Yesterday’s elections have provided a great example of the futility and fecklessness of the Democratic Party not even one year into the Biden Administration. In Virginia and Buffalo, the Democrats undermined their own agenda and sold out the people who voted for them in November 2020, and now you can be sure they’ll go looking for scapegoats rather than be self-reflective. In the end, it’s more proof that electoral politics, while a tactic that can be used productively (like getting rid of Trump), is wholly inadequate to actually fix the various systemic crises we face and to make a better world.
Notes On the State of Virginia
Ronald Reagan once infamously said “facts are stupid things,” and that’s more true than ever. But still, it’s useful to discuss the reality of what happened in Virginia yesterday.
We’re seeing a ton of post-mortems blaming “the left” for McAuliffe’s dismal defeat–it’s on Sanders, AOC, etc. for not “compromising enough” on the BBB bills, while Carville blames “woke politics” for the Democratic disasters.
Here’s what’s real. It’s not a “left” bill, it’s Biden’s original plan, one that was strongly popular when announced last winter, and it’s only half of that now in fact. The “left” didn’t kill it, The Squad, despite some rhetoric about it, always fell in line. It enjoyed big support but that waned over time because nothing got done. That’s on Manchin and Sinema, and hence Biden, but not Sanders, et al.
Family leave and reduced med prices are hugely popular, yet Manchin etc. has killed them without any real resistance from the White House. And today Manchin is invoking the Virginia results as vindication for his support of GOP politics and absolving himself for sinking any real bill that might help people in need rather than take care of oil companies and oligarchs.
I’ve followed the VA race a bit the past couple months, and the polling there showed McAuliffe in trouble weeks ago. And the polling also showed a high level or dissatisfaction or anger with the failure of Biden and the Dems to do anything, such as actually enact programs that big majorities of Americans supported. Significant numbers of voters who chose Biden last year either didn’t vote or opted for Youngkin because the Democrats have done nothing. So the fingerprints on this defeat go all the way to the White House.
Yes, Youngkin’s bullshit about Critical Race Theory and a teenaged boy being traumatized by Beloved didn’t help, but the reality is that McAuliffe and Dems, lived up their status as the #WashingtonGeneralsofPolitics, and never really took that on in a strong way.
Liberals love to be on the defensive and love to be victims so they can blame others for their failures rather than be held accountable for being so elitist, condescending, and inept.
And maybe most importantly, McAuliffe is an old, recycled Clintonian hack as well as a Carlyle Group alum. In 2016, the thumping Jeb Bush took in the GOP primaries should have been a canary in a coal mine for all politicians, but only Trump seemed to get it. McAuliffe was Clinton’s main money guy, and is a corporate lackey all the way. The Dems almost suffered the same fate in New Jersey, where Phil Murphy, a mega-rich Goldman Sachs executive, barely won reelection in a state where Dem registration outnumbers the GOP by over 1 million voters. The Dems are still living in 1992, or 2008 if I want to be charitable.
They have no new blood, no new candidates, no new ideas. They keep putting out the same lineup even though they look more like the 62 Mets than the 98 Yankees. They live for “moderation,” which means constant right-wing drift without any benefits for the people–the working class and poor–they claim to represent.
I’m sure liberal hacks like E.J. Dione, T.B. Edsall, and the fetid Ruy Teixeira will be gloating “I told you so” that the left killed McAulliffe, but Neera Tanden fanboys don’t have a clue. Despite the rhetoric of reform, the Democrats haven’t done anything meaningful since 1/20/2021 to indicate they actually care deeply about the interests of working-class or poor people, and we saw the consequences of that yesterday at the polls.
Shuffle Off to Buffalo
In Buffalo, India Walton, a self-described democratic socialist, won the Dem primary against the incumbent Byron Brown and would have cruised to victory in the general election.
But Brown won yesterday as a write-in candidate.
How did that happen?
As soon as Walton won, the NY Dems began a huge attack on her and supported and coordinated Brown’s write-in campaign. It was an inside job by the Dems.
The GOP embraces the craziest and most dangerous people in politics. They have QAnon members and sex offenders in the U.S. House of Reps, and they’re fine with it.
The Corporate Dems meanwhile actually reject the will of their own voters and defend and remain loyal to people who are enemies of those voters.
Upon minimal reflection it’s not surprising that the Dems lost Virginia and stabbed their own candidate in the back in Buffalo, and you can expect 2022 to be bloodbath and Trump 2024 seems more likely each day . . .
Electoral politics is a tactic, but as a solution to the crises we face, it’s a dead end. Organize autonomous communities, start mutual aid groups, start or join a union, go on strike, union or not, and get into the streets to put pressure on politicians, the business community, the schools, and any other group that has any kind of power–you know, like the Right has for decades now.
It’s been clear for a loooooong time that the Dems aren’t gonna save you and the GOP is simply going to double down on its cruelty and ignorance because there’s no real opposition to stop it.
It wasn’t the first time either I or the Green and Red Podcast had specifically endorsed articles or essays in support of the Cuban people and the Cuban state amid a 60-year war of aggression coming from the United States and more specifically after a series of protests in Cuba on July 11th that many self-described leftists supported.
New Politics and writers associated with it like Samuel Farber (a Cuban-born socialist who’s made a career by attacking socialists and communists), Charlie Post, and Ashley Smith had been writing strong endorsements of the July 11th protests since they happened (and not responding to Green and Red’s critique of their pieces, choosing to ignore us rather than defend their position). This wasn’t surprising since New Politics has for 60 years considered itself a Third Camp publication, neither capitalist nor “authoritarian or totalitarian” Left. Their writers are experts at “equivalency.”
New Politics, in its articles and its response, took a “both sides” approach to the Cuba issue, rightly offering rhetorical condemnation of the U.S. embargo but strongly supporting the protests as an organic and legitimate expression of the democratic rights of the Cuba people to stand up to a dictatorial regime. This was not a position exclusive to the magazine as other people on the left and self-described anarchists on social media also weighed in on the side of the protests. What was striking about the New Politics editorial, however, was that it offered no specific reason to support the Cuban protests, but merely repeated and cited arguments and articles it’s been making since it began publication. It took several ideas that it has been cooking for decades, put them in the microwave for 3 minutes, and then served them disguised as a new gourmet meal.
My point, like many others on the Left (and I’d especially recommend a Manolo De Los Santos and Vijay Prashad article “If You Grew Up With the U.S. Blockade as a Cuban, You Might Understand the Recent Protests Differently”), was that no discussion of Cuba can take place without an overwhelming emphasis on the U.S. embargo and six-decade war of aggression, heightened by a new set of 200+ sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after the beginning of a thaw between Washington and Havana initiated by Barack Obama and Raul Castro, and that any protest inside Cuba, no matter the intention, was going to have U.S. and Miami fingerprints on it and serve the interests of the Miami mafia and the American “National Security” establishment.
Condemning the embargo while supporting the protests, I contended, was intellectually vacuous and politically reactionary and served no purpose but to strengthen the forces that would remove socialism from Cuba and turn it into its pre-1959 status as an economic outpost for American oligarchic interests. Nothing in Cuba takes place without some, substantial in fact, involvement from Miami, and it’s been that way since January 1st, 1959. In addition, these supporters of the protests neglected to consider just how much progress Cuba had made under socialism, with a gold-standard health and education system and support for liberation movements worldwide.
The best example of my argument came during an episode of Green and Red Podcast with my co-host and comrade Scott Parkin which we titled “What the Left Owes Cuba” and which, I strongly presume, no one at New Politics heard or watched (I also spoke on this at some length in an interview on “Flashpoints” with Dennis Bernstein). Perhaps if some of these “even-handed” leftists had listened to our argument, they’d have been able to offer some substance to their critique, rather than condemn it because it didn’t fit their ideological predispositions.
What Cuba has Done
I don’t see any point in repeating what we said on that podcast in detail here. If New Politics editors or anyone else on the Left wants to understand our support of Cuba, it can listen to our detailed explanation on the podcast. But there are a few things worth mentioning as a rejoinder to the shameful position that people who call themselves socialist but support the Miami-inspired attempt to overthrow socialism in Cuba have taken.
On the podcast Scott and I discussed with many specifics the accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution. They are well-known and can be heard on that episode or easily researched on the internet. Just to name a few, Cuba now has a life expectancy exactly the same as the U.S (see World Bank data on Cuban Life Expectancy here ). Cuba’s health care system ranks 39th in the world, just two spots behind the U.S., yet its health care expenditures are 181st, while the U.S is 1st. The U.S. has a higher infant mortality rate than Cuba, and African Americans have an infant mortality rate three times higher. Cuba spends more on education than any country in the world, 13 percent of its budget.
Health care in Cuba is obviously socialized, so no one is denied medical treatment and no one goes bankrupt due to illness. More recently, Cuba has a COVID rate of about 250 deaths per million, which is about one-eighth of the American COVID death rate. It’s now vaccinating children as young as 2 against COVID and has developed vaccines for cancer and hepatitis. Its medical internationalism is well-known as Cuban doctors have saved lives across the globe (anecdotally, I was in Italy at the outbreak of COVID in early 2020 and while the European Union sat on its hands, Cuban doctors arrived in hard-hit Lombardy to help deal with the Coronavirus outbreak and the Cubans are appreciated and loved by a large segment of Italians).
Cuba, with all its problems, is a model for the less-developed world, with quality-of-life indicators superior to most American-supported countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and even some of the larger states like India or Russia. And I’d also suggest that the residents of a typical poor neighborhood in a larger American city (Detroit, New Orleans, D.C., Cleveland, and others) would gladly trade their standards of living and healthcare with Cubans without thinking twice about it. Yet Leftists in the U.S. rather than showing solidarity for Havana, are undermining it and ignoring so many of its accomplishments.
Oh, and they know how to rebuild from a hurricane too.
Is Cuba a Repressive State?
The key point in the New Politics and other Leftists support of the July 11th protests is that it was an organic and internal expression of displeasure with the regime. And on this point, there is no doubt that a number of Cubans surely had and continue to have grievances with the government in Havana. There is no place in the world that does not have people who are unhappy or angry. Cuba is a very poor country which has taken even more serious hits the past couple years, especially with the Trump sanctions and the huge loss of tourism money during COVID. Any state would have serious problems weathering such crises, yet the Cubans have been living under such duress for decades now and made impressive progress nonetheless.
Anecdotally, I spend a couple weeks in Cuba in 2017. I arrived the day after Trump reversed the Obama program for rapprochement and introduced new sanctions, and I heard a significant number of Cubans—drivers, vendors at the local market, people who stopped me to talk about baseball because I had a Yankees shirt on, and others—complain in strong terms about the situation there (and I make no claim to being an expert on Cuba after two weeks there, but I have studied Cuban-American relations throughout my academic career and have read extensively in the literature on Cuba and countless documents released by the NSC, CIA and other government agencies and have communicated with Cuban scholars and many Americans who’d been to the island with the Venceremos Brigade and other groups…..so I do know a little bit).
They told of not getting as much food as they had before, of paying high fees for licenses to drive or sell goods at the markets, of a small number of Cubans holding the majority of dollars, of neighbors snitching on them. Universally, they expressed their contempt for Trump but also spoke of wanting to visit New York, Miami, and even Houston. A few, while pointing out how safe Cuba was (a vital point that rarely gets mentioned in these condemnations from the Left), also used the term “security state” to describe the way the government ran the country. There are documented cases of opposition political leaders who have been harassed or detained or jailed. No one the Left really supports a system where people get in trouble for free expression, but political conditions in Cuba are not easily described and not always what they seem to be, especially when an immense embargo and Miami-sponsored terrorism is involved.
So, yes, of course, there are disaffected and angry Cubans, but the ease with which they complained also undermined the idea that Cuba is a totalitarian state where free speech is policed and forbidden. Especially when compared to other societies, like the U.S., say, Cubans experience political limits on par with most other places. I don’t know if there are Cubans who call the police on Black men who are bird-watching at local parks, but I do know that the Cuban authorities don’t kill people at anywhere near the rate that American cops do. Again, a few anecdotes which really were enlightening (and in the absence of official data, sometimes narrating experiences is useful). . . . .
When I arrived, I met up with an educator with whom I had an acquaintance in common. We walked to Old Havana and while on the way encountered large numbers of Cubans just living their lives. They were outside with their neighbors, drinking rum and listening to music. They were hawking cigars on the street. We walked past a busy park where younger men and women were showing off their cars (and Cuba’s restored cars are well-known and a sight to behold) and listening to music and dancing and drinking and he nudged me, smiled, and said “look at all that repression in Cuba.”
On the day I was leaving to go to the airport, the woman who was taking care of the apartment where I stayed (who came from a working class family with a daughter finishing medical school) was seeing us off when a fumigator sent by the city came to the door (yes, Havana sends out people to kill cockroaches) and she told him to come back because the guests were still there. My Spanish is really limited, but I could make out that he wanted to get the job done at that point but she admonished him to come back later, and he left.
But the incident that stood out the most, especially when compared the way police in the U.S. act, occurred one day as I walked along the Malecón. Two young men, probably late teenagers, were walking along with their shirts off. A cop, who was unarmed by the way, told them to put their shirts on, which of course was a ridiculous expression of power. But what shocked me was that the kids started mouthing off to the cop. I was frightened for them, assuming that the police would use coercion to force compliance. But they continued to argue back and forth for a minute and finally the cop made an expression with his hand as if he was writing, to imply that he’d issue a citation to the kids. So they finally began to walk away, but ever-so-slowly put their shirts on and looked back at the cops and made hand motions the whole time. It was the behavior of teenagers anywhere in the world, but it was also immediately clear to me that the precise same encounter in the U.S. between young Black kids and American cops would possibly, if not likely, end up with the young people arrested, pinned to the ground, or maybe even shot and killed.
The question of basic freedoms and liberties in a socialist state is not one that any Leftist should take lightly. Ideally, we’d all live in societies where we could express ourselves freely without any fear of penalty or retribution. Cuba has over the years taken a hard line against and even imprisoned some critics of the state. While I believe (see below) that these critics are wittingly or not working on behalf of the interests of the Miami mafia, it’s still unfortunate. But at the same time it’s important to understand that Cuba’s restrictions on civil liberties are, unfortunately, typical of any state in the world.
It’s also worth noting that on July 11th, amid the protests, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel went out into the streets of Havana and talked to some of the demonstrators, which is something Fidel Castro did countless times as well. Compare that to Donald Trump’s armed photo op at St. John’s last summer and the distinction could not be more obvious.
Moreover, when compared to repressive states in the so-called Third World, like Colombia or Guatemala or Haiti or El Salvador or Honduras or Brazil, Cuba genuinely stands out for the comparative freedom its citizens have–I always use the phrase “at ease” to describe the Cubans I met; they’re not constantly anxious or angry and living on Xanax or anti-depressants. But even here in the most wealthy state in the world, I as a professor in Texas have been told I am not allowed to even mention to my students that they should wear masks amid a massive deadly pandemic. And last summer we all saw how the forces of order attacked peaceful protestors, including medics and journalists and walls of moms, in the streets. So the idea that Cuba is somehow uniquely oppressive is simply wrong. We’re not talking about the Khmer Rouge here (and even the Miami mobsters, while generically condemning the government in Havana, don’t allege anything like you’d see in various U.S. client states), yet the people at New Politics and elsewhere offered little nuance in their condemnations.
Cuba’s not paradise, as we all know, but it’s hardly the repressive caricature that Miami or New Politics have put forth.
Who Benefits from Cuban Instability?
Obviously, Cuba’s main enemies are just north of the island. In the aftermath of the Revolution, Cuban oligarchs fled to the U.S., especially Miami, and basically set up a rump state there and began organizing and conducting terrorist activities against the government in Havana, the best-known of which was the Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961. In fact, in my research I’ve seen stories about various terror groups training in the Everglades and elsewhere that were so matter-of-fact that they read like an engagement announcement on the society page.
Despite that American-sponsored invasion and countless other attempts to subvert Cuba or assassinate Fidel Castro—well-documented in the Church Committee findings—socialism in Cuba survived, but at a huge price. The U.S. has placed the most brutal embargo in history on Cuba for six decades, causing perhaps $1 trillion in damages to the Cuban economy (U.S. estimates are much lower but still substantial), a massive price for a small island of about 11 million people.
Indeed, on June 23d, 2021 the U.N. voted on a Cuban motion to end the blockade, and it was supported by 184 countries while two, the U.S. and Israel, voted no. It was the 29th year that the U.N. voted to end the embargo.
And it was the 29th time the U.S. ignored the U.N. Helen Yaffe, a well-known scholar and author of We Are Cuba, an incisive look at the way that Cubans have dealt not only with the embargo but also the end of Soviet support in the 1980s and 1990s, has shown how the Cubans have introduced select market reforms (which are obvious to anyone visiting the island), while it maintained important social programs, created a sustainable agricultural system, developed globally-recognized biotech industries, created an important energy sector, and kept its gold-standard health system. But, as Yaffe wrote, “Cuba’s critics blame the government for the daily hardships Cubans face, dismissing US sanctions as an excuse. This is like blaming a person for not swimming well when they are chained to the ground. The US blockade of Cuba is real. It is the longest and most extensive system of unilateral sanctions applied against any country in modern history. It affects every aspect of Cuban life.”
The American Left doesn’t have to like everything the Cuban government does; it doesn’t have to expect every “victim” to be upright and beyond reproach (what I call “the Rosa Parks Syndrome”). It’s simply facile to suggest that the Cuban government should be condemned for having an imperfect and at times illiberal political system when its internal conditions are so often conditioned by outside forces it cannot control, and when we tolerate far worse elsewhere, including inside the U.S. New Politics has expectations and set standards for Cuba that no state, especially a smaller and poorer country under siege, could meet, and yet it condemns it for containing forces that would overthrow its entire social system.
American politicians, especially Cuban-Americans, have also had a huge role in suppressing Cuban development and keeping Cubans impoverished. Senators from Florida and New Jersey, as well as many representatives from the southern Florida area, have led the long-term American effort to tighten the embargo against Cuba in the hopes of ousting the socialist government there. Various foundations, working closely with the U.S. government, have worked with anti-Castro groups that have used propaganda and terrorism (most notably the bombing of a civilian airliner which killed all 76 people on board masterminded by Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile working with U.S. government agents and later given refuge in Florida) against the people of Cuba. Their goal is simple: to overthrow the Cuban government and return to power the thugs and gangsters and U.S. corporate allies who ran the country during the Batista years, when Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth became bigger than U.S. Steel.
In the most recent protests the U.S. media and many of these leftist anti-Cuban writers have emphasized the role that “marginalized youth” as well as rappers, rock musicians, artists, and journalists have played in the street actions of July 11th, spouting the slogal “Patria y Vida,” or “country and life,” a contrast to the revolutionary slogan “Patria o Muerte,” homeland or death.
But those groups are not simply organic pockets of protest but bear the imprimatur of Miami. In a recent article in The Intercept by Max Blumenthal (if that troubles you, just imagine it was written by “Joe Smith” and appeared in The Nation because the information is spot on and vital, and the article was reprinted in MR Online) he detailed how groups like the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID, working with Department of State officials and other right-wing Latin American groups (like those that have supported the claims of U.S. client Juan Guaido’ in Venezuela) have sponsored the “San Isidro Movement” and other protestors who claim to be merely Cubans disaffected with the government but are actually doing Miami’s dirty work. Indeed, the San Isidro group even received an award from the “Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation,” a Republican-affiliated think tank that includes Nazi soldiers in World War II on its list of the victims of communism.
Again, the role of Miami in undermining, subverting, and terrorizing the people of Cuba is well established and can easily be researched. That doesn’t mean that Cubans went out to protest with the intention of aiding Miami, but any disaffection in Cuba is generally engineered and absolutely and inevitably exploited by Calle 8.
What’s Your End Game?
Finally, I think the crucial question, perhaps the one that overwhelmingly matters the most, is “what are you trying to do with your criticism?” To the editors of New Politics and to other self-described radicals who attacked the Cuban response to the protests of July 11th and supported the people in the streets (and, by the way, it’s useful to note that the “massive” protests described by many of these critics involved perhaps 500-1000 people in about 8 cities) I would ask “what’s your end game?”
What will Left criticism of Cuba accomplish? How will it benefit the people in the streets of Cuba protesting? Where’s your solidarity?
Díaz-Canel isn’t going to read New Politics and say “well, the U.S. Left is critical of me……I better change course,” nor should he. The underdeveloped world will continue to remember the solidarity, the spirit of Tri-Continentalism, that Cuba has displayed over the past sixty years. Indeed, the day after the protests, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not support the demonstrators but instead said “the truth is that if one wanted to help Cuba, the first thing that should be done is to suspend the blockade of Cuba as the majority of countries in the world are asking. . . . That would be a truly humanitarian gesture. No country in the world should be fenced in, blockaded.”
What will the so-called left attack on Cuba mean? People on the Left in the U.S. and Europe are pretty well established in their support or opposition to the Cuban government. The response to the July 11th protests fell along traditional lines, with many on the Left supporting the Cuban government while others, especially Trotskyists like you can find at New Politics and elsewhere, supporting the protests. The impact on the Left of these critics was negligible if there was any at all.
Ah, but what did it mean in Miami? New Politics and other Leftists who attacked the Cuban government due to the protests served Miami’s interests. Let’s not go overboard here and suggest that Miami needed help from insignificant Left publications, but the reality is that any time a U.S. “radical” criticizes Cuba or any other socialist or non-Capitalist country it serves the interests of the Empire. Miami Cubans can, and have, said that “even American radicals” know that Cuba’s government is a dictatorship. They can call for armed intervention against Havana and invoke Americans who have criticized the government. They can advocate for even more sanctions and an even harsher embargo because the U.S. media has featured alleged Leftists who have supported the protests.
The U.S. has no foreign power attacking its sovereignty or clamping it down with the biggest embargo in history or meddling with domestic groups to serve its own interests (indeed, look at how incensed and often irrational Americans became at the RUSSIA! story), so Americans have no sense of what it’s like to be under 24/7/365 siege. Under such conditions in Cuba, any demonstration is a gift to Miami and any support shown for those protestors is a blow to the Cubans. The events of July 11th, which were limited in scope and then enlarged by the U.S. media, have been already used by the Empire and its apologists against Havana and they will continue to be invoked to justify intervening against and eliminating socialism there.
The U.S. Left is not big enough or important enough to have a huge role in American policy toward Cuba—if it was, the embargo would be spoken of in the past tense—but it is adds another piece to the Miami attack on Cuba and when it serves the interest of empire, as Farber, Post, Smith and others have done, it will be used by the ruling class media.
And finally we should remind ourselves and our comrades on the Left, especially those who are so critical of socialist states, as Vijay Prashad did in a recent discussion over the work of David Harvey, that “you live on the other side of imperialism.” There are plenty of governments in the world that are both repressive and are victims of the U.S. empire. One need not support the regimes in Beijing or Damascus or anywhere else to oppose the empire, but in the case of Havana, defending the benefits of its revolution and its global solidarity isn’t a hard call. And in any event, no matter where, the U.S. Left must take an unconditional stand against the Empire. The Left needs to give anti-imperialism equal billing to class solidarity at home. They’re symbiotic and you can’t demand fundamental change inside the U.S. and simultaneously defend meddling in Cuba.
If I were to give the Left 100 reasons to support Cuba, numbers 1-100 would be simply “End the Embargo.” Publicly undermining Havana doesn’t help the Cuban people, as anyone on the Left who has called for an end to sanctions against Venezuela or Iran or other places in the U.S. crosshairs already knows. For sixty years, the U.S. goal has been to destroy the chance for socialism in Cuba to develop and mature, and it has failed for sixty years, but at a great cost to the Cuban people. The American aggression continues unabated and with the help of New Politics and others on the Left helping with the heavy lifting.
Inside the U.S., most people on the Left support African Americans who are on the receiving end of police violence and kept under siege by a racist state without reservations. Most people on the Left support a women’s right to an abortion without conditions. Most people on the Left support the right of working people (cops aren’t proles) to organize unions and strike without any hesitation. Most people on the Left unwaveringly support the right of Palestinians to self-determination regardless of the deeds of the P.A. It’s easy to claim neutrality, but at some point you have to declare whether you’re a union man or woman, or a thug for J.H Blair.
It’s one of the most fundamental questions the Left can ask and answer—which side are you on? New Politics, wittingly or not, has chose Miami.
We recently had a great, lengthy discussion with Noam Chomsky about the 1960s radicalism, the New Left, The Black Panthers, SDS, the Vietnam Antiwar Movement, Student protests, feminism, “woke” politics, and much more. We also provided some edited clips of his interviews on our YouTube channel to highlight some of the more intriguing parts of the discussion.
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As we’ve seen with right-wing Texans, when they’re caught doing something despicable (as in their handling of COVID and the recent power grid failure), they double down.
And so it is with Collin College, as President Neil Matkin, a right-wing ideologue himself who fired Jones and Heaslip simply for questioning the schools COVID reopening policies and being active members of the Texas Faculty Association Union (and he wasn’t cryptic about it, making it clear publicly that the reason for their termination was clearly retaliatory) has now fired another professor, Lora Burnett.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, in the context of the Jones and Heaslip firings: “To muddy the whole episode up a bit more, another professor at Collin, Lora Burnett, has been put on notice that her job is in jeopardy because, during the Vice-Presidential debates she put out a tweet basically calling Mike Pence demonic. She received the now-to-be-expected online attacks and threats, and the school essentially joined in, condemning her words and not defending her right to have her own opinions. Burnett’s Tweet, Matkin said, was “hateful, vile, and ill-considered.” Like unionization, free speech is in Collin College’s crosshairs too.”
“The fact that you are no longer paid and your maniacal, obscene rhetoric no longer supported with Collin County taxpayer dollars is a win! A BIG WIN!”
Burnett then pointed out that she was still employed, to which Leach responded with a gif of a ticking clock
After Burnett informed Leach that she’s still employed, he responded with a gif of a ticking clock.
Even though Leach had outed himself as a conspirator with Matkin to fire a professor because of her tweets–a First Amendment exercise of free speech–Matkin hasn’t backed now and has now fired Burnet.
This situation isn’t just critical to three professors who have lost their jobs–meaning they’ve lost their paychecks and insurance–but to all of us, whether in education or not.
A situation as outrageous as this really deserves a national show of support to the 3 women who have been fired, whether they’re well-known academics from the East Coast or “just” professors at a community college outside Dallas.
If these attacks on higher education, free speech, and unions continue, then we’re all at risk and any one of us could be next.
Please share this story and do what you can to help.
To start, you can send a message to the Collin College Board of Trustees, click here
Among the many utterly ridiculous claims made by the Texas GOP and “energy” industry, is that they couldn’t have foreseen a “Black Swan” event like the winter storms in Texas (because the 2011 Super Bowl Storm, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/05/us/05storm.html, was so long ago) and it would have been too expensive to weatherize the infrastructure–natural gas, coal, nuclear, and oil (because wind, the scapegoat for Texas politicos right now makes up barely 10 percent of the power grid and wind turbines can work perfectly fine in cold weather, as in Antarctica and Alaska).
So below is some data on just how much the major energy companies in Texas raked in. I guess when you’re making $9-12 billion a year, you can’t afford to plan for a rain, or snowy, day. Maybe a GoFundMe page is in order?
NRG Energy annual/quarterly revenue history and growth rate from 2006 to 2020. Revenue can be defined as the amount of money a company receives from its customers in exchange for the sales of goods or services. Revenue is the top line item on an income statement from which all costs and expenses are subtracted to arrive at net income.
NRG Energy revenue for the quarter ending September 30, 2020 was $2.809B, a 6.24% decline year-over-year.
NRG Energy revenue for the twelve months ending September 30, 2020 was $9.261B, a 3.71% decline year-over-year.
NRG Energy annual revenue for 2019 was $9.821B, a 3.62% increase from 2018.
NRG Energy annual revenue for 2018 was $9.478B, a 4.45% increase from 2017.
NRG Energy annual revenue for 2017 was $9.074B, a 1.78% increase from 2016. ****************************
CenterPoint Energy annual/quarterly revenue history and growth rate from 2006 to 2020. Revenue can be defined as the amount of money a company receives from its customers in exchange for the sales of goods or services. Revenue is the top line item on an income statement from which all costs and expenses are subtracted to arrive at net income.
CenterPoint Energy revenue for the quarter ending September 30, 2020 was $1.622B, a 2.17% decline year-over-year.
CenterPoint Energy revenue for the twelve months ending September 30, 2020 was $12.120B, a 41.24% increase year-over-year.
CenterPoint Energy annual revenue for 2019 was $12.301B, a 16.17% increase from 2018.
CenterPoint Energy annual revenue for 2018 was $10.589B, a 10.14% increase from 2017.
CenterPoint Energy annual revenue for 2017 was $9.614B, a 27.71% increase from 2016. *******************
Five Dead. Lighting-fast trial. Dems rely on Republicans to “have spine.” No witnesses called. GOP on the ropes but given new life.
Donald Trump incited a violent crowd to storm the capitol, with dozens of police injured and five people killed. Large majorities of Americans believed he was responsible for the assault and the damages. He was quickly impeached and now he’s been, predictably, acquitted by Senate Republicans who really didn’t even need to try to make up any good reasons for their vote.
Everyone has seen this played out before, several times. Trump commits some heinous deed and gets off the hook. Liberals and the Left ramp up their outrage and hatred of Trump, and he doubles down, ultimately to the point of inspiring people to violently attack the Capitol and the “blue lives” they claim to cherish.
Perhaps instead of always blaming Trump, the Democrats should look elsewhere, like inward, to analyze these situations.
Trump did incite violence. And he had been for 4+ years already, with insane claims of a stolen election and on the heels of “Liberate Michigan,” or “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” or his constant instructions to “be strong” or to “fight.” His rally on January 6th was nothing but a provocation to violence with Mo Brooks, Rudy Giuliani and others joining him that day in throwing gasoline on the fire he’d lit long ago.
But, and this has been the case for 4+ years, all of Trump’s detestable, violent deeds have been facilitated by a terribly weak and craven opposition, the Democrats. People who commit crimes, who are “evildoers” (per George W. Bush’s line) should be held accountable and punished, but people who have the power to challenge or stop them but don’t are to blame as well. Martin Luther King’s observation that “after we’ve forgotten the hatred of our enemies, we’ll remember the silence of our friends” is a great way to judge people.
From the days Goldwater and Nixon, from the Southern Strategy to gerrymandering to stealing presidential elections and Supreme Court seats, before Trump, whose own list of dirty deeds is too well-known to bear repeating, the GOP has played total hardball.
And amid all that the Democratic, and Liberal, and often-Progressive, response to that has been to move further to the right, to not be just put on the defensive, but to embrace the defensive.
And the impeachment was the clearest example of that strategy. To begin, Trump should have been impeached—that was an easy call. He incited violence, a claim that even most of his supporters acknowledge in some degree, and people died.
The Democrats made Trump “singularly” responsible, let GOP off the hook. But the Democrats, while appropriately impeaching Trump, stopped there. Their only goal was to impeach and try Trump. Despite he horrors of January 6th, played out live on every media in the world, there was NO POSSIBLE CHANCE, ever, of a conviction. If the Democrats really thought they’d get 17 GOP senators to switch sides and convict Trump, there’s swamp land for sale all over the country they can buy for cheap.
But that was their mission, and their fatal mistake—focusing so overwhelmingly, if not solely, on a conviction and ignoring so many other potential benefits of a national hearing on the events of January 6th.
The point should have been to impeach Trump and go after the entire GOP, with the latter being more important. But the articles of impeachment the Democrats charged that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the riots, violence, death, and destruction that day. In terms of tagging Trump with responsibility for the events of January 6th, Jamie Raskin and the house impeachment team did an outstanding job, especially with their video presentations of the bloody images of the day. Big majorities of Americans held Trump accountable and denounced the violent mobs that invaded the Capitol.
Democrats aren’t good at politics. But that mattered little. Because by making Trump not just THE issue, but the ONLY issue, they’d already lost. They were looking at the impeachment from a position of law and the constitution, not politics. Democrats never seem to analyze what they do politically, whereas the GOP always does. Democrats even when in the majority tread gingerly and aim small, while the GOP can be in the minority and force through unpopular and outrageous policies. The Democrats are Wile E. Coyote; the Republicans are the Road Runner.
Donald Trump is the easiest target in political history. He doesn’t do things surreptitiously. He tweets them out and if he does something on the sly, he cops to it, calls it “perfect,” and moves on. And he was fully enabled for 4 years by the entire GOP—even so-called critics like Romney, Flake, and Sasse had nearly 100 percent voting agreement with Trump. So pointing out Trump’s role in January 6th was essential, but it was not enough, because the goal should not have been conviction, which was not possible, but to create division and make the entire GOP accountable for the destruction and death of January 6th, and the Democrats, again, let them off the hook. Again, they stole defeat from political victory.
While the entire GOP apparatus in creating the conditions for January 6th was obvious, it was never put on display. It was “singularly” about Trump. So the role of Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz were never turned into an issue in inciting the violent mobs. The incendiary rhetoric of Mo Brooks never came up. The roles played by the likes of Paul Gosar and other GOP representatives in planning the January 6th events were not discussed. The roles of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, among others, weren’t emphasized, even though Roger Stone wasn’t hiding his association with them and may likely have been coordinating between the president and those groupos. The White House couldn’t even find lawyers to represent them until they came up with a couple barristers who were more ambulance-chasers than legal experts.
The speeches made by Brooks and Rudy Giuliani that immediately preceded storming the capitol weren’t part of the evidence. Most crucially, Trump’s tweets putting pressure on Pence, made after he knew that Pence had been hustled out of the Capitol because the crowds were specifically looking for him, did not become an issue.
The Democrats called no witnesses. Well, that’s not really true. A Republican representative from Washington, Jaime Herrera Beutler, the closest thing to a profile in courage in the sewers of Congress during this sordid episode, went public during the trial to reveal that she’d had a conversation with GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who told Trump to call the rioters off and had the president simply mock him, saying that “these people are more upset about the election than you are.” A furious McCarthy responded to Trump—as rioters were breaking into his office—“who the fuck do you think you are talking to?”
Yet, McCarthy, who’d recanted his claim that the riots were all Trump’s fault and had become his myrmidon again a week later, was never called to witness. Herrera Beutler’s statement was put into the record. That was it—essentially it became a hearsay statement on the most explosive charge; that was the Democrats’ response.
But that shouldn’t have been a surprise because they called no witnesses. During the first, far-less-riveting, impeachment, the Democrats were apoplectic that the GOP refused to call witnesses. In 2021, the Democrats had control of the senate, and had a 55-45 vote already in the books to call witnesses and could have compelled it…..so what did they do? They’re the Democrats, so everyone knows what they did. When you’re what I long ago coined “The Washington Generals of Politics,” you do nothing, you lose. Invariably. All the time. As if it’s your job to fail.
The focus was on convicting Trump, which wasn’t a possibility, rather than larger objectives to damage the GOP. The Democratic excuses for excluding witnesses, despite Raskin’s apparent desire for them, were pretty hapless too. For the most part, they argued that it was pointless because it was clear Trump would be acquitted (because……singularly responsible). The failure to call witnesses was probably the most visible manifestation of their idea that the point of impeachment (maybe not the only point, but close to it) was to convict Trump. In fact, V.I. Del. Stacey Plaskett explicitly said that they didn’t need witnesses, they needed GOP senators to have spines, an explanation which shows that the Dems really did believe they could get a conviction and that an appeal to conscience might work with the GOP. Indeed, there’s no evidence that anyone in the Democrat leadership saw any purpose other than a conviction–no fringe benefits from conducting the trial differently, calling out other GOP politicians, introducing more evidence, or especially calling witnesses.
Other Democrats said it would drag out the trial while Republicans would fight subpoenas. To some, the impeachment was detracting from Joe Biden’s first weeks as president (because….Biden was at the trial)? Chris Coons, a senator from Delaware, a state that has a famous ex-senator in government, said that everyone wanted to get home for Valentine’s Day and so it was time to wrap the trial up.
It was as if the Democrats’ plan was to capitulate, no matter how much lipstick they put on it. But they had options well beyond the ones they publicly rejected. There were surely witnesses who would have complied, like Herrera Buetler. Even if symbolic, subpoenaing Cruz, Hawley, McCarthy, Brooks, Gosar, and others, would have incited anxiety and alarm, and division. The Democrats could have discussed Lindsey Graham’s shrieks of terror as the Capitol was invaded or the abject fear that many GOP representatives were expressing that day. And what about the Republicans who seemed to have been giving tours of the inner sanctum of the Capitol the day before?
And what about the real victims? The people injured or killed on January 6th? If Blue Lives mattered, then the Democrats could have called in police who were on duty and were attacked to describe the events that the Democrats had already displayed on video, with their own personal narratives of the fear and pain they experienced that day. AOC is absolutely correct on this one–the riots, the violence, the deaths, and the GOP long-term role in it should be talked about every day.
The GOP got away with another one. But none of that happened. And again, the GOP slipped the posse and is as unrepentant as ever, with Lindsey Graham now promising vengeance in the form of an impeachment of Kamala Harris for tweeting out bail support information during last summer’s uprisings if the GOP wins the House in 2022 (which is pretty much a chalk bet at this point). Trump’s incitement and the events of January 6th, could have/should have seriously damaged the Republicans. Now the Democrats are left with boasting that they got 7 Republican votes for conviction, and attacking the GOP for being spineless. That’s not even a pyrrhic victory. They might get lucky because Trump and McConnell are having their own battles which could mitigate the Democratic failure a bit, but waiting on the Republicans to immolate is hardly a strong political strategy.
At this point, the GOP is not looking much different than it did before January 6th—a party that lost the elections but was unrepentant, holding on to views that most Americans don’t accept, and making up lies about everything they do, and getting away with it, largely because the Democrats aren’t much different than they were before January 6th—weak, unwilling to fight, emphasizing some fantasy of unity and reconciliation over defending the interests of the people voting for them, bringing, as Scott Parkin says, an NPR tote bag to a gun fight.
The Democratic Party had a huge political gift handed to it. Trump’s long-term crusade to violently attack the election had come to fruition in horrific ways and in the immediate aftermath his own party had turned on him….because Trump had tried to get them killed. When that mob entered the Capitol, it was out to do damage to members of congress, and while the Democrats were clearly more hated, Pence and McConnell were likely their prime targets.
The Republicans were ready to have a civil war over the events of January 6th, but the Democrats let up on the gas, once more. Instead of pressing the issue, they kept talking about unity and reconciliation and getting beyond this, and holding Trump “singularly” responsible for the attacks.
If Cruz, Hawley, Brooks and the rest of the thugs involved in inciting the mobs had been held accountable, even if they weren’t going to be convicted, that would have set off a massive internal feud, and they would have been turning on each other like the cheap snitches they surely are. But they were never forced to do that. After a few days of intense anxiety after January 6th, they realized the Democrats weren’t going to do anything to them (hopefully, the various DAs and courts will take a more serious approach) and just went back to the old GOP playbook—no apologizing, doubling down on their worst instincts, blaming the Democrats, and knowing that they’d suffer little, of any, consequence for their fatal inciting of violence because they’d never suffered any consequences…..They never took the Democrats seriously, and never needed to.
There is still a chance that GOP divisions will fester and become a problem. Ben Sasse and now Nikki Haley, reactionary and opportunist, have decided that the future of the GOP may be anti-Trump and have staked out their positions (which is a good example of why the Democrats should have been daily pitting the likes of Sasse and Romney and Toomey against the Trump apologists).
But Rafael Cruz is as insufferable and ignorant and dangerous as ever, and surely doesn’t expect any comeuppance. Hawley remains the obnoxious frat boy who wants to pretend he’s from the streets. Meantime, with no oppositional narrative, the forces of Trumpism were able to retreat and return to their original positions. Now they can continue their “both sides” arguments by invoking BLM, fight against giving relief to people suffering from a Pandemic, job losses and evictions, and enact voter-suppression laws in states where they lost by small numbers in 2020.
The Democrats aren’t going to save you. The Democrats seem to make all issues about morality and civility and constitutionality and appearances–we’re classy, they’re gauche. They don’t pay much mind to anticipating the political fallout of what they do. They could have really put the pressure on the entire GOP, made issues out of Cruz, Hawley, Brooks and the others, called witnesses, especially witnesses who’d been attacked that day, and forced GOP senators to look at them, in real life, in flesh and bone. Instead of “singularly” making it about Trump, they could have collectively made it about his entire party. Instead of holding out for the fantasy of a conviction, they could have put the whole Republican Party on trial and made them explain their actions, turn on each other like Sasse and others already had, and own, as one, the blood shed on January 6th.
But they didn’t. They weren’t the 2016 Chicago Cubs. They remain the 2016 Cleveland Indians.
And this is a good reason why electoral strategies, electoralism itself, is a dead end. Even when handed a saber to finish off a divided, frightened, unpopular and wounded GOP, the Democrats walked away from it. They had to get home for Valentines Day.
It’s fine to loathe Trump and his minions—they are the most loathsome crew in American politics. But Pelosi, Schumer, Manchin, Cardin, Coons, and so many other Democratic leaders are culpable as well. Continuing to hate on Trump and attack the GOP may feel good, and isn’t without any purpose, but it’s probably important to really analyze the weak “resistance” to the Republicans that enabled Trump for 4 years. The Democrats had a chance to have a huge, national public hearing on the role of Trump and his party and right-wing violence. They could have gone big. Instead they went home.
The Democrats won’t save you. So Organize! Organize! Organize!
And he’s getting that–lots of it. Since the episode blew up last week, I’ve seen countless social media posts about it, from some of the biggest names in the lefty media pundit celebrity world, and articles about it in various media internationally. I’m glad. People who criticize Israel have been the targets of smear campaigns for too long (I have my own personal experience with that–from the allegedly radical Pacifica Network no less). So, Nathan Robinson is a worthy victim–as Herman and Chomsky wrote about long ago….no doubt.
But while the Left is publicizing the cancellation of Robinson, another episode, one with a much worse outcome in fact, has been taking place at Collin College, a community college a bit north of Dallas. Two Professors there, Suzanne Jones and Audra Heaslip, HAVE BEEN FIRED for questioning the school’s COVID reopening, asking for a COVID dashboard, and for simply being union members. I wrote an article about this, “Profs Fired for COVID Concerns,” and Scott Parkin and I interviewed the two professors on the Green and Red Podcast, “Professors Fired from Collin College, Retaliation in Texas.”
These two women are also worthy victims. In fact, they price they have paid–getting fired means you have no paycheck and no healthcare, along with the intense levels of stress and anxiety and potentially career-destroying attacks on your reputation–has been far greater than Robinson’s. While the context of being sacked by The Guardian, punishing any type of criticism of Israel, should appall us all and motivate action, Robinson should be fine–he’s the Editor-in-Chief of Current Affairs Magazine, he has a J.D. from Yale and is working on a Ph.D. from Harvard, and he’s already published several books. And he’s a luminary on the Left whose own reputation from this unfair debacle has been elevated.
Jones and Heaslip….not so much. Not much at all. When Scott and I wrote about and interviewed them, we put it out all over social media, with over 150 names specifically tagged. We asked, by name, people who are known Leftist media experts, faculty and others involved in the Academic or just education world, and activists. I made it clear that I was tagging people with whom I’ve had issues in the past and I acknowledged that they might not support me or the Green and Red Podcast, but the issue of two profs being fired superseded all that, and Audra and Suzanne deserved our support, with no reservations.
With all those efforts, we got maybe a couple dozen people to share the article and podcast–more activists than any other group, and more profs from small Texas colleges than elsewhere. How many left media pundits and Brooklyn radicals came to the support of these two profs from a small community college outside Dallas? Near as Scott and I can tell, zero
If you’ve read my blog or listened to our podcast, we clearly let people know how we feel about Jacobin, Chapo, Jimmy Dore, Krystal Ball, and other lefty media celebrities.
Well, this proves our point.
We do realize that we are mini-Davids, specks of dust,virtually unknowns, on the left media scene, but the issue at hand is a huge one. And two profs being terminated, losing it all, in the hinterlands of Texas doesn’t register on the radar in Brooklyn and its media-Lefty satellites.
If Jacobin believes it’s more important to publish an embarrassing, cringe-inducing, onanistic ode by Micah Uetricht to celebrate Bernie Sanders zinger during a debate with Clinton five years ago–“Henry Kissinger is not my friend”–and suggest that a single soundbite made it “all worth it”–that “all worth it” would be $180 million raised, millions and millions of human labor hours volunteered, immense psychological investment and often depression–but can’t even share a call for support for two female profs who were fired for simply criticizing COVID policies, what purpose does it serve, other than self-promotion and reveling in its media-recognized status as the voice of the Left? Maybe Jimmy Dore could give a shout out to a couple profs being crushed by the new McCarthyism instead of canoodling with the Boogaloo Bois?
Nathan Robinson should be defended….he’s a worthy victim. And he has been.
Suzanne Jones and Audra Heaslip are worthy victims; they have impeccable teaching and service credentials, are popular with and respected by their student, and held in the highest regard by their colleagues. They should be defended too, even if they’re “just” community college profs in Texas and not a well-known columnist an an internationally-famous newspaper.
In fact, it would be awesome if someone could tell Nathan Robinson about them and get a statement of support from him. He seems to understand the importance of solidarity, and I bet he’d do it.
So help out. To start, you can send a message to the Collin College Board of Trustees, click here
President Neil Matkin doesn’t care about health, safety, or free speech at Collin College
[Green and Red Podcast interviewed Professors Heaslip and Jones today about this issue, and it will be published shortly. You can find it at https://bit.ly/greenredpodcast . You can follow Green and Red on Facebook, Twitter, IG, etc. Visit the Green and Red Media page on Medium. You can find us on YouTube. Please share, rate and review, subscribe, etc.].
Audra Heaslip and Suzanne Jones are well-established and highly-regarded professors at Collin College…..for the time being. Both were fired this past week by Collin’s President, Neil Matkin, for expressing their concerns about the college’s (non)response to COVID, as well as for their union activities. It’s a textbook case of retaliation and Matkin and the College administrators aren’t really trying to hide it. If Heaslip and Jones can be terminated and possibly lose their jobs, their careers, their security, paychecks, healthcare, then everyone in the academic world is at risk—a tenured professor at celebrity university, or an instructor at a community college, or a K-12 teacher anywhere in America……..
We are all Audra Heaslip and Suzanne Jones right now
When the COVID pandemic first struck last spring, Collin College, a multi-campus institution north of Dallas with administrative headquarters in McKinney and about 60,000 students, shifted to online classes, but Matkin immediately made plans to get in-person classes going as soon as possible, COVID be damned.
Many faculty had other ideas, and Heaslip and Jones were among the most important critics of Matkin’s recklessness.
On June 30th of last year, the Collin Faculty Council passed a resolution against holding in-person classes on campus. Matkin waited two weeks to respond, made no commitment to considering remote learning, and created a difficult bureaucratic process for professors who wanted to teach online for health or other reasons, forcing them to go through HR and get permission.
Matkin himself is hardly the stereotypical college president. He looks like a 1960s sheriff out of central casting (kind of a cross between Bull Connor and Herb Tarlek). He has a degree from Ambassador College, a school run by the Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, one of the first televangelists to get a national following in the 1960s and 1970s. So his ideological foundation is pretty obvious. There’s nothing remarkable, to be charitable, about his background. While his political connections are not clear, he does seem fond of having his photo taken with Texas’s right-wing governor Greg Abbott, whose COVID non-responses have created a humanitarian disaster throughout the state. And as faculty concerns over COVID rose, Matkin’s response, like Abbot’s, became more harsh and retributive.
It’s also worth noting that Heaslip and Jones are active in the Texas Faculty Association (TFA), and have been campus representatives and organizers. Texas is one of the states more hostile to labor and especially with unions like the TFA, or my union, the TSEU (Texas State Employees Union), which have, in effect, a consultive and symbolic role. At one point the state TFA website included a list of the campuses at which they had members and Jones and Collin College were included on that roster. Matkin would later use that to make the case against her termination (but as soon as Jones was told that the website affiliation was an issue, she had TFA take it down). By the way, I am a professor at the University of Houston and a union member. According to Matkin, that statement is a firing offense.
To muddy the whole episode up a bit more, another professor at Collin, Lora Burnett, has been put on notice that her job is in jeopardy because, during the Vice-Presidential debates she put out a tweet basically calling Mike Pence demonic. She received the now-to-be-expected online attacks and threats, and the school essentially joined in, condemning her words and not defending her right to have her own opinions. Burnett’s Tweet, Matkin said, was “hateful, vile, and ill-considered.” Like unionization, free speech is in Collin College’s crosshairs too.
Amid all the Burnett furor, the COVID issue became even more important, and ultimately cost Heaslip and Jones their jobs. In an August letter to Collin Trustees, Matkin wrote that “the effects of this pandemic have been blown utterly out of proportion across our nation and reported with unfortunate sensationalism and few facts regardless of which news outlet one tunes into.” With such little regard for a disease that had caused about 200,000 deaths at the time, it was not surprising that Matkin ignored a faculty request to create a COVID dashboard—a record of the number of cases and deaths by COVID at the college. At a faculty meeting in mid-September the Vice-President of Campus Operations, Toni Jenkins, saw “no reason to promote and report presumed cases” and the adminstration simply rejected the dashboard suggestion.
At the beginning of Fall semester, 130 Collin faculty also supported a resolution, authored by Heaslip, calling for the school to switch to online classes as COVID numbers remained huge, another requested rejected by Matkin. Frustrated and frightened, many faculty began to speak about the COVID issue more publicly, especially Heaslip and Jones. In November they began to speak to media about the COVID dashboard issue and Collin’s general refusal to do anything about campus safety regarding the Coronavirus.
The Collin administration was angry of course. Matkin, for his part, sent out a “Happy Thanksgiving” email to the entire campus community and in the 22nd (yes, twenty-second) paragraph notified them that a Collin faculty member had died of COVID a few weeks earlier. The media began to pursue the various Collin stories with more energy and was told by PR person Marisela Cadena-Smith that the school would not comment on personnal matters “in concert with Collin College core values, particularly dignity and respect.” That would not be the last time the Collin leadership would team would talk about “personnel matters”……
Heaslip and Jones continued to bring attention to the COVID issue at Collin, however, and that cost them their jobs. Last week, on January 28th, both were called into private meetings with administrators and HR representatives and told that their contracts, which had been renewed in the Fall but not yet “stamped” (that would happen in March) would not be renewed (January 28th, by the way, was also the date of the first TFA organizing meeting of the semester).
Both Heaslip and Jones have exemplary reputations and teaching records. Their slate is absolutely clean.There are no legitimate grounds on which to dismiss them. And Collin didn’t try to hedge about the reason for its actions. It cited Heaslip and Jones for violating “personnel matters,” telling them that questioning Matkin’s COVID policies and going public with their dashboard concerns was hurting morale at Collin and making it look bad in the public, and that having Collin included on the TFA website was a firing offense too.
In Jones case, they added another cause—in 2017 she had been a signatory to a public letter, with Collin used as an identifier, calling for the removal of Confederate statues. You read that right. Matkin included Jones’s public opinion that confederate statues should be removed as a cause for firing—so on that issue Heaslip and Jones are on the same side as the JCS, most Republican senators, NASCAR, and pretty much every corporation in America, while Matkin is on the same side as Trump and most of the thugs who invaded the capitol on January 6th. They were fired for their COVID concerns, union activities, and signing a public letter. The administration said all that.
That’s not the interpretation of an angry victim. That was Collin College’s public rationale.
If you’ve ever been a professor or instructor or grad student, this story might not appear to be so shocking, even though it’s clearly horrible, but it should outrage you. Universities, despite the rhetoric of free expression, are authoritarian to the core and anyone who irritates the chancellor, president, provost, dean, chair, etc. can get in grave danger. There is generally no due process, as Heaslip and Jones have discovered. Complaints can be made anonymously. Your typical American courtroom, as terrifying as it can be, often offers you better protections than a university or college disciplinary hearing. To some point, that’s the job of administration—to make life difficult on faculty, especially left-wing, or radical, or activist faculty and grad students (one of my proudest moments came when someone told me, long ago, that a higher-up in the Provost’s office said I was “the biggest asshole on the entire UH campus”).
But there are recognized lines that can’t be crossed—and Matkin and Collin have blown past them here (repeatedly, it would seem). Heaslip and Jones are doing what they do because it’s the right thing to do, protecting the health and safety of a much larger community. No one who’s ever endured anything like this would do it for kicks. It’s all-consuming, scary, and potentially destructive. Amid a horrific pandemic they sought to make themselves, their colleagues, and the students safer. They sought information. They believed in solidarity among the various parts of the campus community.
And they were fired—for asking too many questions, criticizing too many policies, seeking too much information, and telling people at the daily hazards of life on Collin’s campuses. They were fired for their ideas, not deeds. As one would assume, the entire campus has been rocked by this. “If they’re willing to get rid of people like us just because we disagree,” Heaslip said, “then I really fear for the future of the culture at the college.” She added, “It’s getting really bad. I mean, the fear is just out the roof.”
Establishment media loves to write stories about silly leftist campaigns on campus to cancel a speaker or get a safe zone created because they distract from the far more frequent, and damaging, campaigns waged by presidents, provosts, and deans against professors who challenge university administrators on issues of workplace safety or unionization, among other concerns. Fortunately for Heaslip and Jones, the media has been talking to them and covering this story, and the response has been very positive. Their union and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have also been on top of this and supporting their efforts to get their jobs back (See FIRE letter to Collin, February 4th).
The rest of us have a role to play here too. If you’re in any way connected to the academic world–like if you sat in a classroom one day–this is an important issue. The email addresses for the Collin College Board of Trustees are below, so contact them to insist that they reinstate Heaslip and Jones. If you’re a tenured professor, or in you’re in a Texas union, you can do more. They don’t have tenure at Collin College so those of us who do can use it on their behalf.
Martin Luther King often said that long after we’ve forgotten the angry words of our enemies, we’ll still remember the silence of our friends. If you can lose a job at which you’ve excelled for years because you got on the wrong side of a college president who refuses to protect the health and safety of his campus, who is aggressively anti-union, and who simply does not respect the idea of Free Speech, then you’re never going to be safe at anytime or place ……
Mitch McConnell and Democratic Weakness produced Trump’s successes…….
Donald Trump, it seems, still reigns over the GOP and a good portion of the country. Senators and representatives visit him to kiss his ring, the RNC is inviting him to speak at its upcoming conference, he and his supporters are unrepentant and still claiming victimhood. He won’t go away. The Monster, it seems, lives….
But Trump’s continued status is a continuation of his four years as president, built more on rhetoric, bluster, anger, and spectacle than the way he acted….because, in reality, Trump was far more limited in power than his supporters and, more importantly, his opponents ever recognized. If you want to compare him with evil historical figures, Charlie Manson and Jim Jones are much more appropriate than Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler.
In the wake of the violent attack on the Capitol by Donald Trump-incited mobs on the day of Electoral College certification, January 6th, Americans became more than ever angry, frightened, and panicked by the president’s behavior. Trump’s obviously detestable and cruel, and he’s had a significant number of accomplices and enablers in his cabinet, in the GOP-controlled senate, in the media, not to mention the 74 million voters who chose him in November.
But lost in 4 years of insane rhetoric, threats, bluster, bullying and tweets was a crucial reality: Trump never had real power, effective power. A lot of Americans, who never approved of him and didn’t vote for him, turned him into a Mega-Monster, a villain with great control and power over everyone’s life. So many people lived 4 years in a constant state of fear and anxiety, and that paralyzed so many of them from taking action—mobilizing (with the inspirational exception of the summer of 2020 rebellions), organizing, or in other ways directly resisting Trump and the GOP. But, as horrific and harmful as he was, he wasn’t some colossus, some evil genius playing 3D chess, a dictator dominating the country, a fascist……
Trump was never very popular. Despite his bluffs and bluster and constant liberal/left hysteria about how evil he was, Donald Trump was the least popular president in Gallup polling history (See Gallup and Monmouth polling averages below). He averaged a record-low 41% approval rating, never rose over 50%, the only president ever polled to not break that barrier, and finished his term at 34%. A Pew Poll taken after the Capitol riot showed him at 28% approval. A more recent Monmouth poll showed that about one-fourth of Americans do not believe the election was fair and accurate, but 56% approve of impeachment, and only 15% of respondents, and just 36% of Republicans, say Trump did nothing wrong regarding the events of January 6th. Only 5% of people polled called the rioters “patriots,” while 79% called them “criminals” or “fools.” No need to belabor it, but the point is that Trump is the least popular and supported president in modern polling history as he left office.
Trump never had broad popular backing. He was despised by other GOP candidates in 2016—such as Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul—yet won the nomination and saw his rivals make a Faustian bargain to kowtow to him, but he even lost the popular vote in 2016, saw his party thrashed in the 2018 midterms, and, though he increased his own vote total in 2020, still lost by 7 million votes. If you look further, polling shows that the positions he promoted on gun violence, abortion rights, health care, LGBTQ rights, and virtually every other major issue, he never held a majority. Culturally, he was daily eviscerated by the media and was the object of constant derision by comedians and satirists.
Yet, somehow, that lack of support and respect was not exploited by the opposition party to great effect. Yes, they won the 2018 midterms and Biden won and the Democrats managed a 50-50 senate split (and set up a Harris v. Manchin feud for the ages), yet they never put Trump away as they could have. As future analysts and scholars evaluate the way Schumer and Pelosi responded to Trump, they may, and should, be very harsh…….
Trump had no ideology, no program. Trump was/is detestable, but it’s also safe to say that the overheated and often-unhinged alarmism about Trump was overheated, often-unhinged, and alarmist (Just look at just about anything Paul Street wrote in Counterpunch). So much of that response to Trump was based on not just the awful things he’s done, but, probably more so, on his delivery, his vulgarity, his threats and bluster, his fear-mongering, his Twitter account. He’s a real peril to society for sure, but he’s also been more “normal” than the media and liberals and intellectuals ever realized, and there have been limits on his power, and there would have been ever more if the political opposition was not the “Washington Generals of Politics” (copyright, me).
Trump never had any ideology, no plan for organizing the state, no overarching vision of some program to change America, unlike most presidents. Nixon began to chip away at the liberal consensus with a move away from public institutions, a process rapidly, and rabidly, accelerated by Reagan, and finished off by the DLC, Clinton, and Obama. They remade the state and American society—deregulating and then just unleashing the banking and corporate communities, destroying social programs, increasing material, educational, and civic inequality—and laid the groundwork for the government to do much less for ordinary people and create much more wealth for a tiny fraction at the top.
Trump’s legacy, in terms of policy, will be tax cuts and deregulation—which have been part of the neo-Liberal playbook for a half century. Carter deregulated key industries, Reagan and Bush and Obama slashed taxes, Clinton “reformed” welfare and the carceral state, Obama was “the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” he assured Wall Street bankers. So Trump, which more crudely and crassly favoring the rich, fit within a clear tradition. No, Trump’s real legacy wasn’t programmatic–it was unleashing people into the streets with Swastika and Confederate flags and legitimating them, encouraging violent right-wing groups to attack Blacks and Anarchists, openly promoting misogyny and homophobia, and when everything came to an end in the election of November 2020, trying to burn everything down on his way out of D.C.
Trump’s successes can be directly linked to two factors—the ruling class’s willingness to adapt and exploit him, and an enfeebled and craven political opposition. First, power in America is wielded by men and women in tailor-made suits in boardrooms, who in turn work with and often control the political class and the agents of the state, like the military and police, which enforce their oligarchic interests. Those people, mostly, never respected or trusted Trump and never believed he should be president. But he was. So they used him to get richer and then ditched him. Lloyd Blankfein, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, didn’t hedge words, making it clear that “for Wall Street, it was lower taxes, less regulation. He was delivering what ‘we’ wanted. We put a clothespin on our nose. We weren’t ignorant of the kind of risks we were taking. We repressed them.”
Whatever political victories Trump gained, and he did get some big wins, were the result of factors that he didn’t control or even guide, as Blankfein explained. Trump’s core value that wealthy people should be wealthier and that the state should make that easier to happen coincided with Wall Street, and so trillion-dollar tax cuts, deregulation, and far-right Federalist Society judges were the outcome.
But there was a second huge reason for Trump’s successes…..the Democrats. The GOP had been running roughshod over the Democratic Party for decades already before 2016—Willie Horton ads, the Contract on with America, impeaching Clinton, stealing the 2000 election, Birtherism and racist attacks on Obama, stealing a Supreme Court seat, and constant gerrymandering, voter suppression, and dirty tricks throughout. Amid this very open and public display of the most hardcore political hardball, the Democrats became more fearful and moved further to the Right, embracing their genuine commitment to DLC corportatist values, but also morally craven and afraid to pick a fight with the Republicans for fear of scaring off the vital center, which it had already lost anyway.
Trump was a huge beneficiary of Democratic incompetence, weakness, and cowardice. He won in 2016 because Hillary Clinton ran the most dismal campaign imaginable. Yet the Democrats chased Russian and Ukrainian chimeras instead of mounting a political alternative based on real conditions, economic, social, racial, gender-based, medical. They engaged in performative resistance like clapping and tearing up speeches and wearing Kente cloth far too often, and failed to assert strong positions on issues like health insurance, abortion, gun violence, COVID, elections, racial issues, police violence and others even though majorities, usually clear majorities, supported their positions. They were obsessed with the spectacles of his words and behavior and tweets more than what he was actually doing. In any future examination of the horrors of Trump, Democratic complicity via its performative resistance, and its weakness and political ineptitude has to be a major point of analysis.
Trump was more “normal” than Liberals will ever realize. Twitter and horrific rhetoric aren’t actions and policies. Trump’s behavior and his Executive Orders were often cruel and harmful, but done in the face of feeble resistance from the Democrats and consistent with conservative American politics. The idea that Trump was “something we’ve never seen” or it was wrong to normalize him because he was such a great departure from American political history was and will always be wrong and counterproductive to a historical/political analysis. Trump was a continuation, not a great leap forward, of horrific policies targeting America’s poor and non-white and marginalized for decades.
Barry Goldwater ran a campaign not at all dissimilar to Trump’s and even promised to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Richard Nixon based his candidacy on “law and order” and used the same images of Black protestors, antiwar demonstrators, and hippies that we’ve seen in the Trump years. Reagan may not have been overtly racist like Trump, but his ideology surely had that effect, and his tax cuts shifted wealth upward as much as Trump’s did; plus, he was far more interventionist in Central America, with more bloody consequences, than Trump was anywhere else.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, liberal saints, ramped up the incarceration of the poor, especially Blacks, took care of Wall Street at the exclusion of workers in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Gary, Youngstown and similar places, deported immigrants en masse, “triangulated” with the Republicans and compromised on issues that had broad support among Democratic constituencies but had GOP opposition, while allowing Mitch McConnell and others to control the political agenda in the Congress. Oh, and they used traditional constituencies like unions and African Americans as foils to show they were “new Democrats.” And we’re aware of the horrors of the Bush-Cheney years—two ugly and bloody and costly wars, repression at home, torture chambers, and a huge economic crash. So keep the horrors of Trump in perspective.
Though the rhetoric and overt cruelty and open invitation to the worst racist and sexist creatures in America was different to be sure—Trump was “a different kind of cat”—his actions fell within the established spectrum of presidential behavior. It can’t be stressed enough, his rhetoric and tweets enabled him to create fear and the Liberals played right into it, giving him the political oxygen to maintain the false image that he dominated America. He didn’t. Trump’s usually-unhinged social media postings were a political aphrodisiac to liberals and much of the Left—working them into a frenzy over what he said and often being distracted from what his administration and GOP-controlled senate did.
Like any president or other powerful official, in the state or in the world of privately-controlled Capitalism, there were limits on Trump and he should have been opposed and resisted in much more aggressive ways, rather than feared and left unfettered to do continued damage. It’s important to understand and think about those limits, because Trumpism isn’t gone and won’t be disappearing soon. The Left needs to be clearheaded and strong, not always weak and reactive and defensive and accommodating.
Trump’s power never came from control of the state, his constant talk of “dominating” notwithstanding. Power in the Trump administration was was wielded by Mitch McConnell in the congress, Bill Barr in the legal world, and his various propagandists in the media, especially his Fox News myrmidons. These people had no sincere respect or affinity for Trump, but gained huge money and power from him. Like Frankie Pentangeli said to Michael Corleone, “your father did business with Hyman Roth . . . but he never trusted Hyman Roth.” Surely, no one in Trump’s circle trusted him but saw countless ways to get what they needed out of him.
While Trump never understood how political power was wielded in America, the way the ruling class operated or the intricacies of politics (McConnell, Kohn, Mnuchin, Barr, and his GOP enablers handled that for him) he did know how to incite the MAGA-Mob, and that became the basis of his political movement—anger, hatred, conspiracy, grievance, violence.
In a sense, anomalously, the president, the ranking official in America, led an extrajudicial regime while his lieutenants kept the state functioning. The COVID crisis offered the best demonstration of this. A global pandemic that was killing thousands of American daily by April, an economic crash due to the need to shut down public places because the Coronavirus spread so easily, and calls, pleas, and demands from all segments of political society—including the media and the Democrats—for him to take federal action, executive action to produce or distribute PPE, to establish and enforce rules on public behavior and even simply movement, to establish an effective testing program, to simply tell people to wear masks all could have led to a massive expansion of Trump’s power, a huge extension of the state into so many aspects of political and personal life.
And he did ….. nothing. He took the most radical approach imaginable—simply do nothing to provide tests, deny the severity of the crisis, argue with medical experts publicly, reject medical advice, casually watch immense numbers of people get ill and die. It was as if Trump wanted to run away from power, not seize it.
Trump’s relative lack of power was boldly visible throughout the election of 2020. During the rebellions of last summer, as he tweeted furiously about “thugs” and promising “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” the street protests grew bigger and mainstream American institutions like corporations began flying “Black Lives Matter” banners, creating ads featuring their commitments to racial diversity, and creating scholarships and other funds for minority communities—was this a campaign to commodify and coopt their protest? Absolutely.
But it ran 180 degrees away from Trump’s insistence on “domination” and “strength” and violence. The corporate ruling class took matters into its own hands. While the scenes of Trump’s thugs in unmarked cars and unidentified uniforms were terrifying, again, they’re not that far outside typical American repression, and the levels of violence were actually much smaller than historical uprisings of that sort. In the 1960s, the rebellions in Detroit, Watts, Newark and elsewhere all saw over 40 deaths each, and the Rodney King uprising over 60. In other words, LBJ used the repressive powers of the state far more violently than Donald Trump. And throughout those rebellions, the media and even elected officials, rather than fearing Trump, were most effective when they mocked him, tweeting at him to stay out of their cities problems and deriding him as “bunker boy.” Even symbolic resistance threw Trump off.
Trump had the most contentious relationship with the military of any modern president. Crucially, Trump’s insistence on violence in the summer of 2020 led to a very public and extraordinary rupture with the military. The military’s main goal is not to go to war or attack people in the streets—it’s to get ever-increasing military budgets and new weapons from its industrial partners, whom they can work for after their retirements (hence the “Military-Industrial” Complex). When Trump pushed to deploy active-duty military in the streets, and used JCS Chair Mark Milley in a photo op at St. John’s, the blowback was immediate and enormous.
Various military chiefs of staff issues statements affirming their dedication to obeying the constitution and to racial diversity, and Milley himself publicly apologized days later, which is unprecedented in military affairs–for more on this see here. Shortly thereafter, the story broke that Trump referred to soldiers who’d died during D-Day as “suckers” and “losers.” His already weak-standing and lack of respect in the military sunk ever further. Strongmen, especially those who want to engineer a “coup,” don’t alienate the one group essential for a forced takeover of the state (a state Trump never showed any real interest in controlling anyway), the military.
And, most extraordinarily, General Mark Milley and all the chiefs collectively put out a statement after the events of January 6th denouncing the Capitol riot and making it clear that they recognized Biden as the incoming Commander-in-Chief (for more on this check out my interview with Andrew Bacevich, the esteemed retired Colonel and Professor, and expert on civil-military relations).
“His” judges and politicians rejected his electoral challenges. Trump’s increasingly deranged conspiracies about an election he clearly, and decisively, lost would eventually, maybe inevitably, lead to a violent mob he incited attacking the Capitol. But by that time, a nihilistic grouping of alt-Right militias and tinfoil hat crackpots was all he had left, and you don’t stage a “coup” with people like that. Trump by January 6th was left with such a ragged and dismal, albeit violent, crew for a last-ditch and doomed effort to somehow upend the election results in large part because GOP politicians and judges had rebuked him throughout the entire time he tried to overturn the vote.
Trump lost 60 court challenges in various states, and in almost every instance a GOP-appointed judge, often Trump’s own pick, rejected his efforts to throw out votes. Even more, the Supreme Court, with 3 Trump justices on it, refused to even hear any of his challenges, and in the end, when even Mike Pence finally broke with Trump on the issue of electoral certification, he was advised by well-known Federalist Society lawyers on the letter he penned explaining how he had no legal role to play in changing Electoral votes. In response to Pence’s decision to uphold the law, Trump’s threat was “I don’t want to be your friend.”
Just as importantly, a good many GOP politicians stood up to Trump, especially the right-wing Governor and Secretary of State of Georgia, Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, who take a back seat to no one when it comes to stealing elections. While Trump was putting intense pressure on Republican officials in states that he lost by closer margins—especially Georgia and Pennsylvania, and Michigan—which he lost by a much more significant amount–GOP officials “humored” him (words some of them used) by having multiple recounts and acting like they were seriously engaging his ideas, but in the end accepted Biden’s victory (of course, there were, and remain, many GOP state legislators who didn’t, but they were fated to fail).
Closer to home for Trump, Christopher Krebs, the Director of Cybersecurity in DHS, rejected the president’s claims of election fraud, and was promptly fired. White Shoe legal firms fled from him and he was stuck with the “elite strike force” of Giulinai, Sydney Powell, and Lin Wood. But most importantly, Trump’s consigliere and clean-up man, the person who turned the Department of Justice into Trump’s personal strip mall law firm, Bill Barr even had to concede that there was no evidence of election fraud. Following Barr’s resignation, Trump continued to press the DOJ to invalidate the election and even got to the Supreme Court to get it to overturn the results. He was met with the threat of mass resignation.
If a president has real power—let alone if he’s an authoritarian or, egads, a “fascist,” he’d be able to easily manipulate or coerce judges, justices, elected officials from his own political group, or government administrators to do his dirty work for him. In fact, they wouldn’t need to be told….The repeated rejection of Trump’s claims in the courts and statehouses and even the White House, it really shouldn’t need to be said, offers stark evidence of his lack of political control and in fact his stark unpopularity if not hatred by so many of his own people.
While Trump had the support to the bitter end of people like Mike Lindell, “the My Pillow guy,” Dick Uihlein, a billionaire GOP fatcat who runs a business supplies corporation and has donated $4.3 million to Republicans in the past two election cycles, the longtime reactionary Club for Growth, the heiress to Publix grocery chain, who paid for the Trump rally that preceded the riot, dark money groups, a shell company, American Made Media Consultants—allegedly run by Jared Kushner and listing Lara Trump as president, Mike Pences’ nephew as VP, and the Trump campaign’s CFO as its treasurer and secretary—which took half of the $1.2 billion raised for the campaign and shielded it from the public, and dying extractive industries like coal and steel, traditional big-money donors either stayed away from him or openly opposed him as the election approached. Even Fox News was no longer loyal enough for Trump, and One America News and Newsmax rushed into the void. He was left with what I call the lumpen oligarchs. No one is going to mistake the CEO of My Pillow for a Wall Street mover and shaker.
As the election drew near, Jamie Dimon, The Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, and several Tech CEOs warned Trump about any attempt to steal the election. After the election was called officially for Biden and Trump continued his bizarre claims that he had actually won in a landslide and had it stolen, several corporations not only smacked him down, but announced they would not contribute to GOP senators and representatives who were going along with Trump and voting to challenge Electoral College certification.
And, after the violence of January 6th, the National Association of Manufacturers, the uber-reactionary GOP business group, and the Wall Street Journal, the bible of the ruling class, warned the GOP about the riots in the Capitol, urged the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, and urged Trump to resign.
Since January 6th, the ruling class, the oligarchs, the elites, the “pillars of power,” or whatever you may call them, have been distancing themselves from Trump and the GOP. Despite that, Republican representatives continue to pay homage to the ex-president, perhaps because they want his blessing in their own future campaigns, perhaps because they want the support of his famed “base,” perhaps because he has incriminating dossiers on them that show ever more horrific behavior than what we’ve witnessed publicly, or maybe they just have the same bigotries and ignorance he does.
That continued loyalty, however, should not be taken as a sign of strength or power. In reality, the GOP has been badly wounded. As the well-known establishment pundit Charlie Cook, of the Charlie Cook Political Report has explained, “An impressive amount of unreleased survey research—both quantitative polls and qualitative focus groups—since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol suggests that between 25 and 30 percent of Trump voters now have very mixed feelings about having backed him. They are less likely to believe that the election was stolen, and they were alarmed by the attack in Washington. They care more about the coronavirus pandemic and the direction of the economy.”
And not only is that mythical MAGA-army backtracking, albeit slowly, the FBI and Homeland Security have now designated the violent right-wing groups that Trump incited as the greatest domestic threat and begun intensified campaigns to take them out, choices that were forbidden in the Trump years, and a reversal that occurred so quickly that it’s indicative of Trump’s failure to establish institutional power, no matter how many unqualified lackeys he put into government posts. Whatever structure Trump had in place, and the point to emphasize is that he really didn’t, has started to crumble quickly, surely not the sign of a strong regime and clearly not close to the unhinged Street/WSWS shrieks of “fascism” that had become so prevalent in Leftist discourse.
Coda: The Meaning of Donald J. Trump, Paper Tiger
No one has loomed above American politics, in fact American life, like Donald J. Trump has since 2016. So much of this was a product of the proliferation of social media, giving us the surreal spectacle of government by Twitter. But, probably even more than the positive myths of FDR, JFK, and Reagan, the mythical persona of Trump–all-powerful, monstrous, dictatorial, fascist even–dominated American life, emboldening his supporters (always a minority of the country) and terrifying and paralyzing his critics and opponents (whom always held majority views).
I don’t want to get too carried away with comparing the U.S. today to the People’s Republic of China at mid-century, but Mao’s great insight and advice came to me often the past four years
Now U.S. imperialism is quite powerful, but in reality it isn’t. It is very weak politically because it is divorced from the masses of the people and is disliked by everybody and by the American people too. In appearance it is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of, it is a paper tiger. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. I believe the United States is nothing but a paper tiger.
Donald J. Trump is the ultimate paper tiger, should have been evaluated that way for the past four years, and must be analyzed in that context going forward. If not, we will continue to cower and remain inactive in fear of someone whose power derived personally from a vitriolic Tweeter feed, from cruelty and villainy, but mostly from the guidance of Mitch McConnell and Bill Barr and, just as much, if not more, from the political cowardice and ineptitude of Pelosi’s and Schumer’s Democratic Party.
To be clear, nothing here is intended to downplay or shrug off the horrors of the past four years. Trump incited division among Americans more publicly than anything we’ve seen in living memory, he accelerated the destruction of the environment at a frightening pace, his tax and tariffs plans hurt working people and made billionaires even wealthier, he legitimated right-wing violence in the streets, and, most damningly, he ignored, made worse actually, a highly infectious virus that has now caused nearly a half-million deaths, but which could have been pretty well contained at least by simply wearing a mask–yet he turned that into an issue about “tyranny” so instead of a community-based approach to a pandemic, we got violent protests about mask-wearing. He owns all of this.
But there were always limits, usually pretty notable limits, to Trump’s Power. He had no majority support and now, because of his erratic, probably psychopathic, ways, he’s facing myriad legal problems and, for the time being, has caused the GOP to be blacklisted by the oligarchy itself–including Charles Schwab, Nike, Walt Disney, Facebook, Microsoft and Google, Wal-Mart, Northrop Grumman, Comcast, Verizon, Amazon, BP, AT&T, JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Marriott, Blue Cross Blue Shield, AirBnb, Dow, BlackRock, and the Vatican of Capitalism even, Goldman Sachs. Even Bill Belichick turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom! It would have been inconceivable to see a roster of the ruling class like that one aligned against the GOP, yet somehow Trump did it.
Obviously, these banks and corporations are not coming over to the side of the people, and once “stability” returns they’ll be more bipartisan in making their billions rain down on political candidates, but the fact that they’ve taken such extraordinary measures because of Trump is prima facie evidence of the limits, and ultimately, absence of his power. Same with his repudiation from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other military officials, and various retired and influential generals. When you not only don’t have the loyal obeisance of the military and economic elite, but they actively detest you, you’re not only not close to being a fascist, but you don’t have much useful power either.
He may still have Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, Cruz and Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jordan and Gaetz, and the others in that GOP rogue’s gallery, but history will leave them in the dust. While they were able to steamroll the gelded Democrats, they stand no chance against Wall Street and the military. The GOP was able to rule by class alliances with corporations that made trillions off Trump in 2017 and by intimidation, until it wasn’t…..And now the oligarchy has an old friend back in office, and they’ll get no such crisis from Joe Biden. Indeed, Biden put out a flood of Executive Orders in his first week in office to undo much of the worst of Trump, an indication of the unpopularity and weakness of his predecessor, who governed not by creating an institutional structure, but by issuing orders that have now been easily overturned. That won’t reverse the damage Trump has done, but does provide clarity, and hopefully a blueprint for resistance, on how he did it.
And that needs to be stressed constantly too. Weak and feckless Democrats made Trump’s life exponentially easier. When challenged, as with the spontaneous airport demonstrations when he announced the Muslim Ban, during the 2018 elections, frequently throughout the rebellions he incited in the aftermath of the Floyd and Taylor murders, and during his election debacle, he was forced to back down, even in the end by his own people like Pence and Barr. Leftist hysteria about Trump created four years of anxiety and fear and paralyzed far too many people from getting out and engaging in real resistance–organizing, mobilizing, activism, direct action, and street politics of various kinds.
In the aftermath of the elections, Democrats blamed their poor down-ballot showing on street protests and “snappy slogans” like “Defund the Police” (which is a policy and a program, not a slogan) and barely talked about the continuing crisis of police attacking and killing people–mostly poor, many on the left, mostly non-white–and facing no consequences for it. The Democrats were never any type of real “resistance” to Trump, and it’s likely they’ll continue their timid and frightened ways going forward, even as a majority party.
Indeed, since the rise of Trump, the Democratic Party exerted more effort and vitriol in going after, and blaming, Bernie Sanders, the Green Party, RUSSIA! of course, people in the streets, and demonstrators who threw bricks through corporate windows than they ever did in creating an effective, not just performative, opposition to Trump.
So, as Trump awaits an impeachment trial that won’t end in conviction, but, if played right, will further delegitimate and destabilize both the GOP and Trump’s legacy, what are we left with? An ex-president who can’t get a credible lawyer to represent him, with only 15 percent of Americans thinking he did nothing wrong on 1/6, almost 60% wanting him convicted, the lowest approval ratings in presidential polling history, never having won the popular vote in an election, Wall Street and the military hating him, yet GOP reps continuing to kiss Trump’s ass while the the Dems continue to fear him. They’ve created a super-Monster out of someone with limited power and less popularity, and that’s even waning by the day.
American politics is like a years-long episode of “The Twilight Zone,” and we’re not out of it yet. But understanding that the past 4 years haven’t been some kind of analogue to Nazi Germany or the American Civil War is important to start. Trump was cruel, racist, ignorant, and violent, like a lot of other American presidents. He just tended to do it on Twitter and with more menace. The response to him should never have been, and can’t be now, to fear him and treat him like a huge bogeyman who’s trying to steal the country for his own use and control all our lives. It’s to understand that this is how power operates, and he wasn’t really good at it, and the future may bring something much worse (President Cotton?), and we need to be prepared for that.
Tet was a pivot point of the Vietnam War, and it’s been misrepresented ever since……
At the end of January the media will commemorate one of the more important and decisive events of the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive. On January 30th, 1968 the combined enemy forces of the Viet Cong, the People’s Liberation Armed Forces in the South, and the People’s Army of Vietnam from the North attacked virtually every center of military and political importance in the Republic of Vietnam, even invading the U.S. Embassy grounds. Within sixty days, President Lyndon Johnson would reject a request for a massive reinforcement of troops to Vietnam, begin to de-escalate the war, and withdraw from the 1968 presidential campaign. Tet was as determinative as any event in the Vietnam era and has maintained near-mythic status since.
Tet Attack on the Embassy
The consensus, still, is that Tet was in fact a great military victory for the United States but it was derailed by political factors at home, especially the media, symbolized by Walter Cronkite who famously spoke to America on February 27th, 1968 imploring Johnson to negotiate a way out of the war. While the enemy did suffer huge losses in 1968 (particularly in the so-called Tet II and Tet III offensives later that year), the reality was that grave American vulnerability had indeed been exposed and the U.S. could not expect future success, and there were people with more influence than Cronkite saying that.
American military officials, in their reports to their commanders and to the White House, were candid and pessimistic about the war in the aftermath of the enemy’s audacious offensive. In fact, for some time, senior officers had expressed misgivings about the war and warned that things were getting worse. They pointed out that the ally in the South lacked broad public support, the enemy was more integrated into local populations, and that U.S. soldiers were not well-suited for a war in Vietnam. Even U.S. Commander General William Westmoreland warned in early 1965 that sending ground troops to Vietnam would “at best buy time” and lead to more reinforcements “until, like the French, we would be occupying an essentially hostile foreign country.”
The Marine Commandant Wallace Greene attacked the U.S. strategy of attrition, comparing it to a “grindstone” turned by the enemy as the Communists had enough manpower to keep the stone going, even while suffering big casualty rates. Army Chief of Staff Harold K. Johnson thought likewise and commissioned his staff to prepare a study, the so-called PROVN Report, to suggest a shift from a strategy of attrition, search-and-destroy operations, and free-fire zones, among other tactics, to one of pacification, political warfare, and a de-emphasis on conventional military operations.
With this anxiety over the war already established, Tet hit the military hard, and despite public claims of success—Westmoreland had famously predicted “light at the end of the tunnel” in November 1967—the offensive reinforced many of its bleak views.
“Light At The End Of The Tunnel”
Throughout the Tet crisis, military officials in Washington and Saigon recognized America’s perhaps-intractable dilemma in Vietnam. At the outset, Westmoreland reported that, “from a realistic point of view, we must accept the fact that the enemy has dealt [South Vietnam] a severe blow,” bringing the war to the people, inflicting heavy casualties and damage, and disrupting the economy. President Johnson, alarmed by the reports coming from the military in Saigon, media criticism, and the largest casualty counts of the war, dispatched Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Earle Wheeler to Saigon at the end of February to assess things.
Wheeler claimed the media was unduly alarmist, but his report, presented to the president on the same day as Cronkite’s televised special, recognized and admitted the grave problems post-Tet. The enemy was strong and capable of continuing its attacks; the southern Army meanwhile had lost about one-quarter of its strength; the pacification program had been badly undermined; and the Vietnamese government was in peril as it confronted massive problems such as desertions, refugees, and reconstruction. “In short,” Wheeler concluded, “it was a very near thing.” Harold K. Johnson did not resort to euphemism. “We suffered a loss,” he cabled Westmoreland, “there can be no doubt about it.” Wheeler nonetheless requested another 206,000 troops for Vietnam and the activation of 280,000 reservists, and immense escalation that Johnson was sure to reject.