In Israel, millions are in the streets protesting Benjamin Netanyahu’s government changing laws and seizing courts so the Israeli prosecutors can’t hold the Prime Minister accountable for corruption and bribery.
Here in the US, Trump and the GOP are trying to provoke a revolution of their own, although it’s not to hold the rich and powerful accountable. It’s the opposite, albeit in costume.
Sandra Bland gets pulled over for a broken taillight and dies in jail; Trump steals an election by paying off a porn star, then tries to steal a second by launching a violent insurrection, and still walks free while making a million dollars a day fundraising.
“Accountability for thee,” is the GOP motto, “but not for me.” The law must bind average working people with accountability, but not the morbidly rich and their Republican toadies.
Republicans in the House of Representatives — the party of “lock her up!” — are now even considering legislation to outlaw prosecuting former presidents, although apparently only whose last names end with “rump.”
In the modern world, there are basically two forms of government: liberal democracy and fascist oligarchy that pretends to be democracy. Both go by numerous names, but those are pretty much the options. Either the people rule, or the fatcats and their friends with guns who run rigged elections do.
And Donald Trump and the GOP have made their choice: they’re doing everything they can to end democracy and install a permanent oligarchy that can never be excised from our bodies politic and economic.
The main difference between these two forms of government — democracy and oligarchy — boils down to that one point (as I laid out in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy): accountability.
In 1776, King George III of England held total power over the American colonists. The laws of that day bound the colonists, but not the king. They were accountable to the King and his laws, but he was not accountable to them.
The essence of the American Revolution was to overthrow that lack of accountability by the sovereign and replace it with a form of government where those with political, military, and police powers were directly accountable to We The People via representatives elected in free and fair elections. (Yes, it took centuries and we’re not fully there yet, but that was and is the ideal.)
When the people of France stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789, they were similarly demanding accountability from the French monarch, Louis XVI, who was that month in the process of raising taxes on working-class people (the “Third Estate”) while cutting them on the nobles (“Second Estate”) and the clergy (“First Estate”).
Most democratic revolutions — even those that aren’t violent, like FDR’s radical remaking of America’s economy and social order — are reactions to a lack of accountability by a “noble” class.
This reaction to unfairness is so wired into the core of our humanity that you can see it played out in a kindergarten class by giving 20 cookies to a single student and only one each to everybody else.
But it’s not just pro-democratic revolutions that work this way: even fascist revolutions that bring to power oligarchic despots are always first sold to the people as being against unfairness and an alleged lack of accountability.
Hitler’s fascist “revolution” was a reaction to the German economy being trashed by the extraordinarily punitive Treaty of Versailles (as predicted by John Maynard Keynes in 1919). To mobilize the masses, however, he needed a “noble” class of “others” who could be the villains in his revolutionary morality play.
Because he didn’t want to alienate Germany’s actual nobility or oligarch industrialists and bankers (whose money and media he needed), he accused Jews and “union bosses” of being the unaccountable nobility against whom they should direct their anger.
Today’s Republicans are repeating that playbook here in the US, ranting against what Hitler called the “international Jewish conspiracy” by boiling that three-word phrase down to a single name: George Soros.
And, sure enough, just like Hitler, Pinochet, Putin, and Mussolini, they’re simultaneously going after the queer community, teachers/librarians, and institutions like the FBI and courts (“weaponized government” Gym Jordan calls them) that enforce laws which could otherwise be used to hold the rich and powerful to account for their thefts and crimes.
Republicans are now riding high.
Their “Proud Boys” strut the streets with weapons of war on display and allegedly tried to murder the Speaker of the House and Vice President of the United States.
Their legislators like Marjorie Taylor Greene lead an expedition to the DC jail to visit and celebrate traitors who tried to bring down our government.
Their morbidly rich paymasters pay only 3% in income taxes while launching half-billion-dollar yachts and shooting themselves into outer space with their pocket change.
The armed, politically powerful, and billionaires are exempt from oversight by the law while those same three groups work hard to pass laws controlling America’s powerless. In state after state, they’re binding women, queer people, students, and people of color under the very system of law that they themselves flaunt.
Accountability for thee, but not for me.
This can’t last if we want to remain a democratic republic. Ever since 1978, when five Republicans on the Supreme Court legalized wealthy people and corporations bribing politicians and members of the Court itself (and doubled down in 2010 with Citizens United), Americans have been bristling at the consequences.
The 1980 Reagan Revolution — also sold as overthrowing existing “elite” power structures including unions, regulatory agencies, and “pointy headed liberals” teaching public school and college — has reduced the American middle class from about two-thirds of us in 1980 to around 45 percent of us today.
It produced a transfer of over $50 trillion from the homes and savings of working class people into the money bins of the top 1 percent. Republicans accomplished this by reducing the top tax bracket from 74% down to 27% and opening massive tax loopholes for the morbidly rich.
Tax breaks and wealth for me, but not for thee.
Reagan’s neoliberal “free trade” policies, including his and Bush’s negotiation of the GATT/WTO and NAFTA, moved over 60,000 factories out of the US leaving at least 15 million American workers without a job while, as I lay out in The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganism Gutted America, turning fascist oligarchy China into the second richest nation in the world.
Wealth and employment for me, but not for thee.
As you’re reading these words, American voters are being purged from the rolls of Red states (five Republicans on the Supreme Court legalized the practice in 2018 and over 20 million have been purged since then, as I documented in The Hidden History of the War on Voting). In 2024, particularly in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, millions of people will show up thinking they can vote but will either be turned away or get handed a placebo “provisional ballot” that is never counted.
Political power for me, but not for thee.
Eventually, people reach a breaking point.
This frustration with the damage done to our country by the Reagan Revolution was exploited by rightwing hate radio, Fox “News,” and Donald Trump, telling working class and poor Americans that their problems are caused by “International Jew George Soros,” librarians, teachers, drag queens, Black and Hispanic people, Asians, and queer people.
(Not coincidentally, this is the same message being peddled by Putin to Russians, Orbán to Hungarians, and Le Pen to the French.)
It worked to get Trump into the White House and put Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives along with about half the American states.
GOP media and Republicans have developed an entire lexicon around their embrace of “accountability for thee, but not for me.”
— “Tough on crime” means “crack down on Black people but not on banksters.”
— “Protect the children” means “crack down on queer people, librarians, and teachers but not on predators in churches and the GOP.”
— “Freedom” means the freedom of rightwingers to own and carry weapons of war, but not for children to attend school without fear of death.
— “Critical Race Theory” means don’t talk about (and, thus, don’t do anything about) the structural imbalances of power and wealth in America rooted in 400 years of oppression and discrimination, but do lionize the contributions of the white Founders.
— “Socialism” means government-funded healthcare and retirement for working-class Americans, but not bank bailouts, tax cuts, and “regulatory relief” for giant corporations and billionaires.
— “Witch hunt” means trying to hold Republicans to account for their crimes, but not stopping bigots who harass trans people who just want to use the bathroom.
— “Illegal immigration” means brown people from south of the border, but not prosecuting the wealthy white employers who hire them and pay them under the table.
— “Fighting Inflation” means cutting wages for working people, but not stopping price gouging by corporate monopolies.
— “Antifa” used as a slur means cops can imprison or kill Black people and their allies, but can’t arrest former Republican presidents.
— “Radical leftists” means politicians wanting universal healthcare, a clean environment, and free/cheap college like every other developed country in the world has but America should never consider such things.
Now Republicans are coming right out and saying that Democrats shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Red states, that America isn’t really a democracy, and that it’s time to set aside American values of compassion and inclusion in favor of hate and fear.
This is how democracies are transformed into fascism oligarchies. We’ve seen it in country after country, and today the Republican Party is committed to bringing it to America.
Political power, wealth, and impunity for me, Republicans say, but not for thee.