Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Rise of the Red Square Republicans

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.) 
Back in the summer of 2018, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post coined the phrase, "Red Square Republicans". Despite the fact that the insidious pipeline between Trump Tower and, later, the Trump White House and the Kremlin was already firmly established and well-known, Milbank's phrase never caught on. But now we need to examine its implications more closely.
   Four years ago, Milbank had coined that phrase in response to eight Republican lawmakers who thought so little of Independence Day that they'd spent it in Moscow jawboning with the same people who'd meddled in our 2016 elections. During that same visit, Vladimir Putin showed how little he thought of our Rusophile delegation by refusing to meet with them.
    That misguided allegiance, let's charitably call it, is still very much in evidence nearly a year and a half after Trump was kicked out of the White House. His pro-Putin and pro-authoritarian influence is more than merely corrosive- It's akin to a carcinogenic metastasis. Those "misguided allegiances" are still rearing their ugly head in the form of the 68 Republicans who'd voted against the $40 billion Ukraine aid package. Every Democrat present that day voted for it. The 68 nay votes were all Republican.
    We can imagine who they were and chances are you'd be right at least some of the time. I'm sure it consists of the usual suspects of Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Rand Paul and the other stars of the psychological sideshow that is the latter-day Republican Party. And, yes, I'm sure helping to fill out that list are the same seven Republican senators and Rep. Kay Granger, the same ones who thought it would be a corker of an idea to spend American Independence Day in Moscow.
     Meanwhile, Donald Trump, by far the most unAmerican and anti Democratic occupant of the White House, sneered at Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee during the national anthem. But as long as Trump still cynically sticks that capital R after his name, Republican scum like Moscow Mitch McConnell who are hidebound by party ideology will still support his path to the White House in 2024 even if it gives them the dry heaves. Having a withered, beef jerky of a soul like McConnell's gives you that super power, apparently.
    Of course, if God forbid Trump sleazes his way back into the White House, it would be an unparalleled disaster. It would essentially freeze all pending litigation against him for the rest of his life (And there's a lot he's desperately trying to dodge). And, more importantly, it would be a disaster for the world in general because, with no reelection hopes in 2028, Trump would be free to do all the damage he only wanted to do the first time, like pull us out of NATO.
     It would also be a huge shot in the arm to the rising neofascist movement to which we've played alarmed but passive witness since the day Trump rode down the escalator nearly seven years ago. It would be considered a mandate. And if the support for Putin and other authoritarian dreams isn't glaring enough, let me remind you that CPAC had its most recent shin dig last weekend in Hungary, the stomping grounds of Nazi-lite dictator Viktor Orban.
     Trump, as expected, made a virtual appearance there just before a vicious antisemite who'd once referred to Jews as "stinking excrement".

From Russia, Without Love

Few of us in the reality-based community will forget the stinging, humiliating sight of our "president" emerging from a two hour private meeting with Putin in Helsinki looking like a fresh victim of prison shower rape. But then again, the spectacle comported with those of us in that aforementioned reality-based community well-versed in the unconditional deference we'd seen Trump give Putin from the beginning.
   But, like Trump, Russia doesn't feel that loyalty or allegiance is reciprocal. After Yale professor Timothy Snyder published an essay entitled, “We Should Say It. Russia Is Fascist,” Russian state TV went into such a frenzy, it actually called Trump the real fascist. It was reportedly only the second time the truth was ever uttered on Russian state TV.
   Just yesterday, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) issued a report informing the Canadian Intelligence community they would do well to sleep with one eye open regarding their neighbors to the south (that would be us) in light of its "backsliding". CSIS came up with the alarming statistic that the US has lost 11 points on its democracy index over the last decade, placing us behind Argentina and, most worryingly, Mongolia, that ever-loving bastion of democracy.
     There are many reasons for this. 
    America has always had a weakness for right wing, authoritarian strongmen going back at least to the earliest days of the Eisenhower administration. Politicians of both parties have historically had a knee jerk reaction to Communist strongmen like Castro (whom we'd tried to assassinate 634 times, obviously to no avail) and Socialist leaders like Chile's Salvadore Allende.
     Inevitably, in their place, we'd installed or would've liked to install, right wing death merchants like Pinochet. Until the Glorious Age of Trump, the US government was always content to live vicariously through the fascism of others and maybe nibble on the edges for the titillation.
    Then Trump came down the escalator like a lost piece of luggage in airport baggage. Within minutes, it was open season on Mexicans and Muslims. That campaign kick-off was done in front of a largely mercenary crowd in Trump Tower but it was televised. And impatient madmen were watching and taking notes.
   What started out as yet another presidential publicity stunt to negotiate a better contract for The Apprentice on NBC turned into a world=altering event that inevitably slid the United States closer to the edge of the cliff below which lies the ruins and rubble of Nazi Germany. The usual right wing positions didn't change (except they, almost to a man, loved Russia all of a sudden) but they were turbo-charged under Trump.
     It wasn't enough to deport undocumented immigrants. Now we were literally ripping children out of their arms and firing tear gas at them. We put those kids in cages. Produce rotted before they could be picked. Muslims were turned away at the airport, even those with visas. It wasn't enough to defund public education. We had to turn ordinarily boring school board meetings into WWE trash talking sessions in which peoples' lives were being threatened. It was now about CRT, despite the fact it doesn't exist outside of graduate studies at the college level. It was about gender-affirming books labelled as kiddie porn. Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, was banned in one school district.

Our Grandfathers Fought What We Would Become
We like to call, with great nostalgia, the men and women who fought the Nazis over 75 years ago, "the greatest generation". And perhaps it was. And, despite fascism and Nazism never completely disappearing, they're still the very last generation that had ever actively opposed it. By the 1950s, thanks to a nauseating obsequence to the First Amendment's Freedom of Speech, we allowed ultra right wing blowhards like George Lincoln Rockwell to flourish. And, even before then, there was Fritz Kuhn, who'd founded, and then destroyed, the German American Bund.
     And yet, despite the rise and fall of Rockwell and Kuhn, fascism remained alive and well until, to paraphrase Yeats, its terrible beauty was reborn under Trump. 
     Now, if our grandfathers were alive and still in combat readiness, today's generation would attack them as Antifa activists. What had been institutionalized under Operation Paperclip, which was the legal immigration of former Nazis (better them than hard-working Mexican migrants who toil in the fields) because they were just so darned good at what they did, has now become more blatant and mainstreamed than ever. Whereas Operation Paperclip required a certain de-Nazification process, nowadays, the right wing proudly screams its allegiance to fascism. It's actually a selling point.
     Remember where CPAC just had its last spring break for fascists.
     Now, members of Congress such as Paul Gosar and the freshly-renominated Marjorie Taylor-Greene openly speak at white nationalist events then defend doing so while feigning ignorance about organizers. The lack of comeuppance for these cryptofascists is stunning, especially when one realizes this is all just a few short years after Steve King got kicked off all his committee assignments then couldn't even win his own primary in Iowa.
    With each passing day, it seems, the Freedom Caucus, already made up of January 6 apologists, seems to resemble Germany's National Socialist party from the '30s. In fact, disappointed that it wasn't extreme enough, Greene then tried to form her own Anglo Saxon caucus before it was laughed and ridiculed off the launch pad. And, mark my words, if we're stupid enough to give back control of the House to the new Nazi Party, it will come into being.
     As we've learned after so many school shootings like Robb Elementary and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Republicans have shown us time and again they are absolutely worthless in a crisis such as the aforementioned and the crisis facing our democracy. That's because this is a crisis of their own making. That's like telling an arsonist to stop playing with matches.
     We've become a writhing, snarling nest of hatred and bigotry. Attacks on Asians, Jews, Latinos and African Americans are on the rise. We're a nation with 120.5 guns for every 100 citizens, about twice as high as the second country. We're afraid of our own shadows and that fear is being stoked by right wing politicians and right wing media like Fox. The entire rationale behind the gun rights movement is predicated on blind terror and panic that "others" will come to replace them or take their jobs or their tax dollars or their daughters.
     Meanwhile, the ones we subsidize and refuse to prosecute aren't even laughing up their sleeves at said writhing, snarling nest of hatred and bigotry but openly laughing at the needless discord as they take away your abortion rights, your tax dollars, your children's right to a good education and the right to receive that education without fear that a lone gunman is going to come into their classroom and put bullets in their bodies.


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