America First? Hardly! More Like Me First.

Trump followers would have you believe that their movement is determined to Make America Great Again. To rewind the clock and return America to the mythical, utopian state of their ancestors. A state in which everyone looked like them, worshiped like them, and thought like them. A state that welcomed immigrants to the Great Melting Pot but only if they were white and their origins were in Europe. A state in which Americans were free to say and do whatever they wanted without regard to the feelings of others.

But it should be obvious that the movement is less about what the nation’s Framers envisioned and more about selfishness, authoritarianism, celebrity, racism, and fraudulent religious beliefs.

As evidenced by those who attacked our Capitol on January 6, 2021, at the heart of the movement are bullies and aspiring bullies of the Millennial and Gen X generations. These are people who spent their formative years surrounded by the material excesses of capitalism and being told that they were special. Many never learned to genuinely compete for anything. Instead, they were given participation trophies for just showing up.

They are the first generations to grow up playing computer games, surfing the Internet, and posting as trolls on social media. Indeed, that’s where they get most, if not all, of their information. Rather than trust journalists, scientists, experts, and government officials, they place their trust in YouTube videos, Instagram, anonymous Facebook groups, Internet influencers, and rightwing media hosts – evidence and facts be damned.

They grew up watching “reality” TV where they learned admire power, cunning, and vanity. As a consequence, they are inordinately impressed by wealth and celebrity, expecting that one day they, too, will live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They populate mega-churches where they worship the almighty dollar being told that, if they only pray enough, all of their dreams will be fulfilled.

Unfortunately, for many, their expectations tend to be far greater than their work ethic.

Having failed to achieve their grandiose goals, they have immersed themselves in a sea of grievances directed at those they believe have denied them their due. They are certain their lives would be better if not for immigrants and people of color cutting in front of them to claim the degrees, jobs, positions, and stature they have long considered their birthright.

Asked to participate in three ill-conceived and unwinnable wars, some volunteered and came home even more damaged than before – angry, belligerent, and racist. So, when a narcissistic, lying “reality” TV star and conman came along telling them that he would Make America Great Again by ridding the nation of immigrants and returning their birthright, they happily embraced him. Not just as a celebrity and politician, but as a god – a reincarnation of Jesus himself.

And it’s not only the quest for material things that drives these MAGAts. They are utterly obsessed with personal freedom.

They spend thousands on weaponry, ammunition, and body armor to prepare for the coming “storm” as foretold by the mysterious and fictitious Q. They walk around with a Bible in one hand and a copy of the Constitution in the other having read neither. They falsely believe that the Constitution guarantees them the right to do as they please without regard for the rights or the safety of others. They are contemptuous of education, science, and expertise. They support law enforcement as a means of controlling others. But when police try to hold them accountable for their own lawlessness, they consider it an unconstitutional intrusion by big government and the “Deep State.”

Many hate Boomers, the generation of their parents, who they feel reaped the rewards of the American Dream while leaving them to struggle on their own. And they have a particular dislike of their political enemies as evidenced by their chants of “lock them up” and their threats to exercise their Second Amendment rights. On social media, they circulate falsehoods and preposterous stories that portray their “oppressors” – Democrats and “the libs” – as the embodiment of evil. They convince themselves that their opponents are cannibals and child sex traffickers who drink the blood of their innocent victims, that the 2020 election was stolen, and their hero is still the legitimate president of the United States.

Given their autocratic and anti-American beliefs, there can be no giving in to their view of America. There can be no compromise. We cannot permit these people to destroy our democracy and everything our ancestors fought and died for. Indeed, in the coming months, we may be forced to fight for democracy again. When Trump and his crime family are inevitably found guilty of their many felonious and treasonous acts, their supporters may once again turn violent as they did on January 6, 2021. We must be prepared for that likelihood.

But overcoming their violence will not alone end the threat. The only way for that to happen is for those of us who believe in democracy to vote. To soundly, and repeatedly, defeat Trump and his entire slate of Republican fascists at the ballot box.

The January 6th Co-Conspirators Who Have Yet To Be Named.

They likely won’t be charged for their role in the insurrection. But the people most responsible for the attack on the Capitol and on the world’s longest-running democracy were not the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, etc. or even Donald J. Trump. They didn’t use pepper spray, flag poles, spears, and riot shields to assault police officers.

They used microphones, cameras, and websites instead.

You see, the insurrection began long before January 6, 2021. It actually began in 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, when the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC policy that originated in 1949 requiring broadcasters to present information in a fair and truthful manner that clearly distinguished news from opinion.

Once freed from the shackles of truth and fairness, broadcast media owners more concerned with politics, ratings, and money than journalistic integrity unleashed the likes of Rush Limbaugh to relentlessly attack the government and the so-called “pointy-headed liberals.” News and truth were replaced by opinion and lies based on fear, anger, and hate. And listeners who had long been conditioned to believe what they heard over the airwaves accepted those lies as fact.

Farmers and laborers were particularly vulnerable to the fiction that Rush was pedaling. Since they spent hours working alone, the radio was a welcome companion on their tractors and at their worksites. Already angry that prices of commodities had tanked in the 1970s and that worker’s salaries had not kept pace with inflation, they were easy prey for a radio host who blamed their problems on immigrants, inner city “thugs” and government bureaucrats.

And things soon got worse. Other unscrupulous actors, attracted by Rush’s booming ratings, joined him on the airwaves to denounce liberals and government under the guise of presenting the “real truth.” The “truth” mainstream media – aka responsible journalists – won’t tell you.

Then Rupert Murdoch and his conservative lapdog, Roger Ailes, entered the picture with Fox News. Though it claimed to be “Fair and Balanced”, it was neither. Certainly, it built a sizeable news gathering operation to fill its 24/7 programming schedule. But it constantly combined news with opinion making it all but impossible to distinguish one from the other. And, instead of hiring respected journalists to present the information, Ailes hired a team of carnival barkers, such as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson, to feed viewers a constant stream of far-right ideas and falsehoods.

Around the same time, there was tremendous growth in websites and social media where anyone with a computer or cellphone could make their opinions known. The more outrageous and sensational the opinions and the lies, the more clicks and money to be gained.

All of this combined to create a rightwing politician’s wet dream – a propaganda network that would be the envy of Nazi Germany’s Josef Goebbels. It was the perfect environment for an accomplished con man like Donald J. Trump.

Rush, Fox, and others used Trump to increase their ratings by further sensationalizing their racist anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminist, anti-government, anti-Democrat agenda. And he used them to give credibility to his lies and to grow his poll numbers. Even after entering the White House, Trump relied on them as his unofficial advisors.

It was this same cult of rightwing media bullies and buffoons who amplified and perpetuated Trump’s Big Lie. They decried the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. They encouraged attacks on state and county election officials. They advertised and promoted the January 6th “Stop the Steal” rally. And they reveled in the notion that rightwing extremists in Congress along with Vice-President Mike Pence could stop the certification of Biden’s win and reassign the selection of electoral votes to Republican-dominated state legislators.

They deserve every bit as much of the credit for the attempt to violently overthrow our government as any of the extremist militias and politicians whose shameful actions almost succeeded in destroying our democracy.

They must be held accountable. If the courts of law can’t do it, the courts of public opinion must.

The GQP’s Decades Long, Multi-Pronged Assault On Democracy.

If you think the insurrection ended on January 6th, I regret to inform you that it was only the tip of the proverbial autocratic iceberg. In fact, the billionaires have been working to undermine our democracy for more than 60 years. And they haven’t stopped now.

In one of history’s greatest ironies, Charles Koch, James McGill Buchanan, Jr. and the remnants of the John Birch Society used the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision to desegregate schools in Brown v. Board of Education to co-opt the Republican Party – the political party that had ended slavery. Since then, they have spent hundreds of millions to undermine our federal government and democracy itself.

Hiding under the cloak of the Republican Party, they have tried to starve the government of the funds it needs to serve the people. Through large donations, they corrupted law schools and university economics programs to teach their political views. Once they gained control of the Supreme Court, they pushed for legal opinions to equate money with free speech (Buckley v Valeo) and to equate corporate rights with those of individuals (Citizens United v FEC) to better fund their operations. That resulted in an avalanche of dark (aka dirty) campaign money to help elect like-minded candidates.

Shouting liberty and freedom, they eroded common sense regulations designed to protect Americans. They repealed the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine which unleashed their propagandists (Fox News, OANN, Newsmax, and rightwing radio hosts) to use mass media to deliver and repeat their many hateful lies. And recognizing that it’s more difficult to win elections when more people vote, they have implemented a decades long attack on voting rights with strict ID laws, reduced voting hours, reduced numbers of polling places, and restrictions for mail-in voting.

Believing it’s easier to control state governments than the federal government, they created ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) to provide conservative legislators with “model” bills that are written by and for large corporations. To spread fear of the federal government, they embraced the NRA to expand gun ownership and to create even more fear. When cities passed ordinances to regulate short-term rentals, to ban plastic bags, and to protect undocumented immigrants, they passed laws to pre-empt cities’ self-rule.

As they filled Congress with anti-government zealots and conspiracy theorists, they have continued to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy causing the nation to descend into a plutocracy. They have used the filibuster to block most legislation that would benefit ordinary working people. Once they got a wannabe autocrat into the White House, they used him to further cut taxes, cut regulations, sell-off oil-drilling rights and mineral rights on protected lands, and to pack the courts with partisan judges.

To ensure Trump and their other candidates would maintain control of the government, they tried to extort a foreign government into opening a false investigation into the Bidens. They purged voter registrations and replaced the postmaster to slow the pandemic-created avalanche of mail-in ballots. When that didn’t work, they tried to get state election officials to find enough votes to change the election outcome. They continued to promote the idea of massive voter fraud which resulted in the January 6 insurrection in a violent attempt to block the certification of electoral votes. Even now they continue to contest the election results by claiming that China dumped thousands and thousands of ballots into the states Trump lost and that Italy had hacked electronic voting machines.

Even more concerning is that Trump’s disgraced National Security Advisor and Qanon conspiracy theorist, Michael Flynn, has called for a Myanmar-style military coup!

So, the choice is no longer between Republican and Democrat. It is now between autocracy and democracy.