“[I]t is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of our national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned, and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.” — George Washington Farewell Address September 17, 1796
There was a time in this country when most Americans — regardless of political affiliation — agreed on a basic set of principles:
— Comity in politics is a good thing, as is compromise in the name of the public good.
— We want “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all Americans.
— America defends other democracies.
— Politicians don’t interfere with the criminal justice system to help their friends.
— Trying to overthrow our government is treason.
— Business supports America because America makes it possible for business to grow and prosper.
— Political parties put the nation first and individual politicians second.
The Democratic Party still supports all these ideals, sometimes to their detriment, like when they refuse to “fight dirty” by creating sketchy scandals like “her emails” and “Benghazi.” While these may give the party a short-term benefit, most Democrats realize the long-term harm to the nation isn’t worth the temporary gain.
The post-Trump GOP, however, has rejected them all. Instead, it’s become the party of Putin, bin Salman, and Orbán, rejecting out of hand George Washington’s warning about partisanship replacing patriotism and, increasingly, rejecting the very idea of democracy in our republic.
When the details of the lives of Georgia grand jurors and prosecutors turned up on the internet (hosted on a Russian site popular with Republican seditionists) with personal details intended to be used to threaten and harass them, not a single national-profile Republican spoke out.
When Jared Kushner and Donald Trump buried the details of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in exchange for three billion dollars, the GOP fell silent.
When Trump tried to overthrow our government, Republicans rushed to the defense of a traitor whose crimes quite literally exceed those of Benedict Arnold.
Republicans in the House of Representatives refuse to even interact with their Democratic colleagues to keep our government open and functioning. Hell, they refuse to even call the party by its correct name, instead using the “Democrat Party” slur Joe McCarthy popularized in 1956 when he said, “And always say it with the emphasis on the rat!”
George Packer, in his book Last, Best Hope, argues that too many Americans have embraced a cynical sneer as a replacement for what was once considered patriotism:
“Smart Americans,” Packer writes, “are uneasy with patriotism. It’s an unpleasant relic of a more primitive time, like cigarette smoke or dog racing.”
Perhaps it’s because we’ve watched five Republicans on our Supreme Court legalize political bribery, and then seen industry after industry buy off Congress.
The result is that we pay the highest prices in the developed world for everything from healthcare to broadband to cell service to airline tickets. Every interaction with big business these days — from banks to insurance companies to online retailers — seems to border on being a scam or a ripoff.
Or maybe it’s because Reagan’s trickle-down neoliberalism has taken the middle class from two-thirds of us (with a single salary) in 1980 down to 43 percent of us today (now requiring two salaries for the same lifestyle).
Could it be that Americans are embracing cynicism and partisanship because we all see how the morbidly rich become massively richer every day and neither political party can do anything about it?
Is it that the Obama presidency — the unpardonable sin of a Black man getting elected twice — broke the brains of the white supremacist GOP base? That was, after all, what brought Trump to political prominence with his relentless assertion that Obama wasn’t a “natural born American.”
Or is it the toxic soup of billionaire-owned social media algorithms that first-and-foremost promote outrage and hate, mixed with hundreds of millions spent every year by Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia on bots and phony accounts to spread distrust and suspicion about our form of government?
When Elon Musk cut Ukraine off from their satellite internet access just as they were sending drone submarines to blow up the Russian fleet in Crimea, giving Putin a major military victory, Americans shrugged.
When he re-platformed Nazis and bigots on Twitter, it became a one-day story in the media. Ditto for this past weekend when he blamed Jews for the failure of his newest toy. Corporate and CEO responsibility to and for democracy and American values? Not so much.
This week scholars and the boards of the libraries of presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Ford, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama all collectively issued a first-ever warning about our nation at risk. They noted that:
“The unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, are principles that bind us together as Americans.”
But, they add, America is experiencing a crisis that has thrown “our own house in[to] disarray.” This, they write, is dangerous for the world as well as America. Their call for our politicians to “govern effectively in ways that deliver for the American people” is either a refreshing return to patriotic values or a sad exercise in delusion.
America has been hollowed out over the past forty years, and both the world and our fellow citizens know it.
When five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court — in a decision written by tobacco lawyer Lewis Powell himself in 1978 — legalized bribery of politicians by both the morbidly rich and corporations, they set in motion a forty-year decline into corporatism and then fascism that’s rapidly coming to a head. That process went on steroids in 2010 when five corrupt Republicans on the Court doubled down on legalizing bribery with their Citizens United decision.
“Democracy?” Republicans say. “No thanks.” They won’t even acknowledge that America is a democracy, preferring to hew to Joe McCarthy’s dictum that they should call America a republic because “that sounds more like Republican.”
Republicans in Wisconsin are preparing to impeach a Supreme Court justice who won her seat by an overwhelming 11 points just so they can hang onto gerrymandered maps that, in a state that votes 51 percent Democratic and 49 percent Republican, gave six out of eight congressional seats to the GOP in the last election.
Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis openly brags about removing two local district attorneys elected by the people of his state; Republicans in Georgia are preparing to do the same to Fani Willis as payback for her prosecution of Putin’s boy Trump.
Two Red states have begun the final destruction of their public education systems, the culmination of a war on public schools that began when Reagan appointed Bill Bennett as his Secretary of Education. That’s the same Bill Bennett who de-funded inner-city schools in the 1980s and then said and repeatedly defended his statement that:
“If it were your sole purpose to reduce crime, you could abort every Black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.”
In every Red state with a major Blue city, Republicans are using a variety of techniques to rig elections.
These include massive voter-roll purges (legalized by five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court in 2018), “strict signature matching” that’s only applied against largely Democratic or Black districts, residency and ID requirements that disenfranchise college students and poor people, and the creation of hours-long lines to discourage working class people from taking time off work to vote.
In Houston, where one-in-six Texas voters live, Republicans have taken over the entire city’s voting apparatus and replaced election officials and volunteers with partisan hacks and militia members. Four Republican-controlled states are right now in defiance of court orders to fix their gerrymanders just so they can hold onto power, and a fifth is on the verge of doing the same.
Flouting the rule of law is becoming as common for GOP legislators as it has been for Donald Trump throughout his entire life. After all, if he can get away with it…
The headline out of Florida says it all: “DeSantis eyes revoking constitutional safeguard for Florida’s Black voters.” Doubling down on bigotry and prejudice, the wannabee president just appointed the head of a known hate group to the state ethics commission.
Even simple things like public health have been corrupted by Republican politicians putting their own fate and fortunes above the good of the nation.
On April 7th, 2020, when Trump and Kushner learned the majority of Covid victims were then Black people in Blue states, Jared said letting people die and blaming it on Democratic governors would be “an effective political strategy.”
That was the week Trump ended the lockdowns and began pushing people back to work, leading America to have the highest Covid mortality rate in the world with at least 500,000 unnecessary deaths.
There’s nothing patriotic about intentionally letting a half-million Americans die, preventing Black people from voting, or lying about climate change to keep the money flowing from fossil fuel billionaires.
There’s nothing patriotic about judges taking millions in gifts from morbidly rich “friends” and then ruling their way, destroying the public education system that was painstakingly built over a century, or siding with Russia against a democratic ally.
There’s nothing patriotic about stealing top-secret documents and giving them to Putin and bin Salman, rigging elections by purging millions of voters, or promoting hate and fear on your social media site just to make a buck.
There’s nothing patriotic about wrapping yourself in the flag and plastering the word “freedom” on everything you do, ginning up fake scandals, or running “news” and other media operations that are based on a foundation of lies and complicity.
There’s nothing patriotic about trash-talking your own nation’s intelligence services and the FBI, leading or participating in an insurrection, or promising pardons to traitors.
There’s nothing patriotic about refusing to deal with the slaughter of America‘s children, wearing an AR-15 lapel pin, and aligning yourself with right wing militias.
There’s nothing patriotic, in other words, about today’s GOP.
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