Saturday, May 16, 2020
A Road Too Dangerous To Travel
"Very fine people" at the deadly 2017 Nazi rally in Charlottesville
Under Donald Trump, the Republican Party is racing toward a transformation that mimics the greatest evil of the 20th century. Long before the Nazis fully engaged with genocidal murder against the Jews, there were persecutions of people deemed "unfit." These were people whom Adolf Hitler’s extremists arbitrarily deemed insufficiently able to contribute to the greater German society. They included the infirm, people with learning disabilities, the mentally ill, those suffering from epilepsy, the physically disabled, and those struggling with alcohol issues.
According to the Nazis' white supremacist ideology, those people were not only impediments to their quest in perfecting their master race, but were also economic burdens to society. The Nazis started a campaign of propaganda to mock them. They were called "unworthy of life” and labeled as "useless eaters." The propaganda even expanded to math textbooks, which were revised to include arithmetic problems on how much it costs to care for these undesirables. This was the first stage.
Then the Nazis moved to the next stage; they worked with political and medical authorities to divide communities between who they deemed as the “fit” and “unfit” members. The arbitrary classification system would serve a deadly purpose.
This ultimately led to the final stage: the systematic, targeted killing of those labeled as a burden. At that point, the Nazis had groomed the German population by getting a little bit worse every single day—just enough to normalize the inhumanity. By the time the Nazis reached this stage, the populace had gotten so used to the cruelties, it seemed like murder of “the weak” was simply the next logical step. They had justified it in their minds.
The concept of social Darwinism and arbitrary human classification is based upon Friedrich Nietzsche's Übermensch theory of superhumans. These are people not impeded by the needs of others deemed inferior. The weaker humans—characterized as the burdens of society—are to be left to fend for themselves. Hitler used this theory as the ideological foundation for his belief in a master race. Another person known to borrow heavily from this theory is the prophet of American conservatism, author Ayn Rand.
Born, raised, and educated in Russia, Rand’s entire philosophy is centered around the concept of individual supremacy and radical free market fundamentalism. Rand and her ilk applied the Übermensch theory to capitalism, which justifies the wealthy’s belief that they have an absolute right to plunder. She called it ”the virtue of selfishness.” Her philosophy was simple: The weak are weak and should be taken advantage of, because it is the natural order of things. Therefore, society needs to focus only on developing the strong, and allow the weak to suffer or die.
Rand’s theory did not spare anyone, even children. Two years before her death in 1982, she appeared on Phil Donahue’s eponymous talk show to explain why it was wrong for our government to ever consider the needs of “subnormal” children and the “handicapped.”
AYN RAND: “The newest proposals of having special, millions spent on subnormal children and on the handicapped. You are getting the so-called "needing" [school] buses is the attempt to bring everybody to the level of the handicapped.
But it includes the mentally retarded which is the subnormal, which is the children who are unable to learn, so that at the end of spending thousands or millions of taxpayers’ money, you're left with a half-idiot who MAY learn to read and write. MAY.”
She goes on to explain how she values some human lives over others … to applause.
Ayn Rand isn’t the sole driving force behind the right-wing’s belief in their superiority over others, but she is probably the most direct and honest about it—and the Grand Old Party loves her for it. Rand’s brand of social Darwinism can be found in the right-wing support of eliminating social safety nets for the poor in order to support massive tax breaks and subsidies for the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans. It’s this sort of mindset that forces the poor in this nation to fight for the crumbs that rarely trickle down.
Randian capitalism hit the mainstream in the 1980s. It was the Reagan era, when a new crop of right-wing devotees adopted the principle that good governance, which is supposed to work toward the collective good, was no longer an ideal. Conservatives during this timeframe focused heavily on deregulation for big business, giving tax cuts to the richest Americans, and ending antitrust protections against monopolies. Ever since, Republicans have retooled their party to only serve the interests of the ultra-rich. Their destructive policies on everything—from education, health care, and shifting the tax burden away from the wealthy—has made U.S. income inequality the highest it’s been since the Census started tracking it over a half-century ago.
You would be hard-pressed to find any Republican today who doesn’t speak fondly of Ayn Rand. White House officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pay homage to her ideals. Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he got into politics because of her. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was even named after her by his father, former presidential candidate Ron Paul. But it’s Donald Trump—infamously known for hating to read—who said that The Fountainhead was one of his favorite books of all time, because it glorified the alpha male capitalist who had no regard for human consequence.
Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump also subscribes to the theory of inherent biological superiority. His father, Fred Trump, a white supremacist who marched with the Klan, instilled in his son the idea that their family’s success was genetic, according to Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio. According to D’Antonio, the elder Trump told his children that he and his wife were superior people, and produced superior offspring. To be fair to Donald Trump, a lot of autocrats also subscribe to this idea. The Koch brothers were taught by their father, a Nazi-sympathizer, that plutocrats deserved the right to rule, even at the expense of democracy, because they were naturally superior.
Donald Trump, who idolized his father, took his lessons to heart. He repeatedly tells people that he has “good genes”; he primarily consults with himself over anyone else because he believes he has such a great brain. Hilariously, Trump even claims his orange skin tone is the result of "superior" genes.
Democrats, of course, hold views that are the polar opposite to Rand’s ideology. Our values stem from our unshakable belief in equality and opportunity. We don’t subscribe to people being genetically superior or inferior, or makers and takers, or fit or unfit. We don’t see any class of people that doesn’t deserve basic human rights, or shouldn’t be treated with a humane level of decency, even though our political foes might label them with terms such as “vermin” or “an infestation.” Democrats see value in the lives of all humans, even our enemies.
Even though many Democrats have been hyper-aware of this difference between our parties’ two philosophies, it has typically manifested itself in our respective parties’ priorities in legislation. The Republicans would always ignore the needs of the poor, the sick, the uninsured: the weak. The Democrats would insist on fighting for them, even if it meant a slightly higher tax burden, preferably on the wealthy. It worked this way for years—until Trump came to power.
Although the modern conservative has always courted the impoverished, bitter, uneducated populace with xenophobic and racist dog whistles, it was because their purposefulness lay in their numbers: they were useful idiots to the plutocracy. At some point, a populist politician was bound to come along who took that hatred to heart. Now, within Trump’s party, hatred is no longer the means to achieving its goal, but rather, it is the goal itself.
White supremacists Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon exiting Air Force One
For most Republicans, the intention was never to turn the Party over to the unabashed racists and Nazis, but rather to court them and use them. Trump has flipped this script on its head. The people in the White House who are closest to Trump—the ones manipulating him—are people like Stephen Miller, who is working for genocide to become a reality.
Miller is behind the worst of the worst impulses of the Trump administration, including abandoning the United States’ longstanding legal practice to not deport sick children. Trump ordered critically ill migrant children, such as kids with cancer, to be deported—even if it meant death. Immigrants who escaped here with their families to run from hit squads were ordered back without regard for their circumstances, only to be tortured and killed upon return to their home country. The Trump administration even ordered immigration courts to take down all CDC coronavirus posters to stop the spread of the virus—the only possible reason being to encourage the spread of the disease among those deemed a burden.
Letting immigrants die was beyond cruel, as was tearing babies from their mothers and putting them in cages indefinitely, yet half of America just shrugged as it happened. Trump is still seriously being considered as a presidential contender, and most Republicans still haven’t abandoned him. In fact, Trump has effectively taken the Party over. The worst people, now in high places within Trump’s new GOP, have pushed Republican ideology ever closer to Nazi ideals.
It’s no secret that the people most in danger of dying from COVID-19 are the sick, the elderly, and the infirm. Conservative pundits also gleefully point out, incorrectly, that the virus is primarily a problem in Democratic areas. Yet I cannot imagine any Republican choice for president in this century—Mitt, Dubya, or McCain—coming out in favor of letting the virus ”wash over the masses.” I can’t fathom any of them suggesting that the sick and elderly should die to save the stock market. A nation’s economy is supposed to serve the people, not the other way around, and no one should ever be asked to die for Wall Street.
It wasn’t so long ago that the party of George W. Bush was outraged over Terri Schiavo, a woman in a persistent vegetative state whose husband wanted to remove her from life support. It has only been a handful of years since the Republican rallying cry was “All Lives Matter.” It doesn’t surprise me how far Republicans have fallen, but it does amaze me how quickly Trump has turned them.
Yet that is exactly where we are now. Trump’s reelection and the GOP’s hold on power is so critical in their minds, they are demanding sacrifices be made.
Texas' Dan Patrick: 'There are more important things than living'
Of course, the sacrifice these Republican leaders always speak of is from the weak and the poor. It is never their families who are asked to give up their money, their resources, or their lives.
Last month, White House National Economic Council chairman Larry Kudlow claimed in an interview that “The cure can’t be worse than the disease, and we’re gonna have to make some difficult trade-offs.” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said on live television that “lots of grandparents” are willing to “take a chance” on their survival for the good of the economy. Brit Hume of Fox News said it’s “entirely reasonable” to let family members die for the stock market.
The nation’s billionaires, along with other members of our elite, who have the luxury of being able to socially distance while making money, are almost unanimously in favor of getting people back to work. After all, they are dependent on the workers making them money if they want to keep their lifestyle intact. Who cares if health officials say it’s unsafe? If workers die, they can be replaced.
I can’t believe they say things like this out loud:
“We’ll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don’t know. “—Dick Kovacevich, former CEO of Wells Fargo
“The damages of keeping the economy closed as it is could be worse than losing a few more people.” —Tom Golisano, the founder and chairman of payroll processor Paychex Inc.
Putting aside the immorality that making money for rich people should take precedence over a public health emergency, the very concept of allowing vast numbers of Americans to die to “save the economy” is completely illogical. By relaxing social restrictions too soon, the death rate will skyrocket. Our extremely fragile healthcare system will then collapse, and more businesses will crumble. Ironically, opening prematurely won't just kill more people, it will cause even more devastating economic harm.
At least one billionaire, Mark Cuban, was honest about billionaires’ intentions: "Ignore anything someone like me might say … lives are at stake.”
For all of the screaming about individual freedom that the right does, including attacks on our party for being “socialist,” I find it ironic that the Trumpian right-wing is now demanding that people submit to death for the state: the expendable workers, the sick, the grandparents and great-grandparents who have already lived their lives. All should sacrifice to serve for Trump’s reelection bid.
That’s the Republican plan, anyway. This is a serious discussion that’s worth having, we are being told. Many state and local leaders have fought strongly against opening too soon, but others are caving to the pressure to open up immediately. Although many will die, the Republicans will believe they have protected the business class elite—our “superiors.” The Nazification of the GOP will be complete.
Republican governors are caving to their party’s demand to reopen, the consequences for their vulnerable constituents be damned. If that’s not an indication of how far our country has fallen since Trump, nothing is. It turns out that Trump openly mocking the disabled wasn’t the basement low of his party, but the ceiling. The trajectory of where the Republican Party is headed is far, far worse.
I didn’t think we’d fall this far this fast. I can’t believe I’m literally debating—with Trump supporters in my neighborhood—the value of letting people live during this outbreak. How the fuck are we still having serious discussions about Trump’s electability?
Serious discussions of sacrificing the weak weren’t acceptable too long ago; I don’t even want to think what might be considered acceptable four years from now, if the right-wing is still clinging to power.
This terrifying stance should scare you to do everything you can to make sure this Nazified version of the GOP is thrown out of power this year. Otherwise, you or your family might be subjected to the "next stage." Right now, the right is asking for voluntary sacrifices of the old and weak, but history shows it's just a few atrocities away from being made mandatory.