July 9, 2021 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Up is down, left is right, wrong is right.
In Thursday’s post, I said Donny Deutsch, a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” knows what softness is, even as he accused normal people working for a living of having gotten soft during the covid pandemic. He was born successful. He never had a boss. He can’t know what hard work is. Therefore, I said, he’s the one who’s soft.
But that plays into a stereotype about the very obscenely rich. I don’t want to do that. I want to spell out the truth plainly. Truth is, the very obscenely rich are not “soft” at all. They are disciplined, competitive, amoral and indifferent to human suffering. The very obscenely rich will shit on you if that’s what it takes to “win.” After they have shat on you, they will find ways of blaming you for the very fact you have been shat on. And because of their “monopoly” on the levers of the government over the decades, normal people working for a living have come to believe they’re deserving of what they get.
The Republicans do not have policy objectives requiring bipartisan support. They don’t need, or seem to want, to persuade a majority of Americans to come around to their side. They can, therefore, indulge in gothic politics.
This is what I meant yesterday when I said Deutsch and the rest of the very obscenely rich hold normal people working for a living in highest contempt. This is what I meant when I called that contempt “gothic.” It’s a perversion of decency and morality. It’s turning what should be good and right, and turning it upside down, inside out and backward. And because Republican Party does not have policy objectives requiring bipartisan support, gothic has become the dominant theme of the Republican Party.
Consider Joe Biden’s announcing a door-knocking campaign to get people vaccinated against the coronavirus, thus ending the pandemic. The Republican response was gothic. This is from the Post’s Aaron Blake: “Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) got the ball rolling Tuesday by comparing the effort to ‘medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations.’ Not to be outdone, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) took to Twitter the next day to offer her own Nazi comparison, labeling the door-knockers ‘needle Nazis.’” These marginal Republicans were not alone. Once Fox News host Tucker Carlson picks up an idea, it becomes the idea of the entire party.
There is literally nothing coercive about knocking on your door, asking if you’d like to get vaccinated and then giving you information about where, when and how to get vaccinated. What the president announced yesterday is the embodiment of the small-r republican spirit by which the government does not force people to do the right thing so much as persuade them to do it themselves for their own sakes. This is good and right yet the Republicans are making it sound like something the Nazis would do, and in the process elongating the pandemic so that more Americans die, creating political conditions, they hope, in which Americans blame the Democrats for all the deaths.
The same dynamic is playing out in the field of free speech. Consider this lede from a recent story in the Christian Science Monitor: “Liberals use the power of societal pressure to rewrite the norms of acceptable speech, ‘canceling’ those who express ideas they consider prejudiced or hateful. Republican lawmakers pass a raft of laws reining in protesters or even telling public school teachers and university professors what they can and can’t teach—all in the wake of agitation for racial justice.”
Again, there is literally nothing coercive about using free speech to achieve political ends, even if it’s being used to “rewrite the norms of acceptable speech.” What social justice reformers are doing is the embodiment of the small-d democratic spirit by which Americans persuade Americans, or even pressure them socially, to change the way they talk and think for the sake of liberty and justice for all. This is good and right, yet the Monitor’s Harry Bruinius, in a piece entitled “Why free speech is under attack from right and left,” is making the use of free speech to achieve political ends look virtually same as the GOP passing coercive laws prohibiting free speech. The Republicans have convinced reporters the Democrats are as morally bad as they are.
Again, the Republicans do not have policy objectives requiring bipartisan support. They don’t need, nor seem to want, to persuade a majority of Americans to come around to their side. They can therefore indulge in gothic politics so that up is down, left is right, wrong is right and the Democratic Party is always this close to Nazism. Meanwhile, the Democrats under this president are doing what they should be doing. (Though, if anything, they are not being coercive enough.) In the accusing, however, the Republicans end up projecting, which might be the most gothic thing of all.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.