If you have watched the first two nights of the Republican National Convention, and I am sorry if you have, you have probably seen speaker after speaker accuse Joe Biden and the Democratic Party of being SOCIALISTS who, if elected, will carry out the agenda of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar.
If only that were true…
But while they scream "socialist" as an epithet in their videos and from the stage, what everyone needs to know is that Trump and the Republican Party just LOVE socialism — a corporate socialism for the rich and the powerful.
And let's be clear. Their brand of socialism has resulted in more income and wealth inequality than at any time since the 1920s, with three multi-billionaires now owning more wealth than the bottom half of our nation. Their socialism has allowed, during this pandemic, the very, very rich to become much richer while tens of millions of workers have lost their jobs, their health care and face eviction.
While Trump denounces socialism let us never forget the $885 million in government subsidies and tax breaks the Trump family received for a real estate empire built on racial discrimination.
But Trump is not alone.
The high priest of unfettered capitalism, Trump’s National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, spoke in a video last night.
And who could ever forget when Larry was on television begging for the largest federal bailout in American history for his friends on Wall Street — some $700 billion from the Treasury and trillions in support from the Federal Reserve — after their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior created the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression.
But it is not just Trump and Larry Kudlow.
If you are a fossil fuel company, whose carbon emissions are destroying the planet, you get billions in government subsidies including special tax breaks, royalty relief, funding for research and development and numerous tax loopholes.
If you are a pharmaceutical company, you make huge profits on patent rights for medicines that were developed with taxpayer-funded research.
If you are a monopoly like Amazon, owned by the wealthiest person in America, you get hundreds of millions of dollars in economic incentives from taxpayers to build warehouses and you end up paying not one penny in federal income taxes.
If you are the Walton family, the wealthiest family in America, you get massive government subsidies because your low-wage workers are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing in order to survive — all paid for by taxpayers.
This is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meant when he said that “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.”
And that is the difference between Donald Trump and us.
Trump believes in corporate socialism for the rich and powerful.
We believe in a democratic socialism that works for the working families of this country. We believe that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights.
So yes, progressives and even moderate Democrats will face attacks from people who attempt to use the word "socialism" as a slur.
There is nothing new of that.
Like President Harry Truman said, "Socialism is the epithet they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years … Socialism is what they called Social Security … Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people."
Our job in this moment is to stay focused.
First priority: defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history — and defeat him badly.
Then on Day 1 of the Biden administration, we will mobilize the working families of this country to demand a government that represents all of us and not just the few. We will fight to ensure that every American has a right to a decent job that pays a living wage, to health care, to a complete education, to affordable housing, to a clean environment, and to a secure retirement — and no more tax breaks for billionaires and large corporations.
Add your name to say you’re in this fight:
Sign my petition: add your name to say you’ll fight for a 21st Century Bill of Rights that guarantees everyone in this country a decent job with a living wage, quality health care, a complete education, affordable housing, a clean environment, and a secure retirement.
The one percent in this country may have enormous wealth and power, and they will use it to try and stop our agenda. But they are just the one percent. And if the 99 percent in this country stand together, defeat Trump, and go on to fight for the values we share, we can transform this country.
More on the Republican Convention
The Melania Mystery, the Kudlow Confusion, and the Two-Track Convention
Donald Trump has whetted my appetite for more.
Now that he’s pardoned Jon Ponder (former bank robber, now a God-fearing, cop-supporting, Trump-backing helper of ex-cons) as a feature of night two of this year’s Republican Convention, hope springs eternal that Trump’s just warming to the task and will pardon still more people on nights three and four. Too bad he can’t pardon Roger Stone again, but how about Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon (who may not be convicted yet, but a proactive pardon could cover a multitude of sins)? Or Michael Flynn? And in the spirit of Christian charity, how about pardoning himself? If nothing else, it would boost the convention’s sagging ratings.
The convention is now clearly barreling down two very different tracks. The first is aimed at inflaming Trump’s base and those susceptible to his racist, nativist appeals. For those militia-heads yearning for civil war, Trump’s son Eric sounded the tocsin last night. America, he noted, had "defeated fascism, defeated communism, and in 68 days will defeat the radical left," which has seized whole quadrants of Joe Biden’s mind.
The other track appeals to those who yearn for the kinder, gentler Republican Party of yore—mythic though it may largely be. (Recall that George H.W. Bush, who promised such a party, also deployed the racist Willie Horton ad to defeat Michael Dukakis in 1988.) For those who seek signs of sensitivity from the Trumpified Republicans, the party rolled out its sole sensitivity spokesperson last night: Trump’s wife Melania.
If these two strategies coexist only uneasily, well, a campaign whose standard-bearer is down by ten points is in no condition to be hemmed in by consistency. Like Walt Whitman (in this if nothing else), Trump’s Republicans unabashedly contradict themselves. My favorite contradiction of the evening came from Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez’s depiction of life under Joe Biden, who would lead us, she said, down "the dark road of chaos and government control." The specters of wild riots and authoritarian regimes can each be invoked, but not if they’re bound together.
The evening also doubled down on what is supposedly Trump’s strongest point: the economy. In so doing, it managed to erase the time period between March 2020 and today. Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow apparently has issues of time and tense, mixing up mythical pasts, presents, and futures. He spoke of the pandemic and its accompanying economic collapse in the past tense, noting gleefully that "Americans are going back to work" now that those dark days are over.
Yesterday, more than 1,100 Americans died from the virus.
If one goal of the convention is to stoke the passions of those Americans whom Fox News summons to dubious battle every night, most recently by turning Joe Biden into Joe Stalin, the other goal is to allay the anxieties of those once-reliable Republican voters who abhor how divisive the party has become. To that end, the convention has created counter-messaging: OK, lady, you don’t like the thuggish tweets and policies the president puts out? Look, here’s his hitherto concealed human side, his passion for justice. See, he’s naturalizing immigrants, talking to frontline workers, being validated by people of color.
I doubt any of that really works. It runs headlong into Trump’s every public action. The humanizing project was dead as a doornail, until Melania came down to the Rose Garden. Hers was the one speech that actually suggested someone in the White House is aware of a world beyond the one that Fox News creates.
Unlike any other speaker so far, Melania noted that the pandemic still exists and expressed sympathy not just for its direct victims but for all who struggle with its myriad dislocations. She acknowledged the ubiquitous pain. She spoke directly to mothers. She sounded tolerant, speaking of "the three great religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism." (Fortunately, she wasn’t refuted by a Trump backer pulled from the speaking schedule at the last minute due to her tweet about the Jews conspiring to take over the world.) Unlike Trump’s children, his aides, and his stooges, she didn’t sound like she wanted to cast the Democratic half of the country into the burning pit. It’s worth noting that Melania rejected the assistance of campaign speechwriters and had a top aide work on the speech.
Whether true or not, it was a convincing depiction of who Melania is. Well, almost convincing. Melania may well believe, as she said, that "helping children is not a political goal; it’s a moral imperative." How she squares that with her husband’s policy of separating toddlers from their parents and putting them in cages, however, isn’t easy to understand. Nor is squaring her characterization of Islam as a "great religion" with her husband’s Muslim travel ban. Perhaps her speech was a quiet critique of Trump’s policies, her way of saying she didn’t like the cages or the travel ban. Then again, perhaps it was the greatest act of cynical misdirection of this entire repulsive convention.
Either way, while Melania went a long way toward establishing a separate public identity for herself (not for nothing did she walk in unescorted), I don’t think she succeeded in altering Donald Trump’s public identity, which is, after all, one of the convention’s goals. I assume it was one of her goals, too, but who knows? Maybe, like Trump’s sister and niece, she’s had it with him, but has decided to stick it out.
More important, I doubt the public can be made to believe there’s a kinder, gentler Trump, and I don’t think his strategists believe that’s possible either, save among a handful of white suburbanites seeking some excuse to vote for the guy. The bulk of his voters will come, they believe, if he can summon them to join in civil war.
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