What Goes On: The Freight Wreck at Altoona

“She traveled at sixty an hour
Gaining speed every foot of the way
And then with a crash it was over
And there on the tracks the freight lay”

Altoona, Pennsylvania, where the Redness of the Rust Belt begins…

Who We Are (probably not from Altoona):

From a recent article in the Times: “When the Harvard-educated John F. Kennedy narrowly won the presidency in 1960, he won white voters without a degree but lost white college graduates by a two-to-one margin. The numbers were almost exactly reversed for Mr. Biden, who lost white voters without a degree by a two-to-one margin while winning white college graduates.
About 27 percent of Mr. Biden’s supporters in 2020 were white voters without a college degree, according to Pew Research, down from the nearly 60 percent of Bill Clinton’s supporters who were whites without a degree just 28 years earlier. The changing demographic makeup of the Democrats has become a self-fulfilling dynamic, in which the growing power of liberal college graduates helps alienate working-class voters, leaving college graduates as an even larger share of the party.”

Who are “we”? I imagine, and I apologize to anyone I’m about to misrepresent, that anyone reading this blog is indeed a college graduate, though not at all necessarily “white.” And I imagine, again, that no one reading it supports the Republican Party position on anything at all, let alone that of the 47% in the poll who think “violence may be necessary…”

What are We Doing?

Whatever else we are doing with our opinions, be it speaking, writing, organizing, protesting, we are not determining the course of events. When you come right down to it, if everyone I know let alone reach with this blog, or even have blogs of their own with their own outreach, had failed to vote in 2020 in any election whatsoever, or change someone else’s vote, not one outcome would have been changed.

Mostly then we are observing. How, and what?

If only a freight wreck. We are like a horrified audience standing on an overpass across a railroad track, and in the distance we can see a the freight–its real and heavy load is Democracy — streaking toward us at eighty miles per hour along that track, and behind us, out of sight of the engineer of that train, we can also see that a switch to a siding has been thrown, and we may shout and shriek but no one can hear us, let alone that engineer, whose train will never make that turn at that speed…

In the ethical games so beloved of professional philosophers, there would be a fat man in our midst, and if we throw him down on the track it will make such an impact that the engineer will be forced to hit the brake, but the fat man will be killed and do we have the right…but…no, there is no fat man and the best we can do is, oh, say Marjorie Taylor Greene, who will make no impact at all and that train is now picking up its streaking speed and is effectively now out of control, ours or the engineers’ or anyone’s…November 2022, here it comes…..and there on the track the train lay…

In the next few pages of this blog I am going to take note of the fuel, the lies, and the venom, that power the streaking train.

The Train

The Party of Death:

“News of the mandates prompted Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina to say he would fight Mr. Biden and his party ‘to the gates of hell.’…Several Republican governors vowed to go to court to challenge the constitutionality of the rules that affect two-thirds of American workers, setting the stage for one of the nation’s most consequential legal battles over public health since Republicans sued to overturn the Affordable Care Act.”

Resistance to vaccine mandates was once a fringe position in both parties, more the realm of misinformed celebrities than mainstream political thought. But the fury over Mr. Biden’s mandates shows how a once-extreme stance has moved to the center of the Republican Party. The governors’ opposition reflects the anger and fear about the vaccine among constituents now central to their base, while ignoring longstanding policy and legal precedent in favor of similar vaccination requirements.

“federal health officials released new data showing that unvaccinated Americans are 11 times as likely as vaccinated people to die of Covid-19.”

The Governor of Mississippi denounces “tyranny,” but meanwhile his state has the strictest mandates in the nation.

Question: Is there any Republican governor whose immediate family members have not been vaccinated? Please raise your hands.

From Taking Sides: A Memoir in Stories (2014)

Abe said to me, “Did I ever tell you about Max and Gus and the bees?”
“Bees? No, I don’t think so. What was it?”
“Okay. See, Max was walking along Central Park West, you know, where those great apartment houses are, the Dakota, the San Remo, and who does he see coming along the sidewalk but Gus, who he hasn’t seen in years–they’re both getting on, you know. They greet each other like long-lost friends, and Gus asks Max how he’s doing, and Max says he’s retired and enjoying life a little, and asks Gus what’s up with him, is he retired too? And Gus says Yeah, but here’s a great new thing, he keeps bees.
“Bees?,” Max asks; “that’s….weird. Where do you keep bees? I mean, do you have a place in the country? “No,” Gus says, “I keep them up there,” and he points toward the top floors of the Dakota.
“Up there? In your apartment?”
“Yeah,” Gus replies, “sure.”
“But, but — how many bees do you have?”
“About forty thousand,” Gus says.
Forty thousand!? Where do you keep them?”
“In a shoe box.”
“In a shoe box? Jesus Christ, but, but all of them, forty thousand in a shoe box, won’t they all be crushed to death?”
“Yeah,” Gus says. “They’ll all be crushed to death. FUCK ‘EM!”

The Party of Insurrection

That great Confederate Flag, with its dominating field of Red. And the Swastikas–let’s not forget them. The murderous attacks on policemen and journalists; the lynch mob pursuing the Vice-President and Speaker of the House; the sack of the Capitol….

In their graves–so to speak–what must Ben Davis and Eugene Dennis and the other eight original Reds (see Dennis et al vs. U.S., 1951) be saying to each other?

“Jeez Louise, all we did was publish The Communist Manifesto and we went to jail? If we’d done all that, we’d’ve been sitting in the Chair next to the Rosenbergs.”

And now, can we believe this, the Celebration of January 6 today?

The Party of Delusion: and the not-yet-completed Coup

Fifty-three percent of Republicans view Trump as the true president, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in May, and about half of Republicans believe the Capitol attack was the work of left-wing activists “trying to make Trump look bad,” according to another poll.

The most recent reported poll has raised that figure to 78%. Fascism is gaining support as I speak. Train wreck coming. And now:

“Soon after the recall (of Governor Newsom) was announced in early July, the embers of 2020 election denialism ignited into new false claims on right-wing news sites and social media channels. This vote, too, would supposedly be “stolen,” with malfeasance ranging from deceptively designed ballots to nefariousness by corrupt postal workers….Fox News commentators Tomi Lahren and Tucker Carlson suggested that wrongdoing was the only way Mr. Newsom could win. And former President Donald J. Trump predicted that it would be ‘a rigged election.’”

Say what?

From Kevin D. Williamson of National Review: “ As the Republican Party tries to make up its mind between wishing away the events of Jan. 6 or celebrating them, one thing should be clear to conservatives estranged from the party: We can’t go home again. The attempted coup’s foot soldiers have dug themselves in at state legislatures. For example, last week in Florida a State Representative introduced a draft of legislation that would require an audit of the 2020 general election in the state’s largest (typically Democratic-heavy) counties, suggesting without basis that it may show that these areas cheated to inflate Joe Biden’s vote count. . .Florida’s secretary of state, a Republican, knows that an audit is nonsense and has said so. But the point of an audit would not be to change the outcome… The point is not even really to conduct an audit…The obviously political object is to legitimize the 2020 coup attempt in order to soften the ground for the next one — and there will be a next one.”

What will happen in 2022? Will the DOJ send observers to protect the integrity of Federal elections? Will they be met with armed force from state troopers sent by the governors of the states where freedom to vote has been abolished? If the Court upholds the abolition of free and fair voting, then what?

And now for something completely grotesque. The Republican majority in the Pennsylvania State legislature (with representatives from Altoona) has issued subpoenas requiring al l persons who voted in the 2020 election (that’s more than seven million) to submit their personal information to some “cyber experts” who will then report on the validity of the –the what?–that Biden won the state. Of course, by 2020 they will also have passed legislation making it as difficult as possible for Black citizens to vote. The goal is to pass such legislation in enough of the challenged states to deprive any Democratic candidate of 40 electoral votes.

What price “delusion” now?

The Party of Racism–see Above.

And yesterday: “ Rep. Stefanik claims in ads that Democrats seek a ‘permanent election insurrection’ by providing pathways to citizenship.” How Machiavellian of them…How subversive.

Replacement Theory. So well stated by neo-Nazi MTG: Large-scale immigration threatens “the long-term existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture and a unique identity.” Yes, my grandparents were guilty of that.

The Party of Violence

“Republican State legislators are passing laws that encourage citizens to open-carry guns everywhere, and in some places to do so without licenses. In Missouri, the legislative majority pushed through a bill ‘to punish local departments for collaborating with federal authorities on gun cases deemed to be in violation of Second Amendment rights.” Deemed… In Iowa, HF756 removes the requirement for a permit to acquire or a permit to carry in order to purchase a handgun or carry a firearm in public places.

And so on. Nothing now takes precedence over the proliferation of guns, and the authority to use them. By private citizens. That’s called “supporting the police.” Not what the police think, but still they get to reinforce their military-grade weaponry as long as their Party is in power. The men with guns get along with each other. White men, that is. Hoo-rah.

The Party of Denial

From the Republican Platform of March, 2016:

“Ideal policies regarding the environment should aim to balance economic development and private property rights with long-term conservation goals. Private property rights are often linked to the environmental agenda because environmental stewardship is best advanced by the people who own it, as this often inspires them to want to protect their land.”

We have acquaintances who own a bit of land in the Cape Cod National Forest. Want to “take care” of it. They really do.

How do you go about doing this? Well, they might consult with Exxon, who own some land in the US and Canada; or perhaps Peabody or Arch Resources, the largest producers of coal in the U.S. : they are also the stewards of a bit of property, and know all there is to know about “protecting” it, such as by owning a US Senator. Of course, Pacific Gas and Electric is our best bet here. They know all about wildfires , especially how to start them.

Here it Comes. Hear That Whistle Blow

This just in:

“This month alone, center-left parties have taken power in Norway and appear on the verge of doing the same in Germany. They hold the White House, share power in Italy and lead a newly credible opposition movement in authoritarian-leaning Hungary.”

Emeritus Professor of Gov’t, Smith College, Visiting Professor, The New School, Editorial Board, The Nation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Green_(author)