Life will dramatically change under brutal American oligarchy

Want some racism, sexism, misogyny, blunt and angry nationalism, and good-old-fashioned corruption with your government?

We just had an example during the four years of the Trump presidency of how this could change everyday life in America, and the election to leadership of Trump acolyte Elise Stefanik shows how many in the Republican Party want to institutionalize it. It's important to understand what it really means.

A lot of names have been bandied around to describe the form of government Donald Trump tried to impose on us during his administration. "Fascism" was used commonly, as were words like "little dictator," and "cult of personality."

But really what Donald Trump was proposing and trying to institute is a fairly common form of government, a variation of authoritarianism called oligarchy.

We are seeing it played out around the world in governments controlled by rich elites and run by authoritarians like Duterte, Bolsonaro, Netanyahu, Erdowan, Putin, Orban, Modi, and Duda.

They seem like they are increasingly becoming one-man-rule governments, but authoritarianism is just the midpoint after oligarchs begin corrupting democratic governments that have not yet become full-blown fascist oligarchies.

Because they are rarely stable, these midpoint authoritarian governments usually are grown in, and rise up to seize control of democracies, as has happened several times in the Philippines, for example, where the biggest businesses are inextricably intertwined with the state, corruption is rampant, and the media, the courts and the legislature are all essentially under the control of the billionaire or oligarchic class.

Oligarchy is when the very rich rule a country largely for their own benefit. They typically bring along a charismatic but compliant leader at the top (often an oligarch himself, and if he doesn't start out that way he certainly ends that way), and are supported at the bottom by "authoritarian followers" who feel insecure about their personal and economic prospects and want a "big daddy" who will soothe their anxieties, affirm their victimhood and outrage, and help them sleep at night.

Oligarchy is always the result of very wealthy people corrupting the political process, something the Founders thought they could control in America but that political philosopher Robert Michaels, with his "Iron Law of Oligarchy" in 1911, proposed was the inevitable result of every democracy that didn't maintain strong guardrails to prevent the rich from rising up and corrupting the political process.

This corruption of politics is exactly what has happened in the United States since the late 1970s when the Supreme Court ruled (in their Buckley and Bellotti decisions in 1976/1978) that billionaires and corporations owning politicians was merely "First Amendment-protected free speech." It brought us the Reagan Revolution.

They doubled down on this in 2010 with their Citizens United ruling, saying that if government prevented billionaires and giant corporations from overwhelming elections with their money and advertising, we were not just inhibiting their free speech.

The conservative justices on the Court invented a bizarre new doctrine to justify Citizens United, saying that average people were being disadvantaged when billionaires and corporations couldn't pour unlimited money into the political process because if they were stifled we'd lose our "right to hear" from some of the most "important" and "well-informed" players in the economic and political game.

This "right to hear" is now, in our political process, the Supreme Court-created foundation of oligarchic control over the Republican Party, diminishing parts of the Democratic Party, and, increasingly, over what we refer to as "Red States."

Authoritarian movements, as the Republican Party has recently become, typically have a few predictable hallmarks. They include:

  • Crushing the rights of women while glorifying a "macho" ethic and aesthetic
  • Crony capitalism, making a few rich and screwing everybody else
  • Crushing union efforts and any sort of demands by workers for fair pay or treatment
  • The legalization and widespread promulgation of the surveillance state while political elites routinely get away with crimes that would have put average people into prison for years
  • Repression of religious minorities and weaponization of religion as an agent of state power
  • The marginalization and demonization of minorities, particularly racial and gender-based minorities
  • The suppression — typically starting with the demonization — of the press; in later stages, outright murder of members of the press
  • Selective enforcement of laws so that individuals never know when they will become the target of state violence (example: how America polices Black people)
  • Seizure of the courts so that selectively enforced laws and regulations are used to maintain the power of the oligarchs and assuage the insecurities of their followers
  • A huge gap between the rich and poor (often accompanied by an explosion of homelessness), maintained and used by the oligarch class to provide victims their followers can feel superior to
  • Civilian paramilitaries who terrorize both the populace and the political opposition (Liz Cheney just said some of her peers refused to vote to impeach Trump because they feared for their lives)
  • The racialization of powerlessness and poverty
  • A brutal "grassroots" response to those who object to selective poverty, typically leading to the marginalization or even outright assassination of movement leaders (like Dr. Martin Luther King)
  • A false form of nationalism that glorifies a mythical past, explicitly covers up past crimes and failings, and positions the now-oligarch-controlled country as the pinnacle of political evolution
  • The corruption of the political process, so that the agents of the oligarchs can ultimately decide who gets to vote and who doesn't, and which votes get counted and which don't

Countries typically begin the transition from democracy into oligarchy and sometimes even outright fascism when the oligarchs seize control of a large part of the political process, typically a major political party.

This has happened in the United States over the past 40 years under the rubric of the Reagan Revolution. The Republican Party is now entirely controlled by the oligarch class, who also have functional control over as many as half of the individual members of the Democratic Party.

Slowing down or even reversing America's slide into oligarchy will require a number of things the Biden administration has put forward.

We must show that democratic government can actually still work, reducing the demand for a strongman "savior" like we saw with Trump, and the passage of the expansive American Rescue Plan was a good start.

If Biden can get both his American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan enacted, rebuilding our physical, human and intellectual infrastructure, it will take a lot of wind out of the sails of the authoritarian movement in this country.

By proposing HR1, the For The People Act, the Democratic Party has chosen to explicitly repudiate oligarchy as a form of government. It requires transparency from "big money" and meaningfully reduces its influence, as well as ending minority-rule schemes like gerrymandering while establishing baseline minimum standards for elections in America.

By holding democracy high as a primary value, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act guarantees and expands democracy itself in America, which can rapidly and effectively kneecap oligarchy.

The success or failure of these initiatives — all fiercely opposed by the GOP and the oligarchs who own that Party — will determine whether America again embraces democracy, or picks back up on Donald Trump's nearly-successful move to push America into a full-blown fascistic form of oligarchy.

The stakes are higher than they've been since the 1860s and the 1930s; this may be our last chance to rescue democracy in this country.

The GOP's extraordinarily dark plot to win elections

Authoritarian Trump followers within the GOP are actively promoting death and disease among Americans to win elections. The brutality and cynicism is breathtaking.

As we saw yesterday, Rand Paul and several of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, grilling Dr. Fauci, did their best to advance one of the GOP's two major 2022/2024 election strategies.

The first of those strategies, of course, is to replace actual election officials with Republican hacks so they can throw out the votes they don't like and simply decide elections on their own. That strategy also includes suppressing the vote and stopping people from voting, as GOP Governor Ducey did yesterday, throwing 140,000 voters (including 30,000 Latinos) off the rolls.

As I wrote yesterday, they've passed those laws in several states now and are proposing them in nearly every state in the union, and the only defense American democracy has against them is the For The People Act, which hinges on changing or ending the filibuster.

But the second, and most evil part of their strategy — at least in the context of their total disregard for human life — has to do with the coronavirus.

Their logic goes something like this:

1. Convince enough Americans not to get vaccinated that the country never reaches herd immunity and President Joe Biden therefore cannot get the virus crisis under control.

2. The failure of Biden to control the virus will mean, like what happened to Trump, that the economy will not get back to full functioning, either.

3. As any first-year Political Science student can tell you, the biggest single variable in most elections, particularly federal elections, is the economy. If Republicans can keep the economy off-balance by keeping the virus circulating, they'll have a much better chance of winning elections in 2022 and particularly in the presidential race in 2024. And if they can use uncertainty about when the coronavirus crisis may end here to crash the stock market, that gets them double bonus points!

This strategy, aggressively supported by right-wing media, requires creating doubt about the virus generally and the vaccines in particular. It's why about half the Republicans in Congress refuse to say whether they've been vaccinated or not, and why Trump and his wife took their shots in secret before they left the White House.

Tucker Carlson has been "asking questions" about people who died after getting vaccinated, as if the vaccines had anything to do with their deaths (it didn't), echoing similar lies told by America's dumbest senator, Wisconsin's Ron Johnson.

Right-wingers and conspiracy nuts on radio and across the Internet, and bots and trolls from multiple foreign countries filling thousands of Facebook groups, are coming right out and warning people against getting vaccinated.

Their freak-outs include everything from the theory that Bill Gates is putting tracking chips in the vaccines so he can know where you are (presumably these people don't know about cell phones?) to suggestions that mRNA vaccines "alter your DNA" (they don't) and could turn us into zombies, mutants, or even make us all liberals.

In yesterday's hearing, more than one Republican senator tried to produce a clip worthy of getting themselves on Fox News by suggesting that people who have had the coronavirus don't need to get vaccinated because they are "already immune."

Fauci has already shot that one down; people who had the "wild" variety of coronavirus earlier in the year can still get just as sick or even die from the South African variant, which is spreading across the United States right now, and because the Indian variant contains some of the same mutations presumably it can also infect and kill people who have already had the "wild" first-generation coronavirus.

The vaccines, however, actually produce an immunity to all of these variants that's stronger than the natural immunity of having had coronavirus in its original form. None of that actual science, however, mattered to the Republicans speaking yesterday.

Rand Paul, for his part, tried his best to promote the idea that somehow Fauci was in on an evil plot years ago to send money to China to develop a weaponized coronavirus that they would then unleash on the world like, you know, a year ago.

It's a classic example of how a grain of truth can be turned into a sand castle of lies.

It's true that governments, including China and the United States, have been engaged in biological warfare experiments for decades, which includes weaponizing viruses. When anthrax (a bacterium) was mailed to leading Democrats and news media after 9/11 just in time to promote passage of the PATRIOT Act, it was traced back to a US weapons lab, for example.

What's not true, however, and what Rand Paul was trying to get people to believe is that labs doing basic virology research, including the lab in Wuhan, are not only involved in this kind of research but are intentionally responsible for the pandemic.

There's a remote possibility that some part of his hypothesis is correct — the part about the Covid virus escaping from the lab in Wuhan — but nobody knows for sure at this point in time and it's considered extremely unlikely by most credible sources. Even if true, though, it has nothing to do with Paul's questioning.

Because that wasn't the point he was trying to make: what Rand Paul was trying to do is discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci and the entire public health team surrounding President Biden, so Americans will not believe what they say and therefore won't get vaccinated.

Which takes us back to the second of the two Republican election strategies: keep the virus circulating in America; thus keeping the US economy in chaos; then run ads complaining about the "bad Democrat economy" and use that to win elections in 2022 and 2024.

The raw brutality of this election strategy is extraordinary.

The number of new coronavirus infections in the United States has now dropped below 30,000 a day, and the number of deaths is consistently well below the 400-a-day mark. This is a huge contrast to the time when Donald Trump was pushing people back into the workplace to get re-elected and we were seeing hundreds of thousands of people infected and thousands dying every day.

No matter how hard Rand Paul and his Republican colleagues try, enough of us are vaccinated now that they won't get America back to those kinds of terrible numbers. But they think they can get the numbers to stay high enough that the economy will remain in crisis and Republicans can use it as a wedge issue.

And they don't care how many Americans die to get them there.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Mitch McConnell is about to destroy the GOP

Nobody's asking, "Why?"

Just like he did with the Covid rescue bill a few months ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just said that there will not be one single Republican vote in support of President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan.

Why would McConnell do this?

Why would he give away any bargaining leverage the GOP might have?

Why would he essentially encourage Democrats to make the legislation as expansive, effective and popular as possible? And then let them get all the credit for it?

After all, now that the Democrats know there's no possibility of any Republican votes, there's no need for them to negotiate with any GOP senators. There's no need for Democrats to worry about their Republican colleagues' feelings, thoughts, concerns or even ask their opinions.

That simple reality has been noted by a number of commentators.

But nobody is asking the bigger question: "Why would a professional, lifelong politician and master tactician like Mitch McConnell make such a huge mistake?"

I believe the answer is that McConnell does not think he's making a mistake. He thinks he's right. He thinks he's going to win.

I believe he has completely deluded himself. He has bought his own BS. And it won't be the first time senior Republican leadership has done this and then destroyed the GOP in the process.

This is a guy, after all, who spent decades proclaiming Reaganomics and supply-side economics.

He's probably asserted a thousand times that when taxes on rich people are cut and government spending goes down, good things will happen to the American economy. He's repeatedly assured his voters that when unions are destroyed the working class prospers.

He's embraced and endorsed 40 years of de-funding and ignoring America's infrastructure, even to the point of frustrating Trump's own infrastructure plan attempts. Over and over again, when proposed by Clinton and Obama, McConnell has suggested that rebuilding our country at the expense of taxing rich people would create an economic disaster.

For most Americans, forty years of experience with these theories that McConnell's been promoting have proven that they're largely crackpot BS. They're fantasies sold to the American public by billionaires and the think-tanks they fund, amplified by right-wing radio and media, to keep the billionaire's taxes down, their companies deregulated and unions out of their workplaces.

But they've been sold so aggressively — from the efforts in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s by people like Hayek, von Misis and Milton Friedman, to Ronald Reagan and the institutional Republican party from 1980 to this day — that many Republicans actually do believe them.

Particularly multimillionaires — who hang out with billionaires — like McConnell.

And McConnell's is not alone in this belief, even among significant Republican figures.

I regularly invite conservatives on my radio/TV program to defend propositions like those above, and there are several who I've come to know personally, and I know for a fact, that they actually believe these things.

Reaganomics hasn't worked out, they say, because it hasn't really been tried.

There's been too much government spending clouding things. Taxes have never really been low enough. There's never been a true libertarian experiment in America.

If we want to see if these theories actually work, they say, first we have to do away with Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, food stamps, public schools, public health departments and the whole plethora of government-supported institutions. Those things, they say, have so muddled up and distorted our economic systems that partial measures like partial deregulation and occasional tax cuts promoted by Republicans over the last 40 years haven't had the success that they could have had in a "pure free-market economy."

These people, who I know personally, are not saying what they're saying because their paychecks depend upon it (although that is true of a few others that I know and have met in the media). They're saying it because they believe it.

They studied it in college from Econ professors whose chairs were funded by right-wing billionaires and conservative foundations. They've read it over and over again in conservative books and magazines, and on conservative websites. They've been hearing it preached from the highest towers of conservatism their entire lives.

If Mitch McConnell is at all like them, he believes it's true, too. He believes that rebuilding America using tax dollars from people earning over $400,000 a year will produce a disaster. He's internalized that message.

Another clue that Mitch McConnell and many of his Republican colleagues actually believe this stuff was revealed at last weekend's Utah Republican party meeting, where Mitt Romney was booed.

It's another sign that the ideology has taken deep hold and spread in the party. It's become more important than the good of the party itself, as happened in 1964.

If Mitch McConnell is a true believer, he may well be in the "true believer mold" of Barry Goldwater.

If so, this is the second time this has happened in the Republican party in my lifetime. And it may presage the exact same kind of disaster that Barry Goldwater brought down upon the party in 1964.

I was only 13 at the time, but I remember watching the 1964 Republican convention with my dad when Nelson Rockefeller got up and gave a speech calling for moderation, compromise and a commitment to do what was best for the nation.

Referring to Goldwater and the right-wing true-believers who followed him, much like Mitt Romney referred to Trump and MAGAs, Rockefeller said, "These extremists feed off fear, hate and terror. They encourage disunity." He was booed off the stage, as you can see in this short clip.

Nelson Rockefeller denounces Republican "extremists" at the 1964 Republican National Convention youtu.be

Then Barry Goldwater stepped up to the microphone and loudly proclaimed:

"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!!"

He brought down the house. The standing ovation lasted for minutes. They really believed him.

Prior to Goldwater's 1964 candidacy, the Republican party of Dwight Eisenhower had been a pretty moderate place (including VP Nixon's 1960 race against JFK).

Eisenhower advocated unionization and bragged about how many new union members had joined during his presidency. In 1956, when he ran for reelection, he highlighted how he'd helped increase the number of people on Social Security.

In his farewell address he prayed — literally prayed (14:55 on the recording) — for world peace, in the same speech he used to warn us about the Military-Industrial Complex.

Eisenhower Farewell Address (Best Quality) - 'Military Industrial Complex' WARNING youtu.be

But then the True Believers took over the GOP — to this day.

Goldwater went on to lose to LBJ in a massive landslide, and McConnell may well be leading his own party in a very similar direction.

Goldwater believed what he was saying. I've read both his autobiographies and there's no doubt in my mind.

I can't say that I am as much of a student of Mitch McConnell as I was of Barry Goldwater back in 1964 when, along with my dad, I went door to door for him in that presidential campaign.

But the first possible and most rational explanation for Mitch McConnell openly stating in advance that there will not be a single Republican vote for Biden's plan is that McConnell thinks if Biden's plan passes it will create a disaster.

He thinks that inflation will spike, the national debt will lead to some terrible national default, and/or the stock market along with the entire economy will go in the tank.

After all, that's what he's been preaching for 40 years. How hard is it to imagine that he's come to believe his own sales pitch?

Sadly, for Mitch, all the empirical evidence indicates that his belief is just as misplaced as were Goldwater's fears of communists in the State Department and the viability of using nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

The Republican party tried a very similar shtick back in 1920, when Warren Harding was elected President on a platform of dropping the 91% top tax rate down to 25%, deregulating industry and privatizing most government functions. He won that election, and kept those promises.

It led to the "Roaring Twenties" — a time when the very rich got very much richer and working people got screwed — and then straight to the stock market crash of 1929 and what was called for a generation the "Republican Great Depression."

Perhaps McConnell doesn't know the history. Perhaps he thinks that era was an anomaly, or an incomplete experiment, or there were other factors that caused the crash.

Or, if you've read this far, there's one other possibility worth considering. Perhaps McConnell's trying to implode the party to purge it of Trump.

It's pretty far out, but maybe he's letting folks trash Romney and Cheney and the rational few left in the party so it'll fall so low in the 2022 election that Trump will be discredited and purged from the party himself.

That possibility, though, is a stretch. It still appears that the only reasonable explanation for Mitch McConnell refusing in advance to go along with anything Biden is proposing that might help America is that he truly believes that, at the end of the day, Biden's plans will be a disaster and he wants to have no part of them.

He's wrong, but — in either case — he's certainly not lacking in conviction.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

New GOP 'Big Lie' plot is in the works: 'It must stop. Now.'

The 21st-century version of the Confederacy is fixing to repeat the Big Lie strategy of its 19th century forebearers. And this one goes beyond the Big Lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Now they're trying to sanitize treason as well.

George Orwell famously pointed out that, "Those who control the past control the future," and the GOP is furiously trying to rewrite the history of January 6th to hide their participation in a heinous crime and promote their authoritarian agenda for the future.

Big lies, when heavily and institutionally promoted over generations, have incredible persistence.

Back in the early 1980s, Louise and I moved with our three kids down to Georgia to start a business in suburban Atlanta. The place was growing like a weed and opportunity abounded; we got our little start-up company on the front page of The Wall Street Journal within the second year.

But what I remember most vividly about those years is the answer I got one night at dinner when I asked our kids what they learned in school that day.

"We learned about the War of Northern Aggression," one said, explaining that the New York bankers were trying to rob people in the South and so the South had to fight back.

This is what happens when history is allowed to be re-written for over a century. And it's happening again, today.

As Mike DeBonis and Jeremy Barr, et al, document at The Washington Post:

"Instead of an attempt to overturn the election by radicalized Donald Trump supporters, it was a choreographed attack staged by antifa provocateurs. Rather than an armed insurrection, it was a good-natured protest spoiled by a few troublemakers.

And instead of a deadly event that put the lives of hundreds of lawmakers, police officers and others at risk, the riot was no big deal at all.

A legion of conservative activists, media personalities and elected officials are seeking to rewrite the story of what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, hoping to undermine the clear picture of the attack that has emerged...

Six weeks after the attack, some are taking advantage of fading memories and unanswered questions to portray the riot in a different, more benign light...."

Democrats are trying to put together a commission to study what happened, and Republicans are fighting every effort.

When congressional committees controlled by Democrats try to look into the events of January 6, their Republican colleagues tie the proceedings up in bureaucratic knots.

Very little, right now, is getting done, while documents and other evidence are being destroyed, "lost" or "forgotten." There's even some doubt about whether all the pre-January 6th security video from the Capitol that may have shown legislators giving recon tours to insurgents still exists.

The new story, as told by Tucker Carlson, Ron Johnson and others is that it wasn't all that big a deal when the Capitol was stormed, and it certainly wasn't treason. Donald Trump even went so far as to say that his followers were "hugging and kissing" the Capitol Police officers.

A few hundred foot-soldiers have been arrested and are being prosecuted, but nobody has heard a peep about the meeting in Trump's DC hotel the night of January 5 or any other meetings or actions that may imply organization and leadership.

Acting Secretary of Defense, Trump loyalist Christopher Miller, was installed right after Trump lost the election as part of a rapid general purge of senior leadership at the Pentagon.

Anticipating the January 6th attack to end American democracy, Miller issued a memo (reprinted below) on January 4 specifically forbidding the District of Columbia National Guard from:

  • being "issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons, or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor."
  • "to employ any riot control agents"
  • "To share equipment with law-enforcement agencies"
  • "To use Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance assets or to conduct ISR or Incident, Awareness, and Assessment activities."
  • "To employ helicopters or any other air assets."
  • "To conduct searches and seizures, arrests, or other similar direct law-enforcement activity."
  • "To seek support from any non-DC National Guard units."

Miller's memo specified that the DC National Guard would be essentially neutered unless he gave the order, and he and other Trump loyalists weren't answering the phone for hours during the attack.

But where's the investigation? Where are the hearings? Who's asking Miller who ordered him to do this and why he went along with it? What was the end game? Who else was involved?

It sure looks like we experienced an attempted coup d'état that only failed because of the integrity of a few Republican officials and Secretaries of State. It was a widespread and concerted effort to end the American Experiment.

Donald Trump and a group of his followers, it appears, tried to overthrow the legitimate government of the United States and install himself as a strongman dictator, ending the world's oldest democracy.

But any time questions are asked about these details, about who participated at the higher levels, about what members of Congress might've been involved, the conversation gets changed. The discussion is shifted to Antifa, Maxine Waters or something altogether unrelated.

Trump's Big Lie that he won the 2020 election was terrible in and of itself. Like Hitler's "Stabbed in the Back" Big Lie that Germany was on the verge of winning World War I until the Jews and socialists sold them out, Trump's Lie formed the basis for the attack on the Capitol and multiple ongoing attacks on our democracy.

But a second Big Lie that is emerging now, that the attack of January 6th was either not an "actual" or "serious" attack, or that, if it was, it was done by Antifa and Black Lives Matter members, is just as destructive. Perhaps more so, because it discourages further investigation.

These two Big Lies have already spread widely across social media and the Internet. Multimillionaire commentators on Fox News are doing their best to establish these lies as part of the documentary record, as are other rightwing media outlets.

America mustn't let them get away with it.

We need to know the truth, including uncomfortable truths that may involve collusion and participation by elected officials and government employees, should that be proven to be the case.

America allowed the Big Lie of the "Lost Cause" and "the War of Northern Aggression" to survive and fester for over a century and the result is that Americans are still dying — daily — because of the color of their skin.

That elected Republicans are blocking efforts to find the truth about this January 6, 2021 act of treason, while actively using Trump's original November 2020 Big Lie to cut back voting rights nationwide, is both despicable and dangerous.

It must stop. Now.

The perpetrators and collaborators — including those who are and/or work for elected officials — must be publicly held to account.

If Republicans continue blocking serious investigations and these crimes are successfullly whitewashed, the next authoritarian attempt to destroy our republic may well succeed.

The Ku Klux Kaucus will end in tragedy

Well, now they're just coming right out and saying it.

Several Southern Republican members of the House of Representatives have proposed a Klu Klux Kaucus that will adhere to "Anglo-Saxon" values and vigorously resist allowing any more people of color into America under any circumstances. They're officially calling it the "America First Caucus."

The original America First movement started in the autumn of 1940, with open support for Adolf Hitler, loudly promoting their fear that white people in America were subject to being "replaced" by people of color into the fabric of our country. Those engineering this Great Replacement, America Firsters believed, were wealthy, media-connected Jews.

It also openly opposed America doing anything to stop Adolf Hitler after his 1939 invasion of Poland, and was particularly against our engaging in any kind of military action against Germany's leader.

At its peak, it had 800,000 members including future President Gerald Ford and future US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. It was largely funded by the mind-bogglingly wealthy rightwing families who owned Sears Roebuck and the Chicago Tribune, the "billionaires" of their day.

Dr. Seuss, who seems to be making a bit of a comeback thanks to Republican hysteria, produced one of the most famous America First cartoons. It shows a kangaroo named "America First" with baby kangaroos in her pouch labeled "Nazis," and "Fascists."

The movement's leader, Charles Lindbergh, addressed the "Jews will not replace us" issue in one of his most famous America First speeches when he said of Jewish Americans, "Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government."

Small wonder that Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene and Arizona's Paul Gosar, apologists for the traitors who attacked our republic on January 6th and fellow travelers with uber-racist Donald Trump, are the founding members of this new Kaucus.

In their introductory documentation, they argue that they're only interested in promoting or voting for infrastructure that "befits the progeny of European architecture." It doesn't take a dog to figure out what that whistle means.

In fact, they are quite proud of the racism. According to a document obtained by Punchbowl News, the Kaucus' main aim is to "follow in President Trump's footsteps, and potentially step on some toes and sacrifice sacred cows for the good of the American nation."

And what sacred cows might those be?

"[S]ocietal trust and political unity are threatened," they say, "when foreign citizens are imported en masse into a country…"

As Donald Trump would say, they're not talking about immigrants from Norway.

Republicans understand what the new Kaucus is all about, and a few who aren't rushing to join are instead objecting to their racism and xenophobic hatred being so open and public.

Representative Liz Cheney, no shrinking violet but also apparently having a few scruples that must've skipped the previous generation, tweeted about the new Kaucus without mentioning it by name:

"Republicans believe in equal opportunity, freedom, and justice for all. We teach our children the values of tolerance, decency and moral courage. Racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism are evil. History teaches we all have an obligation to confront and reject such malicious hate."

Her opposition will probably cause a few hundred more Republicans to eagerly join the Kaucus.

State-by-state organizations haven't been announced, but it won't be all that difficult for them to set them up and enlist members: all they have to do is buy the mailing lists for the existing Klan and White Citizens Council organizations in each of the Southern states.

America's most horrific crimes and our deepest wounds have always involved race. The largest genocide in the history of the world is arguably the near-extermination of Native Americans by European invaders. The slave trade to this country turned the South into a violent ethnonationalist police state. It's Black residents lived in a state of terror that persists in many ways to this day.

We are still, this time by political proxy, fighting the Civil War, our nation's bloodiest and most destructive conflict.

Greene, Gosar and others who are promoting this new Kaucus may think they are just conducting the most recent in a long line of racist GOP publicity stunts designed to raise their Fox News media profile and double down on the millions they raise every month promoting division and fear.

But, they are also giving aid and comfort to the traitors who attacked our Capitol on January 6th and tried, for the second time in America's history, to end our democratic republican form of government.

They're contributing to the regional and racial hatred and fear that have, in the past, done so much damage to our republic and destroyed so many lives.

We've seen politicians use cheap and rhetorical devices like this to promote hatred and division in other countries.

Without exception, it has ended in disaster.

America must learn the lessons of its past. If we fail to, as the old saying goes, we shall be doomed to repeat our most terrible mistakes.

A bizarre GOP conspiracy theory now threatens democracy itself - can it be stopped?

News that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can cause blood clots in about one in 1 million women under 50 has exploded across the social media world. Republicans, along with countries that hate America, are smiling.

A fellow who runs a couple of communities on a popular social media site called into my program yesterday saying that the vaccine news had caused an "absolute explosion" of vaccine denialism. People who'd been on the fence are now outright opposed to getting the jab.

And Trump and the GOP are making hay with the announcement.

Discouraging Americans from getting vaccinated, and thus preventing President Joe Biden from getting the economy back on track, has been the first order of business for the GOP ever since Trump lost the election.

It is now their primary Electoral Strategy going into 2022 and 2024.

And, if the spam I'm seeing in my inbox and the trolls I'm seeing on social media are any indication, several countries that would like to see America fail are also enthusiastically encouraging Americans not to get vaccinated.

Tucker Carlson and Fox News are also pushing the "uncertainty, be careful!" meme.

Trump, of course, tripled down on the news.

He floated a bizarre conspiracy theory of his own, that he had promoted back in December as well.

Feigning outrage and using it to trash our new president, Trump wrote: "The Biden Administration did a terrible disservice to people throughout the world by allowing the FDA and CDC to call a 'pause' in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine."

This is the same Donald Trump who, along with his wife, were both vaccinated while he was still president but went out of his way to keep it secret until long after he had left the White House.

He's all about sabotaging Joe Biden. There's probably nobody in the world Trump hates more, at this moment, than the guy who beat him badly in 2020. And he partially blames Pfizer.

"Remember," Trump wrote yesterday, "it was the FDA working with Pfizer, who announced the vaccine approval two days after the 2020 presidential election. They didn't like me very much…"

Warning his followers, once again, not to trust the American government, he added that the FDA "has to be controlled" particularly because of the "long time bureaucrats within."

If you want to see what the US will look like if Trump and the GOP prevail and create widespread vaccine denialism and hesitancy, just look at Michigan right now. The British variant is ripping through that state, throwing huge numbers of people under 40 into hospitals.

This is exactly what Republicans want.

It's the reason why the Republicans who control the Michigan House and Senate forced through legislation over Governor Whitmer's unsuccessful veto requiring the state's website to point out that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested on fetal stem cells.

Now another whole cohort of Americans are all hysterical about "baby parts" in their vaccines (they're not) and vaccine compliance is starting to collapse in Michigan.

Sabotage that Democratic governor!

It's also why about half of all the Republicans in the US Congress refuse to disclose whether they have been vaccinated, and Senators Paul and Johnson openly proclaim that they won't take a vaccine.

It has nothing to do with "freedom." It's all about sabotaging the Biden administration. And doing the same to any state with a Democratic governor.

Many Americans were shocked when they realized that Donald Trump's deadly push to "open the economy" in September and October was just to try to get the economic numbers up so he could win reelection.

They're even more dismayed now, learning that Trump and the GOP are actively working to sabotage any effort to get the pandemic under control so Democrats will lose next year's elections and in 2024.

Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election, and his encouragement of the January 6 insurrection against our republic, were both treasonous and seditionist. He has demonstrated beyond any doubt that he is a traitor to our ideals and our nation.

But encouraging the deaths of hundreds of thousands more Americans is taking treason and sabotage to a whole new level.

It took our media about three years to figure out and explicitly point out that Donald Trump was intent on destroying democracy in America. It took them more than two years to use the word "lies" to describe his…lies.

As Americans today are dying all across our country because of the vaccine skepticism promoted by Trump and the GOP, it's more important than ever that all of us, including our media, call this what it is.

American genocide for political purposes. Treason.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Republicans and Trump have thrown evangelical Christianity into a full-blown crisis

Republican politicians are doubling down on exploiting religious people, and its now killing churches in a way not seen in living memory.

We've watched absolute depravity wash across our politics over the last few decades, promoted by the same politicians who wave a religious banner to get votes. It ranges from a stolen election in 2000, to being lied into two wars, and having four years of a presidency with nothing to show for it except a tax cut for billionaires, the destruction of international relationships, and 500,000 dead Americans.

We had a president who raped women; made fun of mentally disabled people; tried to take away Obamacare, Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and unemployment from American citizens; and intentionally tore America apart racially and religiously just for money and power.

He ripped children from their mother's arms on the border, and then tortured those kids for years, killing at least seven of them. He called Nazi white supremacists "very fine people," tried to eliminate healthcare for poor Americans, and vilivied refugees — all in the name of Christianity.

Prominent among the mob that attacked the US Capitol on January 6 were "Jesus 2020" flags and Christian iconography. One group carried a large wooden cross, and hundreds of people knelt to pray before attacking the capitol on that terrible day.

The day before, January 5, a group of religious Trump supporters held a "Jericho March" in DC, carrying oversize crosses and singing hymns as they paraded in circles around the capital as if they were Joshua circling the ancient city of Jericho so its walls would supernaturally collapse.

This is not what Jesus would have done; supporting politicians was anathema to his ministry. He preached morality, not politics.

Throughout my lifetime, church attendance had been fairly steady, ranging from a high of 73% when I was born in 1951 to a low of around 65% when George W. Bush was sworn into office. This year, though, it hit 47%.

Fewer than half of Americans now attend church. Organized religion is collapsing across our nation.

Republican strategist Rick Wilson wrote a book titled Everything Trump Touches Dies. He's right, and religion is the latest casualty.

Back at the founding of our republic, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had a running debate about religion and government throughout most of their lives.

Jefferson, like Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin and George Washington, was a Deist, essentially an atheist. He was convinced that one of the biggest threats to what he called "a republican form of government" was religion.

He was terrified that ministers or priests might run for political office, and even proposed what became Article VI of the Constitution, which says, "[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Madison, a churchgoer, believed that America would be just fine with Christians in charge, but that the biggest threat to religion and our country's churches would be their corruption by the government.

When he became President, Madison's first veto was to reject a piece of legislation that would've given a federal subsidy to a church in Washington DC to feed needy people.

No government should be giving money to churches, Madison said, regardless of purpose, and the proposed law he vetoed would, he wrote in his veto message, "be a precedent for giving to religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty." He insisted the money go straight from the government to the poorhouses and not run through the churches, because he was convinced it would corrupt them.

Turns out they were both right. And the GOP has promoted both the harm to government and the harm to organized religion.

The Republican Party has been cynically manipulating Christians for political gain, particularly white evangelicals, ever since Ronald Reagan and his Vice President George HW Bush hired Bush's son, George W., to do "outreach" to the white Evangelical community.

In exchange for their votes, Republicans have repeatedly promised — and delivered — to block IRS enforcement of laws that a church cannot maintain their tax-exempt status if they engage in politics.

They've also poured literally billions of taxpayer dollars into churches to provide services from foster care to daycare to meals to medical services, all in ways that would've given President and "Father of the Constitution" Madison a heart attack.

Churches and multimillionaire televangelists, for their part, have returned the favor by preaching Republican politics from the pulpit and on thousands of religious radio stations across the country.

Rightwing pastors have become a fixture in Republican politics, as Jeff Sharlet chronicles in his book The Family. From $100,000 heated dog houses to multiple multimillion-dollar mansions to private jets, their embrace of the GOP has corrupted their own ministries and confused their followers.

And now, at the behest of Donald Trump and the Republican party, white Christians are literally killing each other. White evangelicals are the one, identifiable single group in America with the highest probability of refusing to get a vaccine.

Having lived inside the Reagan/Bush/Trump cult for decades, they've been conditioned to believe any old bullshit Republican politicians feed them.

So when Trump and his fellow homicidal Republican governors told them that wearing masks was not a good thing, and cast doubts on the vaccine (Trump and his wife got vaccinated, but in secret during the last weeks of his presidency), they were primed and completely vulnerable to crazed conspiracy theories promoted on the internet by hustlers and narcissists in America and hostile foreign governments pretending to be Americans.

As a Christian myself, and a person who agrees with John Donne's sentiment that "every man's death diminishes me," this saddens me deeply.

On the other hand, setting aside the unnecessary deaths, it might be a good thing. The rot in today's version of white Evangelical Christianity has grown so deep and so destructive that a wake-up call is necessary. Indeed, a reformation is needed, both in religion and politics.

From the days that Reagan was cutting deals with a generation of television preachers mostly interested in mansions and private jets through today's preachers pushing politicized vaccine misinformation, the corruption of religion by Republican politicians has become a full-blown crisis for many parts of the church and her followers.

The depravity of Republican politics is killing religion, or at least what we today call religion. At the same time, conservative "religious leaders" have done their best to fleece Republican parishioners.

Will Republican politicians stop exploiting religion for their own gain? Will people of faith turn away from the modern-day Republican Caesars whose gnarled, depraved fingers are reaching out to them every Sunday?

Or will America end up like most Scandinavian and Northern European countries, with churches relegated to ceremonial spaces for weddings and funerals and political parties avoiding the subject of faith?

I don't have an answer, but asking the question is vital.

-- --

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Dear Republican voters: What did you expect?

Dear Republican voter:

When Ted Nugent, the NRA and the GOP told you that more guns would make America a less violent society, what did you expect? Did you really think that suddenly every American would become a fast-draw marksman and vigilante justice would take us back to some happy Wild West movie fantasy?

When Trump said Covid was "just like the flu" at the same time he was telling Bob Woodward it was a killer, what did you expect? When he pushed refusing to wear a mask as if it were some sort of declaration of masculinity, and openly encouraged states and cities to remain open to produce "herd…er…thinking" did you really believe that would keep a half-million Americans from dying?

When Trump sent thousands of modern-day brownshirts to storm the US Capitol and try to kill Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi so Trump could become the nation's strongman dictator, what did you expect? Did you believe that American democracy was outdated, and our country would run better if a billionaire oligarch and his cronies just took everything over regardless of the will of the voters?

When five Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court, in 2010 in Citizens United, ruled that billionaires and big corporations secretly bribing politicians was just "First Amendment-protected Free Speech," what did you expect? Did you believe that was going to work out well for democracy in America? That it had, in any country, ever?

When Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist, along with Reagan, both Bushes and Trump warned you about the dangers of "big government" and said it should be shrunk down small enough to be "drowned in the bathtub," what did you expect? Did you really think that gutting environmental and banking protections; letting corporations dump more pollution into our air and water, poisoning our children; and restricting access to Medicaid, unemployment benefits and disability assistance was going to improve this country?

When Donald Trump (and Reagan & both Bushes) told you that if America just showered trillions in tax cuts and subsidies on our largest corporations and richest people that it would all "trickle down" to the rest of us, what did you expect? Did you really think those billionaires were going to happily pass their tax cuts along to you as a pay raise?

When Republican governors across the country told you that only private, for-profit electric companies could provide you with cheap, reliable electricity and that state or municipal utilities with no profit motive were a bad idea, what did you expect? Did you think Enron ripping people off & PG&E burning down part of California was an anomaly? That what just happened with the privatized Texas power grid when it was faced — again — with a winter storm was just a fluke?

When Ronald Reagan — and every Republican politician since him — told you that destroying labor unions would be a good thing and would help American workers, what did you expect? Did you really think that no longer having solidarity and representation against organized capital would lift up American workers and cause CEO's to keep their own pay reasonable?

When George HW Bush told you the nation needed to double down on Nixon's "War on Drugs" and put more people in prison, particularly Black people who were "selling crack cocaine in the park across the street from the White House" (a sale Bush set up), what did you expect? Did you really think that putting millions of Black people in prison for decades like Bush pitched with his "Willie Horton" ad campaign was somehow going to make America a better place to live?

When Donald Trump tried to cut off food stamps to over a million people in the middle of a pandemic, what did you expect? Did you really think it was going to "force" people to get a job in the face of a disease that could kill them? When over 10 million jobs had just vanished from the economy?

When former oil industry CEOs George W. Bush and Dick Cheney told you that Iraq's Saddam Hussein, coincidentally sitting on the world's second-largest oil reserve, was plotting to attack America, even as the United Nations and our own American weapons inspectors were saying it was a lie, what did you expect? Did you really think America could conquer a country, sell off its natural resources, and its people would just happily go along with it? How'd that work out in Vietnam?

When Wall Street Billionaire Pete Peterson and his friends in the GOP put up their "debt clock" and told you that Social Security was a Ponzi scheme that was going to go bankrupt and therefore should be handed over to the big Wall Street banks, what did you expect? Did you think the bankers and the Republicans they own were actually going to help build a stronger social safety net for average Americans?

When Reagan's Interior Secretary, James Watt, told you that it was just fine to sell off federal lands for pennies on the dollar to giant mining and drilling companies because Jesus was soon going to return and "make all things new," what did you expect? For that matter, when Trump's Interior Secretary, a coal industry lobbyist, said the same thing without the religion, did you really expect it would help our public lands? Did you think it had nothing to do with massive campaign contributions to the GOP?

When Republicans changed course in 1980 and threw in with antiabortion activists, but promised only "reasonable" restrictions, what did you expect? How about Arkansas that just passed a law last month to put a child who's impregnated by a rapist in prison if she tries to get an abortion? Or Texas, where legislators are trying to get the death penalty for young victims of incest who get an abortion?

When Donald Trump encouraged violence at his rallies, promoted racist slogans and policies, promised to pay the legal bills of people who became violent, and openly celebrated police "roughing up" the people they're supposed to protect and serve, what did you expect? Did you think it would restrain the authoritarianism and racism of his followers and police? Really?

When Trump and Fox News tried to characterize as "thugs" the millions of people in our streets protesting the murder of George Floyd and so many other unarmed Black men, what did you expect? Did you think the cops would stop racist and violent policing without any sort of public pressure or accountability? When has that ever happened?

When oil company shills were all over the media telling us that global warming is a hoax and that carbon dioxide was good for trees and so we should have more of it, and Republican politicians for 40 years echoed them (and continue to), what did you expect? Did you really believe that burning all those fossil fuels and throwing all those poisons in the air would have no consequence?

When, during the last three presidential primaries, Republican candidates like Ron Paul argued that the best way to provide healthcare for Americans was to eliminate all government programs so that people would be forced to "stand on their own two feet" and figure out their own healthcare solutions, what did you expect? Did you really buy Congressman Paul's argument that in his day doctors like him were paid with chickens and we should think of that as an inspiration for our healthcare system today?

When you voted for Republicans while Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was actively gutting our public schools, promoting for-profit corporate schools, and making a joke out of any kind of solution to our student debt crisis, what did you expect? Did you actually believe that she and the GOP had any interest in building up our public schools and helping our teachers?

When your Republican state representatives told you they were passing legislation to "ensure election integrity," what did you expect? Did you really believe they were going to make sure everybody in America who is legally eligible to vote could have their vote counted? Did you assume they'd never end up blocking you from the voting rolls?

Seriously, did you expect Republicans were somehow going to do away with the 10-hour lines in neighborhoods where lots of registered Democrats live but everything would be fine for you? Did you believe them when they said voting by mail was a dangerous and insecure system, after states like Oregon and most of Western Europe have been doing it for more than 20 years without any problems whatsoever?

The simple fact is that Republicans have been lying to voters like you for better than 40 years, from Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and "War on Drugs," through Reagan's "Supply Side Economics," right up to today's Trump/GOP line that the 2020 election was filled with "voter fraud."

They're all lies, to disguise the fact that the GOP worships money and power alone, and puts those two things above the safety and security of average Americans every time.

For the past 18 years on my radio show I've been running a contest. To win, all you need to do is name a single piece of post-1980 legislation that was first written by a Republican, majority-sponsored by Republicans in Congress, passed by a majority of Republicans and signed by a Republican president — and has as its main beneficiaries average working people, instead of rich people or big corporations.

Nobody has ever won the prize, which is your choice of any of my books, with a personalized inscription.

Our country needs us all to be awake to what Republicans are up to in our federal and state capitols as they try to savage democracy and turn our country over to the oligarchs who pay their bills.

The 2020 election seems to show that Republican voters are figuring out the scam that GOP politicians have been running on them for two generations, which is why the Party is scrambling to make it harder to vote.

If you're a good-faith former Republican voter who was taken in by these lies but has now seen the light, the Democratic Party is more than happy to welcome you back to sanity. A new day is coming.

-- --

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. His most recent project is a science podcast called The Science Revolution. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Trump’s indifference and racism kills 1 in 1,000 Americans

Covid has now killed 1 in 1000 Americans in less than a year.

How is it that in Australia it's 3 out of every 100,000 people, and in New Zealand it's 1 out of every 200,000 people, but here in America we're dropping like flies?

Chalk it up to Republican racism and a libertarian indifference to the notion of society.

Trump's official emergency declaration came on March 11th, and most of the country shut down or at least went part-way toward that outcome. The Dow collapsed and millions of Americans were laid off, but saving lives was, after all, the number one consideration.

Trump put medical doctors on TV daily, the media was freaking out about refrigerated trucks carrying bodies away from New York hospitals, and doctors and nurses were our new national heroes.

And then came April 7th.

I remember that week vividly; it was as if a light switch had been flipped, and I commented on it on my radio show at the time (and many times since).

April 7th was the day that America learned that the majority of the people who were dying from COVID19 were either elderly, black or Hispanic. Not so many white guys, after all.

Exactly one month earlier, on March 7th, Trump had played golf at his club in West Palm Beach, met with Brazilian strongman Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago, and visited the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. Over the previous week, US deaths had risen from 4 to 22.

In March, Jared Kushner even put together an all-volunteer taskforce of mostly preppie 20-something white men to coordinate getting PPE to hospitals.

Then came April 7th, when the New York Times ran a front-page story with the headline: Black Americans Face Alarming Rates of Coronavirus Infection in Some States. Other media ran similar headlines across the American media landscape, and it was heavily reported on cable news and the network news that night.

As the New York Times noted that day: "In Illinois, 43 percent of people who have died from the disease and 28 percent of those who have tested positive are African-Americans, a group that makes up just 15 percent of the state's population. African-Americans, who account for a third of positive tests in Michigan, represent 40 percent of deaths in that state even though they make up 14 percent of the population. In Louisiana, about 70 percent of the people who have died are black, though only a third of that state's population is."

American conservatives responded with a collective, "What the hell?!?"

Limbaugh declared that afternoon that "with the coronavirus, I have been waiting for the racial component." And here it was. "The coronavirus now hits African Americans harder – harder than illegal aliens, harder than women. It hits African Americans harder than anybody, disproportionate representation."

Claiming that he knew this was coming as if he was some sort of a medical savant, Limbaugh said, "But now these — here's Fauxcahontas, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris demanding the federal government release daily race and ethnicity data on coronavirus testing, patients, and their health outcomes. So they want a database to prove we are not caring enough about African Americans…"

It didn't take a medical savant, of course. African Americans die disproportionately from everything, from heart disease to strokes to cancer to childbirth. It's a symptom of a racially rigged economy and a healthcare system that only responds to money, which America has conspired to keep from African Americans for over 400 years. Of course they're going to die more frequently from coronavirus.

But the New York Times and the Washington Post simultaneously publishing front-page articles about that disparity with regard to COVID19, both on April 7th, echoed across the rightwing media landscape like a Fourth of July fireworks display.

Tucker Carlson, the only primetime Fox News host who'd previously expressed serious concerns about the death toll, changed his tune the same day, as documented by Media Matters for America.

Now, he said, "we can begin to consider how to improve the lives of the rest, the countless Americans who have been grievously hurt by this, by our response to this. How do we get 17 million of our most vulnerable citizens back to work? That's our task."

White people were out of work, and black people were most of the casualties, outside of the extremely elderly. And those white people need their jobs back!

Brit Hume joined Tucker's show and, using his gravitas as a "real news guy," intoned, "The disease turned out not to be quite as dangerous as we thought."

Left unsaid was the issue of to whom it was "not quite as dangerous," but Limbaugh listeners and Fox viewers are anything but unsophisticated when it hearing dog-whistles on behalf of white supremacy.

Only 12,677 Americans were dead by that day, but now that we knew most of the non-elderly were black, things were suddenly very, very different. Now it was time to quit talking about people dying and start talking about getting people back to work!

It took less than a week for Trump to get the memo, presumably through Fox and Stephen Miller. On April 12th, he retweeted a call to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci and declared, in another tweet, that he had the sole authority to open the US back up, and that he'd be announcing a specific plan to do just that "shortly."

On April 13th, the ultra-rightwing, nearly-entirely-white-managed US Chamber of Commerce published a policy paper titled Implementing A National Return to Work Plan.

Unspoken but big on the agenda of corporate America was the desire to get the states to rescind their stay-home-from-work orders so that companies could cut their unemployment tax costs.

When people file unemployment claims, those claims are ultimately paid by the companies themselves, so when a company has a lot of claims they get a substantial increase in their unemployment insurance premiums/taxes. If the "stay home" orders were repealed, workers could no longer, in most states, file for or keep receiving unemployment compensation.

The next day, Freedomworks, the billionaire-founded and -funded group that animated the Tea Party against Obamacare a decade earlier, published an op-ed on their website calling for an "economic recovery" program including an end to the capital gains tax and a new law to "shield" businesses from lawsuits.

Three days after that, Freedomworks and the House Freedom Caucus issued a joint statement declaring that "[I]t's time to re-open the economy."

Freedomworks published their "#ReopenAmerica Rally Planning Guide" encouraging conservatives to show up "in person" at their state capitols and governor's mansions, and, for signage, to "Keep it short: 'I'm essential,' 'Let me work,' 'Let Me Feed My Family'" and to "Keep [the signs looking] homemade."

One of the first #OpenTheCountry rallies to get widespread national attention was April 19th in New Hampshire. Over the next several weeks, rallies had metastasized across the nation, from Oregon to Arizona, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and elsewhere.

One that drew particularly high levels of media attention, complete with swastikas, confederate flags and assault rifles was directed against the governor of Michigan, rising Democratic star Gretchen Whitmer.
When Rachel Maddow reported on meat packing plants that were epicenters of mass infection, the conservative Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court pointed out that the virus flare wasn't coming from the "regular folks" of the surrounding community; they were mostly Hispanic and Black.

The conservative meme was now well established.

About a third of the people the virus killed were old folks in nursing homes. Which, commentators on the right said, could be a good thing for the economy because they're just "useless eaters" who spend our Medicaid and Social Security money but are on death's door anyway.

For example, Texas's Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick told Fox News, "Let's get back to living... And those of us that are 70-plus, we'll take care of ourselves."

A conservative town commissioner in Antioch, CA noted that losing many elderly "would reduce burdens in our defunct Social Security System…and free up housing…" He added, "We would lost a large portion of the people with immune and other health complications. I know it would be loved ones as well. But that would once again reduce our impact on medical, jobs and housing."

Then came news that the biggest outbreaks were happening in prisons along with the meat packing plants, places with few white people (and the few whites in them were largely poor and thus disposable). Trump's response to this was to issue an executive order using the Defense Production Act (which he had refused to use to order production of testing or PPE equipment) to order the largely Hispanic and Black workforce back into the slaughterhouses and meat processing plants.

African Americans were dying in our cities, Hispanics were dying in meat packing plants, the elderly were dying in nursing homes.

But the death toll among white people, particularly affluent white people in corporate management who were less likely to be obese, have hypertension or struggle with diabetes, and more likely to work from home was relatively low. And those who came through the infection were presumed to be immune to subsequent bouts, so we could issue them "COVID Passports" and give them hiring priority.

As an "expert" member of Jared Kushner's team of young, unqualified volunteers supervising the administration's PPE response to the virus noted to Vanity Fair's Katherine Eban, "The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy."

It was, after all, exclusively Blue states that were then hit hard by the virus: Washington, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Robert F. Kennedy's grandson Max Kennedy Jr, 26, was one of the volunteers, and blew the whistle to Congress on Kushner and Trump. As Jane Mayer wrote for The New Yorker, "Kennedy was disgusted to see that the political appointees who supervised him were hailing Trump as 'a marketing genius,' because, Kennedy said they'd told him, 'he personally came up with the strategy of blaming the states.'"

So the answer to the question of why, at year's end, the United States has about 20% of the world's Covid deaths, but only 4.5% of the world's population, is pretty straightforward: Republicans were just fine with Black people dying back in April, particularly since they could blame it on Democratic Blue-state governors.

And once they put that strategy into place in April, it became politically impossible to back away from it, even as more and more red-state white people became infected.

Everything since then – right down to Trump's December 26th tweet ("The lockdowns in Democrat run states are absolutely ruining the lives of so many people - Far more than the damage that would be caused by the China Virus.") – has been a double-down on death and destruction, now regardless of race.

-- --

Thom Hartmann is America's number one progressive talk-show host and the New York Times bestselling author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. His online writings are compiled at HartmannReport.com. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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