The Demagogues Are Having a Field Day

American flag image from Renan Kamikoga, found via unsplash.com

Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drew a lot of flack last year when he accompanied then-President Trump on what was widely condemned as a “photo-op” in which Trump stood in front of a church holding a Bible during Black Lives Matter protests outside the White House.

Milley, a much-decorated general whom Trump had appointed, subsequently apologized for allowing the military to be politicized. Apparently, behind the scenes, he was doing even more.

According to a new book written by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender (Frankly, We Did Win This Election), as demonstrations were held in a number of cities, Milley repeatedly stopped Trump from demanding that the largely peaceful demonstrators (more than 93% of the demonstrations were peaceful) be met with violence.

From CNN Politics:

“’That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,’ Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, according to Bender. ‘Crack their skulls!’…

‘Just shoot them,’ Trump said on multiple occasions inside the Oval Office, according to the excerpts.

“When Milley and then-Attorney General William Barr would push back, Trump toned it down, but only slightly, Bender adds.

“’Well, shoot them in the leg—or maybe the foot,’ Trump said. ‘But be hard on them!’”

Fortunately, Trump never followed through on his threat to use the Insurrection Act against demonstrators, which would have brought the armed forces into the streets of America. Members of his staff had, however, drawn up the necessary papers—just in case…

Now Milley has become the “new Fauci” in the right wing’s latest effort to keep the culture wars aboiling.

Perhaps the scene of President Biden with smiling senators of both parties to announce a tentative bipartisan infrastructure deal, which a majority of Americans support, has pushed them over the edge.

Good grief! What if the government is actually working?

In a Congressional hearing, Republican Matt Gaetz, under investigation for sex trafficking and probably in a heap of trouble, and others sought to put Milley on the hot seat for leading a “woke” military.

Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida asked him why there had been a seminar at the United States Military Academy at West Point called “Understanding Whiteness and White Rage.”

Milley responded:

“I want to understand white rage. And I’m white. And I want to understand it.”

Then he asked:

”What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here.”

Milley said he found it “offensive” that service members were being labeled “‘woke’ or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there.”

And he gave a brief but erudite history lesson about race in America, beginning with slavery.

That answer generated some over-the-top reactions from the Fox News commentariat. Tucker Carlson deemed Milley a “pig” and “stupid.” Laura Ingraham declared it was time to “defund the military.” Seriously.

None of this is of the moment, of course. Trump ridiculed Republican Senator John McCain, a war hero. He did the same to Khizr Khan and his wife, the Gold Star parents who lost their son in battle. And he bullied Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who testified before Congress in Trump’s first impeachment hearings, into early retirement.

Even more disgracefully, Carlson alluded to the possibility of white people in America soon facing a Rwanda-like genocide.

So here we have it. Carlson’s comments mesh with the Republican Congressmen’s attacks on Milley for heading a “woke” military. Critical race theory—inserted by the Republicans into every other sentence, it seems—has become a stand-in for any reference to race, racial inequity, voter suppression, or anything in American history that doesn’t support an America ruled by white men.

It isn’t being taught in a single K-12 school anywhere in the US, but irate parents are demanding schools stop “indoctrinating” their children. And states are passing laws making it illegal for teachers to discuss important chunks of our history.

This is a clear power grab. It’s noteworthy that Trump’s old ally, the corrupt Steve Bannon, came back from wherever he was to announce it’s a winning issue that will help Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022.

The party that was once all about national security at home and abroad is now undermining it in both places. And they are playing a dangerous game. As several commentators have pointed out, our adversaries and enemies are gleefully watching these bizarre attacks on those who keep us safe.

At the same time, and this may be why the rhetorical pitch is becoming so fevered, we are finally seeing movement toward accountability. Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced that the Justice Department will sue the state of Georgia for its discriminatory voting laws.

Rudy Giuliani just had his license to practice law suspended for repeatedly lying to the public about the election results. The My Pillow Guy and the wacky Sidney Powell appeared in court to answer charges of defamation for their ridiculous attacks on the integrity of the election machine manufacturers. (Powell’s defense: “No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact”!)

Judges who are hearing cases against individuals arrested on January 6th have denounced the Big Lie, and one person charged with conspiracy has agreed to “flip” and cooperate.

And Nancy Pelosi has announced that the House will establish a “select committee” to investigate the January 6th insurrection—because the Republican Senators uniformly refused to vote for a bipartisan effort. (I would have preferred a bipartisan commission of highly reputable people who are not sitting members of Congress.)

I don’t believe most Americans will fall for the phony right-wing messaging. (See my previous post about the movement of Republicans out of the party because of the focus on “culture wars.”) But there are violent forces roiling our body politic.

So I wonder: Who on the Republican side will denounce these anti-American actors pretending to be patriots, express support for General Milley and our military, and say it’s time for everyone to denounce the Big Lie? And when?

And is there any level of shame that will lead Rupert Murdoch to stop allowing his smug, outrageous, and surely dangerous demagogues to go on their self-indulgent tirades—with no consideration of how their messages might be received by unhinged people?

Annie

25 thoughts on “The Demagogues Are Having a Field Day

  1. What an erudite and comprehensive non partisan read of our current affairs. Much appreciated floating like water lilies over the crap below. And to think we could see the likes of the artisans of the WPA against the backdrop of the ugliness that will leave scars the face of America forever.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t believe most Americans will fall for phony messaging either; I am more concerned that future election results won’t reflect the views of most Americans. .

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I get emails from various groups—Indivisible, VotoLatino, several Black organizations, etc, who are preparing for a large campaign over the summer. There are many grassroots efforts under way. And I heard an extensive interview with Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal election legislation. She said she’s taking her committee on the road and that there are still a number of possible ways to pass legislation. “Failure is not an option,” said she. And Biden is also planning a national tour for voting rights. I’d be more comfortable if there were more concrete steps sooner, rather than later, but I think there’s reason to hope—and nag legislators regularly.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Your last sentence about the “unhinged” people sums it up nicely. I still find it unfathomable that Trump would still have so many supporters…..supposedly he attracted a few thousand at a rally yesterday saying he was still their president etc…..but the silent majority had better start speaking up, as the delusional nutcases are getting all the publicity.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Didn’t hear that, fortunately, Joni. It would be nice if McConnell reasserted that the election wasn’t stolen—and trump was responsible for Jan 6. And why Barr thinks people have forgotten he claimed the election was rigged—before saying that idea is BS, as he is now—it’s just astonishing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s horrible that Trump said all of those things about the protestors! They sound like the opposite of compassionate statements to put it lightly. I’d never heard of ‘white rage’ but now that I’ve been introduced to it – it seems like an important term to know. I can’t believe that states are passing laws which make it illegal for teachers to teach about certain parts of history! That’s crazy! Even if you’ve done bad things in the past, it’s important to teach about them so that the same thing never happens again. Children at least deserve to know about some of the important realities of the past. I completely understand why you want answers!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s very hard for the majority of Americans to understand how trump got elected and why he still appeals to people, Simone. There are signs, though, that those numbers are dropping. I derive comfort from your generation, who seem to be much more able to accept and celebrate diversity in its many manifestations.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Our friend Annie has touched on a number of hot topics today, from General Milley’s response to the little wuss, Matt Gaetz, to the fools over at Fox News, to the Big Lie, to voter suppression efforts by Republicans! Her post is well worth the read, and she ends on a more positive note, telling us about some of the efforts being made to counter the Republican’s efforts to promote ignorance and take this nation back 100 years … or more. Thanks, Annie!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Annie, good post. I would love to have seen General Milley ask a question. You know the Defense department for several years has noted that climate change risk is one of the greatest threats to our national security. Why has the Republican party done its darnedest to cover up that risk from the American people? Keith

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Some really interesting things to think about here. I think there’s also a medium term question for the republicans as well. Post-trump, do they attempt move toward centre ground and say that it was all a bad dream, or continue the culture wars and tie down the populist votes? I think Trump is a known entity now, both in office and out, but his successor as republican candidate has some big decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Matthew. Alas, at this point the most vocal Republicans, on both state and National levels, are still kowtowing to trump. There are some signs he’s losing support, and we’ll see if his company’s legal issues make a difference. But he remains a noxious presence.

      Liked by 1 person

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