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.
Please subscribe, follow, and SHARE on our various media.
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. *******************
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.
Wednesday’s events were horrible, dangerous, infuriating, and predictable. People with weapons easily breached the Capitol, gallows were hung (perhaps performative, maybe not), and people were attacked and five are now dead. The country was stunned, and both establishment and social media have been deeming this Trump’s “coup” or an “insurrection” from the first. It’s hard to talk about this. Trump is horrid, detestable, and dangerous, and any time you try to reel the rhetoric back, you can be accused of being an apologist for a cruel, racist, inhuman bigot who happens to be president—which all makes sense. But doing awful things doesn’t mean we have fascism, and vandals and thugs breaking into a sacred public building doesn’t mean we’ve had a coup. There’s no saving grace to any of this, but it needs to be viewed in a clearheaded and coldblooded way.
The imagery of January 6th was more intense and brazenly violent of any during the Trump era, because of the target—the Capitol, a genuinely terrifying sight. Otherwise we’ve seen this before in Charlottesville, the Michigan Capitol building, anti-mask rallies, or when groups like the Proud Boys attacked protestors in cities like Portland. We’ve witnessed immense numbers of Americans, Black Lives Matter and Antifa most often, but even 9 year old kids and Walls of Moms, beaten, gassed, shot with “less-than-lethal” weapons, rammed with cars, you name it.
And this, despite the anguished cries of talking heads, is nothing close to 9/11–and think about the way we talk about 9/11 now compared to 2001–the more distance one gets from events like this, the more realistic rather than frightening they become. Katrina was a humanitarian disaster. Read contemporary accounts of Nixon’s final days. Remember the stunning impact of the OKC bombings. We’re now seeing over 4000 people die, daily, more than 9/11, from COVID and these same bigoted thugs who ransacked D.C. have had countless riots over mask-wearing.
For that matter, we’ve seen dozens of public massacres at malls, bases, and of course schools—with no meaningful response. A classroom of second graders was slaughtered, and legislative crickets…. And of course the country was built upon the massive bloodshed of the indigenous, slaves, and immigrant workers. It would help to exhale. If this is the worst day in American history, we’ll be blessed.
Seeing this as a normal event in America in 2021 is a better, and actually more radical, way to analyze and plan going forward than treating it like a coup d’etat, which has a far more unique and ideological quality to it. Violence, like H. Rap Brown said, is as American as cherry pie.
The language of the Ruling Class: The street protests of 2020 were called “riots” by much of the political class and media and “uprisings” or “rebellions” by people on the Left. American history is full of conflict, with words creating interpretation. “Mobs” and “Crowds” or “rabble” don’t imply class or political consciousness, and a riot is an angry passionate uprising which denies people agency. Insurrection is not just a word but a legal term, used against the Left throughout the various Red Scares in American history. You insist on calling the action of Trump’s thugs an insurrection, you can be damn sure they’ll say that that the next time you’re protesting the police killing an unarmed Black man or woman. A “coup” is in fact empowering, and gives an estimable status to people who deserve absolutely no respect.
If the ruling class called people who were righteously protesting, maybe 30 million of them, all over America, a “mob” that was starting “riots,” why turn around and call partisans of their side—more violent and without any social or political justification—an insurrection or a group staging a coup? Why give them that stature, using the language of the ruling class. People who defend the elite will never be charged with insurrection. People who reveal state secrets, like Julian Assange, or make antiwar speeches, like Gene Debs, will. At the same time, many people are exercised about “blowback” right now–the idea that any Lefty who calls for action against the mob is playing in to the hands of state by legitimating its repression.
I understand the concern but the State doesn’t have to look hard to find excuses for repression, and we on the Left should absolutely want to see the people involved in Wednesday’s actions be arrested (though of course not cooperate with authorities in any way to make that happen). I have no problem defending BLM and Antifa actions from this summer, while attacking Trump’s crazed mobs. To suggest that the Left should have sympathy for them is the same false equivalence we get from the corporate media. But in the end, the ruling class will do what the ruling class wants to do and it will find a reason to do it.
People who are willing to defend ruling class interests will always be called “patriots”; the Left will never own that word and needs to put it away. Same with “traitors.” There’s some utility in turning the tables on Trump and the rest of them and referring to these people as “thugs” and “looters” and “scum.” People who foment a coup would have some brains and skills. Why give them undeserved credit for the events of January 6th? And if you want to be terrified, keep in mind that a real “coup” would make Wednesday look no different than Black Friday at Wal-Mart or, courtesy of a Facebook friend, a kegger when Dad was out of town. When you use the language of the ruling class, you’re already in the hole.
The Coup That Couldn’t Shoot Straight: By Wednesday, Trump’s inner circle, the people who continued to fight to overturn the election, consisted of him, an Adderall-addicted madman; his son, a coke-addicted madman; Giuliani, a pre-embalmed madman; Sidney Powell, a madwoman now facing a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit, and Mark Meadows. By that time, everyone else had jumped ship. It was as if only Neidermeyer and Marmalard were left and the float was barreling right at them. So Trump incited a big group of people (which was small, tiny,infinitesimal compared to the Black Lives Matter protests last year) who were raged out, and they marched on the Capitol and mayhem ensued, abetted by some police acting more like maîtres d’ than law-and-order types.
One does not make a blueprint for and carry out a takeover of government on Twitter for weeks ahead of time, in the open, with no actually planning; but he can certainly incite the mob that way, and Trump surely did, as always. That was not an organized Coup d’Etat. It was not an insurrection. It was not unpredictable. It was violent and it was ugly, like Trump’s language. Some scary shit went down, no doubt. But look beyond the spectacle of horrifying images and think about the larger political context.
The people who breached the Capitol for the most part walked around like gawking tourists from Peoria, many looking amazed like the dog that caught the car, taking selfies, live-streaming (and doxing themselves), walking into the chambers, going into Pelosi’s office, carrying Confederate flags and doing other odious things. Some got violent and pipe bombs were found. This wasn’t a group of peaceful protestors holding a vigil. It was a mob. They vandalized the place.
Though a horrifying sight, they had no plan, no organization. They smeared feces on the walls. They had bloodlust fantasies, but no way of carrying them through. No organization, no reinforcements on the way. They were as much capable of fomenting a coup as Giuliani and Powell were an “elite strike force” ready to take on the Supreme Court. When the National Guard finally arrived—called by Pence, the Vice-President of the guy who was stirring up the thugs—the crowd was gone quickly, snowflakes with no stomach for a real confrontation. That doesn’t mean they should be allowed to walk away. They’re seriously violent and incited by an unhinged cult leader. I’ve seen voiced on the Left express concern about the federal government going after them. Really? They need to be all arrested and dealt with harshly.
If you’ve ever read about a real coup, or a real crisis in government, it does not consist of a mob of people storming a building and taking selfies by which law enforcement can identify them. Seriously, I’m not downplaying it. It was horrific and fury-inducing. But there was never any possibility above Zero that the election would be overturned, Biden’s victory would be canceled out, Trump would remain in office, or that some government force would march down to the Capitol to stage a coup, or that “American democracy was in the balance,” as the more hysterical media people and the experts they brought in screamed. That was not happening and the media who kept ratcheting up the alarm and anxiety and fear got good ratings from it.
Trump’s Allies Were the Target: When the MAGA thugs broke into the Capitol they started shouting “Where’s Pence” and there were people calling for the Veep to hang on the gallows. Inside the Trump Death Cult, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, and now Lindsey Graham had become the main enemies for rejecting Trump’s begging to change the Electoral College. Indeed, as Trump became more unhinged and desperate in the last week, he shifted away from the Democrats and put a laser focus on RINOs, in his fetid mind, like Kemp and Raffensperger, then Thune and Romney of course, and finally Pence and McConnell. After being in the crosshairs of the mob and seeing their names on hit lists, you can be assured they’ll start taking right-wing violence more seriously, after years of inciting it. The chickens truly have come home to roost.
At the same time, it’s been reported that pretty much everyone in the White House outside of 5 or 6 madpersons were trying to talk Trump down. Again, if they didn’t expect this and were trying to extinguish it (for their own self-serving reasons) it’s not a coup. It’s political violence, but more like a scene out of a dark political comedy than Guatemala City, Tehran, or Santiago or …..
When the military rebuked Trump last summer after the shameful and violent photo op, when Mattis and other retired generals and then Milley himself castigated Trump and apologized, when the Secretaries of Defense and the various services made statements on behalf of racial justice, when Trump kept insisting on keeping Confederate base names and recently vetoed a defense budget for that reason, it was obvious, with no doubt, that he had no force with which to remain in power. Trump wasn’t trying to overthrow a government, he was trying to stay in the White House to lead a government that despised him.
And the Bankers: Just a couple weeks after the election, in mid-November, various ruling class groups—Wall Street banks, the Chamber of Commerce, fatcat donors, and others—began to tell Trump to go away, even threatening to withhold donations to the GOP in the future if he kept inciting the mob with insane claims of a rigged election. Trump did keep the flames going, and the failure of the oligarchs to step in at that point, along with Biden’s “just ignore him” strategy, were huge errors. Trump was allowed to own the narrative for two months because he was just viewed as a souped-up version of a crazy uncle. People should have been in the streets too. There are a lot of lessons to be learned there. The events of January 6th could have been prevented well ahead of time.
But this week, the dam broke. Various business groups began to more vocally call for Trump to stand down, and GOP senators, hoping to avoid Trump’s twitter wrath up to that point, finally went public with their plan to certify Biden. Koch-backed groups weighed in as well, telling Trump to give it up. Then, most stunningly, on Wednesday, as the mobs ransacked the Capitol, the National Association of Manufacturers, as intensely anti-labor and anti-liberal as any group in Washington, the people who brought you Taft-Hartley, led by a longtime GOP operative, dropped the big one and put out a press release with the title “Manufacturers Call on Armed Thugs to Cease Violence at Capitol,” warning that “Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit,” and called on the Cabinet and Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment—as if Snoop quit weed, Shrodinger’s Cat died, and Satan had a Come-to-Jesus moment, all at the same time.
From there, the oligarchs piled on, culminating on January 7th with a call from the Wall Street Journal itself for Trump to resign. And on Wednesday, the 7th, as the Capitol was “under siege,” the Dow went up 437.80 and the next day, 211.73. As I write this, Dow futures are +161.00. Just today, the Grey Lady reported that “the party faces a threat to its financial base, too. Several of the most powerful business federations in Washington denounced the chaos this week in stinging language” such as the “extraordinary” statement from NAM. The ruling class got even richer from Trump and then ditched him and is secure and feels like it has things under control now.
This “dissent” from the military and ruling class, and even some elements within the Republican Party, are important, and should not be dismissed. When the ruling class shows fissures, you have to do whatever you can, no matter how seemingly small, to act on them. Capitalists aren’t going to overthrow themselves and hand power to you (they wouldn’t be much of a ruling class if they did….). People need to organize, outside of the Democrats and The Squad, in the streets and beyond the venue of electoral politics, to get things done.
Getting rid of Trump was important. Time spent on social media or elsewhere complaining about Biden and his party will be wasted energy. Our needs are great and time is short, and should not be used chasing the chimera of a Democratic epiphany or some kind of bipartisanship or reconciliation (two more words that should be retired). Last summer, when corporations waved BLM banners and set up scholarship funds and such, or when the NBA and WNBA went into their bubbles and conducted virtual seminars on Black history, that wasn’t revolutionary, but it did expose many people, surely millions, to ideas they would not have known otherwise, and they can act on those. It’s our job to follow up on that, to exploit in any way, even if it seems trivial at the moment, those spaces, those openings to introduce new ideas and actions and make them legitimate and eventually accepted.
It’s Not Over: In the coming months we’ll see countless post-mortems on this, with breathtaking headlines about how close we came to losing America and such. This needs to be analyzed absolutely, and with more reason than passion. But we already know what caused it—years of austerity and Democratic failure to help the working class and its commitment to Wall Street, Clinton’s “triangulation,” and Obama’s political fecklessness—leaving the field open to someone like Trump, who used it to incite angry people who felt dispossessed by elites and racial minorities. As the great Gil Scott-Heron told us, “America leads the world in shocks. Unfortunately, America does not lead the world in deciphering the cause of shock.”
Groups like the Proud Boys and QAnon offered a response and they aren’t going away, and in fact are now in Congress and other legitimate political spaces, while Trump’s flunky Ronna McDaniel will stay on as RNC Chair. Trumpism is here and we have to meet it with strength, in the streets if need be, but not count on Pelosi, Garland, The Squad or other politicos to do it for us.
I think it’s more than a quibble to reconsider what we call things like this. A “coup” gives too much credit and political oxygen to a group of violent miscreants and thugs. Talk of insurrection and sedition can boomerang back against the Left. Insisting on calling everyone a “terrorist,” be it a crazed guy with a van in Nashville or QAnon devotees in a Viking costume in the halls of congress, makes it easier to use that word against protestors in Portland and Seattle and New York and everywhere else. For what it’s worth, the public response to Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Defunding th Police and other “snappy” ideas is now better than it’s ever been, so this summer’s actions did matter.
ABC News kept referring to the vile mob on Wednesday as “anarchists,” and that’s a greater cause for anger, and action, than a word like coup or insurrection. The people, the groups, and the language that led to the world today won’t fix the current crisis. That’s up to us–doing mutual aid, forming affinity groups, organizing unions a ton of associations, and getting into the streets. They’re a mob causing a riot, we are leading a rebellion.
There are currently two feuds dominating the Left—Jimmy Dore vs. AOC in “The Brawl Over Medicare-for-All” and various segments of the Left vs. The Squad on its vote to re-elect Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
If you want/need better evidence of the futility of the Left, it would be hard to find. There’s a huge ongoing dispute over whether “The Squad,” a group of about 6 elected officials (hell, throw Sanders and Markey in there and make it 8) out of 535, should force Congress to have a vote on socialized medicine to put everyone on the record, and another argument over whether to vote against the incumbent (and politically inept) speaker of the house. Social media is still in in an uproar over these issues with “support AOC” and “The Squad is dead to me” opinions seeming to alternate in frequency and intensity.
The Left continues to be hung up on electoral politics, despite not just its shortcomings but clear inability to make any kind of effective change. One would think that two Sanders campaigns, the latter blowing through $180 million, the Clinton and Obama maneuvering to kill him off politically, the attacks on AOC and her cohorts by the Democratic leadership, AOC’s big defeat for a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, constant scapegoating of The Squad, “Defunding the Police,” and “Socialism” by establishment Democrats since November 4th, and so on would convince the Left about the futility of its efforts. There’s not an issue with voting, per se, but once you’ve cast the ballot, it’s time to move on and begin movements, organize, go into the streets.
But, like Charlie Brown kicking the football that Lucy’s holding, they go back for more. Sure, we all know how hapless Liberals are, but sadly it looks like self-described radicals and even people who claim to be Socialists are in the same camp—bitching about the Democrats and obsessing over electoralism.
No one will convince people not to vote or get involved in electoral politics, much as it might be a useful experiment. But people on the Left need to realize that voting is a tactic—and that means a vote for Biden against Trump was a tactic too, which was okay—and it’s not sacrosanct. And we’re at a juncture now where it’s clear, or ought to be, that voting and electoral politics—like forcing a floor vote on M4A—is so far from the kind of effective action that we need, especially amid a pandemic and an economic crash, that it’s a big drain of valuable time and resources and no way to attain or increase any political credibility.
So, yeah, let’s just step aside from the Democrats, from The Squad, from electoral politics all together. There’s a little more space on the margins to organize and do direct action and create community political groups with Trump out, but it has to start now. The needs are great, the time is short.
It Doesn’t Matter
At an elementary level—like most lefty hysterics about the actions of elected officials—these disputes just don’t matter, they’re a big “so what!” So many Liberals and the Left think the politics of symbolism will make or break them. They live in a world in which they believe that public actions by small groups will help or harm their causes.
Antifa? A gift to the Right….
Impeachment? That’s going to only help Trump ……
Punching Nazis? Makes us all look bad; we should be nonviolent…..
“Defund the Police”? Toxic, snappy words that will just turn people off…..
Tagging Pelosi’s and McConnell’s houses? Childish behavior that will create negative public perceptions of us…..
Here’s the thing….. It doesn’t matter. Antifa was crucial in the summer rebellions and even got decent media play. Impeachment had no bearing on Trump’s future or the election. Punching Nazis inspired some young anarchists, pissed off some older Lefties, and in the end it meant little if anything. The movement to defund the police angered a lot of people for whom optics or “toxic words” is their only politics, but you could have called it the “Free Ice Cream and Whiskey If Cops Kill Fewer Black People” program and it still would have been trashed. Left scolding has no particular virtue and when people are in the streets, literally risking their lives, they deserve support, not reprobation.
The likes of Spanberger, Lamb, Ruy Teixeira and the CAP clan, and Democratic talking heads have always, and will always, deride the Left for its language and action. The Democrats have spent about a half-century now waging an aggressive internal campaign against anything to the Left of corporate shills like Biden, Dick Gephardt, Gary Hart, Mike Dukakis, Pelosi and so many others.
So what are the politics of this Dore v. AOC uproar? What’s the political calculus? If you force a vote, you can put people on record, that’s it? But the Democratic Party’s already made it clear that it’s against M4A, amid a global pandemic that’s exposed the utter failure of the U.S. healthcare system. Biden said he’d veto it if it came to his desk (which is even more telling because he could have punted on the questions since there was always zero chance of that happening). So it doesn’t matter. (Continue to page 2).
On December 7th, 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor, the first step in what would become a brutal 24-year occupation in which it would kill over 210,000 East Timorese, over 30 percent of the population, with significant U.S. support throughout the entire period.
Up to April 1974, “Portuguese Timor” was a colonial outpost of the central government in Lisbon, but then the left-wing “Carnation Revolution” occurred and the new Portuguese government announced its commitment to decolonisation for all its colonies including East Timor, Mozambique, Angola and others. West Timor was part of Indonesia.
With Portugal gone, East Timor saw a surge of political activity, with the conservative Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) and the Leftist Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor, or Fretilin established first, with Fretilin more popular among the Timorese, much to the dismay of neighboring Indonesia and Australia, as well as the United States. The two parties did enter a coalition in early 1975, but Indonesian destabilization operations saw the UDT accuse Fretilin of turning East Timor into a communist front and the agreement fell apart in August. With the support of Indonesia, the UDT began to forcibly take over radio stations, internal communications, transportation hubs, and the police, and it began a civil war against Fretilin, which appealed to East Timorese military forces that had been trained by Portugal. With those reinforcements Fretilin forced UDT troops into West Timor and seemed to be in control of East Timor…..but that would soon change.
East Timor lay at the southern tip of the archipelago of Indonesia and Fretilin was clearly a target of the brutal Suharto regime in Jakarta. Indonesian government and military officials saw East Timor as a threat now, despite being small and significantly weaker militarily.
Fretilin’s program of mobilizing East Timorese villagers would have created a popular democratic alternative within the Indonesian archipelago. The Suharto regime described Fretilin as communists. The reality, as Australian intelligence observed, was that most of its leaders were practicing Catholics; of the ten main Fretilin leaders, at least four attended mass daily. Indonesia feared secessionist movements within other provinces—the “threat of a good example”. In addition to what Jakarta saw as the negative example of an independent East Timor, Indonesian government and commercial leaders also believed that there might be abundant reserves of oil and natural gas under the Timor Sea (there were), and Suharto hoped to become a closer military ally to Washington in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
Jakarta’s message about the “threat” of Fretilin met responsive ears in Australia and the United States, which was looking to maintain a presence in the region after its defeats in Indochina. American President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger supported the plans to crush Timorese independence and offered aid. In September 1975, Indonesian special forces thus began incursions into East Timor, with conventional military assaults, and even the executions of five Australian journalists, within a month. With that as prologue, Indonesian forces attacked and invaded East Timor on December 7th, 1975. Indonesian naval forces bombarded the capital of Dili as paratroopers landed and engaged East Timorese military forces, and by noon had taken control of the capital.
Days later a second wave of Indonesian forces captured Baucau, the second biggest city, and by Christmas another 15,000 troops were in East Timor. By April 1976, that number had risen to over 35,000, with another 10,000 in Indonesian West Timor ready for reinforcement. Inside East Timor, Indonesian troops began wholescale slaughter (not unlike they had done after the 1965 coup that deposed Sukarno), with reports of rape and assassinations of women and children and ethnic Chinese as specific targets. The Bishop of Dili described “soldiers who landed started killing everyone they could find. There were many dead bodies in the streets – all we could see were the soldiers killing, killing, killing.”
Though the Indonesian forces were causing massive bloodshed, East Timorese forces had moved into the mountainous interior and conducted a guerrilla campaign that lasted throughout 1976 and early 1977. At that point, the Indonesian navy had purchased armed patrol boats and submarines from the U.S., Australia, the Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan and West German, and 13 Bronco aircraft from Rockwell International with military credits from the administration of Jimmy Carter. Jakarta send another 10,000 troops in to conduct what Indonesian officials called the “final solution.”
Indonesia’s final solution involved encircling and annihilating villages and mountainous hideouts, while defoliating the ground cover and causing widespread famine. When villagers fled and moved out of those areas, Indonesian forces just massacred them. In some cases, entire villages were killed, with allegations of chemical weapon use common. By 1978, the resistance was finally quashed, at a massive cost in human life among the East Timorese. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was the first head of state to formally recognize Jakarta’s annexation of East Timor, though both Canberra and Washington had been on board from the start of the invasion.
While the invasion was ongoing, reports of the atrocities and a famine reached the outside world, and even became the subject of congressional hearings in the United States. While critics alleged that the U.S. “looked away” as Jakarta killed tens of thousands in East Timor, the reality was more stark. In fact, the Carter administration provided heavy support—military, financial, diplomatic—to Jakarta. Indonesian troops in East Timor “were armed roughly 90 per cent with our equipment,” the Department of State acknowledged. As they ran out of military materiel with their escalating operations, Carter authorized additional arms sales of $112 million for 1978, and Vice-President Walter Mondale visited Jakarta to announce new arms sales. Throughout, the Carter administration denied that the situation in East Timor was dangerous.
Congress, led by Representative Donald Fraser of Minnesota, conducted hearings on the Indonesian invasion and famine and Carter officials denied that the situation was even serious. In March 1977, American officials Robert Oakley and the renowned Richard Holbrooke told congress that the White House had accepted Indonesia’s annexation by Indonesia and that “allegations” of atrocities were “greatly exaggerated.” When a former Australian Consul to East Timor, James Dunn, testified about the “brutal operations” that had already killed perhaps 100,000 Timorese along with rape and torture, a state department official, David Kenney claimed that the Indonesian forces were “maintaining a defensive posture,” that “there was no ‘search and destroy operation,’” and that the Timorese “can move about” the country at will.
While Indonesia, Australia, the United States and most of the world whitewashed Jakarta’s crimes in Timor, there were outsiders who brought the crisis to the attention of the world, as a small guerrilla resistance continued to fight against Indonesia throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
While the United Nations passed resolutions in 1975 and 1976 calling for Indonesian withdrawal and recognizing East Timor’s right to self-determination, Jakarta, and virtually every other western state, just ignored them. By the late 1970s, largely due to the efforts of the journalist Arnold Kohen and activist Noam Chomsky, as well as Fraser’s efforts in congress, some Timorese refugees were brought to the U.S. to meet politicians, journalists, and human rights groups. More attention, and support, was given to East Timor throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s but it still existed mostly on the margins of the Left. By the end of the Reagan administration, East Timor was becoming a bigger issue, and 182 house members and a group of senators sent letters to the White House demanding an inquiry into human rights abuses by Indonesia. Reagan increased arms sales to Jakarta.
The Santa Cruz Massacre (or Dili Massacre) of 1991 marked a major turning point in the public campaign for East Timor. Indonesian forces found resistance leaders in a church and killed Sebastião Gomes, a pro-independence activist. During a memorial service for Gomes on November 12th, over 200 Indonesian soldiers opened fire at the graveyard and killed over 250 East Timorese in a massacre that was witnessed by western journalists and camera crews.
Jakarta called it a “misunderstanding,” but the international outcry over East Timor grew exponentially. In early 1998, beset by political scandals and an economic crisis, Suharto resigned and that helped give East Timor more political space. In 1999, almost 80 percent of East Timorese voted for independence in a national referendum and ended 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation—supported and paid for in part by Australia and the United States—and centuries of colonial rule by Portugal.