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FEAR AND ANGER AS CAMPAIGN TOOLS – PAST AND PRESENT

December 20, 2015

FEAR AND ANGER AS CAMPAIGN TOOLS – PAST AND PRESENT

Let’s look ahead and engage in (what I hope is) fantasy. It appears that Trump and Putin have gone beyond rapprochement to some sort of mutual hero worship. A President Trump is going to make it tough on Rubio and Cruz as senators with their dust-up on immigration when he changes the visa rules by executive order, or failing that, by a demand that the pertinent immigration law on visas be amended so that he can bring Putin to our shores to serve as his chief of staff. The president campaigned on how he was going to be honest with the American people, so why be governed indirectly from the genius in Moscow when you can import him into the Oval Office for his advice and direction on policy matters?

Perhaps the more interesting part of this fantasy brought to life would be the reaction the president’s fellow Republicans, Senators Cruz and Rubio, would bring to the table. Their failed campaigns for the presidency were based on anger and fear and an unwillingness to welcome immigrants or refugees or anyone else seeking shelter from horror, and this strange reaction when they themselves are the sons of immigrants from Cuba and the horrors of communism! It appears (as Stacy Schiff pointed out in a New York Times Sunday Review article of December 18) that, much like the Puritans of early Massachusetts, these two, “once established, pulled up the gangplank behind them” in a classic show of “I’ve got mine, fellow, you can beg for yours.”

Reason and compassion and “what America stands for” were ditched in favor of fear and anger by these two during their unsuccessful campaigns because fear and anger gets votes (never mind the issues). George WMD Bush and his sidekick Cheney proved that. Lying and misrepresentation complement fear mongering and racism as helpful campaign tools as well and these two junior senators who are in over their heads have generously provided large portions of all such tools to garner votes with their pretended concerns over national security (which their stump statements have undermined daily in lieu of a common response to the real threats to America – some foreign and some domestic). Thus with these two when the facts do not fit your treatment of the “problem,” no es importa; just change the facts to fit your proposed solution, e.g., global warming doesn’t exist – problem solved (speaking of fantasy).

Current Republican use of fear and anger and misrepresentations is nothing new. Our colonial history has shown the way to whip up the population with the use of such tools. As Schiff points out, “Well before Japanese internment camps, before the Know-Nothing Party, before the Alien and Sedition Acts, New England drew its identity from threats to public safety. We manned the nation’s watchtowers before we were even a nation.”

Cotton Mather compared Quakers not only to dogs but also to serpents, dragons and vipers. They were banned, exiled, imprisoned, whipped; they were a “leprous” people, their teachings as wholesome as the “juice of toads.” Catholic priests of that day qualified as radical Muslim clerics of today. From the pulpit came regular warnings that boatloads of nefarious Irishmen were set to disembark in Boston harbor to establish Roman Catholicism in New England.

The fear and anger means of garnering public support did not end with our successful revolution. As late as July 4, 1798, the president of Yale University (while Washington was president) made a speech in which he asked, “Shall our sons become the disciples of Voltaire, and the dragoons of Marat; or our daughters the concubines of the Illuminati?” In 1830 it was the Mormons’ turn to be persecuted; the French and Indians were “bloody and barbarous heathens” in Puritan times and a Baptist minister who protested during the Salem witch trials that the court might risk executing innocents was charged with sedition and never heard from again, and all this not to mention slavery, the Dred Scott decision, the Klan, and other such race-based atrocities continuing on into today.

It appears that Republican fear mongering and race baiting are back among us, and why? The answer is because it works, as George WMD Bush and President Cheney (not a typo) proved – twice (with the help of the Supreme Court).  Apparently women and children refugees seeking admission from horror are the new “savages” to be turned away from our shores. After all, if we are the pure, someone else needs to be impure (as noted by Schiff). There always has to be someone at least a rung or more on the ladder beneath us, be they black, Jew, Catholic, welfare recipient, or whatever other minority is ripe for the picking based on passions du jour, and if they don’t in fact exist, we’ll manufacture them and concoct policies to handle these ghost problems that are engulfing America. Cotton Mather would be proud!

Of course national security is a problem; too bad the Republican politicians in their unbounded lusts for power are making our defense of national security weaker with their mouths spouting fear and anger and racist invective out on the stump. They correctly identify national security as a problem but then advocate rules and policies that undercut our national security, giving rise, for instance, to the correct observation that Donald Trump is the top recruiter for ISIS.

Thank you, Mr. Possible-President-to-be. We, the people who fought and died for the American values and principles you have so jauntily jettisoned in your quest for power under the cover of “national security” (when it is anything but) appreciate your help and vision for the future of America and its people.

Haven’t we learned anything since our landings in Jamestown and Plymouth Rock or the hard-earned democracy we earned at Valley Forge and Guadalcanal with the blood of patriots? Are the petty ambitions of politicians who aspire to power superior to such sacrifices? I will be voting never to that question in November, 2016, and invite you to join me.    GERALD    E

P.S. If “national security” is such an important matter to Republican politicians, then why were Gingrich, Romney and yes, Trump, draft dodgers during the Viet Nam War? Apparently the emblem of the flag they wear in their lapels and the country for which it stands were not worth defending when they were needed to defend it – there were no votes in the jungle. Spare me their lectures on “love of country” and other such shows of phony patriotism; I don’t want to hear them.   GERALD    E

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