Did you ever see the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” made in 1956?
In that classic science fiction horror film, an extraterrestrial invasion begins when Alien plant spores fall from space and grow into large seed pods, each one capable of reproducing a duplicate replacement copy of each human. As each pod reaches full development, it assimilates the physical characteristics, memories, and personalities of each sleeping person placed near it; these duplicates, however, are devoid of all human emotion.
After seeing a transport truck bound for San Francisco and Los Angeles filled with the pods, the small town doctor frantically screams at the passing motorists, “They’re here already! You’re next! You’re next!”
The subtext of the movie was, of course, a reaction to the spread of communism. The actor playing the lead in the movie was named Kevin McCarthy.
Not to be confused with the current House Minority Leader in Congress who dropped his candidacy to replace John Boehner as House Speaker after admitting on Sean Hannity’s TV show on Fox News that the purpose of government-funded select committee into Benghazi was a partisan political undertaking to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations rather than a substantive inquiry into what happened at the American diplomatic compound in 2012.
That same Kevin McCarthy made another gaffe in June 2016 when he told a group of Republicans,
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God.”
Then-Speaker Paul Ryan reminded colleagues the meeting was off-the-record, saying
“No leaks. This is how we know we’re a real family here.” When asked about the comment, McCarthy’s spokesman said that “the idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”
Then a recording of the comment was made public in May 2017, prompting McCarthy to claim it was “a bad attempt at a joke”.
“They’re here already! You’re next!”
Things have felt a bit like the ending of that “Body Snatchers” movie lately. Conservatives are going around saying Democrats are behaving like commies and progressives are shocked to see parts of our government run by Republicans bearing a resemblance to Nazis.
Both are gross exaggerations that could stand a little more analysis. ‘
“SOCIALISM” is a word I was raised to feel negative connotations about, imagining it as it exists in Marxist theory as the overthrow of capitalism transitioning to Communism in the Soviet economic model, with command economies and dictators in charge.
Strictly speaking, Socialism is an economic and political system in which the ways of making a living are owned by the workers who run them and the people who depend on them, as opposed to private owners. It’s easy to see where your typical Investor might feel threatened by such a system if society becomes less reliant upon their actions made possible by their accumulation and concentration of wealth.
The brand of socialism sold by Bernie Sanders is distinguished by the name “Democratic Socialism,” which includes a democratic system of government rather than authoritarian governance. This is the system you find in countries like Germany, France, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, and others.
Republicans love to bring up Venezuela, a Democratic Socialist country which is experiencing a severe economic crisis. The problem there is that Venezuela became over-reliant on its vast oil reserves to import products from abroad since lowering prices helped Venezuelan citizens buy these items at below-cost but also made it unprofitable for Venezuelan-based companies to produce these goods in-country. When the price of oil fell, those food subsidies and social programs became unsustainable.
Struggling to adapt to having less of that oil money with which to buy items, the Venezuelan government (which controls the price of basic goods) has tried to limit imports, which has put a strain on supply, leading to hyper-inflation and a black market. Some of the problems are also the result of the late former ruler Hugo Chavez restricting access to exchanging their national currency to US dollars.
It’s not a good situation, and Venezuela will indeed make a good case study for how NOT to run a Democratic Socialist country that is reliant on boom or bust commodity cycles. Prior to oil prices falling , Venezuela had achieved prosperity and social harmony.
So yes, Venezuela serves as a good boogeyman for Republicans to use to scare Americans into keeping capitalism, even though much of American society benefits from socialism.
That’s right. We have socialist programs in America today.
Don’t believe me?
What do you call using taxpayer dollars to fund the US military, taxpayer funded highways and roads, public libraries, police and fire departments, giving student loans, garbage collection, public landfills, farm subsidies, social security, public schools, putting violent people in prison, corporate/business subsidies, Veteran’s (VA) Health Care, public parks, building sewers, making sure our grandparents get health care on Medicare, operating the courts, loaning taxpayer dollars to help veterans pursue an education, using Medicaid and food stamps to make sure poor kids don’t starve, monitoring our food supply so consumers aren’t poisoned, giving temporary assistance to people who lose their jobs, preventing and controlling illness, coordinating disaster relief, providing public defenders, protecting us against terrorist attacks, customs and border protection, overseeing our nuclear weapons and disposal of nuclear waste, and more?
These things are completely possible because of government collecting taxes and using that money to achieve needed services that we could not accomplish as individuals working against each other. Competition in the private sector merely serves to put downward pressure on prices charged to consumers, but companies work in the interest of making profits rather than serving the greater good.
And while President Donald Trump may fire up his followers at rallies denouncing “The Squad” of young, progressive women of color with socialist ideas, declaring “America will NEVER be a socialist country,” well…
Don’t tell those MAGA hat-wearing crowds that Trump is employing socialist tactics by subsidizing US farms affected by his trade war with China. Their heads might explode from the cognitive dissonance.
In retaliation for Trump’s tariffs slapped on goods entering our country, U.S. farm goods like pork, beef, soybeans, sorghum and a range of fruits aren’t selling to foreign buyers like before. Using our tax dollars to ease their pain is either a pretty cynical bid or a stroke of genius (depending on which party you support) intended to shore up support among a slice of the rural electorate – his key constituency — ahead of the 2020 elections.
So, it’s not that Trump and the Republicans don’t want socialism. They just want to make sure that farmers and businesspeople are the ones benefitting rather than poor families struggling.
Capitalism in Peril?
Wealth inequality threatens to radically change our country because the American Dream relies on every day men and women feeling as if they can achieve their full potential. What we have now is a rigged system where oligarchs run things.
Republicans systematically weakened the labor class and their unions with a relentless dismantling of many of their hard-fought rights.
Just as Trump’s aggressive actions are meant to rebalance America’s trade relationships, the country needs to restore policies benefitting the middle class after decades of promises that tax cuts for the very wealthy will eventually trickle down to everyone else.
Fixing our Health Care system would go a long way toward that goal by helping families feel that bankruptcy will result from a hospital stay.
America is the only developed country in the world without universal health care, which is idiotic because we all pay, one way or the other. We pay whenever someone without private health insurance goes to the emergency room for treatment of something that might have been caught earlier in a doctor’s office for a lot less money. When that person can’t pay a bill for thousands of dollars, the hospital passes their operating expenses along to the rest of us, driving up OUR hospital bill.
The only people the current system benefits are those who are healthy enough to avoid chronic conditions and lucky enough to have been born without genetic predispositions or accidents that force them to require medical attention.
Yes, a Medicare-For-All WOULD require all of us to pay a lot more in taxes, but as Bernie Sanders explains, that would eliminate the costly premiums paid monthly to private insurers. And when bargaining with health care and pharmaceutical companies as one huge block of customers, we’d gain the leverage to drive down the cost for everyone participating. Old and young, sick and healthy, the pool of participants would be large enough to make sure that a system guaranteeing coverage without exempting pre-existing conditions doesn’t collapse under the weight of ONLY sick people enrolling. That was the idea behind the individual mandate
Let me put it in terms that are easier to understand…
Imagine an America where everyday men and women are no longer forced to stay in jobs they hate because they rely on their employer’s group health insurance plan to get coverage that is even remotely affordable. A country where those people feel secure enough to start businesses of their own, confident that there’s a safety net to catch them if they try and fail.
The increased competition in the marketplace, as well as increased demand for skilled workers to replace these budding entrepreneurs, would put downward pressure on product prices and upward pressure on wages.
No wonder Republicans are determined to convince you that Medicare for All is a terrible thing you should fear!
Democrats seemed torn ahead of the 2020 campaign on how far to push progressive proposals. It is irrelevant when one considers that “playing nice” won’t guarantee that those who tell lies and steal elections will act right.
What? You don’t think they cheat? The Watergate break-in, Bush v Gore in 2000, Wikileaks, and the hacking of the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign would beg to differ.
“If we adopt a platform that’s way out to the left, [Republicans are] going to say we’re socialists. If we adopt a more moderate or conservative platform, they’re going to say we’re socialists. So we might as well just do what we think is right.”
– Pete Buttigieg, Presidential Candidate
Cruelty as a Psychological Operation
Republicans killed the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act because it created an incentive for more people to participate, which helped health care companies better afford treating sick people by collecting premiums from those who were young and healthy as well. Psychology is also at the root of our government’s treatment of immigrants at the southern border.
We’ve heard it explained that by detaining asylum seekers trying to enter the United States, the “cruelty is the point.”
In other words, Trump wants to obliterate the incentive those scared, weary migrants have to leave their brutal home countries and walk hundreds of miles in miserable conditions to seek asylum and a better life in the US. By publicizing the inhumane conditions at the private prisons where our border agencies have separated children from their parents and are forcing people to sleep on concrete floors in cramped cells, they WANT those people to be discouraged from attempted the trek northward. They want them to lose hope and choose to deal with the devil they know.
Despite Trump’s silly rhetoric suggesting they want open borders for criminal gangs to walk across, Democrats AREN’T saying that the situation in the border is one that can or should be ignored. The problem is that it matters HOW a problem gets solved.
The intentional cruelty of Trump and his followers – the pride and glee they take in essentially torturing other human beings – is a stain on a great country that has always welcomed the downtrodden and benefitted from immigrant resources and ingenuity.
Traditionally a beacon of hope, that light has been snuffed by a president who essentially operates like a grumpy old man telling the brown-skinned kids to stay off his yard.
Are Republicans Nazis?
I reject the suggestion that Republicans are no better than the monsters who murdered millions.
However, we are — without question — creeping closer to than ever before.
Consider the following troubling similarities:
- Trump’s angry populist rhetoric pushing resentment politics, the whole idea that proud, white people (mostly men) are being pressured to adapt to changes to accommodate women and minorities. When this fiery demagogue tells you that a Hispanic person took your job or a woman is being oversensitive, he provokes you to react, mainly by giving him more power to insult those people on your behalf.
- Trump’s dehumanizing language when referring to the immigrants and women. He compares them to vermin or discounts them are too unattractive for him to have sexually assaulted. Both Trump and Hitler could be described as bullies who’ve used threats and structures of power to intimidate and dominate others.
- Authoritarian over-reach for emergency powers to deal with “crisis” situations, including ones that Trump himself instigates or complicates. He constantly subverts the normal legislative process. He has joked about doing away with the courts, which have frequently halted his more heinous executive action stunts, in addition to serving well past a second term – or inciting riots if democracy fails to preserve his power.
- The heightened visibility of white nationalist groups. I don’t think all Republicans are Nazis or KKK members, but I’m pretty sure that since Nixon employed the “Southern Strategy” the Nazis and Klansmen have likely found a home where they are tolerated under the GOP’s tent. “Very fine people,” the president praised them after a rally where one of them murdered a counter-protester by using his car as a battering ram (In fairness, the left is being associated with Antifa, but they are no more mainstream Dems than Nazis are running the RNC.).
- The Hyperpolarization of politics that manifests in Trump’s rallies with angry crowds chanting disturbing things directed at their fellow Americans and filling the courts with partisan hacks who will protect Trump and stand in the way of the checks and balances provided for in the Constitution.
- The obliteration of traditional precedents and norms, manipulating the rules of the democratic game with tactics to suppress the opposition such as voter ID laws and gerrymandering.
- Declaring the free press and political opponents are threats to democracy in the service of elevating misinformation and fascism.
Some people — myself included — are deeply disturbed by these developments. Trump’s possible conflicts of interest and inability to stand up to dictators while alienating our traditional allies add a layer to this.
It’s hard not to worry when Republicans try to kill an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and procedurally kill bills that would tighten our election security. Why aren’t more people concerned that a dozen top positions at the Pentagon are going unfilled and most of the Cabinet secretaries are designated as “acting” to prevent them from Congressional confirmation oversight?
Am I Being Unreasonable?
Perhaps I have friends who are Trump supporters reading this right now. From their perspective, I am probably sounding wildly alarmist over things that are no big deal. They may think that Trump is simply solving the problem that other politicians have glossed over, a necessary evil, if you will.
But consider that citizens of Nazi Germany probably felt like their cause was just in ridding their nation of different ethnicities “infesting” their communities. Their consent to let that happen led to their violent ruin and eternal shame as a people.
I don’t want to see my country drift closer to being an authoritarian state where the will of the people is crushed, whether this happens under the banner of uplifting a white nationalist agenda or pushing potentially positive social change too aggressively to the detriment of millions.
What Are Trump Supporters Thinking?
The reason I say things lately have felt like that sci-fi movie is because I’m watching friends and neighbors transform into people I don’t recognize anymore, saying hateful things about people they don’t even know and worshipping a man wholly unworthy to lead as their messiah. They seem determined to willfully disregard the notion that the President of the United States could be a pawn controlled by a foreign adversary.
Why do they stay in line behind this vulgar narcissist who hides his tax returns and obstructs oversight? If I was accused of something and completely innocent, I’d be cooperating in any way possible to speed along my exoneration.
Trump & Co. say it’s just a matter of putting their foot down and stopping what amounts to endless partisan probes. You mean like all of those Benghazi investigations meant to bring down Hillary or the Whitewater investigation that led to her husband being impeached for lying about getting a blowjob from a White House intern? THOSE kinds of shameless political attacks??
Deceived? Or Just Horrible All Along?
Losing friends and family to hateful ideology has been one of the most painful episodes of my life. Many of us feel the trauma of this presidency through people we love who we’ve lost.
Facebook has become a rhetorical battlefield where once good friends now argue and insult one another, repeating talking points and outright lies told to us through social media and partisan “news” channels.
These people I know and love, they seem indifferent or even amused whenever this president advocates violence at his rallies. There’s the very real danger the rest of us will be worn down into apathy and hopelessness by the sheer, overwhelming nature of Trump’s relentless assault on decency.
Watching the Trump presidency has been a bit like watching the Manson Family or another cult at work. A loved one is brainwashed to believe everything the Authority figure at the top dictates.
He controls their perception of reality by declaring that what they see and read is not real — that the only information they can rely on to be true are the Tweets that spring from his fingertips or the boasts he makes on Fox News Channel. Any critical analysis of his Administration is conveniently dismissed as “fake news.”
Some have even assigned Christ-like characteristics to Donald Trump, despite a long and sordid list of moral failings. If anything, he fits the description of the Anti-Christ far more accurately.
People were sold this packaged character on a “reality” TV program called “The Apprentice” about a supposedly brilliant New York businessman. Week after week, viewers consumed stories of his greatness and wished that the country could have such a strong, capable man at the helm. But it was all a lie.
At the height of his prominence as a NYC businessman, we’ve learned, Trump was losing more money than any single American – a billion dollars over a decade. By the time he rode that escalator down to a press conference to declare that Mexican immigrants were rapists and killers, there was only one bank on the planet that would loan him money: a bank that had been investigated for laundering blood money for Russian oligarchs tied to organized crime.
The “might makes right” philosophy of American corporate imperialism can sound appealing when you have the intellect of a third-grader, but it’s not so easy when you grasp that America’s foreign policy shapes how the rest of the world views us. Inspiring others to fear and hate us only creates future problems.
Simple minds don’t want to connect dots and trace cause and effect relationships. It is much easier to convince yourself that some brown-skinned person harmed us, unprovoked, so you don’t lose sleep at night. To try and grasp these complicated situations and prevent them is dismissed as being unpatriotic.
My friend Angie is a good example of the “pod people” effect of Trump’s political rise. I’ve always considered her a good, very hard-working person who cares about her family and just wants to get by so she can enjoy partying on the weekends. She’s never impressed me as particularly religious, but if you wrap anything in the iconography of the American flag or Christianity, she becomes wildly, blindly excitable about it, especially after several drinks. She’ll physically fight you and get kicked out of the bar if you dis “Murica.”
Like most Trump supporters, I think she means well, but their scapegoating “solutions” feel like bringing a bazooka to a knife fight.
Join the Fight!
If you feel the same as I do, I invite you to join the DeKalb County Democratic Club at our monthly meeting August 13th at 5:30 pm at the Coal & Iron Building in Fort Payne, Alabama.
We are organizing a True Blue Youth Rally & Concert on Saturday, September 7, 2019 at the DeKalb Theatre in Downtown Fort Payne, Alabama. We’ll have live music by performers including Matty Croxton, Stuart Douglas Stanley, Jared Cushen, Dakota Wright, and Judy Nicole Kirby, plus food trucks and voter registration. Admission is FREE.
A Final Thought
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.