Is it surprising it was Arizona?
We’ve mentioned before that all signs point to the approach of our fascist moment. The patent obviousness of this point will continue to be denied by the pundit-lobbyist-activist hive that works in downtown Washington, D.C. and lives in Georgetown and gated communities of Virginia. The demonization of individuals, the whipping up of red-faced cries of “Socialist!,” the crypto-paramilitary symbols and encouragement, the loony retelling of history—none of this will cause the pundits to see what is before their faces. We have yet to see what the deans of one-the-one-hand-on-the-other kind of nonsense have to say, their leader, David Broder, has yet to speak, but you can bet it will be “violence has no political label.”
Yes, the line of people suggesting violence or radical “replacement” of government, the heated hatred, the worship of the political symbols of guns, all of this and more will be said to be “non-partisan.” As non-partisan as Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, “lock-and-load,” “Giffords is toast,” “it’s time to take a stand” (with helpful bulls eyes in a scope). That all the like vitriol keeps coming from the same side of the political spectrum makes no difference. The conglomerates that own the major media will never permit the idea that the right wing of this country has been flirting with violence for a long time and hardly weeps when it periodically occurs. And why should they? You want to end a late-term abortion practice? Just continually demonize the doctor. Eventually someone will pick up a gun and use it. You can then claim that “violence is never acceptable” and move on to the next target. “Mission accomplished.”
Why does the right wing flirt with political violence? Because it works. And because it’s the only way to manage the outcome of their policies.
Here’s the typical scenario: The reactionaries implement a plan that continually extracts huge amounts of money and power from the nation at the expense of the middle class and workers. Eventually the underlings get unhappy. The reactionaries have to divert their attention from the cause of their misery, so they create a phony enemy—usually social democrats or the equivalent but can include foreigners, religious minorities, racial and ethnic minorities (a historical favorite) and the like. The Right then feeds the populace a continuous hatred of these scapegoats and rides the tiger as long as it can. You don’t have to look at the rise of the Junkers, the militarism leading to World War I, or the management by the reactionaries of public opinion to bring down the Weimar Republic to see examples, although they are particularly clear ones. You can look at how the reactionaries corrupted the popular assemblies that were constituted after the uprisings of 1848. You can look at Lord Gordon riots, the Church-and-State mobocracy of the 1790s, the anti-Irish repression beginning in 1798. In all of them the reactionaries managed public frenzy to reap the harvest of violence that served their interests.
Today we are seeing the fruition of years of right-wing wealth transfers from the nation to the very few Filthy Rich. As the social safety net is continually unravelled (to save “jobs”!), the wealthy get more and more of the share of the produce of this country. The Right claims that Capital should not be taxed, and so labor bears more and more of the burden of running the country. With the inevitable bursting in 2008 of the bubble—the unsustainable wealth transfer from workers to the plutocrats—real economic pain, not just creeping wealth transfer resulted. The right-wing knew it was a ripe target for blame—mainly because their policies in fact caused the bubble and placed the American (and world’s) financial system in dire jeopardy. They needed a quick sources of money, and an obliging right-wing administration gave it to them, with few to no strings attached. It was inevitable that the “people” (to use a quaint term that pundits never do except as an abstraction that thinks like they do) would become angry. That was the reason the Republicans were swept out of office. But the administration we got, much to our surprise, had very little interest in enacting policies that dealt with the pain of the majority who had elected it, and even less interest in discussing with them a way out of the problem. The only solution our “liberal president” saw was half-hearted measures with heaping doses of tax cuts to appease the very people who caused the crisis.
It did not take the right wing long before it stepped into the breach. “Socialism,” “Nazis,” “take our country back,” “Tea Parties,” “Second Amendment,” “Christian Nation,” “American Exceptionalism,” “radical muslims,” “ground zero,” “illegal immigrants,” all and more were the rallying flags for the right wingers whose main goal was to obscure from view what was really going on. They were able to get away with it because the White House has no moral backbone or political vision, the congressional “liberals” are required to seek money from the plutocrats to stay in office, the Supreme Court has become a cesspool of political decision-making, and organizations from the “respectable” NRA to lunatic fringe groups all picked up the cues from Reaction’s great social network: Fox News.
You of course all know this. Even most of the people being managed by the reactionaries know it. It boils down to a question of which side you want to be on. You can be with the thugs and jackboots who appear to be the future, or you can identify with “social democrats” who couldn’t even enact health care legislation that was overwhelmingly popular, instead bastardizing it to the point that even liberals were unsure whether to support it or not. Some choice, no?
And of course the first of the shots aimed at national “liberal” politicians is aimed in Arizona.
That state, we once showed, is the example of the dysfunction that the GOP aims for everywhere. The legislature is mired in a philosophy that prevents the government from raising revenue to support any modicum of social responsibility. And they continue chipping, gouging, pocketing so that state resources are funneled to the wealthy. This scheme is immensely helped by the great flames of bigotry that the GOP there continually oxygenates with ridiculous calls for electric fences and racial profiling. And they create panics that the government is about to take away your constitutional rights, which seem to be encompassed solely in having an automatic weapon and being able to buy insurance policies that can be discontinued at the oddest whim of the issuer. As public institutions, schools, libraries, public hospitals and public recreational facilities like parks and swimming pools are defunded, the wealthy obtain tax support their most extravagant whims: “Arizona now has tax exemptions for everything from country clubs to pedicures.” And last year we got a view of what the leaders of this very red state believe is less important than pedicures—in fact not worthy of public support: organ transplants. It’s one thing for the state to help out someone who needs their toe-nails done, it’s quite another in this ideology of government-is-always-bad to let medicare fund a bone marrow transplant or a new heart.
“Are there no prisons? And what about the Union workhouses?” the Republicans among you might be asking. But it’s unlikely the workhouses will cover heart transplants. Maybe if you are cute enough, you can get Walmart to sponsor your organ transplant, because the Right wants government “to leave my healthcare alone.” That was the big rallying cry when Gabrielle Giffords voted for a national health care bill that would pay for some of the things that Arizona’s state Medicare would not. In Arizona the GOP believes in the Right to Life for the newly conceived and the Right to Die for those not clever enough to rake in unconscionable incomes.
You are surprised this took place in Arizona? Keep your eye on that place, it’s going to be coming to a state near you.
Update [same day]: Those interested in tracing the history of the right wing’s current dalliance with political violence should take a look at the “Insurrectionism Timeline” of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. The timeline traces the instances of political killing and instances where potential violence was interrupted. The timeline starts with the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), on January 26, 2008. In that decision the Court overturned its own precedent to find an individual right (rather than the right inherent in the state’s militia) to bear arms. In addition, the Court accepted the argument of the NRA (in an amicus brief) that the motive behind that right was to “assure the existence of a ‘citizens’ militia’ as a safeguard against tyranny.” Two striking things about the timeline: 1) the sheer number of gun violence and potential violence since that time; and 2) the fact that it is solely directed at the perceived enemies of the Right.
Update [1/18/11]: To see how conservative Republican officials are so intimidated by the violent language of the even more right-wing teabaggers in Arizona that they feel it necessary for their own safety to resign, see “Rancor prompts resignations in Arizona” by Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, January 18, 2011. When supporters of John McCain are targeted for racial taunts and violent threats by “core” Republican supporters for being insufficiently reactionary, and no Republican or state official stands up against this kind of thuggery, it is a sure sign that the party is in the grip of the lunatics.