Politics is about power, who has it, who gets to hide behind it, who gets to use it for good, who gets to use it to punish people they hate. We have been living through an increasingly naked form of smash-mouth politics the last few decades, worldwide. Its foremost practitioner here threatens to “scorch the earth” he has already burned, salted and sprayed with poison, if the right of the minority to obstruct all legislation favored by the majority is threatened.
I came across an interesting, disturbing idea the other day, from the transcript of a Hidden Brain interview a friend sent me:
When you refuse to apologize it actually makes you feel more empowered. That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth.
And in some ways, this sounds to the inner dictator, when we apologize, in some ways we are disarming ourselves. And when we refuse to apologize, in some ways we are mounting a form of emotional self-defense.
Some sick shit, sure, this zero sum unapologetic win/lose worldview, but it does explain a lot about how political power works. You can start a war to preserve the right of your richest citizens to have slaves, a war you will eventually lose militarily, a loss you will then transform into a glorious Lost Cause, one that never had a thing to do with slavery, only rights, a moral position that allows you to loudly assert the very thing you went to war to defend: the right to treat our own precious n-words however way we goddamned please, thank you!
You lose an election decisively, but you do not accept the loss, you refuse to bow to the bipartisan consensus of every expert that you lost a fair election. It feels good, and empowering, never to apologize or admit you could ever be wrong, or, God forbid, lose. The Jews stole it from us, or millions of Mexican rapists, or Muslims, aided by powerful pedophiles, the Blacks, the Browns, the Yellows! The demonstrably false story about massive voting fraud that you keep telling, a story thrown out of countless courts for lack of evidence, is good enough to enrage your followers. More than good enough, after a $50,000,000 ad campaign and many incendiary speeches and tweets, some are willing to get violent to defend “their country” against the threat of hoards of lying, fraudulent, ignorant, smelly, disgusting, immoral people who are nothing like us.
Politics is always personal when it comes to reflexive reactions towards certain kinds of murderers. You have a young maniac the press calls “very religious” get a gun in Georgia the other day. To get the gun in Georgia all he had to do was show ID and say “kill… those whores make me want to f-f-f-f … have sex with ’em… Second Amendment!” and the gun was in his hands. A few hours later he made the rounds of a few massage parlors and shot eight people to death, a ninth person he shot escaped death by luck. Most of the people he murdered were Asian women. The authorities are still trying to “figure out” if this murder spree was a “hate crime” directed at the women because they were Asian. America wants to know, and the jury is still out — what was the intent of this enraged, “religious” white man in killing the women? What was actually in his twisted mind as he was spraying the bullets at these women will make a difference, for some reason, at his trial.
We argue over hate crimes, the definition of “hate” of “crime” of what actually makes a crime a hate crime, partisans focusing it within one frame or another. Can we really say that a police officer just doing his job, who handcuffs a suspect and kneels on his windpipe until the suspect is unable to keep pleading for his life “killed” the suspect? Kill implies an intent that the officer, well…
Let’s take a much simpler one: how about those brave Capitol Police officers who stood up to a violent, armed crowd that outnumbered them ten to one (injuring 134 of them)? The House voted almost unanimously yesterday to give them Congressional medals for their courage. Who were the twelve who voted against it? Trumpist all-stars like Louie Gohmert and Matt Gaetz, new Q-Anon it-girl Marjorie Taylor Green, provocative extremists only electable because they ran in partisan gerrymandered districts where their extremist views, supported by “dark money,” could not be challenged in a fair election. These twelve were apparently indignant that the bill to honor the cops with medals infuriatingly referred to the peaceful January 6 protest by white Christian patriots inside the Capitol, to gently but firmly disrupt the final certification of the stolen election by the traitor Mike Pence, as an “insurrection.” Making partisan sport with a tragedy, trying to score political points on the back of a dead police officer, as the goddamned divisive, racist n-word Democrats always do!
Not one Republican senator (or House member, for that matter), not the moderate Mitt Romney, not the despised Liz Cheney, not a single one of them, voted last week to give relief to struggling Americans in a nation devastated by a deadly, super-infectious pandemic, a hands-off federal response and the economic tsunami it caused. Not a single vote, for aid to hungry children, for mental health care, for medical care, for food, for vaccines, by the party whose base, and several of its rising stars in Congress, insist that powerful Democrats are child-molesting cannibals.
I say politics is personal and I will try to illustrate that idea with a personal example. My former friend Paul, is a very bright guy, a proficient maker of compelling legal arguments in federal court, a well-read man with a subtle mind. His oldest friend tells him that he has been hurt by him. Paul goes to work. Now watch the actual work, it is exactly how Republican/right-wing politics works today, particularly the irrefutable, indignant, absurd closing position that clinches the deal.
Did any of this really happen the way you said? What did I specifically do, I still don’t understand? I was trying to help, are you faulting me for that, for trying to help? I appreciate that you took hours to try to explain yourself, and I thank you for not attacking me, it was generous of you, but, if you wouldn’t mind, and I’m not going to go into any of what you said now, or ever, but can you explain it again, please, since I still don’t get exactly what I did that hurt you. I know I may seem obtuse, and perhaps shrieking like an angry schoolgirl, hanging up the phone and texting that I’m done being reamed by you may be something you’d expect an apology for, particularly from a grown man and old friend — but why? Is my waiting weeks to make any apology at all part of the reason you might be clinging to your anger so petulantly? Isn’t it possible that your anger is distorting your view of what actually happened? Who can ever really know what is in another person’s mind, even someone you’ve known for decades? We are all mysteries, even to ourselves… etc.
This is all standard stuff for a certain type trying to defend itself. But here is where the shit turns personal/political — how you stick the landing. When I finally reduce our conflict to one issue: you asked me what was wrong, I told you, you kept saying you didn’t understand, I explained again, when I directed your attention to how intolerable it is to me to have no response to things I directly raise in reply to your own questions, not only don’t you respond, you dispose of the entire controversy and perfectly stick the landing by saying “I’ve read and considered everything you said, searching in vain for a single clue what the fuck you are so fucking upset about.”
Anyone who has read even one of these posts knows what a provocatively insulting statement the assertion that I give no clue is. And, like the provocative Republican insistence that racism is non-existent, except in the minds of enraged, irrational, radical, violent, thuggish n-words, there can be only one reason to make this kind of reductive, zero sum statement — to win.
I don’t care about your supposed good will, the strength of the facts you put together, appeals to our better natures, our long friendship, your generosity in not making me feel like the ruthlessly bitter asshole I’ve arguably been, your constant attempts at reconciliation — you lose and I WIN. That’s how this story ends, asshole. You could not provide a single clue, not even a clue, about why you harbor this irrational rage toward me.
Paul’s pessimistic belief is that people cannot change, they obey their darker natures in the end. To believe otherwise makes you pathetically deluded. By finally getting me to step back from my vow of mildness to tell him to go fuck himself, he proves his point. I try to be mild, but at bottom, I am the same vicious fuck I always was. People cannot change, or learn to be less of an asshole. Game and match. Zero sum, I win.
For contrast to this style of point-scoring and power plays, and a look at the best of political persuasion, watch Senator Raphael Warnock’s magnificent speech in support of HR 1, the For the People Act, a bill that would make voting easier, more universal and less corruptible in our great experiment in democracy. The GOP has already announced they will filibuster it, try to prevent floor debate on the bill, as the 6-3 rightwing Supreme Court seems poised to uphold Arizona’s voter suppression laws that were twice found illegally discriminatory by the lower federal courts. I can only picture the response of the outraged patriots, it will be very similar, in its essential enraged incoherence, to my buddy Paul’s provocative conclusion that I can’t put a few thoughts together coherently.
Watch Warnock’s powerful moving, speech and see if you can find a single flaw in it:
Suggested talking points for Tucker and the outraged right:
It is not that we are racists, or that America has ever been racist, in any way, it’s just that if we don’t stop [n-words] and their ilk from voting in huge numbers, like they did recently in Georgia to steal the Senate, we would find ourselves out of power, living in a country where a majority, not our own, decides what rights and privileges WE have. If the shoe was on the other foot, if we got real political power after centuries of being as murderously fucked by you as you claim to have been by us, we’d be vindictive as hell, as you would have every right to be, if we’d done anything at all bad to you. We’d put our knees on your necks so hard you’d never even be able to say, “I can’t breathe.”