America: We've Got to Protect It If We're Going to Perfect It
Acknowledging that something is true doesn't mean you have to respect it or admire it. I acknowledge that far-right extremists have played the long game and adopted an effective strategy to achieve their objectives, but that doesn’t mean I appreciate them doing it or admire their success.
Look at what’s taking place around the country right now. At the state and federal level, Republicans are attacking programs that combat the spread of disinformation. Here in North Carolina and elsewhere, Republicans are undermining public education and promoting private schooling. At local, state, and federal levels, Republicans are working to erode faith in the institutions that undergird what unites our United States, like elections and the judicial system. If historical facts are inapposite with the present fictions they’re peddling, they ban them or they re-write them; despite what Ron DeSantis and his ilk say, free transportation to America and skills training aren’t upsides to being kidnapped and sold into slavery.
And if they can’t win fairly, they embrace a policy of “if we can’t beat’em, we’ll cheat’em.” That’s how Republicans in North Carolina got sixty-two percent of the congressional seats in the 2020 election despite winning less than fifty percent of the votes, why Republicans in Wisconsin are trying to impeach a state Supreme Court judge a majority of the voters elected that they don’t like before she’s even put on her robe, and why Alabama Republicans gave the U.S. Supreme Court the proverbial finger when the Court ordered them to redraw their congressional districts so they treat African-Americans fairly.
These things aren’t a series of random one-off events. These are individual pieces in a well-crafted and comprehensive plan to give an immoral minority power over the majority of their fellow citizens who don’t share their dystopian view of the country and the world.
A few months ago, a group invited me and former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh to participate in an online forum they hosted to talk about the current state of politics in America. Years back, I was a harsh critic of Joe Walsh, and there was little if anything he and I agreed on. Now, he and I are in total agreement that the priority for all sane and sensible Americans must be preservation of our democracy.
We can fight over the proper size of government and the appropriate level of taxation later, but if we don’t focus exclusively on stopping the fall towards fascism, well, none of those other issues will matter.
If you ask AI to define the term “purple state,” the answer could be “see North Carolina.” In the last two general elections, North Carolina voters chose Democrat Roy Cooper for Governor and Republican Donald Trump for President. In the 2022 off-year congressional races, Democrats won seven seats and Republicans won seven seats. Despite the nearly even split, Republicans have veto-proof majorities in the state legislature, and they’ll use it to do whatever they can to attain and maintain power; that’s how they got veto-proof majorities in an evenly divided state to begin with.
Protecting the ability to spread lies and attacking a robust public education system work in concert. Let’s face it, it’s easier to baffle buffoons with bullshit than it is to dupe those capable of critical thinking. Take the North Carolinian who drove from here to Washington and fired gunshots in an effort to free children he believed Hillary Clinton held hostage in the basement of a pizza joint that doesn’t even have a basement or the scores of people who put the health of their families at risk because they were led to believe that COVID was a hoax and the vaccine was a pretext for Bill Gate to microchip the entire human race.
I used to scoff at supermarket tabloids with headlines like “Bigfoot Stole My Wife, Martians Stole My Dog,” and wondered how many people were gullible enough to fall for such idiocy, but now it’s clear that a percentage of Americans too big to ignore are perfectly happy to lap up lies like they’re starving hogs at a trough. That’s how a man whose family has gone to great length for generations to avoid military service and calls Veterans “suckers and losers,” and whose reputations is built on a lifetime of lying, philandering, and self-serving cruelty to others, is considered by many to be a true patriot and a paragon of the Christian faith.
When I ran for Congress in 2020, I used to talk about people voting against their own interests. Advisors with a lot more experience in political campaigning than me said I had to stop saying that because I was “implying that people are stupid.” Well, lots of people are stupid and they’re easily misled.
Seeing folks sacrifice because of their faith in Donald Trump reminds me of my college days back in the late seventies when my roommates and I would stay up and watch Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker on their PTL Club show. They’d cry and Tammy Faye’s makeup would run like Rudy Giuliani’s hair dye at that wacky press conference in November 2020, and they’d say they had to raise x-amount of money before a certain time or they wouldn’t be able to keep doing the Lord’s work, and the faithful out in TV land would do without in order to do for Jim and Tammy Faye. It led many to believe that “PTL” didn’t stand for “Praise the Lord,” it stood for “Pass the Loot.” It seems Trump has tapped into that same vein and is draining the believers who gleefully roll up their sleeves, stick out their arms, and say “prick me.”
Comedian Ron White says, “you can’t fix stupid,” and he’s right, so I’ve quit trying. Those in the Trump cult are not susceptible to logic and they’re not averse to lies, so you can’t reason with them. It’s a waste of effort. The hope lies in traditional Republicans who haven’t been baffled by the bullshit and understand that the top priority … the only priority that matters at this moment in time … is to hold the nation together, preserve our democracy, and defeat demagoguery. I don’t disagree with those who say the two-party system isn’t working and more parties would be better, but if we can’t drag the two-party system over the 2024 election goal line and win, the two-party system will give way to a one-person dictatorship. And if you think something more than two would be better, you’re smart enough to know that one is worse.
It's imperative for sane and sensible people … liberals, moderates, and conservatives … to band together for the good of the country. This is not the time to let our visions of perfect be the enemy of the good. We can return to healthy fact-based policy debates after we’ve weathered the storm that threatens us all, but right now we’ve gotten to batten down the hatches and stay the course. We can’t allow an immoral minority to tear apart 247 years of effort to create a more perfect union. We must protect it if we are going to continue to perfect it.