The Greatest Challenges Of The 21st Century.

Through the rest of this century, the world is facing a number of seemingly insurmountable problems – problems for which there appear to be no easy answers. Some so complex and so threatening that they could doom humanity for all eternity. Yet, even for those challenges, there are answers if we are willing to acknowledge the problems and make the changes so urgently required.

Here they are in ascending order of difficulty:

Rise of Authoritarianism – The solution for this one is exceedingly simple: Vote! Vote only for those politicians who are committed to democracy. Fight tyranny at every turn. No politician who embraces discrimination of any kind belongs in office.

Corporate Consolidation – The phenomenon of too-big-to-fail banks and multinational corporations has led to a wide variety of problems for humanity. These include a lack of competition leading to inflation, the elimination of pension funds for workers, the growing disparity of income between CEOs and workers, the exporting of jobs in the search for ever cheaper and more compliant labor…the list is long.

Fortunately, the solution is also simple. Indeed, Congress gave us a seldom-used tool to break up these industrial cabals and growing monopolies: The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. It’s time our government used it.

Wealth Disparity – Globally, the richest 10% of the global population currently take home 52% of the income. Those in the poorest half of the global population earn just 8%.

In the U.S., the wealthiest one percent of Americans hold more than 32 percent of the nation’s wealth. The top 10 percent hold 77 percent of the wealth, while the bottom 50 percent of households hold just one percent of the wealth. And 7.5 percent of the population has a negative net worth – meaning they are in debt.

By race, white households hold more than 86 percent of the wealth while black and Latino households hold less than 3 percent of the wealth.

And, until the election of President Biden the problem has only gotten worse, a result of the vicious economic policy called Trickle-Down Theory that was embraced by Ronald Reagan and every Republican president since. The subsequent wealth gap has led to growing poverty and food insecurity, unfair tax policies, a government that is bought and paid for by wealthy individuals and corporations, and a loss of tax revenue that has led to a growing national debt.

Yet there is some glimmer of hope for those at the bottom of the wealth scale. According to the Federal Reserve, the average wealth of the bottom half of Americans has increased by 80 percent since 2019, perhaps as a result of President Biden’s policies. (Of course, wealth growth is statistically much more profound if you have very little wealth to begin with.)

The solutions to wealth disparity also seem relatively simple: Enact a wealth tax and impose strict limits on donations to political campaigns. That could give all Americans a chance at the equal representation our Founders intended.

Gun Violence – The U.S. suffers approximately 20,000 violent gun deaths each year (not including suicides) and more than 35,000 gun injuries. Thanks to the NRA, other so-called gun rights groups, and gun manufacturers, police have to assume that every person they encounter is armed. Our schools and many public buildings have become virtual fortresses in an attempt to prevent mass shootings. And, from the age of 5, children are taught to live in fear of active shooters. No other developed nation in the world experiences these problems. But our gun manufacturers are trying to change that by exporting guns to criminal gangs worldwide.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

The solution is to follow Australia’s lead by banning and collecting guns, especially semi-automatics. Instead, as exemplified by the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the ban on bump stocks, the U.S. is headed in the opposite direction.

Climate Crisis – The U.S. has long led the world in the amount of fossil fuels burned per capita. And now we are the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. For more than 50 years, scientists have been warning us that, by incinerating fossil fuels, we are in danger of incinerating our planet. Unwilling to believe them, we have protected our fossil fuel industry and refused to modify our unsustainable lifestyle.

Sure, we have made some limited progress by recycling, better insulating our homes, producing more energy efficient appliances, and expanding the use of renewable fuels. But those measures are far too little, too late.

We led the world in establishing an extravagant, disposable culture. Now we need to lead the world to live within our planet’s means. Change is possible. But we must hurry. As you can see by the ever-increasing, ever more violent storms and other climate-related disasters, time is running out, and quickly.

Mass Migration – In recent years, migrants have flooded the borders of the United States and other highly developed nations. As a result of wars, violent gangs, autocratic rulers, and natural disasters such as drought, storms, and flooding, millions of people are faced with the choice of either migrating or dying.

Think immigrants are ruining your country? Then demand that our politicians do something to improve circumstances in their home countries. And be willing to open your hearts as well as your pocketbooks to help.

Mass Extinctions – In Earth’s history, there have been 5 mass extinctions defined as the loss of 75 percent of all species within a relatively short period of time. Scientists tell us that we are about to experience a sixth mass extinction as the result of human activities such as deforestation, unsustainable food production, pollution, encroachment of habitat, and the burning of fossil fuels.

Currently, extinction of species is occurring 1,000 to 10,000 times more rapidly than the natural rate. Why should we care?

First, we are living in an ecosystem. The life of one species depends on the life of others. Second, the world will become a much less interesting and livable place without some of the most vulnerable species. And third, we’re one of the species that could go extinct!

You already know the ways to mitigate the sixth mass extinction: Stop wasting resources, limit the use of fossil fuels, limit travel, stop polluting, and quickly transition to a mostly plant-based diet.

We have been the problem. Now we must become the solution.

Artificial Intelligence – AI could be the answer to many of our problems. Or, it could add to them. It simply depends on how we use it.

Used properly, AI can help us eradicate diseases, streamline research, create solutions for complex problems, perform the most dangerous and boring jobs, and help us to objectively solve conflicts.

AI-driven vehicles could make our roads safer and more orderly. AI could make logistics more efficient and more predictable. The possibilities are endless.

But there’s a much darker side to AI.

AI is already creating deepfakes – fake videos and images of people saying and doing things they never intended or even imagined. Women have been victimized by fake images of them nude or engaging in sex acts. Even worse, deepfakes of political candidates and leaders could have profound consequences.

AI could eliminate millions of jobs making humans essentially obsolete.

Not surprisingly, AI has been embraced by the military to replace humans in battle. Future armies, navies and air forces could be dominated by AI-controlled robots making real-time decisions of life and death. Once that happens, will we become the predominate targets?

One AI researcher believes so. He estimates there’s a 99.9% chance that AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) will lead to human extinction within the next 100 years claiming that no AGI model he has seen has been safe. And though other AI researchers are less certain that AGI will lead to our extinction, they are not particularly reassuring.

A Final Word: As daunting as some of these challenges seem, to some degree, they all can be addressed with one simple action: Vote! We must climb out of our media silos, ignore the misinformation and disinformation peddled by the moneyed interests, educate ourselves, and vote for the politicians who are willing to acknowledge the scope of the challenges and attack them in earnest.

Who’s Next On The MAGA Hit List?

Following World War II and the Holocaust, a German Lutheran pastor named Martin Niemöller wrote, “First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

As Donald J. Trump and his MAGA supporters continue to expand their enemies list, that sentiment is a clear warning for today given the number of organizations and people Trump and his MAGA supporters have targeted for retribution should he return to the White House. And it’s expanding daily.

  • Barack Obama who Trump claims is not a natural born citizen and, therefore, unqualified to hold the office of President.
  • Immigrants who became the primary targets on the day Trump first announced that he was running for office. Of course, he later separated immigrant children from their parents as a cruel form of deterrent. (If re-elected he plans to detain more than 12 million immigrants, including Dreamers, and confine them to internment camps before deporting them.)
  • Mexico, which he blames for the immigration problem and the fentanyl crisis. (He has claimed that he will bomb Mexican drug labs and invade Mexico if re-elected.)
  • Hillary Clinton for whom he repeatedly led chants to “Lock her up!”
  • Women for whom he would deny reproductive health care, including contraception. (It appears he considers them worthy of his attention only if they meet his beauty standards and he can grab them between the legs and have sex with them whenever he wants.)
  • Wind turbine manufacturers and operators because he claims wind turbines kill birds and cause cancer. (His hatred of them is more likely the result of Scotland installing wind turbines off the coast of one of his beloved golf courses.)
  • Any media that are not members of the MAGA propaganda network, most especially CNN, NBC, MSNBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
  • Truth. Trump has proven to be one of the most prolific liars in history. Indeed, the media and various factcheckers documented more than 3,000 lies he told during just his four years in office.
  • Gold Star families, POWs, as well as dead and wounded soldiers, who he labeled “suckers and losers.”
  • The Lincoln Project and other “disloyal” Republicans who refuse to support Trump.
  • The Libs, the Elites and the Woke. In other words, any progressive, caring person who disagrees with his cruel, discriminatory and corrupt politics.
  • Non-Christians as determined by his Christian Nationalist base and the delusional Christian evangelicals who see him as “chosen by God.”
  • The LGBTQ community, particularly transgender individuals who Trump and his supporters see as aberrant and an afront to God.
  • NATO and our longtime allies who Trump believes cheat the U.S. and stand in the way of Putin’s Russia.
  • Black Lives Matter and Antifa (antifascists) who dared to demonstrate against racism, police brutality and Trump’s armed bullies (the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers).
  • Ukraine, which he tried to strong-arm into opening a phony investigation into his political opponent – Joe Biden – before the 2020 election.
  • Scientists who continue to raise alarms over the climate crisis and those who encouraged vaccinations, social distancing, and shutdowns during the Covid19 pandemic, especially Dr. Anthony Fauci.
  • The United States Postal Service that delivered the mail-in ballots for Biden.
  • Election officials, both Democrat and Republican, who ensured the rights of all citizens to have their votes accurately counted, especially in the states Biden won.
  • Former officials and aides, such as John Kelly, Gen. James Mattis, Gen. Mark Milley, Gen. H. R. McMaster, Sarah Matthews, Stephanie Grisham, and Cassidy Hutchinson who acted as guardrails during his administration and/or revealed the true depths of his depravity.
  • Former V.P Mike Pence, who refused to go along with Trump’s attempted coup on January 6, 2021.
  • President Biden for daring to deny Trump a second term by winning the 2020 election.
  • Anyone connected with the House January 6 Select Committee, especially Nancy Pelosi and the two Republican members: Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Trump would also pardon all of the criminals (in his words “Patriotic Warriors”) who have been convicted of brutalizing police and defacing the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to keep Trump in power.
  • The entire justice system that has dared to try to hold Trump accountable for his many crimes. Those targeted for special retribution are special prosecutor Jack Smith, New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York District Attorney Al Bragg who led the hush money investigation, Georgia DA Fani Willis who led the investigation of Trump’s election conspiracy, as well as the Attorneys General in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin for seeking justice against fake electors.
  • Judges, jurors, witnesses and complainants in the legal cases against Trump, especially Judge Kaplan, Judge Merchan, Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, and E. Jean Carroll.
  • Many authors and their books. MAGA groups such as Mom’s for Liberty and Trump’s Christian Nationalist supporters continue to ban books on any and all subjects they find distasteful, such as any reference to sex (excluding, of course, the Bible), slavery, Jim Crow, and the history of indigenous Americans.
  • The U.S. Constitution. Trump has announced a second term would be “post-constitutional.” He seems especially frustrated by freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th, and 22nd Amendments. Moreover, he and his MAGA supporters would like to end direct elections of the President and the Senate by placing the outcomes in the hands of state legislatures. That would almost certainly ensure Republican control for generations.
  • The Federal government as we know it. As part of Project 2025, Trump would fire up to 50,000 federal workers and replace them with MAGA loyalists. He would eliminate the Department of Commerce and the Department of Education. He would slash funding for the Department of Justice and basically dismantle the FBI along with the Department of Homeland Security placing them largely under his control. He would also end the independence of other federal agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Public schools. In addition to eliminating the Department of Education, Trump would institute universal school “choice” which would redirect taxpayer funds to private and religious schools.
  • Democracy. Trump has long expressed his admiration for dictators, strongmen and thugs. He and his MAGA followers have little interest in free and fair elections. They want to decide who can vote and who wins. Their only real interest is gaining power and keeping it, democracy be damned.

As you can see, Trump’s enemies list is long. And, if you’re not on it, he and his supporters will likely be coming for you soon.

How The Party Of Lincoln Became The Party Of Trump.

The Republican Party was once the party of abolitionists and the party of progressives. Its first leader, Abraham Lincoln, not only held the nation together during the Civil War. He signed the Emancipation Proclamation that ended one of the saddest chapters in U.S. history.

Unfortunately, a political party operating under the same name is now attacking the very foundations of our nation…the democratic principles established by our founders. Of course, the transformation of the once Grand Old Party didn’t happen overnight. After Lincoln, the party soon embraced the privileged and the powerful – the entrepreneurs rightfully labeled the “robber barons” who presided over the Gilded Age, a period of excesses marked by political corruption and unbridled materialism.

During that time, the nation was controlled by a succession of Republican presidents who presided over runaway capitalism founded on “Horse and Sparrow” economics – the theory that if you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through and fall to the ground for the sparrows to eat.

As disgusting as that idea is, it didn’t disappear along with the Gilded Age. Though it was credited, in part, for the Panic of 1896 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Republican Party clung to the idea through every succeeding administration until it resurfaced under Reagan who renamed it “Supply Side” economics (aka “Trickle Down” theory or, perhaps more accurately “Voodoo” economics), and it continued under George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Again and again, it has resulted in economic failure for the majority of working Americans.

But failed economic policy alone is not responsible for where the Republican Party stands today.

In an effort to rig the 1968 election, Richard Nixon treasonously undermined the Vietnam peace talks, promising the Vietnamese that they would get a better deal if they stalled negotiations to help him be elected. During that period, Lee Atwater launched the party’s so-called southern strategy to embrace southern racists who were angry about integration and the Voting Rights Act. And in 1974, Nixon was forced out of office following the revelations of Watergate in which he overtly stole the 1972 presidential election.

In the late 70s and 1980s, Paul Weyrich used Roe v Wade to bring anti-abortion evangelical Christians into the Republican fold.

Not to be outdone by Nixon, Ronald Reagan also committed a treasonous act by undermining the Iran hostage negotiations. He, too, promised a better deal if the negotiations were delayed in order to help his electoral chances.

Of course, it was Reagan who also named the federal government – the government of the people, by the people and for the people – as the enemy of most Americans. He also famously led the attack against labor unions, favoring multinational corporations over workers. And his presidency ended in a cloud of corruption when his administration was caught illegally selling weapons to Iran to finance death squads in Central America.

In the 1990s, political divisions among Americans really began to take hold after Newt Gingrich was selected as Speaker of the House. To ensure his caucus would follow his lead, he threatened to have them “primaried” if they failed to vote as he wished, effectively ending true representation of their constituents.

During that time, the Republican congressional majority led an impeachment of President Bill Clinton that began with an unsuccessful investigation into a real estate and ended with the exposure of an illicit relationship with an intern.

In 2000, George W. Bush’s brother, Jeb, and a conservative majority Supreme Court helped “W” steal the presidential election. Once in office, he cut taxes for the wealthy, led us into an unpopular war with Iraq based on lies, and ended his term with a financial crisis that resulted in the Great Recession.

In 2016 and 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blatantly stole two SCOTUS seats for conservatives. And that was far from the only Republican theft. Trump was able to steal the election through a variety of schemes with the help of Russia, news of an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server, and a cover-up of Trump’s extramarital affairs with a porn star and a former Playboy centerfold model.

Once in power, Trump used the Oval Office for personal enrichment, a highly partisan failed response to a public emergency (the Covid-19 pandemic), and tax cuts for the wealthy. And, like Nixon, he turned to Roger Stone and a host of other dirty tricksters in an attempt to steal the 2020 election. He even encouraged his supporters to engage in a violent insurrection to prevent the peaceful transition of power.

Republican administrations have overseen repeated economic failures, financial inequality, increased poverty, at least one war based on lies, and corporate consolidation resulting in numerous monopolies. They have allowed the NRA to flood our streets with increasingly lethal military-style weaponry. They have weakened the institutions that have made this country great. And they have led us to the brink of autocracy.

It wasn’t just one man or one term that corrupted the GOP. The transition of the party from the idealistic Party of Lincoln to the criminal enterprise that is the Party of Trump is the result of a series of planned events that prioritized party over nation, money over freedom, and power over honesty.

Bad News.

Faced with intense political divisions and the growing threat of political violence driven by “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it should be little wonder why many Americans long for the days of Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and the like, a time when all Americans shared the same set of facts. When journalism was a highly respected profession.

So, what changed?

Most prominently, it was the growth of cable television news networks and the subsequent repeal of the Fairness Doctrine (an FCC regulation that required broadcast networks to operate in the public interest – to keep opinion separate from news and to tell the truth. The combination of those two factors led to the rise of radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh who capitalized monetarily by blaming the government and Democrats for all of our nation’s ills. It also led to the fascist propaganda outlet otherwise known as Fox News Channel.

Rather than working to bring us unbiased news coverage, the pundits on talk radio and Fox News peddled fear, anger, and hate. Why? Because they’re more profitable than speaking truth. And though they began the decline of journalism, they are certainly not the only factors.

Most of today’s news outlets are owned by just six mega corporations. Where ABC, CBS, and NBC viewed news as a public service in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, today’s media owners view their news operations as profit centers. Where there once was a figurative firewall between news and entertainment, now they’re intertwined.

Moreover, in order to turn a profit in order to fill the coffers of their owners, the news operations are vastly understaffed and underfunded compared to what they once were. And the journalists lack the ethics and training of previous journalists. Too often, their reporting lacks objectivity, context, perspective, history, and accuracy.

Those journalistic principles have been replaced by both personal and corporate bias, speed, sensationalism, entertainment value, and a focus on ratings.

Worse yet, much of the American public has disdained networks, newspapers, and news agencies, such as the Associate Press, for social media which consists mostly of misinformation, disinformation, rumor, and innuendo. And many Americans choose their news sources based on whether or not the sources report stories that fit their political views.

Further, far too many journalists and consumers lack curiosity. They claim to not have the time or energy to do even the most cursory research. Instead, they blithely pass on what they’ve previously heard or read without question. A great example is that, for decades, news media reported that US corporations faced “the highest corporate tax rate in the world.”

In fact, that has never been the case.

If they had taken the time to do the research, they would have found that the highest US corporate tax rate never ranked higher than fourth. And when you look at the total corporate tax burden for corporations, US companies pay far less than those in other countries – 3.9 percent compared to 12.9 percent in Japan and 19.1 percent in Australia, for example. (Sources: OECD and the Tax Foundation.)

The nation’s founders believed that the future of democracy rested on an educated and informed populace. That requires a robust and objective free press. If we are to, once again, return to the United States of America, we don’t have to share the same opinions. But we must be able to share the same set of facts!

Dear Trump Supporters, I Still Know Who You Really Are.

In November 2016, I wrote a post aimed at Trump voters saying, “I know who you really are.” Not surprisingly, many of you were incensed by my conclusions. But then you seem easily incensed by any criticisms of you and your orange Messiah.

Recent studies found that you are angry, but that you don’t know what you’re actually angry about. And though you don’t know why, you’ve chosen to blame the government and Democrats for any and all of your frustrations.

Tired of paying what you consider too high taxes? It’s not that Republicans have consistently shifted the tax burden to the lower and middle classes from the wealthy and large corporations. It’s because Democrats spend money on food for children and the poor.

Upset about the lack of high-paying manufacturing jobs? Never mind that multinational corporations have offshored those jobs. The real culprit must be the government which has imposed regulations to protect the safety of workers.

Furious that immigrants are taking American jobs in produce fields and meatpacking plants? It’s not that very few Americans will fill those jobs due to hard work, low pay, poor working conditions, and lack of benefits. Or that, for decades, Republicans have refused to vote on immigration reform. It’s because Democrats can’t stem the flow of immigrants across our southern border.

Angry that inflation has increased interest rates and the cost of many products? It’s not that your mango-colored conman botched and politicized the response to a pandemic leading to disruptions in supply chains and widespread shortages. Or that greedy corporations are using inflation as an excuse to unnecessarily increase profits. It’s got to be the fault of President Biden and the Democrats.

Worried about crime and declining family values? It’s not that fear-mongering Republicans permitted gun manufacturers to sell weapons of war to civilians by the millions. Or that you have long discriminated against people of color and the LGBTQ community. In your feeble mind, it’s godless transexuals and historical accounts of slavery that are responsible for our political division and growing violence.

Without evidence, you believe these falsehoods just because your demented (and apparently dementia-inflicted) leader says so. You take the word of a disgraced, twice impeached, indicted, misogynistic, tax-dodging, mob-connected, fascist-loving, freedom-denying, sexual assaulting, fraud-committing, anti-democratic faux celebrity over that of experts.

Why?

I believe it’s because he’s the bully you always wanted to be. And he’s unshackled you from political correctness, i.e. common courtesy. Of course, you’ll deny it because you claim to be a church-going person of faith. Well, the uncomfortable truth is that if you support Trump, you may well be religious. But you’re neither moral nor ethical.

Neither are you the patriot you almost certainly claim to be. Because patriots support our Constitution and the rule of law. They don’t try to suppress the vote through threats and intimidation. They don’t try to violently overturn the results of an election. They don’t resort to dirty tricks against those with whom they disagree. And they sure as hell don’t beat up cops, deface the Capitol, and try to hang the vice-president.

If you support Trump, you are not a patriot. You are part of a dangerous cult that worships a domestic terrorist disguised as a presidential candidate.

Can Our Democracy Survive?

The one thing Democrats and the MAGA Party (the Republican Party no longer exists having been subsumed by Fox-fueled Trump followers) can agree on is that our democracy is under attack. However, they see vastly different threats.

The MAGAs believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. While Democrats point to the January 6 insurrection and increasing laws in MAGA-controlled states that limit voting rights for MAGA opponents, that take away a woman’s right to control her own body, that prioritize the freedom to own weapons of war over the lives of children.

But I believe the division runs deeper than that. It stems from the way the leaders of the MAGA Party view democracy.

Instead of seeing democracy as a means of majority rule, I believe MAGA leaders see it as a tool that can be manipulated on behalf of the powerful and wealthy. The result is that we now have several standards of justice based on factors such as race, wealth, and privilege. We see elected officials defy the wishes of significant majorities of their constituents on universal background checks for gun purchases, red flag laws, and access to abortion. And we see them use the power of their office to threaten and punish those with whom they disagree.

As a result of the MAGA ideology, our entire economy and, at times, our government are driven by a wealthy few. The owners and investors of large, multinational corporations have been allowed to influence elections while avoiding taxes. Through their political influence, these multinationals have been deregulated. They have exported high-paying jobs. They have eliminated workers’ retirement plans and other benefits. And they have taken almost total control of entire industries through consolidation.

For much too long, we’ve had eight too-big-to-fail banks, three or four conglomerates that control most of our grain, and six companies that control most of our meat supply. The majority of pharmaceuticals sold in the US are controlled by just ten corporations. Our oil and gas industries are controlled by a few corporations and state actors that dismiss their role in the climate crisis. Likewise, our transportation, insurance, and other industries have each been captured by a few large corporations.

And, chillingly, just six corporations now own roughly 90 percent of the media that bring us the news!

At the same time, the politicians that have been bought and paid for by these corporations have cut their taxes while pushing the tax burden onto ordinary hardworking citizens. Even that has not been enough to satisfy their greed. So, they regularly offshore profits in order to extort our government into allowing them to “repatriate” their ill-gotten gains at further reduced tax rates.

Corporations’ insatiable greed has even been the primary driver of inflation. Yet they and their political lackeys have blamed it on an administration that has set about trying to curtail their power.

Understandably, many Americans are angry. But thanks to the many lies peddled by the leading cable “news” outlet and others, their anger has been misdirected. Instead of blaming the rich and powerful, they blame immigrants, the poor, and minorities.

The problem has been made worse, I believe, from the MAGAs’ Kim Jong-un-like devotion to Trump. In both cases, the followers seem to see their Dear Leaders as deities. Many MAGAs continue to believe that Trump was chosen by God. They compare him to the Messiah and pray for him to save them. And, with both Trump and Kim, the followers not only accept their leaders’ extravagant lifestyle. They celebrate it. And they contribute to it.

The only conclusion can be that the many Millennials and GenXers who have bought into the MAGA ideology, simply don’t understand the benefits of democracy. It seems they have become convinced that an autocrat – at least their autocrat – can improve their lives. That an autocrat can help them live a similar life of luxury. That, instead of the messy process of convincing others to agree with their political and religious beliefs, an autocrat can force others to agree with them by decree.

Like so many of those in pre-war Germany, they seem more interested in forcing change than preserving our government along with its freedoms. Far too many of today’s Americans lack an understanding of history or civics. And, instead of seeking truth from universities, books, and qualified experts, they turn to social media and propaganda outlets like Fox “News.” In fact, they have eschewed legitimate news sources as “enemies of the people.” They dismiss education as a waste. And they are banning books that make them uncomfortable, blissfully unaware of the comparisons to the dictators and war criminals of the past.

In doing so, they are following the path taken by unsuspecting citizens in Russia, Myanmar, Venezuela, Hungary, Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran, as well as pre-WWII Italy, Japan, and Germany. And, unless we can convince them that democracy is worth saving – that real change can only come through the ballot box – we may be headed down those same rabbit holes.

What They Say Versus What They Do.

Today’s Trump-loving MAGA GOP has tried to stake out the political high ground by waving the flag and likening themselves to the colonial patriots of 1776. They claim to be the only true defenders of the Constitution – God-fearing Americans who are for low taxes and limited government. Many walk around with a copy of the Constitution in one hand and a Bible in the other. But, following countless encounters with such people, I can assure you that most have read neither. Moreover, they have a flawed understanding of American history and civics if, indeed, they have any understanding at all.

So, let’s examine their boastful – dare I say delusional – claims one by one:

• They call themselves patriots. But they are actively trying to destroy our government. They support autocrats, dictators and our nation’s adversaries such as Putin and Russia. So, in reality, the only thing they have in common with the original patriots is that they own guns.
• They claim to support freedom. But they are trying to limit the freedom of others to love and worship as they please. They are denying others the right to vote. And they are denying women the freedom to control their own bodies.
• They claim to be for ordinary working people. But most of the bills they propose are written for them by large corporations and corporate “think” tanks.
• They claim to be anti-crime. But they have made it incredibly easy for any criminal to obtain military-style weaponry that permits them to out-gun the police. Many support those who attacked police on January 6. And now they are trying to undermine the FBI and the DOJ.
• They claim to be fiscally conservative. But they have given trillions in tax cuts and subsidies to the wealthy and large multinational corporations. The resulting loss of revenue has led to large deficits and a growing national debt. Further, they have created “free market” messes – the Great Depression and the Great Recession – that were left for Democrats to clean up.
• They claim to be against raising taxes. But they have proposed a 30 percent sales tax that would be devastating to everyone but the very wealthy.
• They claim to support Social Security and Medicare. But they have opposed them from their very beginning and they continue to call for major changes that would put millions of seniors at risk.
• They claim the mainstream media is biased against them. But their media darlings on Fox News have been proven to be little more than propagandists peddling lies that divide us and damage our nation.
• They claim to be pro-life. But they are really only pro-birth. For example, they refuse to do anything to stop school shootings. They continually try to cut food stamp programs and school lunch programs that feed impoverished children. And, by encouraging the births of more unwanted children, they will further overload the foster system – a system that too often serves as a feeder system for our prisons.
• They claim to be pro-education. But they are banning books and threatening teachers who dare to discuss real American history.
• They claim to be Christian. But they have little to no compassion for the poor and the oppressed.
• They claim that the events of January 6 were part of a peaceful demonstration carried out by tourists. But anyone with a functioning brain could see that it was a violent attack on our nation’s capitol as part of a failed coup incited by the disgraced, twice-impeached former president.
• And, of course, they claim the 2020 election was stolen. But multiple recounts and audits found negligible voter fraud. And most of the fraud that was uncovered was committed by some of their very own.

In other words, everything they say is a lie.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due.

In thinking about the many problems that we face as a nation, it has become clear that the vast majority can be traced to policies enacted and supported by the Republican Party, a political party that has evolved from the party of growth and controlled spending (Eisenhower and Nixon) to the party of small government (Reagan and Bush I) to the party spreading global democracy (Bush II and Cheney) to a party intent on undermining our own democracy (Trump).

The GOP has coalesced around white supremacists and religious zealots to claim the title of “Faith and Flag” party. Yet few have any concept of ethics or patriotism. 147 Republican lawmakers assisted in the attempted coup of January 6, 2021, with the intent of helping a wannabe autocrat remain in the White House. Indeed, the party’s love affair for autocrats and kleptocrats has been made clear by its many connections to Putin’s Russia (see the Muller Report) and its invitation to Viktor Oban as the keynote speaker of CPAC.

Moreover, the party’s thirst for power and its desire to court the favor of billionaires and multinational corporations seem to be the cause of many of our nation’s most enduring problems.

Wealth inequity? By any measure the growing disparity between the ultra-rich and most working Americans has been caused by the GOP’s longtime commitment to Trickle-Down economics. Rather than money trickling down to the working class, it has created a gusher of wealth flowing upward to the wealthy and large corporations.

Gun deaths and mass shootings? They’re a direct result of the gun lobby’s influence on the GOP and a fraudulent interpretation of the Second Amendment. Because of liberal gun laws, we now have more guns in this country than people. And the number grows by a million or two every year. Moreover, a growing number of crimes involve the use of unregistered ghost guns – many with inexpensive “Glock switches” that convert semiautomatics into fully automatics. But any attempt to restrict such lethal weapons is met with GOP obstruction.

Violence against people of color, ethnic groups, and LGBTQ people? Many GOP candidates have successfully campaigned with ads and rhetoric demonizing these communities and unfairly blaming them for our societal failings. And since words have consequences, hate crimes continue to rise.

Misogyny? The GOP and its evangelical supporters have long tried to relegate women to a secondary social status. And now the GOP majority Supreme Court has gotten into the act. By overturning Roe v Wade, it has put the economic, mental, and physical wellbeing of women at risk.

Climate crisis? The GOP and its oily supporters have long denied that humans have contributed to climate change through our addiction to fossil fuels. For decades, they sponsored fraudulent climate studies to support their denial. And though we are now suffering through the resulting consequences, the GOP is still fighting any attempts to address the problem. It is now almost inevitable that, in our lifetimes, we will see a massive rise in sea levels and the extinction of more than a million species – maybe our own.

Inflation? Though the GOP has blamed rising prices on an overheated economy, rising labor costs, and attempts to mitigate the climate crisis, in reality, inflation has been caused by corporate greed and supply chain issues following the GOP’s failed response to the pandemic.

Corporate consolidation and the export of jobs? The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reports that GOP policies have actually rewarded multinational corporations for sending jobs overseas. Other GOP policies such as “repatriating” offshore profits at bargain tax rates have led to corporate stock buybacks that reward shareholders, instead of creating jobs. They have also encouraged consolidation by creating incentives for corporations to buy out competitors rather than to compete with them.

Border invasion? There are many causes for the wave of asylum-seekers, refugees, and immigrants at our southern border. So-called Democratic “open border” policies are not among them. The “invasion” has overlapped both Democratic and Republican administrations. Not even the fence and the GOP cruelty of separating children from parents could stop it. And despite repeated calls for a comprehensive immigration policy, the GOP has blocked it.

Failing education? In public education funding, the GOP sees a large pool of taxpayer funds that could be used to create profits. That’s why it is so determined to direct those funds to charter schools and private schools that are not subject to the same fiscal transparency as public schools. It also sees a well-educated public as a threat to its own survival – hence its current attempts to ban books along with those who would dare to teach an accurate account of slavery and genocide as part of American history.

Inequities in IRS audits? In its long-standing efforts to starve the federal government of revenue, the GOP has made draconian cuts to IRS funding and staff. As a result, the IRS does not have the resources to ensure that large corporations and the wealthy are paying their fair share of taxes. So, it has focused attention on ordinary citizens who don’t have the benefit of high-priced tax accountants and tax lawyers.

Political division? For the cause of our conflicts look no further than the GOP and its propaganda outlets. Fox News pundits, rightwing radio hosts, social media, websites, and online podcasts all spew a steady stream of hate, misinformation and outright lies. All of this means that Americans no longer share the same set of “facts.” As evidenced by the former president and George Santos, it’s increasingly rare when the truth escapes a GOP mouth.

How Political Extremism Becomes Self-Sustaining.

When economic and societal problems go unaddressed, dissatisfaction with government grows. Far right extremists use that dissatisfaction to get elected. Then, when they’re in the office, they ignore the problems to pursue their own ideological agendas. After all, it’s not in their self-interest to solve issues they can use in their campaigns for re-election. Indeed, they may even pass legislation to make the problems worse. (Remember the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations that exploded the federal deficit? Or how about their cuts to the IRS which made it virtually impossible to audit the tax returns of the wealthy?).

To cover their deceit, the extremists blame others for the problems. They distract voters and create fear by vilifying minorities, such as people of color, immigrants, non-Christians, and the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, real world problems such as the climate crisis, immigration reform, corporate consolidation, and wealth disparity worsen.

It’s a cycle that has inspired some voters to embrace autocrats in the hope that a strong man unencumbered by democracy can make the desired changes. Indeed, that pattern has led reasonable people to embrace the world’s worst dictators: Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, and others.

Once the autocrats are in power, they attack and dismantle the institutions of democracy. They vilify the free press by calling it the enemy of the people and they replace it with propaganda outlets. To protect themselves, they undermine the judicial system by packing it with loyalists. They appoint loyalists in positions of authority throughout the government giving it the veneer of respectability while, in effect, turning it into a useful tool against any opposition. And they create doubt in the electoral process by claiming interference by the opposition and limiting those who are allowed to vote.

If all this seems a bit familiar, it is exactly how Donald J. Trump and his Republican allies operated. When enough voters recognized the attempt to destroy our democracy, Trump and his allies attempted a coup by challenging electors and encouraging violence resulting in the January 6 insurrection.

When the insurrection failed, they turned to propaganda to accuse Biden of inflationary policies and used the courts to drag out investigations long enough to gain a slim majority in the House. Given control of the federal purse strings and oversight committees, they are now in a position to investigate the investigators. Moreover, they can use their positions of power to create a flurry of propaganda and misinformation to further their cause – to replace democracy with the form of white Christian autocracy envisioned by their sponsors.

That much should be obvious to even the most casual political observers. The question is: Will ordinary Americans care enough to prevent it?

Fox News Has Gone Full Goebbels.

During a recent Laura Ingraham show in which she questioned Mike Pompeo about his interview with the Jan 6 committee, a headline appeared at the bottom of the screen reading “Dems prop up phony democracies abroad, shred ours.” In other words, the radical conservatives are angry that we are supporting Ukraine and investigating the January 6th insurrection.

And the Ingraham show is not even the worst thing on Fox. Tucker Carlson, the multi-millionaire heir to the Swanson Foods fortune, takes partisanship to a new level in his show by blatantly promoting autocrats and white supremacists, by excusing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and by fawning over our deposed president and crime boss, Donald J. Trump.

Despite Fox calling its content “news”, it has long been little more than a propaganda network for Republicans and Libertarians. Its schedule is packed full of hate, fearmongering, and falsehoods. So much so that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish it from the pre-World War II work of Joseph Goebbels. (Goebbels, of course, was famously known as the chief propagandist who helped Adolf Hitler rise to power.) In fact, it could seriously be argued that many of the Fox hosts, Newsmax, and other MAGA propagandists are more extreme.

This pattern of radical anti-Democratic (and anti-democratic) rhetoric has been going on since the end of the Fairness Doctrine in the late eighties. A number of TV, radio and podcast hosts (Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, Mark Levin, et al) are deeply involved in Trump’s seditious conspiracy. And their rhetoric is getting worse.

It is abundantly clear that such propaganda is the primary reason for our nation’s divisions. As Trump and his MAGA followers have labeled the legitimate press as “enemies of the people” for reporting the truth, Fox and the other propaganda outlets have promised to tell you the real story. And what a story it is – full of partisan distortions and lies which blame immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and people of color for many of our nation’s problems.

They portray immigrants as criminals and “illegals.” They raise fears that same-sex marriage will somehow undermine the marriages of heterosexuals. They portray people of color as “lazy thugs” who have destroyed the rule of law in our cities. Like Trump, they describe our nation as a democracy in decay with carnage in our streets.

Yet, in truth, it is the Trump supporters – the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, white supremacists, and violent militias – who have taken to the streets with guns and body armor. It is these MAGAts who tried to bully governors, legislators, and judges from instituting policies to mitigate the pandemic. It is the MAGATs who invaded our Capitol to threaten Congress with the apparent intent to murder individuals and overthrow an election. And it is their NRA’s greed that has made Americans feel unsafe in theaters, in shopping centers, in churches, at concerts, even at schools.

There are other striking similarities between the Republican MAGAts and Nazis. They both intended to seize power based on bullying and armed insurrection. And they both aimed their hatred at minorities.

And even though the insurrection of January 6th was stopped, the Republican Party’s attempts to destroy our democracy continue. The propagandists are unbowed, and their falsehoods are unabated. Moreover, recognizing that knowledge is a threat and a counter to propaganda, the GOP continues its attacks on education and the educated. For decades, the GOP has dismissed and ridiculed expertise. It has dismissed economists who proclaimed trickle-down economics an abject failure. It has ignored the negative impact of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. And it has ridiculed the vast majority of the world’s scientists who warned about the devastating impacts of climate change.

Republicans have undermined public schools by slashing their budgets and channeling tax dollars into private schools through vouchers. They have threatened teachers for schooling their students in our nation’s history of slavery and the genocide of natives. They have sought to marginalize LGBTQ students. And their push for private schools allows conservatives to prioritize Christianity in classrooms over science.

Republicans have also exposed the flaws of mainstream television networks. By trying to appear nonpartisan, the networks too often offer airtime to Republicans intent on spreading falsehoods and hatred. Moreover, by presenting news in soundbites without context, the networks offer a distorted and incomplete version of the truth which makes it more difficult to counter the Republican narrative.

Of course, social media plays a part in the conservatives’ attack on democracy by creating information (more accurately, disinformation) silos where many people go for their news. It is in those silos, hidden from the public eye, where extremists, seditionists, and insurrectionists can go to reinforce their twisted ideas and plot their attacks on civil society. And despite the claims of those who profit from social media, little has been done to enforce decorum on their sites and to block disinformation.

Unfortunately, there is little government can do to counter all of this. Certainly, it can prosecute crimes as they happen. And we can vote out those who would destroy public education. But given our constitutional rights to free speech and a free press, we can’t stop the propaganda. We can only make a real effort to inform ourselves and seek the truth. Let’s hope that’s enough.