Our Political Climate, Explained

Posted on April 29, 2022

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The political climate, like a baby created by the earth and most people’s weight, goes round and round and up and down. From the dawn of things, it seems doomed to cycles, but sometimes, it’s difficult to make sense of it all. It’s easier to simply not pay attention or to say things like “Everyone is crazy nowadays,” or “How is this all happening?” without believing there is an answer to the question.

Life in the Boomer Lane is a devotee of Heather Cox Richardson, and she had referred to Richardson in a couple of her posts. Richardson has pulled LBL down from the cliff on more than one occasion. She has the capacity to make sense of the world. LBL would prefers to hear things that are disturbing but make sense, rather than things that are palatable but don’t.

Heather Cox Richardson is an American historian and professor of history. She has authored six books on history and politics. Among a zillion other things, she publishes “Letters from an American”, a nightly newsletter that chronicles current events in the larger context of American history. Her knowledge and her wisdom are mind-boggling. LBL starts each morning with a mug of Peet’s coffee and Richardson’s daily newsletter. Even when Richardson’s newsletter contains items that disturb or anger LBL, they provide an alignment of the planets and stars as a backdrop to that anger and fear. It is that alignment that LBL needs and is increasingly unable to find elsewhere.

Richardson’s newsletter this morning was one of her best. LBL encourages everyone to read it in full. Failing that, here is a Reader’s Digest taste of what it contained:

Before Trump won the Presidency, throughout US history, periods of basic rights or equal opportunity for all created the backlash of belief that these groups would turn the government over to minorities or immigrants and deny “true Americans” their rights. A redistribution of wealth was a threat to those who controlled the wealth.

When Trump was elected, US wealth was concentrated in the top 1% of the population. The GOP called those people the “makers.” The rest of the population was the “takers.” But the GOP still valued the rule of law. They simply knew how to work within that framework.

What Trump did was to challenge the rule of law. He was not interested in making money for a specific class of people. His focus was to obtain wealth and power for himself, his family and for a few chosen insiders. Oligarchy had morphed into autocracy.

Trump created a cult following around him. Other GOP politicians took note and obeyed. They might not have liked or respected Trump, but they respected and feared the power of his base. Trump packed state GOP machinery with his own loyalists. The Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election became an article of faith. He created a destabilization of faith in our democratic norms.

Many GOP politicians have taken advantage. They encouraged the January 6 attack of the Capitol or they condoned it after the fact. They went against US policy in their own states. Voter rights, women’s rights, gay rights, immigration laws, were all on the chopping block.

Victor Orban, the autocratic Prime Minister of Hungary, has provided a playbook for them. In Hungary, he has taken control of the media, manipulated election districts to provide him a guaranteed win in elections, and consolidated the economy into the hands of cronies. His system has been called “soft fascism.”

Governor DeSantis of Florida is an adherent of the Orban playbook. Among other things, he has threatened Disney, the largest employer and economic force in Florida. Tucker Carlson, conservative media darling, openly admires Orban. Next month, the GOP will hold its conservative PAC in Hungary.

The rise of “soft fascism” is new to us. It has gone beyond Trump’s autocracy or states’ rights. As Richardson warns, “(It is) a poison that is spreading in the United States.”

Posted in: politicians, politics