It’s a regular worry of mine that future students of this period who read mainstream journalism won’t begin to grasp the full scope of the madness, mendacity, and bottomless gall of the president and his enablers. I generally think the major news outlets are doing the best they can (including this one, which with a fraction of the staff of the major newspapers has broken story after story). But critics are right that we’re not doing enough.
We’re not doing enough because it’s impossible to keep up. I pour a drink every Friday and reflect back on the week and think to myself: What the flying f—k just happened? Every week, Donald Trump does or says eight or 10 things that are just absolutely grotesque, things no modern president has ever come close to doing or saying. Others in his administration, and the Republicans who keep defending him, do the same. Mike Pence, in an unspeakably arrogant and offensive move earlier this week, invited a defrocked Jewish rabbi who thinks that Jews who don’t embrace Jesus will go to hell to pray for those killed in Pittsburgh. It was a story, for sure, but not nearly the story it deserved to be—because it happened against the backdrop of at least four other horrible remarks and decisions by the Trump administration. And it’s like this every day, every week. It’s emotionally exhausting.
Still, I’d like to step back here and tell future students of this period that the 2018 midterm campaigns are the most dishonest and racist in modern American history on the Republican side. The racism now on public display from Republicans is raw sewage—fundamentally built around the idea of scaring the bejeezus out of white people about a whole host of things. And it’s also the most dishonest because Trump and Republican candidates for Congress are lying more rancidly about health care than I’ve ever seen either party lie about a single issue in the last 40 years.
Exhibit A is the caravan. I urge you to watch Fox News a little bit every night, as much as you can bear. What will come at you is a Gatling gun of admonitory hysteria about how the group has supposedly exploded in size to 14,000, which I heard Sean Hannity say a few nights ago (he more recently shrugs and acknowledges that “some say fewer”); is rife with MS-13 “animals,” as Trump once called them; and is closing in on the border.
This last lie they have to leave fuzzy, because if their viewers actually knew that if the caravan arrives—“if,” not when, because many expect it to thin out as it heads northward, with the Mexican government now offering work visas to those who stay in Mexico—it probably wouldn’t be getting to Brownsville until somewhere in the vicinity of Thanksgiving. That would ruin the whole effect. The point is outright racist scare-mongering so their white viewers will vote. For that to work the hordes have to be at the gate.
And then there’s the George Soros conspiracy-mongering. It’s now straight out of the pages of Der Stürmer. If you know that publication, you know what I mean. And if you have to look it up, then all I can tell you is we’re living in an age when you’d damn well better.
Soros’ Open Society Foundation gives away $500 million a year to all kinds of causes to try to support the flowering of democracy all over the world. He spends comparative peanuts on actual politics. These Fox News talking heads and Republicans who attack Soros have probably never even bothered to look at OSI’s web page to see where the man’s money actually goes.
They think that Soros hates America? The people who cynically use the cover of the First Amendment to spread anti-Semitic lies and poison our public discourse the way these people do are the ones who really hate America. They sure don’t know a thing about its best values.
Of course, these two story lines were consummated by Florida Congressman Matt Graetz, who made a sort of Rosemary’s Baby of them with his charge that Soros was funding the caravan. The deeper one wades into the swamps, the worse and more overt the racism gets. It amuses me to see that for some Republicans, Iowa Congressman Steve King has finally crossed some kind of line of permissible public racism. Really? How did they know? Who set this mythic line, and on what basis? I guess the president didn’t get the memo. As the Beast reported, he gave King 75 minutes of private time—the president of the United States, with one congressman, who doesn’t chair a major committee—earlier this month.
None of this comes from nowhere. There’s a long, long history of this in the GOP. Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy. George H.W. Bush and James Baker’s Willie Horton ad (and no, don’t “Al Gore” me, wingers—Gore mentioned Horton in the 1988 Democratic primaries but he didn’t use his mug shot in an “Oh, Lawdy, lookout white people!” ad). Karl Rove’s 2004 ballot referenda on same-sex marriage. It didn’t always have to be about race—just whatever minority group was handy for Christian-scaring.
For decades, Republicans have been able to deny that these appeals were central to how they won elections. “Sure, there’s a little of that, but that’s not why we win. We win because of the free enterprise system, low taxes, personal liberty.” Uh-huh.
The other morning I got in the car and flipped on Morning Joe, and I heard the host in full lamentation: “I never believed what liberals said about us all along. I never believed there was this undercurrent in the Republican party of racism, nativism, anti-Semitism. We spent our entire lives telling people it wasn't true. I'll be damned, I'm 55 years old. Bingo, they had us exactly right. They had the party exactly right. What are we to do now?”
Well, I wonder what Republican Party he was watching growing up in Pensacola, Florida, in the 1970s, when many young Southern Democratic governors who were civil-rights progressives were race-baited by old Dixiecrats and new Republicans. Be that as it may, we can consider it a moral victory that he now sees what has been obvious to non-Scarborough America for half a century. The racism is now so plainly on display, now so obviously a central organizing principle of the Republican Party, that people like Scarborough can no longer deny it, and that’s a good development.
Well, future student of this era, I see that I’m over my usual word count and I haven’t even gotten to the health-care lies. You see? This is how it always is, every week. There are too many outrages even to get to. You’ll have to read about them somewhere else, but trust me, they’re the equivalent of a bunch of people setting fire to the Mona Lisa while insisting, “I love the Mona Lisa!”
The only fire that needs to be set in this country between now and next Tuesday is under the asses of the idiots who still think voting doesn’t matter. If this campaign isn’t punished, we really are not the country we thought we were.