future pain; no. No things crossing the boundary from experience to non-experience. Just things disappearing and reappearing around the bend of the river. […]

[The author watched a digital clock while in an altered state from sickness. The numbers…] bore no relationship to me. They weren’t tugging in a forwards direction, they were just things gently changing, rearranging, in the same way that the clouds rearrange, and they were rearranging in a vast stillness. They were xibipiio-ing. Only: here I am. Then: here I am. Then: here I am. Is that akin to the Pirahã’s experience of time?

Is that where the dance is, the dance T. S. Eliot told us about when we read Four Quartets as uncomprehending teenagers? At the still point, there the dance is.

Trump is Innocent of the Crime of Liberalism

This is a post I didn’t desire to write but felt compelled to do so. It’s the same topic of another recent post, Trump Family And Elite Corruption. When I shared that other one with a Donald Trump voter, albeit reluctant in their not actually liking Trump, they dismissed the information as underwhelming and unconvincing, even as they admitted to only having barely looked at any of the linked pieces that were shared. So, having confirmed what they already believed without any need to look at any possible information that might disconfirm by bringing doubt, they concluded this was further proof of the liberal bias of media that unfairly attacked Trump. Fake news!

It was amazing how quickly this reasonably intelligent and highly educated person returned to this rhetorical framing of a default narrative. This comes from someone who has otherwise admitted that Trump is corrupt and so that wasn’t even a point of disagreement. Yet the response to Trump being a swamp creature is that the media is liberal, as if the accusation of being liberal is worse than being morally depraved. Sure, Trump is bad, as this person would acknowledge, but… the media is liberal! Hang them! Hang them all! Liberalism is the one unforgiveable sin, against which all else pales in comparison. Trump may be an authoritarian demagogue and narcissistic social dominator, but at least he is not a liberal. This must be that infamous lesser-evil voting I’ve heard so much about it.

Some of the links in that earlier post were just describing the allegations and investigations. Others were detailing the evidence upon which cases were being made. So, I’m not sure which articles this person read or skimmed. But if they actually wanted to know, they would have to do more than a cursory look at a few pieces among many. In covering the specifics, there has been a fair amount of investigatve reporting, such as the CREW report and a Buzzfeed piece, SECRET MONEY: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers. For even greater detail, a number of book-length exposés have been published: Craig Unger’s House of Trump, House of Putin, David Enrich’s Dark Towers, James D. Zirin’s Plaintiff in Chief, Timothy K. Kuhner Tyranny of Greed, etc. One could easily argue that Donald Trump has been the most corrupt president in American history, certainly the most brazenly and shamelessly corrupt, although the competition is steep.

From the articles originally listed, here is one example that is similar to the Ukranian One allegation that the political right latched onto against Clinton: Behind Trump’s Push for “American Steel” in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit. The evidence in both cases is about the same, and yet Clinton got hit much harder in the news media by claims of scandal than did Trump in this case. So, bias obviously can go both directions, depending. Biased media aside, the article shows the commonality across the aisle about what big biz means in this context with Putin having his hands in everything. But I still consider such accusations to be weak, no matter which side asserts them. That isn’t the kind of thing that really interests me, although I think it’s important to demonstrate how the Trump family is not particularly different than the Clinton family.

More damning and dangerous, to my mind, is the everyday corruption of profiteering and legalized bribery (Donald Trump has turned the White House into a bribe factory), which is the kind of thing I found so egregious with the Clintons. Still, in many ways, it’s much more blatant with Trump, as the Clintons at least went to the effort of maintaining formal legality and respectability by filtering money through their foundation. Trump, instead, treats almost everything openly as a business deal to be made, even admitting conflicts of interest and admitting that they influence him. From ‘An Astonishing Rate of Corruption’: Trump Has Amassed 3,000 Conflicts of Interest Since Taking Office (reporting on the CREW report):

  • “55 members of Congress have made 78 visits to Trump’s resort properties.”
  • “Cabinet members have patronized Trump properties and attended events with special interests or wealthy political donors at least 30 times.”
  • “Foreign government-tied entities have held 13 events at Trump properties, and at least 134 foreign officials have visited one of Trump’s properties—violations of U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.”
  • “Special interest groups have sponsored 117 events at Trump properties since he took office.”

Plus, there is the open cronyism that pervaded the Trump administration: “The report details several specific examples of favors given to officials and associates who visit Trump’s properties. Patrons of the president’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida have been offered chances to “shadow rule” government agencies, while other members have been nominated to ambassadorships.” Not small stuff, by any means, and all documented. Here is some details from the CREW report itself:

“Late last year, CREW discovered that one of Trump’s companies applied for two trademarks in Argentina for “real estate affairs” and building construction, suggesting that plans for a Trump Tower Buenos Aires might be moving forward. These were the first trademarks that Trump has applied for in the country since his election.A closer look showed that the timing of the applications closely coincided with Trump administration action on tariffs in Argentina. After the trademark opposition period ended, Trump lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum from Argentina and a few other Latin American countries. Soon after the application was granted Trump reinstated the tariffs, defending his actions on Twitter by claiming that Argentina had manipulated their currency.

“Trump’s international conflicts of interest span the globe to Indonesia, where the daughter of one of his business partners has assumed a high ranking role in the Indonesian government, thus directly linking Trump’s business to a foreign government. Angela Tanoesoedibjo was appointed in October to a position which gives her power over tourism in the country. Tanoesoedibjo’s father owns and operates one of Indonesia’s largest real estate conglomerates, MNC Group, which is building two Trump-branded developments in the country. In one meeting between government officials and her father’s Trump-connected company, an official brought up a property MNC Group is developing that will have Trump-branded aspects.”

There are other examples like that. Consider the many business dealings Donald Trump has had with the Saudis, including royal family and including ties to Saudi investors going back decades: “Trump has been paid tens of millions by Saudi investors and its government through a variety of business deals” (Trump said he has ‘no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.’ But his businesses have made millions from the Saudi government, and the crown prince gave his New York City hotel a huge boost.). As president, he made sure the Saudi government got a generous arms deal, including nuclear weapons — a deal, by the way, that was lobbied by a Trump fundraiser. Also, Saudi lobbyist became a Trump appointee. Then there is the massive amount of money that Trump himself ackowledges was given to him — President Trump has a massive conflict of interest on Saudi Arabia:

“Crucially, though, he and his businesses have continued to benefit substantially from Saudi customers, including the government of Saudi Arabia. Press reports have indicated that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recently paid for rooms and meals at the Trump hotels in Washington and Chicago. In 2017, Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. The kingdom itself paid $4.5 million in 2001 to purchase a floor of Trump World Tower and continues to pay tens of thousands in annual common charges to Trump businesses for that property (the total of which could be up to $5.7 million since 2001, according to one estimate). In the past year, as bookings fell overall, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported a significant uptick in bookings from Saudi Arabia. And a major factor in a recent increase in revenue for the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan was that Saudis accompanying the crown prince during a recent visit stayed there, as The Washington Post has reported.

“Trump said at a campaign rally in 2015 about Saudi Arabia: “I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” What’s notable about that statement is not just the president’s description of his significant business ties to Saudi Arabia but his stark admission that he is inclined to look favorably on those who give him business.”

It’s not just one country that we’re talking about, according to Forbes which isn’t eactly a left-wing rag or communist propaganda (Trump’s Biggest Potential Conflict Of Interest Is Hiding In Plain Sight). A bank majority-owned by the Chinese government was renting space at Trump Tower for more than an estimated 2 million a year. Between domestic and foreign companies, along with payments from foreign governments, Trump has received hundreds of millions of dollars during his presidency — $175 million a year from tenants alone. And the company payments are legally protected as anonymous. Some of his tenants have done business with or been under investigation by the government. The whole situation screams out for the Emoluments Clause (Profiting off the Presidency: Trump’s Violations of the Emoluments Clauses), which was created for this precise reason (Trump faces avalanche of conflict-of-interest troubles):

“No president has ever held a fortune that spans the globe. He has licensed his name to buildings in far-flung countries, including Azerbaijan, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Turkey. Some are allies, some are ruled by autocratic dictatorships and some are at odds with American interests. Further, he owes hundreds of millions of dollars each to the government-owned Bank of China and the privately owned Deutsche Bank. The Trump Organization has plans to continue to expand the company around the globe during its namesake’s presidential administration.Not only do these foreign holdings, debts and future deals present imminent conflicts of interest for American foreign policy, but they also create an immediate constitutional concern. The U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause states that no government official shall receive favorable payment from a foreign government, foreign government-owned company or foreign official without the consent of Congress. It is, in essence, an anti-bribery clause preventing foreign corruption.”

This isn’t being blown out of proportion. This level of conflicts of interest is unprecedented in the American presidency. It’s not only Trump himself but those he surounds himself with, such as General Michael Flynn and Thomas Barrack who had their own conflicts of interest (skim the first few pages of the following report: Whistleblowers Raise Grave Concerns with Trump Administration’s Efforts to Transfer Sensitive Nuclear Technology to Saudi Arabia, Interim Staff Report Committee on Oversight and Reform U.S. House of Representatives). There is also the extent of corporate cronyism and regulatory capture at a level probably never before seen, at least not at this level of crudeness and shamelessness (Mapping Corruption: Donald Trump’s Executive Branch). Also, reporting on this hasn’t been limited to just a few media sources and plenty of articles detail the examples and evidence, far from being wild conspiracy theories and loose accusations. Here is a small selection and really look at the powerful case being made: 

Exposing Trump’s Deals (Global Witness), A Handy List of Donald Trump’s Biggest Conflicts of Interest (Times), Tracking Trump’s Web of Conflicts (Bloomberg), 100+ Examples Of Donald Trump’s Corruption (Rantt Media), Trump’s Interests vs. America’s, Dubai Edition (The Atlantic), Trump’s global business empire raises concerns about foreign influence (Chicago Tribune), When Dirty Russian-Connected Money Saved Trump’s Ass and His Ensuing Business Disasters Helped Destroy the Global and American Economies (Real Context News), Trump’s Dangerous, Unprecedented, and Unconstitutional Conflicts of Interest – Center for American Progress (The Center for American Progress), 

Saudi Arabia Paid Washington Lobbyist to Book 500 Rooms in Trump’s D.C. Hotel Shortly After 2016 Election (Slate), Trump’s Conflict-of-Interest Problem Didn’t End With the Doral Debacle (Mother Jones), “I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.” (Politifact), Did we betray the Kurds for Trump Towers? (NJ), Trump Business Deals In Southeast Asia Raise Conflict Of Interest Concerns (NPR), Jared Kushner and the Qatar blockade: Conflict of interest? (Salon), A DONALD TRUMP APPOINTEE — ALSO A SAUDI GOVERNMENT LOBBYIST — IS REASSESSING HIS ROLES (The Center for Public Integrity), Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest (Sunlight Foundaton), 

In some ways, this is worse legalized bribery than seen among the Clinton dynasty. Some of these actions easily could be argued do cross the line of legality, not that they’re likely to ever be prosecuted. Legality aside, they are swampy corruption galore. Among the most corrupt presidents history, Trump has to be one of the top going by the available evidence of what we know so far. It’s not like anyone has ever mistaken him as a good person. He has a long history as a criminally corrupt businessman (Five times law enforcers could have arrested Donald Trump but didn’t), from cheating contractors to tax evasion schemes to bribery (Trump’s Company Paid Bribes to Reduce Property Taxes, Assessors Say), but there is also a dark history of working with organized crime, including multiple incidents of suspected money laundering. It defies credibility to think that he wouldn’t bring this corruption with him into the White House. 

The money laundering accusations and suspicions are among the most worrying. They demonstrate the global connections between plutocracy, political power, and organized crime. The highly unusual financial transactions have implicated Donald Trump many years before he decided to run for president. And it hasn’t only been a concern in the US. Foreign governments and banks have looked into potential money laundering that involved Trump and his family. It doesn’t prove money laundering did happen. But these cases have kept coming up over a long period of time, far from being limited to the reporting of American liberal media. 

The money at stake is not small, as shown by looking to our northern neighbor: “The most recent estimates of the dirty money flowing through the area’s casinos and real estate put the totals in the billions of Canadian dollars (Why Trump should be worried about Vancouver’s new crackdown on money laundering). It’s literally at least a hundred times worse in the United states. “The US Treasury estimates that $300bn is laundered annually in America. This is probably a fraction of the true number. Worse, the US government has no idea who controls the companies that channel the money because America lacks a corporate central registry” (How money laundering is poisoning American democracy). That is the total laundering, not only that of Trump and his cronies. He is just one scummy moral reprobate among many. Among the plutocrats, he is closer to the rule than an exception.

If Trump Is Laundering Russian Money, Here’s How It WorksWhat is Money Laundering and Why Has Donald Trump Been Linked to It?Is Donald Trump’s casino empire linked to money laundering? Past financial crimes may be the president’s biggest problemThe Kleptocrats’ Money-Laundering Middleman Who Did Deals With TrumpA Russian Mobster Built Trump SoHo Into Putin’s Money Laundering RacketThe Trump Family Moves Cash Around Like Money-Laundering Drug CartelsHow the Trumps kept their hands clean while taking criminals’ moneyTrump Taj Mahal Settles Over Anti-Money-Laundering ViolationsMueller Failed to Follow Trump’s Money TrailU.S. House confirms it is conducting “major” money laundering investigation involving President TrumpWhy has Congress stalled on investigating money laundering allegations at Trump properties?Can Trump Organization Executives Be Prosecuted for Money Laundering?Do Trump’s Taxes Show He’s a Failure, a Cheat, or a Criminal?Trump’s Tax Returns Are a Scandal for the President—and for America,

A Trump hotel in Panama reportedly was responsible for laundering millions of dollars in drug moneyTrump’s Panama tower used for money laundering, reports sayTrump’s Luxury Condo: a Congolese State AffairMessy web of Trump ties in Turkish mogul’s money-laundering caseA Kazakh dirty-money suit threatens to reach Trump’s business worldCalls to Probe Trump-Guiliani Money Laundering SchemeTrump OK’d business partner with alleged Iran laundering tiesDeutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner AccountsThe journalist who revealed the secrets of Trump’s relationship with Deutsche BankDid Deutsche Bank Sweep Possible Money Laundering By Trump Under The Rug?Deutsche Bank employees say leaders dismissed concerns about suspicious Trump transactionsUS probes Trump money laundering through Irish golf courseFinance Journalist: Trump’s Scotland Resort Isn’t a Golf Business, But a ‘Money Disappearing Business’Did Trump launder money through his Scottish golf clubs? Top official demands investigationTrump wealth order probe urged over Scottish golf resortsScotland inches closer to investigating Trump for money launderingScottish Leader Says Trump Should Face ‘Accountability’ In Turnberry Probe

For certain, these are not isolated cases, as the Trump family going back generations has had a well-documented history of legally and ethically questionable activities. As has been pointed out, Donald Trump originally got his earliest inheritance as part of one of a tax evasion scheme that could have been prosecuted at the time, if New York City had not been so corrupt. Some of the federal, state, and local investigations into Trump are surely false or invalid, maybe some being straight-up partisanship, but it would be naive to dismiss them all in this manner (Tracking 30 Investigations Related to Trump). Even ignoring those, one has to consider all the foreign investigations as well. Scandal, financial and otherwise, has followed Donald Trump his whole life and has plagued the Trump family since before he was born.

A recent example has to do with the notorious Deutsche Bank. “The bank was “laundering money for wealthy Russians and people connected to Putin and the Kremlin in a variety of ways for almost the exact time period that they were doing business with Donald Trump,” Enrich said. “And all of that money through Deutsche Bank was being channeled through the same exact legal entity in the U.S. that was handling the Donald Trump relationship in the U.S. And so there are a lot of coincidences here”” (Why Did Deutsche Bank Keep Lending to Donald Trump?  — “Trump, Inc.” Podcast). This is a well established pattern. After his financial troubles in the 1990s, no US bank would go near him. And ever since, his finaces have been heavily tied in with Russians who were willing to loan him money, invest in his projects, start real-estate partnerships, and purchase of Trump condos  (How Russian Money Helped Save Trump’s Business). 

That happened to be the same period of the rise of Putin’s control of Russia, along with the rise of a Putin-supported oligarchy that had money to throw around. Trump’s branding empire was built on this Russian money. “Of course, Trump’s shady dealings aren’t exclusively with Russians. He’s eclectic that way. He’s made deals with Kazakh money launderers, with corrupt businesses in India and with a shady casino operator hoping to expand his operation in Vietnam. Nor is real estate the only realm where Trump has been involved with potential money laundering. In 2015, federal authorities fined the already-bankrupt Trump Taj Mahal $10 million for violations of anti-money-laundering laws” (Trump’s Dirty Money). Let us say Trump made sure to diversify his portfolio.

The specific case that drew public attention was when “anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank had flagged “suspicious activity” on the accounts of both Donald Trump and Jared Kushner in 2016 and 2017” (DID DEUTSCHE BANK SWEEP POSSIBLE MONEY LAUNDERING BY TRUMP UNDER THE RUG?). It should have been reported to the Amercan authorities, but that bank has had close long-term financial ties with the Trump family and decded to not report it (Deutsche Bank says money-laundering reports not waived for Trump), even though it was part of a pattern. The year before, in 2015, several transactions had been flagged when “money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals,” according to anti-money-laundering specialist Tammy McFadden who reviewed the information while working there and advised it be sent to the government. Instead, a management team that had close associations with Kushner intervened by bypassing normal procedures and decided to shut down any further inquiry.

By the way, investing in property has long been a favored way of laundering money, as well as for legalized bribery when paying above actual value, the latter also being alleged when a Russian oligarch paid $100 in buying a $40 million property from Trump in 2008 during the real estate bust. “According to BuzzFeed News, one-fifth of all Trump-branded condos sold in the U.S. since the 1980s were handled in cash transactions that allowed buyers to use shell companies to obscure their finances and identities — a type of exchange that the Treasury Department considers “an attractive avenue for criminals to launder illegal proceeds while masking their identities”” (Deutsche Bank Flagged Trump and Kushner for Potential Money Laundering: Report). Much of Trump’s money from foreign sources, including Putin-related oligarchs and organized crime, comes through over-priced condos and the rental of space such as in Trump Tower —- Trump’s Russian Laundromat:

“But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.

“It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy “mark” for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.”

Look at Trump’s financial history these past few decades, as various members of the Trump family have admitted to most of their money coming from Russia (How Russian Money Helped Save Trump’s Business):

“All this history helps put into context some recent developments in the investigations by Mueller and the Southern District of New York, which have focused on supposed Trump collusion or conspiracy with the Russians. It may have seemed odd at first that during the presidential campaign the people in Trump’s orbit—including Trump’s son, daughter, and son-in-law—were contacted by at least 14 Russians, according to information emerging from the federal investigations. Or that in November 2015, according to a sentencing memo published recently, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was approached by a Russian who offered “political synergy” between the Trump campaign and Russia (adding that a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would have “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well”).  

“But in fact at least some of these encounters appear to have sprung from business contacts Trump had developed over nearly two decades.

“According to Trump’s former real-estate partner and other sources who are familiar with the internal workings of the Trump Organization, his post-’90s revival may have really begun in the early 2000s with the Bayrock Group, which rented offices two floors down from Trump’s in Trump Tower. Bayrock was run by two investors who would help to change Trump’s trajectory: Tevfik Arif, a Kazakhstan-born former Soviet official who drew on seemingly bottomless sources of money from the former Soviet republic; and Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman who had pleaded guilty in the 1990s to a huge stock-fraud scheme involving the Russian mafia. […]

“By the time he ran for president, Trump had been enmeshed in this mysterious overseas flow of capital—which various investigators believe could have included money launderers from Russia and former Soviet republics who bought up dozens of his condos—for a decade and a half. And Felix Sater was pitching Cohen on a Moscow deal as recently as mid-2016—as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination, according to a sentencing memo recently unveiled by the Mueller probe. […]

“In a 2016 interview with ABC News, Trump did allow that he’d done one Russian deal. “The primary thing I did with Russia, I bought a house in Palm Beach at a bankruptcy,” Trump said. “I bought it for about $40 million. I sold it for $100 million to a Russian.” That 2008 sale of a six-acre Palm Beach estate to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev is also reportedly being reviewed by Mueller’s team. At the time, Trump claimed that he was able to flip the house for such a high price in only four years because of renovations. But so huge was the differential in price—especially since by the time Trump sold the property to Rybolovlev in 2008, real-estate prices were plummeting in the financial crisis—that the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, has asked for an investigation into the sale.

““That deal delivered so much cash to Trump, it almost has to be seen as a campaign contribution, or the purchase of Donald Trump,” said D’Antonio. Earlier this year the buyer, Rybolovlev, appeared on a U.S. Treasury Department unclassified list of Russian oligarchs, or influential politicians and business professionals who are considered close to Putin.

“Even Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have admitted that Russians supplied the Trump Organization much of its capital needs.

“In September 2008, at the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in New York, the president’s eldest son, Donald Jr., said: “In terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. Say, in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo, and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” In 2014, his younger brother Eric—also an executive in the Trump Organization—told a well-known sports writer, James Dodson, after the latter asked him where the organization was getting the money to buy up so many golf courses: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” (In 2017, after the Mueller investigation began, Eric Trump denied making the comment.)”

I know how many feel about the Mueller probe, as even some left-wingers like Jimmy Dore have considered it partisan political theater. But there are questions that need to be answered, issues that need to be investigated — there is overwhelming evidence of multiple networks of powerful figures that have access to large sums of money to fund a variety of agendas and organizations (Following the Money: Trump and Russia-Linked Transactions From the Campaign to the Presidential Inauguration – Center for American Progress). And as I keep pointing out, there really was something fishy going on with political insiders, including Trump associate Paul Manafort, working with one of Putin’s many proxies. To be fair, the brother of one of the top DNC insiders was working with Manafort, but I already covered that issue elsewhere.

Also, keep in mind that Manafort had been doing business with Trump in the year before the campaign and had been meddling in Eastern Europe for at least a decade. And like Trump, Manafort has been caught up in financial questions involving the Deutsche Bank. There are also questions that never have been answered: “Trump actively pursued a major real estate deal in Moscow while he was campaigning for president. He worked closely with a career criminal on the Trump SoHo Hotel project before he even ran for president, a development funded in part with lots of murky money from eastern Europe” (Mueller Failed to Follow Trump’s Money Trail). Mueller, for fear of blowback, never pursued this line of investigation, although maybe he should have or else another investigator, but Congress also backed off. 

Those issues are not insignificant, especially in the context of decades of Trump’s ties to Putin along with Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia, the latter two working directly under Putin’s power (Trump’s businesses are full of dirty Russian money. The scandal is that it’s legal.). The Trump family has long been into shady business practices and business partners. In our cycicism, we shouldn’t take that so lightly. It’s not only that this kind of behavior is morally wrong and anti-democratic, whether or not legally prosecutable, but that it has become normalized. It corrupts not only goverment for it, more importantly, corrupts all of American society. And, of course, it’s bipartisan — How money laundering is poisoning American democracy:

“Donald Trump is the public face of a problem that extends into the heart of America’s system. It spans Democrats and Republicans, New York and Washington, the public and private sectors. It is a curse that dare not speak its name in the 2020 election.

“It is easy to guess why Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, goes light on it. Mr Biden helped to turn Delaware, his home state, into the most popular domicile for anonymously-owned companies. Without those, The Trump Organization would have garnered far fewer of the investors that bought its condominiums. In one of Mr Trump’s towers in Florida, more than 80 per cent of its units are owned by shell companies. The US has 10 times more shell companies than the next 41 jurisdictions combined, according to the World Bank.

“To be sure, unlike Mr Trump’s alleged transgressions, Mr Biden’s are legal. But it is “legal graft” that has seeped into all corners of US politics — and society beyond. Mr Biden has done as much as any US public figure to put such practices on the statute books. […] There used to be a bright red line between America and the world’s kleptocracies. Now they are symbiotically linked.”

Even so, there are some laws already in place to investigate and prosecute many such potential crimes, if there was political will to do so. It’s certainly not for a lack of evidence in justifying further investigation, and we don’t need to prove any specific allegation beforehand since that is the purpose of an investigation. This is quite concerning to see such corruption, to say the least. It was bad enough when he was merely a sleazy businessman, but it’s downrght demoralizing to see it continue thrughout his administration (Donald Trump, Russian Oligarchs, And A Trail Of Money Laundering).

Like the Bushes and Clintons, the Trumps have all been powerful figures in the main parties for many decades. Trump was associating with the likes of Paul Manafort going back to the 1980s. Also, the Trumps and Clintons are longtime cronies and close family friends. The whole Trump clan is swampy and the same is true of many brought in by the administration. Yet like the Clintons there almost always is plausible deniability and teams of lawyers, not that it makes corruption better when it outwardly follows the letter of the law or when it is so well hidden that it can’t be proven illegal or else when those in power have such legal protection that they are for all practical purposes beyond the prosecutory reach of the law — The Self-Dealing Administration:

“In May of 2018, China awarded Mr. Trump’s golden child, Ivanka, seven trademarks for her now-defunct lifestyle brand, right around the same time her father was pledging to save a major Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, from going belly up. Ivanka’s office said there was no special treatment involved.

“What’s good for the Trump family is, apparently, also good for the family of Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, and their business interests. In May 2017, Mr. Kushner’s sister played up her brother’s position as senior adviser to the president when pitching some of Kushner Companies’ real estate developments to prospective Chinese investors through a federal program that provides fast-track visas to wealthy foreign investors. The project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” she told them. The company denied any impropriety.

“Also in 2017, both Citigroup and Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, made large loans to Kushner Companies after White House meetings between Mr. Kushner and top executives from those firms. The involved parties insisted that the loans had nothing to do with Mr. Kushner’s position — that, in fact, his family’s business had not even come up in the discussions. The $184 million loan from Apollo came through in November. The next month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dropped an investigation into Apollo. While there was no indication that the two episodes were related, the timing was a tad unseemly. […]

“In politics, as in life, the fish rots from the head. And many members of the administration seem to have embraced the first family’s ethical flexibility. Among the top officials to depart under allegations of self-dealing or other misuse of taxpayer money were the secretary of the interior, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the secretary of health and human services and the secretary of veterans affairs. Impressively, Wilbur Ross remains the commerce secretary, despite reports of multiple sketchy financial dealings.

“Forget Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals. Mr. Trump will be remembered for assembling a world-class Team of Grifters.

“The Trump campaign world presents its own opportunities for self-enrichment. Before being ousted as campaign manager this summer, Brad Parscale had been facing scrutiny both for the campaign’s profligate spending and for the lavish lifestyle he had adopted since joining Team Trump. Following Mr. Parscale’s demotion, the campaign began an audit of spending during his tenure, according to Business Insider. (The campaign has denied that Mr. Parscale is being targeted by the review.)

“Mr. Parscale features prominently in recent allegations that the Trump re-election effort has been violating campaign finance laws. In late July, a nonpartisan watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing the campaign and a related fund-raising committee of masking $170 million in spending to vendors and Trump family members by funneling the payments through companies run by Mr. Parscale and others formed by the campaign’s lawyers. Among the outlays in question are fat salaries for Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, and Don Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The campaign has denied any wrongdoing.”

One can take that information as one will. It’s not easy to draw any specific conclusion about it in legal terms. Obviously, Trump is a bad hombre. But did he cross the line into proveable and prosecutable criminality during the past four years? All that can be said for absolutely certain is that, if all of this overwhelming corruption is not illegal, it should be. But put this in context, Trump is not the only politician and plutocrat who should be in prison. Still, justice has to begin somewhere and there is no time like the present. Not that I have any faith that justice will be served. At the very least, it would be satisfying to finally have public acknowledgement of the injustice itself. I’d settle for a truth commission that let the guilty go free if it forced truth to the surface and forced the corruption out of of the government. Punishment of the guilty would simply be a nice added benefit.

Speaking Is Hearing

We modern people are used to hearing voices in our heads. This is taken as normal. The inner self that speaks inwardly arises in the individual hearing that self speak. Speaking is hearing. And hearing is authorization, what elicits a response and gives language psychological force and social persuasion.

When someone catches us muttering, we can feel exposed and often embarrassed. Usually, we didn’t even realize we were muttering, until someone asked us what we said or who we were talking to. Well, we were speaking to ourselves or rather one of our selves was speaking to us. It was a private dialogue and someone eavesdropping on us catches off guard.

This muttering is the adult version of what Lev Vygotsky called private speech. It’s what children do in talking to themselves before they learn to internalize it. This private speech is social in nature, even though it only involves the individual. This is because it develops from learning language from parents speaking to them. So, the child learns to talk to themselves in the way their parents talked to them.

The internalization of this is imperfect and incomplete. This is why we can fall back on spoken private speech, in helping to hear ouselves think. But none of this necessarily happens consciously. Neither the speaker nor listener in this self/selves-dialogue typically involves the ego-mind. It’s other parts of ourselves that are talking to one another and it mostly happens on automatic pilot.

We observed a related phenomenon in others. One person on multiple occasions was heard muttering when they didn’t think anyone else was listening, but it wasn’t clear that they were consciously listening either. The muttering was of a specific kind, that of echolalia. In each incident, the person had just left a conversation and, while walking away, they repeated what they just said. It’s as if the dialogue was somehow continuing or replaying.

The muttering might have only been one side of a dialogue going on. But as an outsider, we were only privy to the outwardly spoken voice. Maybe the muttering was a response to a comment or question we did not hear. What was said in the prior conversation with another human was then being inwardly conveyed to some part of the self. Not all of the inner selves were present and needed to know what was said. Or something like that.

There is ongoing communication and translation between the inner and outer worlds. It’s amusing, partly because it’s so common. We all do such things, usually without realizing it, until someone catches us and forces us to take notice. But even then, we quickly rationalize our odd verbal behavior and just as quickly forget it again, as we slip back into our narrative of a single coherent egoic consciousness.

* * *

“What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.”
~ Matthew 10:27

“There are almost always words inside my head. In fact, I’ve asked people I live with to not turn on the radio in the morning. When they asked why, they thought my answer was weird: because it’s louder than the voice in my head and I can’t perform my morning routine without that voice.”
~ Carla

“We are familiar with the idea of ‘inner speech’ as developed by Lev Vygotsky (curiously unused by Jaynes). It is part of our consciousness that we ‘talk to ourselves’, urging ourselves to do or not to do something, hearing what we have to say. One of the huge benefits of this linguistic consciousness, Jaynes speculates, is that our ancestors became capable of sustained work over time.”
~Ciarán Benson, The Cultural Psychology of Self

“In the truly bicameral period, while bicameral individuals heard the voices of gods and ancestors, no supernatural entity speaks through a mortal’s mouth (though given neurocultural plasticity, exceptions were possible). Bicameral hallucinations were organized and heard from the right hemisphere. But in possession, what is spoken is left hemispheric speech (the left hemisphere’s Broca area) but controlled or under the guidance of the right hemisphere’s Wericke’s area). Like modern practitioners of spirit possession, a prophet would often not be aware of the divine message coming from his or her mouth (Jaynes, 1976; 353). The OT prophets may have been engaing in  “hallucinatory echolalia.” Echolalia is the phenomenon that occurs when an individual involuntarily repeats, parrot-like, the words of others. The causes of this disorder are vareied. For individuals who were possessed, whether by Yahweh or another supernatural entity, this phenomenon becomes halluncinatory echolalia in which a person is compelled to repeat out loud the voices of the entity that is speaking to him or her.”
~Brian J. McVeigh, The Psychology of the Bible

The Spell of Inner Speech
Who are we hearing and talking to?
Reading Voices Into Our Minds

The World Is Ending Again!

“Whether the response is lashing out, turning inward, tuning out, or giving up, Americans are becoming increasingly paralyzed by disagreement, disillusionment, and despair. Indeed, many Americans seem to agree these days on only one thing: This is the worst of times.”

R. Putnam & S.R. Garett, The Upswing (excerpt)

Along with a revised edition of the classic Bowling Alone, a new book has come out by Robert Putnam. With his new work, Shaylyn Romney Garrett joins him as co-author. The title is The Upswing with the accompanying subtitle of “How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.” The basic premise appears to be that the mood at present resonates with the complaints and fears of an earlier era when the mood soured in the decades following the Civil War. As Americans headed into the next century, many voices lamented the end of an age, as if a new age would not follow (John Higgs, Stranger Than We Can Imagine).

Based on their generations theory, William Strauss and Neil Howe would give a simple response. This pattern has repeated many times over. But living memory is so short. In fact, it’s the loss of living memory of the last cycle that drives it to swing back around again. The old is made new again, as if a foreign land never seen before. That is why it requires an historical awareness to realize we’ve been here before and what to expect as we move into the next phase. Even as we are in the Crisis that turns the wheel of the Fourth Turning, something else is emerging upon which different social institutions and collective identities will be built. 

This cyclical view of humanity and society is the most ancient of understandings. But in modernity we have falsely come to believe that there is endless linear progress into the unknown and unpredictable. That is the empty pride of modern Western civilization, that we are unique, that we have broken the chains of the past. Maybe not. Jeremiads of moral panic about decadence and decline usually presage moral revivals and rebirth (Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920). That has been the pattern, so some argue, for centuries now. Is there a reason to think this time will be different?

In every generation that reaches this point in the cycle, there are those who confidently declare this time will be different, that this time it will be permanent, that further change is now impossible, that further innovation has ended, that the vitalizing force of society has been lost, that the younger generations aren’t up to the task, maybe even that we’ve entered the end times. Yet, so far, these predictions have been disproven over and over again. We act out what we suppress from awareness. So the more we deny the reality of cycles the more we become trapped in them. Our historical amnesia dooms us to falling back into patterns we don’t see.

* * *

‘The Upswing’ Review: Bowling Alone No More?
by Yuval Levin

“Drawing ingeniously on a vast array of data—economic, political, cultural, social and more—Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett persuasively demonstrate that Gilded Age America suffered from civic and social strains remarkably similar to our own. Then they explore how, from the final years of the 19th century until the end of the 1950s, an extraordinary range of forces in our national life, in their words, “shaped an America that was more equal, less contentious, more connected, and more conscious of shared values.” Finally they consider why, all of a sudden and without clear warning, “the diverse streams simultaneously reversed direction, and since the 1960s America has become steadily less equal, more polarized, more fragmented, and more individualistic.” 

“They chart this path from “I” to “we” and back again to “I” across essentially every facet of the American experience. Drawing some lessons from the Progressive Era, broadly understood, they suggest that a return toward a culture of “we” would need to involve a restoration of civic ambition directed toward pragmatic, concrete, incremental changes. That means building new institutions to address new problems, and it means paving paths from shared frustrations toward accommodations and reforms that could endure. It means devoting time to local service organizations and religious and professional groups, and talking less about how things got so bad and more about how to make them better where we are. It means fighting corruption and combating despair. And it means helping a rising generation think about its future, rather than drowning in debates about past feuds and divisions. 

“But the key, for Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett, is to move from broad categories of action like these to specific instances of practical organization and engagement. This is why the example of America in the first half of the 20th century can be so powerful. It is a positive answer to the question that threatens to debilitate anyone looking to turn things around in contemporary America: Is revival even possible? The authors make a strong case that a recovery of solidarity is achievable.”

Rate of Moral Panic
Technological Fears and Media Panics
The Crisis of Identity
The Disease of Nostalgia
Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration
Old Debates Forgotten

Trump Family And Elite Corruption

Here we are, nearing the end of Donald Trump’s administration. He may have only been a one-term president, but he has left quite a wake in his passing through the halls of power (not unlike Merry Brandybuck tossing stones into the lake beneath the western walls of Moria). It might not settle back down very quickly, if it settles down at all. Now the Clinton Democrats, for good or ill, will be back in power. Joe Biden, no stranger to D.C., is Trump’s replacement. He brings much political and personal baggage with him, as the campaign season demonstrated. The focus on his son, Hunter Biden, didn’t cost him the election. But it didn’t help either, considering his weak victory against a weak incumbent (similar to the Fellowship of the Ring escaping the Watcher in the Waters by running into the caves of Moria).

The recent focus on the Hunter Biden scandal re-opened some dark corners from the previous scrutiny into Ukraine, including bringing to light the fact that John Kerry’s stepson, Chris Heinz, was working with Hunter at Burisma — the cronyism is widespread. Most importantly, it brings back to mind the investigations into the bipartisan collusion involving Ukraine and Vladimir Putin (John Podesta, Clinton Democrats, and Ukraine). The topic remains as relevant as ever. But, as expected, the years of scandals and investigations get lost in the shadows as the glare of political theater and media melodrama takes center stage. It’s not clear what more is known now than in previous years. There have been so many scandals and allegations that it’s hard to keep track of them all. If you want a quick summary, there is a decent piece by Joseph W. Kopsick, Evidence of the Trumps’ and Clintons’ Possible Collusion with Russia and Ukraine (Incomplete). However, he doesn’t link to any sources of evidence or quotes. It is a summary of accusations made, not a summary of the arguments for and against the question of the validity of the accusations.

Some accusations are weak and invalid. Consider how Joule Unlimited and Rusnano is used to claim a direct connection, possibly a point of corruption and collusion, between John Podesta and Vladimir Putin. There is much criticism about the perceived lack of compelling evidence (Travis Gettys, Fox News hypes WikiLeaks claims about Clinton’s ties to Russia — just as Trump asks followers to watch). Is it possible? Sure. But is it proven? Not even close. Then again, such a hypothetical link is not implausible, considering we know Podesta’s brother had no problem knowingly working with an organization involving someone backed by Putin. Still, speculation is not enough to justify an accusation. Just because I don’t trust the Clinton Democrats doesn’t mean I trust the slanderous agenda of Fox News and Trump. Outrage for the sake of outrage is not my cup of tea.

Besides the implications of bipartsan collusion are much more compelling and damning. But neither side wants to touch that or even acknowledge it. This is why Democrats want to implicate Trump in the crimes of Paul Manafort. The fact of the matter is Manafort’s main guilt, at least in terms of Ukraine, involved acts prior to his becoming Trump’s campaign manager. Sure, they had some business associations in the past and they ran in the same social circles, at least since the Reagan era. But even Trump should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Anyway, if one wants to paint Trump as a Russian asset or otherwise compromised, it’s not hard to do. He has been in the immediate orbit of those like Vladimir Putin for decades, along with personal connections and business dealings with Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia figures, often tied to Putin. The sale of property far below market prices implicates Trump in money laundering with the Russian mafia.

The potential wrongdoings that could be investigated and prosecuted are numerous. This corruption is an open secret. If you’re interested in the detailed case against Trump, check out Jay McKenzie’s series: Trump, Putin and the mob. Research collection. Part 1: Trump campaign connections.Part 2: #BudapestBridge and the Hungarian connection to TrumpPart 3: Ron Lauder, Bibi Netanyahu and their friends at Breitbart; Part 4: Paul Manafort was the Kremlin’s point man on the Trump campaign; Part 5: Twitter, Russia and Silicon Valley’s “Persian Mafia”; & Part 6: Trump, Felix Sater and their ties to mafia Don Semion Mogilevich. Agree or disagree in the significance of the entanglements of Trump and his minions, one thing that can’t be doubted is the existence of corrupt cronyism, not to mention the geopolitical power and financial profit of their machinations. Nonetheless, that is a far cry from proving Putin got Trump elected. But it sure does corroborate how enmeshed he was with complex webs of unsavory figures.

One might add that Paul Manafort wasn’t a nobody who just showed up on Trump’s doorstep right before his campaign began. They may have not been close friends and Trump may have had a genuine senior citizen moment in his claiming to not have immediately remembered Manafort, but their relations were far from distant or superficial. Their dealings go back to the 1980s when Trump, as with Ronald Reagan, was one of the first clients of Manafort’s firm. Whatever other associations they may have had over the decades, six months before joining Trump’s campaign in March of 2016, here is what was going on: “Felix Sater and Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, work together on a Trump Tower Moscow deal. Donald Trump signs a letter of intent on the deal in October of 2015.” Then three months in as campaign manager, Manafort was at the “meeting held at Trump Tower between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives” (McKenzie, Part 4). One can sense underlying connections.

Keep in mind that Manafort was involved as a foreign agent in Ukraine for at least a decade. He may have been there as early as 2004 during that country’s presidential election (Mustafa Nayem, AMERICAN SPIN-DOCTORS ON YANUKOVYCH’S SERVICE; from ACTION UKRAINE REPORT – AUR – Number 833, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)) or, according to another source, even earlier in 2003 (Yulia Tymoshenko and John Does 1 through 50 v. Plaintiffs; United States District Court for the Southern District of New York). Certainly, he was a notorious and powerful Ukranian actor beginning at the latest during 2005.

And by 2006, when living in Trump Tower, Manafort was “hired by Oleg Deripaska and paid $10 million a year to improve Vladimir Putin’s image with the west” and “to lobby directly for Vladimir Putin” (McKenzie). Also, “Paul worked closely with, at least, two Russian intelligence officials in Ukraine — Viktor Medvedchuk and Manafort’s assistant, Konstantin Kilimnik. Manafort worked with Kremlin propaganda there to help elect a pro-Putin candidate, which, we now must admit, is exactly the situation we saw in Donald Trump’s campaign.” Essentially, “Paul Manafort was Putin’s employee for several years.” It’s hard to imagine Trump was clueless of the existence of Manafort and all that he was doing.

Here is McKenzie’s description of the decade spent in service to Putin and his minions, overlapping with the work he began doing with Trump prior to the campaign: “Consider the amount of work Manafort did from 2005 onwards with the men involved in the 2004 election rigging. Also remember that Manafort’s allegiances did not shift. He began work with Oleg Deripaska in 2000–01. He was introduced to Yanukovych by Deripaska. Manafort began to work with Putin directly in 2006, and Paul continued to work for Yanukovych until 2014, when he fled Ukraine and began living in exile in Moscow.” Manafort had a well known reputation for the work he had done there. It was as significant as his reputation in New York City and Washington, D.C.

It wasn’t only that Trump had to know the kind of people he was getting in bed with. He was already in bed with them. When pointing to them being part of the same social circles, this includes Putin himself and numerous Russian oligarchs, the latter only allowed to be in that elite position because they worked for Putin or otherwise served his interests. As a conclusion, McKenzie states that, “Who is the most common and recurring link between Firtash, Mogilevich, Deripaska, and Fred Trump’s former righthand man? Simple, it’s former Trump campaign chairman and Trump Tower resident Paul Manafort.”

Not even Fox News is able to deny the obvious: “Investigating the business ties between Russia and those in President Donald Trump’s orbit is a legitimate exercise. One-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was an advisor to the pro-Russian Ukrainian president. Former Trump advisor Carter Page had energy deals involving Russian companies. Former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn gave a nicely paid speech in Moscow as a private citizen and was less than complete in explaining his conversations with Russian officials. And then there is the simple fact that Attorney General (former senator) Jeff Session, while a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, communicated with the Russian Ambassador” (Peter Schweizer, Trump vs. Clintons’ Russia ties (guess who always got a free pass)).

Of course, Fox News tried to downplay the import with lesser evilism, a tactic also used by DNC-aligned media. But it doesn’t feel overly satisfying to argue about whether Putin, as geopolitical puppet master, has reached further up the asses of the Trump gang or the Clinton gang. A political independent and equal opportunity critic has a hard time making sense of most of it. All that becomes clear is that the halls of power and financing are flooded with devious and sinister actors, and very little of it has to do with partisan politics. One begins to sense what is meant by references to the shadowy deep state.

To suggest that the Russian and related investigations were partisan fake news is total bullshit. The conflict certainly was spun by corporate media for the purposes of corporatist politics, but both sides participated in the staged production because both sides hoped to keep the real issues out of the limelight. Maybe it all comes down to power, as spoken through the language of wealth. Money knows no party lines nor national boundaries. Whether Republicans or Democrats hold the presidency, those benefitting from American business interests always seems to somehow involve profit for Putin-backed companies and Russia oligarchs. This was seen with uranium during the Obama administration (Democrats, Russians, and Uranium). And it was seen with steel during the Trump administration (Steve Horn, Behind Trump’s Push for “American Steel” in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit).

For many years, there were those who rightly pointed to the legalized bribery as a means for powerful interests to buy access and benefits. Besides the Uranium One scandal, this also included the Saudis having donated to the Clinton Foundation to ensure they would receive a generous arms deal from Hilary Clinton when she was Secretary of State (Clinton Foundation–State Department controversy). Those involved all operated within the letter of the law and maintained careful divisions to allow for plausible deniability, but any honest observer would admit that it is bribery and corruption. This was the infamous pay-to-play. This subverting of democracy is so normalized as to hardly be scandalous at all, at least to the mind grown cynical.

Donald Trump, in many ways, maybe doesn’t get criticized as harshly as one might expect. Everyone already knew he was a sleazy businessman before he was elected. Well known is his having run businesses into the ground, declared bankruptcy over and over, evaded debt collectors, cheated business partners, refused to pay contractors, and mistreated employees. Then there are outright scams like Trump University. Only his wealth and high-powered lawyers have saved him from the consequences and punishments that he deserves. All of that is on top of a lifetime dwelling in the swampy waters of the elite, from New York City to Washington, D.C. to Moscow and beyond. Surely, his close ties to the political elite in both parties, including the Clintons, helped protect him and his business interests.

Trump and his entre family were born in the swamp and have flourished there. The Trumps, in ever seeking profit, haven’t even pretended to care about democracy, but that is no surprise to their supporters and so outrage is limited. No one, Republican or Democrat, ever expected Trump to be anything other than a slimy swamp creature. In fact, Trump proudly campaigned on being corrupt, arguing that only someone as corrupt as him could fight corruption, as strange as that might sound to a mind not totally demented by the brutal logic of power. With such open corruption, it’s hard to attack Trump’s corruption as a weakness or a failure. It is simply who he is and why a certain kind of person voted for him, not that this minority of supporters exactly gave a public mandate to be wantonly corrupt. Still, it must be admitted that he was, in his own way, honest about his dishonesty.

Besides, it’s not like Trump is an anomaly. This is a family of corruption with a dishonorable legacy that goes back generations. Trump and his siblings, when they were still young, initially inherited money from their father, Fred Trump, as part of various illegal tax evasion schemes. And this continued into the 1990s (David Barstow, Susanne Craig & Russ Buettner, Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father). Their wealth was built on real estate and construction in New York City, but it was initially accumulated by the grandfather, Friedrich Trumpf, who made his first fortune by running an illegal brothel during the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon. It was in New York City, though, that the family more fully got involved in corruption and criminality. That place was infamous for its machine politics that was well oiled with bribery, kickbacks, and graft; cronyism, favoritism, and nepotism.

The Trump family fit in perfectly well. New York City politics and big biz was enmeshed in Tammany Hall, along with boroughs and municipalities run like fiefdoms, not to mention powerful organized crime that controlled the construction industry. One didn’t become a wealthy businessman, particularly in real estate, in that climate without being a criminal and working with criminals. The evidence points to both Donald and Fred having bought politicians. This behavior became far darker as Donald began working closely with the local mafia, such as laundering money, a practice that he did with foreign organized crime as well. There was also mortgage fraud and much else that ties him to the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the closest cronies of the Trump family. This corruption was later joined with that of Jared Kushner’s family by way of marriage to Ivanka Trump.

That decadent culture of open corruption is probably why Trump is so cavalier about his own malbehavior, with a confidence that people like him are above the law because they have deep pockets to buy the legal outcomes they so desire. Such vast moral depravity was normalized for him in childhood when he got his first taste of American-style capitalism. It was only natural for him to continue this behavior once he formally entered politics, although he had been closely tied to the political elite his entire life. As promised, President Trump ran the country like a business and, in his experience, that means corruption by default. He doesn’t know how to run a business honestly, an alien concept to his mind.

Only part way through his term as president, there was documented 2,000 instances identified as “conflicts of interest between his business interests and his duty to the country as president” (Gretchen Frazee, Trump criticizes the Bidens, but his own family’s business raises questions). That happened in less than three years and he was only warming up. He really upped his game in this last year when he knew he was running out of time before the scam would be up and he has ended up adding more than another thousand conflicts of interest (Julia Conley, ‘An Astonishing Rate of Corruption’: Trump Has Amassed 3,000 Conflicts of Interest Since Taking Office). Also, that is only looking at the conflicts of interest, not the hundreds of other forms of corruption such as selling key political positions to private power, as seen with a tidal wave of regulatory capture. Then, on top of that, there are the near endless activities of his own family the he nepotistically inserted into power while they continued to push various family financial interests, often using their political position to ensure backing and funding or else to promote products.

So, why haven’t the Trumps been nailed for their known illegal actions? And why hasn’t Trump been impeached, as impeachment doesn’t even require proving criminality? “THE DEFENSE GOT ONE THING RIGHT at Donald Trump’s Senate trial,” writes Jim Lardner (Mapping Corruption: Donald Trump’s Executive Branch). “The case against him was thin, his team kept saying; and so it was, compared to the enormity of this administration’s other offenses.” It makes one wonder why the DNC and deep state that is portrayed as hating Trump chose such a weak case that would guaranteed he would get away without punishment. There were so many crimes that, if prosecuted, could land Trump and family in prison. The defenders of the Establishment wanted to put on a good show for the viewing public and they wanted to send the clear message to Trump that he needed to back down, but actually destroying one of the highest and most powerful of the ruling elite would set a dangerous precedent.* The weakness of that particular legal case, though, should not be taken as innocence, as Lardner makes clear:

“Set aside the hate-mongering and the stream of conspiracy theories and demagogic bombast. Trump has sowed corruption of a breadth and brazenness unseen in the far-from-innocent annals of our nation’s history. In three years as president, he has transformed the executive branch into a giant favor factory, populated with the agents or willing partners of virtually every special interest. Add up all the routine, daily outrages—the quasi-bribery and quasi-extortion, the private raids on public funds, the handouts to the undeserving, the massive flow of cash, jobs, and freebies back in return—and Trump’s attempt to squeeze a little re-election help out of the fragile government of a desperate Eastern European country does not loom particularly large in the reckoning.

“Adding it all up is a challenge, though. It’s hard to fathom the depths of the kleptocracy when there’s so much happening on the surface to divert us. The corruption most directly in our faces involves the looting and skimming and self-dealing of the president and his family. Our first hotel-owning president has inspired a parade of foreign diplomats and domestic lobbyists to pay tribute with overnight stays that are functionally indistinguishable from bribes. The Secret Service has blown over half a million dollars on golf carts protecting a leader who has spent nearly one out of every three days of his first term at one of his resort properties, which get free advertising on top of the revenue from lodging his guards and retinue. Ivanka Trump snags a valuable set of Chinese trademarks on the same day she dines with Xi Jinping. Kellyanne Conway hawks Ivanka’s products in TV interviews.

“But the personal corruption of the Trumps themselves perversely masks the sliminess perpetrated by literally thousands of presidential appointees, from Cabinet officials to obscure functionaries. Amid all the distractions, it’s hard to focus on the more consequential crookedness and follow out the plotlines of all the sordid stories, and grasp the brutal consequences visited upon countless people. We lunge from scandal to scandal without ever filling in the bigger picture, or taking proper account of all the knaves, thieves, and corporate stooges and their handiwork.”

Trump was never going to drain the swamp, no more than Trump’s cronies in D.C. were going to take down Trump. Here is the difference that is offered to the American public, typically framed as ‘lesser evilism’. The Trumps will punch you in the face and kick you in the balls to get what they want and then walk away with piles of money, whereas the Clintons will put a friendly arm on your shoulder and look you in the eyes as they slip a hand into your back pocket (maybe while starting another war to profit the military-industrial complex, a war that the corporate media won’t report on). Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

With Trump as patriarchal mob boss, the blatant thievery and thuggery is the supposed ‘honesty’ that Trump supporters so adore. This administration’s corruption has become so bold that it defies any need to be hidden, any pretenses of respectability. It might not be long before other politicians follow the example of the Trumps, as the entire elite loses all shame and fear. Then it will be normalized and full-on fascism can begin. This means that the equivalent of Manafort and the Podesta brothers could operate out in the open where eventually not even Federal investigators might be able to touch them.

All of that said, in the end, is Trump’s misbehavior really worse than the decades of conniving that built the American Empire in the first place such that it could be taken over by someone like Trump? The American ruling elite have been undermining democracy and overthrowing democratic governments for more than a century. Are we surprised that democracy here at home has suffered in our being publicly shamed on the international stage by Trump’s buffoonery? When Democrats had the presidency and majority control, did they constrain executive power according to the Constitution, instead of expanding it further? Of course not. We never would have had a Trump presidency without the Clinton dynasty and the Bush dynasty, without the systemic moral rot of administration after administration.

So, here we are. President elect Joe Biden will cobble the pieces back together, smooth over the threatening fractures, make the American Empire respectable again. This will inevitably fail in the long run, as democratic reform can only be delayed for so long before something else forces change. The corruption will continue to get worse, as will the public outrage. Next up might be a truly competent dictator, maybe sooner than some expect. Then Democrats will speak nostalgically of the Trump era when things weren’t so bad.

* * *

* Then again, some argue that, once the Trump family is out of power, they could become less protected from a deep state that may perceive them as having gone too far and so potentially could use them to set an example to keep the rest of the oligarchy in line. And the other oligarchs might not feel forgiving toward the Trumps in having threatened the Establishment with dangerous political games. Even the most horrific of crimes can be tolerated, as long as they are in defense of power itself. Trump’s presidency, instead, has left that system of power in shambles and that harms the interests and agendas of many people who otherwise would be extremely tolerant of the shenanigans of someone like Donald Trump. This plutocratic family might find it’s luck has run out.

“Trump is more vulnerable to prosecution,” Jon Schwarz explains, “than other presidents because he’s engaged in so many potential nontraditional presidential crimes. With the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush committed what the Nuremberg trials referred to as “the supreme international crime” of initiating a war of aggression. But there was never any chance that he’d be punished for this, because the entire U.S. power structure agrees that American presidents have the right to do it. Same for conducting thousands of drone strikes or torturing people around the globe. By contrast, Trump has engaged in many comparatively small, shabby, possible criminal activities outside of his presidential duties” (Losing Could Expose Trump To Prosecution For Any Number of Crimes).

This probably won’t happen. But it could. No president has ever attacked the deep state before, even if it was merely political theater. The deep state doesn’t like to be forced out into the open through involvement in partisan fights and campaign rhetoric. Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon who will shrink away into the shadows after being ousted from power. And in finding his entire family having gained the status of pariah, Trump’s antics as an attention whore could get worse. Various actors in the Establishment might decide that it will need to fully and finally put the uncouth Trump clan back into its place. If the Trumps fight back, they might just make it worse and force empty threats to become real prosecutions. They’d be wise to tread lightly until events cool back down. Those in power would prefer that Trump simply concede power and just go away.

* * *

As the main target of hatred for nearly the entire political right, along with more than a few on the political left, there has been decades of criticism, analysis, and investigations about the Clintons and their cronies; not to mention the endless conspiracy theories. But now the Trump dynasty is in the spotlight. For those interested, there has been an unsurprising increase of investigating reporting on the details of depravity for this scandalous family:

Fox News: Americans are the ‘Left-Wing’ Enemy Threatening America

According to a Fox News poll, the majority of Americans have become radicalized extremists, Marxist commies, and fellow travelers! They might also be postmodern moral relativists or even eco-terrorists, but at the very least they are woke snowflakes pushing political correctness and reverse racism. They probably hate God and liberty too. Worse still, one might suspect more than a few of them are antifa, probably lacking an appreciation that a fascist police state is what made America great and will make it great again.

Fox News Voter Analysis – 2020 Presidential Election
In partnership with Associated Press
Based on surveys by NORC at the University of Chicago
29,000 people, all fifty states, October 26 and November 3

  • 60% believe government should do more
  • 72% concerned about “climate change”
  • 70% favor increased government spending on green and renewable energy
  • 78% see racism as serious issue in U.S. society
  • 73% see racism as serious issue in policing
  • 77% think criminal system needs reform: complete overhaul (22%), major changes (46%), or minor changes (29%)
  • 72% agree “illegal immigrants” should have pathway to citizenship
  • 60% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases
  • 71% support the pro-choice Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade
  • 3% said abortion most important issue facing country
  • 51% want to leave as is or expand Affordable Care Act / Obamacare
  • 72% want “government-run healthcare plan” as Medicare for all
  • 55% think gun laws need to be more strict

Going by this and other data, we are forced to conclude that the average American is far to the ‘left’ of not only the GOP elite but also the DNC elite. The DNC elite is more concerned with punching ‘left’ and punching down in order to keep democratic activists, community organizers, and populist leaders out of power than to win elections and give Americans what they want. Most Americans, for example, stated support for same sex marriage years before it was backed by Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, the supposed leaders of ‘liberalism’. The DNC elite will only follow behind long after issues have become safe and even then maybe not.

We the People will have to lead ourselves in the march toward political reform, legal justice, civil rights, economic freedom, democratic self-governance, and social progress. But, first, the American public will need to have a populist awakening to the harsh reality that they are the silenced majority and that the corrupt one-party state has become radicalized toward the opposite extreme of corporatocracy, soft fascism (increasingly not-so-soft), and inverted totalitarianism. With polls like this, the suppression and silencing of the American public hopefully won’t last much longer, if and when a populist identity emerges.

The culture wars, in particular, are in decline. It’s not only same sex marriage. Abortion is non-issue for most Americans based on broad support for women’s right. Even for white Evangelicals, abortion is no longer a top issue. And young Evangelicals are increasingly identifying with the ‘progressive’ label, cutting across ideological and partisan divides. “Generally speaking, however, evangelicals ranked traditionally progressive or Democratic causes as more important than traditionally conservative or Republican ones. […] Almost 60-percent said they favored a more progressive evangelical agenda focused more on protecting the environment, tackling HIV/AIDs, and alleviating poverty and less on abortion and homosexuality” (Beliefnet Poll: Evangelicals Still Conservative, But Defy Issue Stereotypes; also see Who Are the American Religious?).

The narrative of civil rights, freedom of choice, and compassionate concern has defeated the narrative of patriarchal paternalism, theocratic control, and moralizing superiority. Few Americans perceive abortion as ‘killing babies’. The culture wars were a carryover from the Cold War era where social issues were used as a blunt instrument of punishment and oppression, such as the McCarthyist fear-mongering of the Lavender Scare where openly gay people had their careers ended and lives destroyed.

But now more than half the population has no memory of the Cold War ideological wars and weren’t bottle-fed on Cold War propaganda. The rhetoric has lost its potency, even for many older Americans, as we move further along in this new century with shifting priorities, concerns, and fears; along with the return of economic populism and old school progressivism. Commie paranoia holds little purchase for the ordinary person when facing concrete threats to life and livelihood such as climate change with droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and historic windstorms, combined with a pandemic. The once powerful redbaiting may still get airtime on right-wing media, but fewer and fewer Americans are swayed by it, as instead large and growing numbers of demographics embrace the ‘socialist’ label. When you keep calling widely and wildly popular policies ‘socialist’, all that is accomplished is getting more Americans to identify accordingly.

Give citizens no other choice than between failed ‘capitalist’ healthcare ruled by a corporatist oligopoly and popular ‘socialist’ healthcare run by the government, most will take socialism gladly and with open arms (In fact, “Every single swing-seat House Democrat who endorsed #MedicareForAll won re-election or is on track to win re-election. Every. Single. One,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; also see: Kenny Stancil, As Centrist House Democrats Attack Medicare for All, Fox News Poll Shows 72% of Voters Want ‘Government-Run Healthcare Plan’). It’s the same basic reason that, when given a narrowly constrained option of either abortion bans or freedom of choice, Americans generally find the latter far more attractive. These forced choices of black-and-white frames were effective in the past as a divide-and-conquer tactic, but over time the rhetoric loses its manipulative force. Americans stop reacting in the way intended, especially as public trust is lost toward the elite pushing this rhetoric. If an ever worsening corrupt plutocracy doesn’t want us — we the People — to have a functioning social democracy and free society, that is all the more reason it becomes attractive.

This is exacerbated as economic issues come to the fore. It’s one thing to give up freedom and self-governance as the price paid for economic comfort and security, as was the deal the plutocrats offered during World War II and heading into the Cold War when public good and shared sacrifice was held up as a societal ideal with a common enemy that was perceived as threatening the “American Way of Life”. But political oppression combined with economic oppression is all take without any gain for us commoners. All boats have not been floating and that harsh reality is getting harder to ignore. The American Dream may require people to be asleep, and the American people may have been fine with remaining asleep during economic good times, but now it’s become a nightmare. This has unsurprisingly led to populist outrage.

Social conservatism used as a political football only works when people are economically comfortable in a society with a middle class that is large, growing, and stable as based on a prosperous society where most of the population gets cheap housing, subsidized higher education, declining inequality, high employment, lifetime job security, affordable healthcare, great employment benefits, and generous pensions. For older Americans, that was the world they grew up in. Even inner city minorites, prior to deindustrialization in the 1960s, were lifted up by decades of good factory jobs that created a minority middle class in communities with low-crime and, because of progressive taxation that heavily taxed the rich, reasonably well-funded public schools.

Look at the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. He didn’t campaign on culture war or even redbaiting. He promised to bring back jobs, protect the American economy, stop undocumented immigration (that is used by by big biz to drive down wages, bust unions, and weaken the bargaining power of workers), and spend millions to rebuild the national infrastructure. This was not merely economic populism. Following Steve Bannon’s wise/conniving advice, Trump invoked the old school progressivism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. As the Democrats abandoned and betrayed the working class, Republicans like Ronald Reagan and Trump found it easy to pick off the very voters in communities that once were labor union strongholds.

The American public didn’t go ‘right’ in being drawn toward populism. No, it was the Democratic Party that embraced class war, if hidden behind identity politics (in turning toward plutocratic elitism, big biz socialism, and soft fascism with corporate deregulation, banking deregulation, media deregulation, racist crime bill, mass incarceration, privatized prisons, etc). On economic issues in particular, Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden are more blatantly and effectively corporatocratic than Donald Trump. Consider Social Security. Trump reassured his supporters that he would never touch it, would never cut it or try to privatize it. Biden, on the other hand, has threatened for decades that he wants to defund Social Security. Some voters have stated that they chose Trump specifically because they feared Biden would take away their Social Security. It gets hard to distinguish between supposedly progressive fiscal liberals and reactionary fiscal conservatives.

Also, a surprising number of minorities voted for Trump; in fact, a larger number this election than last. Even with Trump’s ugly racism, these minorities saw Trump as a viable option in challenging the corporatist oligarchy that has become identified with the Clinton Democrats as the defenders of the status quo. That is a hard-hitting rebuke. Biden barely won an election against the least popular incumbent in U.S. history during a combined economic and pandemic crisis. The DNC elite has zero public mandate. If the corporate stranglehold didn’t keep third parties silenced in the ‘mainstream’ media and shut out of the political debates, a third party candidate might have easily won this election or the last. But that won’t be allowed to happen. We the People, we the liberal and progressive public, we the true moral majority will have to force change from the bottom up.

* * *

The 2020 Election as a Triumph for Democracy? Hold the Hosannas
Even high voter turnouts mask the reality of that “affluent authoritarianism” that now governs America.

by Sam Pizzigati

Gilens and Page, for instance, locate real influence over public policy within the ranks of the most affluent 10 percent, but suggest that opinions in this top tenth most probably reflect attitudes within the ranks of the top 1 or 2 percent.

McGuire and Delahunt go further. Their research moves our focus from what our richest have on their minds to what they’re doing with what they have in their wallets. They see “the transfer of large amounts of money to policy makers from the wealthiest sources focused intensely on particular policies” as the “lodestar variable” for understanding how our policy makers make policy.

* * *

Videos and articles about this Fox News Voter Analysis:

Fox News reporting on its own poll:

Related posts from this blog:

In other news from recent voting results… This election wasn’t exactly a strong win for the Democratic Party, as they won’t have control outside of the presidency. So, they certainly didn’t gain a crushing victory they could have portrayed as representing a public mandate. But the political left more generally made progress, particularly at the local level.

Increased Diversity In Politics:

Sen. Kamala Harris is officially the first woman, first Black person, and first South Asian American person to be elected vice president of the United States.” (Li Zhou, Kamala Harris makes history as the first woman to become vice president)

“A new group of Black progressives has officially been elected to Congress. […] Even before the general election on November 3, four progressives in Democratic districts were all but assured spots in the US House of Representatives: Cori Bush from Missouri along with Jones, Jamaal Bowman, and Ritchie Torres — all who will represent districts in New York City. Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia is also advancing to a January runoff for one of the state’s US Senate seats.” (Ella Nilsen, A new generation of Black progressives has been elected to Congress)

“In an incredible turnout of pro-equality voters, Americans across the country elected at least eight out transgender people to office during yesterday’s election.” (Human Riights Campaign, Meet the Transgender Americans Who Won on Election Day)

“Fourteen of the 35 gay, bisexual and transgender candidates who ran for office in Texas during the midterms claimed victory Tuesday night — a 40 percent success rate in deep-red Texas — and national and state activists say they’re confident this election cycle carved a path for a future “rainbow wave” in Texas. The historic number of Texas candidates who ran for offices from governordown to city council positions joined a record-shattering rank of more than 400 LGBTQ individuals on national midterm ballots this year.” (Hannah Wiley, In Texas, the “rainbow wave” outpaces the blue one)

“There will be a record number of women in the next U.S. Congress when it convenes on Jan. 3, 2021. That’s a tabulation from the Center for American Women and Politics. At least 131 women will serve in 117th Congress, with another 25 races featuring women still too close to call as of early Friday morning. CAWP says 100 of the women elected so far are Democrats and 31 are Republicans. In the House, at least 106 women will serve (83 Democrat and 23 Republican), beating the previous record of 102 in 2019. That includes 43 women of color, all but one of whom are Democrat. On the Senate side, at least 24 women will be part of the next Congress. It could be 25 if Sen. Kelly Loeffler wins her Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia. […] Republicans will have 13 freshman House members who are women, a record for that party, with nine races yet to call. Fourteen undecided House races are featuring Democratic women. Eight have already been elected to next year’s freshman class.” (Travis Pittman, Record number of women elected to Congress)

Americans Contemplating The Possibility Of Functioning Democracy:

“Alaska and Massachusetts both have major voting reforms on the ballot this year, including whether to use ranked-choice voting in future elections. […] Missouri voters have a chance to make changes to their state’s elections as well, with Amendment 3, which would limit campaign contributions to state Senate candidates and prohibit state lawmakers and their staff from accepting gifts from lobbyists.” (Live results: Ballot initiatives on democracy reform)

Social Democracy And Democratic Socialism Is On The Rise:

“But demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ism, pop­u­lar­ized by near-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.), had a much bet­ter night. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Social­ists of Amer­i­ca (DSA), an orga­ni­za­tion that boasts near­ly 80,000 mem­bers nation­wide, endorsed 29 can­di­dates and 11 bal­lot ini­tia­tives, win­ning 20 and 8 respec­tive­ly. There are now demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist cau­cus­es in 15 state­hous­es, includ­ing Mon­tana. […]

“Plen­ty of pro­gres­sive can­di­dates also lost, but most can­di­dates nation­al­ly endorsed by DSA sailed through. And while it’s true that many of them had tough pri­ma­ry bat­tles and less dif­fi­cult elec­tions on Tues­day, they still won as DSA mem­bers. All four mem­bers of ​“The Squad” — a pro­gres­sive bloc in Con­gress that includes Demo­c­ra­t­ic Reps. Rashi­da Tlaib (Mich.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayan­na Press­ley (Mass.) — were reelect­ed to the House. (Tlaib and Oca­sio-Cortez are DSA mem­bers and endorsed by the orga­ni­za­tion.) Pro­gres­sives also added two more DSA-endorsed mem­bers to their squad: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep.-elect Jamaal Bow­man in New York, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep.-elect Cori Bush, the first ever Black Con­gress­woman in Missouri.

“Now, thanks to DSA mem­bers across the coun­try, there is a social­ist in Austin City Coun­cil and in both the Rhode Island and Mon­tana State Hous­es. In Penn­syl­va­nia, there are three social­ists who are almost cer­tain­ly head­ed to the leg­is­la­ture in Har­ris­burg. Social­ists in Boul­der, Col­orado worked along­side the ACLU to win a bal­lot mea­sure that guar­an­tees no evic­tion with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and DSA mem­bers part­nered with the labor unions AFSCME and SEIU to pass Preschool for All in Mult­nom­ah Coun­ty, Ore­gon. And in both Flori­da and Port­land, Maine, bal­lot ini­tia­tives for a $15 min­i­mum wage passed. 

“While it’s clear that most DSA vic­to­ries have been in big cities or more lib­er­al states thus far, it’s impor­tant that we don’t dis­count the incred­i­ble orga­niz­ing hap­pen­ing in the South and in rur­al areas. (Mar­qui­ta Brad­shaw ran a DSA-backed cam­paign for Sen­ate in Ten­nessee but lost; Kim Roney, endorsed by her DSA chap­ter, won a seat on the Asheville City Council.)

“And while the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty is loath to give DSA any encour­age­ment, DSA mem­ber Tlaib may have helped to secure Biden’s vic­to­ry in Michi­gan by help­ing to mas­sive­ly increase vot­er turnout from 2016.” (Mindy Isser, What Democrats Should Learn From the Spate of Socialist Wins on Election Day)

Puerto Ricans Demand Decolonization:

“Puerto Ricans have again voted in favor of making their island home a US state and they’re hoping that, this time around, their decision will carry actual weight. Puerto Rico, which has been a US territory for 122 years and is the world’s oldest colony, has held five previous non-binding referendums on the issue. In 2012 and 2017, the island’s 3 million citizens overwhelmingly backed statehood, but Congress never took further action to admit Puerto Rico into the union.” (Nicole Narea, Puerto Ricans have voted in favor of statehood. Now it’s up to Congress.)

Revocation Of Memorializing Historical Racism:

“Mississippians have voted in favor of the ballot initiative Measure 3 and will replace their controversial state flag with a new one, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press. The new flag, named the “In God We Trust” flag, will put to rest a decades-long debate over the flag that the state used for 126 years, which features a Confederate emblem. The new design was commissioned and approved by the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, set up by the state legislature after the body voted to do away with the old flag. It prominently features a magnolia flower — the state flower — encircled by 20 white stars, a nod to Mississippi’s status as the 20th state to join the US. A larger yellow star sits directly above the flower to represent the Choctaw origins of the state, and all the icons sit on a dark blue and red striped background.” (Fabiola Cineas, Mississippi says goodbye to Confederate emblem and adopts a new state flag)

Rejection Of War On Drugs Across Country:

“In every state where a ballot measure asked Americans to reconsider the drug war, voters sided with reformers. In ArizonaMontanaNew Jersey, and South Dakota, voters legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. In Mississippi and South Dakota (separate from the full legalization measure), voters legalized medical marijuana. In Oregon, voters decriminalized — but not legalized — all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Also in Oregon, voters legalized the use of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms, for supervised therapeutic uses. In Washington, DC, voters in effect decriminalized psychedelic plants, following the lead of several other cities.” (German Lopez, Election Day was a major rejection of the war on drugs)

Police Reform – Downsizing Police, Defunding Police And Funding Alternatives:

“Los Angeles voters have approved Measure J, also known as “Reimagine LA County,” which requires that 10 percent of the city’s unrestricted general funds — estimated between $360 million and $900 million per year — be invested in social services and alternatives to incarceration, not prisons and policing.” (Roger Karma, Los Angeles voters just delivered a huge win for the defund the police movement)

“San Francisco voters have decided to do away with a longtime police staffing law that required the police department to maintain at least 1,971 full-time officers on its force, with their approval of Proposition E, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Now, the strength of the city’s police force will be governed by a police commission tasked with regularly evaluating police staffing levels.” (Fabiola Cineas, San Francisco hasn’t defunded its police force yet — but just voted to make it smaller)

Healthcare Reform Remains A Winner:

“Highlighting an interesting—and to many, instructive—electoral trend that others have spotted in the days since 2020 voting ended earlier this week, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday—just as jubilation spread nationwide among Democrats and progressives upon news that Joe Biden will be the next U.S. President—pointed out that every single congressional member this year who ran for reelection while supporting Medicare for All won (or was on their way to winning) their respective race.” (Jon Queally, ‘Every. Single. One.’: Ocasio-Cortez Notes Every Democrat Who Backed Medicare for All Won Reelection in 2020)

Abortion Restriction Voted Down:

“Colorado voters just rejected a measure that would have banned abortion in the state after 22 weeks’ gestation, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press. […] Abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy are rare, with nearly 99 percent of abortions happening before 22 weeks’ gestation. But a small percentage of patients seek abortion later in pregnancy, sometimes because of severe fetal abnormalities that can only be diagnosed at that time. Proposition 115 did not have an exception for such abnormalities, or for rape, incest, or the health of the pregnant person, allowing abortion only if it was “immediately required to save the life of a pregnant woman.” That could mean providers would have to wait until a patient was actually dying to terminate a pregnancy” (Anna North, Colorado voters reject 22-week ban on abortion)

First State In The South Passes $15 Minimum Wage:

“In the 2020 election, Florida voted 60-40 in favor of Amendment 2, a ballot measure to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 by September 30, 2026, even as it also voted to keep President Donald Trump in office. […] “Across the board, it is not necessarily a left or right issue. Voters across the aisle actually know that it is impossible in Florida and around the country [to] actually survive on $8.56 and what the current minimum wage is,” Allynn Umel, national organizing director of the Fight for $15, a group that advocates for a $15 minimum wage and a union, said on a call with reporters Wednesday.” (Emily Stewart, The lesson Democrats should take from Florida’s $15 minimum wage vote)

Universal Preschool And Teachers Pay Raised:

“Advocates of universal preschool just scored a key local victory, with Multnomah County, Oregon — which includes the city of Portland — approving a ballot measure supporters called Preschool for All, according to OregonLive and Portland Monthly. The initiative, also known as Measure 26-214, will provide tuition-free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents want it, while also raising the pay of preschool teachers. The county will pay for the program with a tax on high-income residents.” (Anna North, What this Oregon county’s “preschool for all” victory means for child care in America)

Renewable Energy Goals In Nevada State Constitution:

“As was widely expected, Nevada voters approved Question 6 on the ballot, which amends the state constitution to mandate that the Nevada’s electricity providers shift to at least 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press.” (David Roberts, Nevada voters seal renewable energy goals in their state constitution)

Disunited States of Outrage

Liberalism, by historical definition, has meant generosity — not only generosity of money and charity, of public welfare and the public good but more importantly the generosity of spirit. This has expressed an attitude of openness and inclusion, an equal treatment of all, including perceived others and outsiders along with those perceived as different or not fitting in: minorities, immigrants, and the poor; the underprivileged, outcasts, and the sick; the differently abled, neurotypical, and gender nonconforming; etc. That is the noble ideal that makes liberals feel all warm and fuzzy. On this basis, I’ve been sharply critical of the liberal class, aligned as it is with the DNC elite, for lack of understanding, empathy, and compassion toward those they perceive as their ideological enemies and their social inferiors. It’s an us-versus-them groupthink with a patina of liberalish rhetoric. Ideals, when betrayed, lead to cynicism and that is what we now have.

Then again, the liberal class is an odd term in reference to the academics, professionals, investors, business owners, and politicians who are economically comfortable or even wealthy. Many in the upper classes are not necessarily liberal. Meanwhile, the vast majority of self-identified liberals and those holding liberal views are lower class with many of them being downright poor. The liberal class, as an identity, not only excludes conservatives but also most liberals. This is maybe how liberalism has gotten a bad name and become a slur. Of course, there is an equivalent conservative class that silences, ignores, and dismisses most conservatives (and liberals) perceived as below them. The fact of the matter is class war has its own ideology that is independent of stereotypes of left versus right. Still, for a left-liberal, it’s the bad behavior of supposed ‘liberals’ that hits one in the gut, in how it undermines the entire moral vision of liberalism.

There are liberals who are offended when someone uses the same kind of criticism against vegans, feminists, etc that they themselves so carelessly lob against those on the right. They find it easy to identity with the members of their in-group while not taking seriously the suffering and grievances of those perceived as outsiders, as if everyone else deserves what they get. Sadly, many respectable Democratic partisans blame poor whites for the Donald Trump presidency and then portray them as a caricature of white trash, although interestingly the political right often goes along with this same rhetorical framing conflating class and ideology. The truth is most of Trump voters are middle class, not even working class and certainly not poor. Most poor Americans, white or otherwise, simply don’t vote or participate in politics and activism. The ignorance about the poor and indifference toward them is sad, sometimes downright infuriating.

There are those of us on the principled political left — Jimmy Dore, Glenn Greenwald, Ralph Nader, etc — who are used to being the punching bags of liberals (or what goes for liberal within corporatist politics), just as we are intimately familiar with the ire of the political right. We take our bruises and punch back. I’m one of the first to defend the poor of all races, by looking at the demographic data and pointing to the history of class war, as there is a lot more going on here that has brought us to this point. Then again, I’m one of those crazy left-wingers who gets why some otherwise good people would vote for a less-than-good demagogue and charlatan like Donald Trump, similar to why some otherwise good people would vote for corrupt elites like Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden. I know the attraction of lesser evil voting. To an even greater extent, I grasp the gut-level frustration that led to some to vote for Trump as an act of pure desperation, even as they admitted he was a corrupt swamp creature, for they saw him as a bully who would fight the other bullies or else blow the whole thig up. Then there are those on the other side who throw their lot in with the Clinton Democrats as what they think of as a last stand against authoritarianism — I get that as well.

I understand and empathize. Everyone has their reasons. I don’t want to hate upon anyone, to condemn them for making imperfect choices in an oppressive system that ensures all options allowed are bad and worse still. I’m not in a position to stand in judgment. I’ve felt the same frustration and anger, sometimes a naked sense of threat as authoritarianism digs its claws deeper into American society. Yet my offering of fellow feeling is not always returned. Such is the way of compassion in a world darkened by fear and anxiety, hatred and outrage. People are quick to see enemies even in potential friends and allies. Even familial bond is no guarantee of mutal understanding, much less kindness and forgiveness.

One person in my family is a poor white guy on disability who takes care of his sick father. He is libertarian-minded, lives in a conservative state, and probably supports Trump. He unfriended me on Facebook because I said something positive about the Black Lives Matters protests. It’s not as if I advocated violence, destruction, or anarchy; and I made clear that my position was as a proponent of free speech in the face of authoritarian force that wishes to take that right away. Another family member is similar except in being middle class. He has been even more vocally libertarian in the past, and yet recently he advocated a violent police state response to ending the same protests, in arguing he’d rather have authoritarianism than anarchy. What goes for libertarianism is about as uninspiring as what often gets portrayed as liberalism. Oppressed Americans like me, according to other oppressed Americans, have become the enemy to be defeated at all costs in order to fight oppression — I’m not sure how that is supposed to work exactly. As family, I know these two people fairly well and we share many interests. They are good people who care about their loved ones and communities. But their minds have been shut down and their hearts grown cold. It is the saddest thing I’ve experienced in a long time, as it is personal.

This civil conflict is taken as total war where one side must win and the other side eliminated. Yet if the police treated them and their loved ones in a similar oppressive fashion, they’d likely be advocating terrorism, revolution, and overthrowing the government while proclaiming ‘liberty’. But as long as those other people (minorities, immigrants, poor urbanites, etc) elsewhere are being oppressed, not them and their own, it is perfectly fine as those other people had it coming. Apparently, to their fearful mindset, it is as if there is a limited supply of moral concern with any compassion and kindness offered to blacks or leftists being a direct attack on whites and right-wingers. Equality, fairness, and justice is assumed as an impossibility. But to my mind, this self-enforced division of the citizenry is how oppressive rule is maintained. These right-wing family members, both living in a rural conservative state, don’t understand that they share the same basic problems of oppressive class war as do urban blacks, working class liberals, etc. Along with Democratic voters I know who are also family members, if my Trump-supporting family could get past the media narratives and propagandistic rhetoric, they would discover they have common grievances with most other Americans across various perceived divides. They’d come to realize they aren’t alone and isolated. If this can’t happen among family, what hope is there to be found in the greater society?

This same outrage has pulled other individuals in my family toward supporting Trump, including some who didn’t vote for him last time in cleaving to their identity as old school Republicans. The Cold War rhetoric of commie fear-mongering has worked them up into a state of terror, as if a Biden presidency will unleash a Stalinist takeover, not to mention the postmodern neo-Marxism and cultural Bolshevism. Some of these otherwise moderate conservatives are rightfully feeling mad about the corporate media shut down of the Hunter Biden scandal, although no more pissed off than us left-wingers who have received similar or worse treatment over the years and decades. A total lockdown of corporate media has kept left-wingers silenced for generations. But these right-wingers take this silence as a sign that we freedom-loving leftists don’t exist or don’t matter, instead taking the corporate whores among the Clinton Democrats as representative of the political left — a truly sad state of affairs.

Sure, the DNC has its tentacles in the corporate media, as does the GOP. Yet as Fox News might tell part of the truth about Hunter Biden, they are just as quick to lie to their viewers about the same kind of corruption and legalized bribery in the Trump family. The propaganda model of media is not a new phenomenon, as many left-wingers have been protesting it for a very long time. But to many right-wingers, particularly among the white middle class, it’s as if they are only now discovering that the corporate media serves a corporatist power structure that doesn’t give a fuck about truth or about the average American. They are being red-pilled but lack any historical context to realize this is an ongoing pattern of censorship that, in many ways, was far worse during the Cold War. My God! Just look at the Operation Mockingbird in the 1970s and Otto Reich’s white propaganda in the 1980s.

But to the outraged mind, whatever is the most recent outrage is the worst outrage that has ever happened. Outrage eclipses any greater awareness in enclosing the mind a mystifying fog of historical amnesia, which is the entire reason the ruling elite use the corporate media to incite outrage in the first place. Republicans and Trump supporters, mostly white and middle class, are shocked to realize that they are treated with the same propaganda and censorship as everyone else, that are treated as equal to poor minorities — God forbid! It is disturbing to find out that one’s racial and class privilege doesn’t guarantee special treatment, after all. They have no sense of the historical oppression so many other Americans have suffered for generations and centuries. The censorship in the corporate media pales in comparison to the censorship they’ve internalized in their own minds. Instead of it being a point of solidarity among the oppressed, competing victim identities are played against each other, as is the purpose of divide and conquer. Outrage shuts down empathy and disempowers the public.

Despite what they’ve been told by the right-wing corporate media, these right-wingers aren’t the first to feel frustration toward oppressive injustice and censorship. Nice to meet you, comrade! Welcome to the reality many of us have been living in for our entire lives! I felt that frustration about bipartisan attacks on Ralph Nader in 2000. The corporate media shut him out back then and, ever since, has continued to silence candidates that are third party and independent. If you think right-libertarians have a tough time competing in the duopoly of a one-party state, try being a left-winger like a Green supporter. Right-libertarians at least have powerful plutocrats like the Koch family funding them. To return to the 2000 election, consider how bizarre and disheartening it is that both parties and all of the corpoate media, from Fox News to MSNBC, refused to report on the stolen election, even though the data shows that Democrats won both the popular vote and the electoral college. The Supreme Court defied all pretenses of democracy and simply appointed George W. Bush as the supreme leader. The Democrats submitted to this power play, since the transpartisan ruling elite doesn’t care all that much about which party wins as long as the system itself maintains an illusion of legitimacy, thus allowing bipartisan backroom deals to continue in defense of coporatocracy and plutocracy. The only unforgivable sin of Donald Trump is his having destroyed that legitimacy and shown it to be the fraud it always was.

About protests, look back to the anti-war movement under the Bush regime. It was the single largest protest movement in the history of the United States and the world, having united multiple ideological groups on the right and left, not to mention including the citizens of numerous countries joining in their own protests against American imperialism. Unlike the Vietnam War that required many years of failure before public opposition formed, protests against the Iraq War were organized at a large-scale before the war even began. Most Americans opposed the war right from the start, but that didn’t stop the corporate media from being unified in their attack o peace activists while beating the war drums in service to the military-industrial complex. Many of the people now acting so outraged were perfectly fine with the workings of that propaganda machine. Likewise, there was more recent bipartisan support from the corporate media in spinning state propaganda by falsely reporting on Syrian gas attacks that blamed the government, despite the evidence pointing to other actors. None of the corporate media has ever admitted to this propaganda, much less apologized for being willfully wrong, and so most Americans remain ignorant.

Do you want to feel outrage? There is no lack of reasons. Let’s not be selective in our outrage by only getting worked up when we are personally harmed and our own views suppressed. This country was built on outrage and has been continuously fueled by outrage. There is a reason or rather many reasons Americans have been in a near continuous state of protest and revolt for centuries. There is plenty to be outraged about and there always has been. But we shouldn’t let outrage darken our minds in lashing out against fellow Americans, against even our own neighbors and family. Outrage without compassion will rot the soul and destroy the public good. We need to deal with our own damage, not continually projecting it out onto the world with trauma leading to ever more trauma, with each generation of victims becoming victimizers. Arrogance, haughtiness, and righteousness, makes us vulnerable to manipulation. We aren’t right-wingers and left-wingers, Democrats and Republicans. We are all Americans. We are all human. Our fate is shared but so is, if we choose, our sense of hope and promise.

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