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The Republican Party and the Trump Candidacy in Context: (Part O)
If you have been following this series, from Part A, or some other part, you may have noticed something a bit odd. I don't seem to be talking much about the actual Trump political ascendancy within Republican ranks and his run for the Presidency of the United States of America. The reason for this is fairly straightforward.
We are trying to put the Trump phenomenon in historical context. When you do that, what you find---at least what I have found---is that his right-wing populist campaign is not terribly novel, no matter how colorful a personality he appears to be on the surface; and no matter how seemingly outrageous some of his remark may appear to be on the surface.
I say "on the surface" because of the way I have been conceiving of Democratic and Republican politics, in the United States, as a Good Cop-Bad Cop routine.
Because we no longer have a party that at least challenges corporate power (Franklin Roosevelt Democrats) and we no longer have a party that at least mildly advocates for poor and other structurally marginalized groups (I'm going to say, the Lyndon Johnson and Jesse Jackson Democrats from about 1963-1990, or so), the neoliberal tide of the late-1970s and early-1980s, swept in, removing the issues of corporate power and domestic human rights from the table, drifting both major parties to the right.
This process, touched off as it was by race (1), has left the two major parties with very, very, very little to actually disagree about. But yet, due to well over a century of habit, for lack of a better word, Republican and Democratic discourse continues to be structured in ostensibly oppositional terms.
The "ostensibly oppositional terms" bit is a fancy way of saying, the "Good Cop-Bad Cop Squeeze," I have been talking about.
As I mentioned in Part N, there is a scholar, activist, and public intellectual called Tariq Ali, who would say that this process (or something like it) has created something he calls the "radical center" in Western politics.
What he means by that is that there has been a convergence, a meeting of the minds of both the center-left and center-right, to the point whereby they share general agreement on issues of life and death, war and peace, as well as economic and political structuring. There is some difference on "cultural" issues, says Mr. Ali, but that's about it.
I would take it a half-step further and say that, even on "cultural" issues, the center-left and center-right radical center have more similarity than difference; and this similarity comes from class privilege.
What in the world am I talking about?!?!
Well, you know how people who consider themselves at least "socially liberal," will say that they are "tolerant" (of diversity), and all that, like its a good thing?
Now, I---the person writing this---consider myself to be on the Left politically, but I have never been crazy about the word "tolerance."
I have never liked the word "tolerance" because it is the flip side of and just as conservative, in its own way, as "intolerance."
For someone to say of himself, that he is "tolerant" (of "diversity") is for that person to assume he has ownership of a certain social space. If that is true, then the magnanimous one can "tolerate" some Other's presence in that space one day, and then, theoretically and conceivably, withdraw that tolerance the next day.
Since I own the social space, I can do whatever I want with it!
Actually, when you really think about it, "tolerance" is a luxury that is only affordable for people who inhabit and command privileged social spaces.
For example, it would not make a lot of sense for a Native American, living on a reservation (The "Res") to talk about being "tolerant."
Because as an Indigenous person living on a reservation, he inhabits a relatively marginal social space. It is not a social space that hordes of people are busting down doors to join. Therefore neither he nor anybody else from the 'res' are called upon to exercise discretion about who may join the social space and who must be kept out or driven out of the social space.
In other words, there are few people, I would think, who would want to "trade places" with Native Americas.
Does that make sense?
It would not make a lot of sense for a single, unmarried black woman with four kids, living in a housing project in the ghetto, to talk about "tolerance." Again, the simple fact is that there are no hordes of people busting down the door to get into the ghetto; it is not a privileged social space.
Of course, Black Americans, as a racial class, you might say, do not inhabit a privileged social space. This is easily verified by the fact that when "[w]hite college students were asked what sort of compensation they would expect should they have to endure the remainder of their lives as someone suddenly made physically 'Black' but not otherwise changed, the majority 'seemed to feel that it would not be out of place to ask for $50 million, $1 million for each coming black year'" (2).
Law professor Ian F. Haney Lopez summed up this way:
"Although this figure seems more metaphorical than accurate in its roundness, it is a metaphor that testifies to the immense value Whites attach to White identity. But perhaps these students were far more accurate than they could imagine in estimating the value of White identity. After all, what would one pay to be accorded the differing treatment meted to Whites as opposed to Blacks?" (3).
The commodity of "tolerance," then, can only really be extended by people inhabiting and commanding semi-privileged and privileged social spaces --- the social petite bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie, if you prefer the Marxist language.
Stay with me because this is going to get tricky!
As a philosophical Leftist, I have always rejected the following formulation: I'm a social liberal and a fiscal conservative.
The way I understand "social liberalism" is utterly negated by "fiscal conservatism." I believe that what these people mean to say, and should really say is: I'm a legal liberal, and social and fiscal conservative.
Being a "legal liberal" is fantastic, as far as I'm concerned. But we should recognize that this kind of liberalism does not call for spending from the public treasury. Marginalized, discriminated-against people can be included in the American Way without spending any money from the public treasury (for example: gay rights, women's rights, the right of transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice, voting rights, First Amendment issues, etc.)
Poverty, however, is a social issue that requires a structural fix of wealth and income redistribution, as well as large expenditures from the public treasury. This stance is incompatible with a philosophy of fiscal conservatism.
Stay with me, here's the tricky part
But still, for our purposes, to be a "legal liberal," is to be "tolerant," in the sense that a person inhabiting and commanding a privileged social space to the marginalized and shunned Other.
For our purposes, too, the "legal conservative" is relatively "intolerant," in the sense that a person inhabiting and commanding a privileged social space chooses not to recognize the legitimacy of the marginalized and shunned Other; and indeed, from the perspective of the legal conservative, there is a good reason the Other is shunned and marginalized: a lack of legitimacy.
Does that make sense?
What I'm saying is that legal liberals and legal conservatives---because of the privileged social space they inhabit and command, which gives them control over the commodity of "tolerance," to extend or withhold as they see fit---are the flip sides of the same coin.
Stay with me.
California's Proposition 8
A referendum was passed in California's state elections in November 2008. The public vote was engineered by conservative opponents of gay marriage. Proposition 8 "Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry" (Wikipedia).
Here is the point for our purposes: The legal conservatives chose (Yes to the ban) by a vote of 7,001,084; and the legal liberals chose (No to the ban) by a vote of 6,401,482.
The legal conservatives, banning gay marriage, won.
I don't want to go into the details of the affair. The interesting thing, to me, is the fact that both legal liberals and legal conservatives participated in this vote; and by doing so, they legitimated the idea that gay marriage is a matter for the public to vote on.
Here's what I'm saying
I thought the American Declaration of Independence affirmed, or "guaranteed" as inalienable, three basic rights: to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Isn't marriage one of the penultimate acts of the "pursuit of happiness"?
Why isn't the right of gay people to marry a safeguarded right invulnerable to the elite-engineered transmission or hoarding of the commodity of "tolerance," as channeled through the mechanism of popular democracy?
A referendum vote like this, which calls into question existential legitimacy of a group of people, their right to BE, is an example of what I like to call vindictive democracy.
What is "vindictive democracy"?
As I define it, vindictive democracy is any question of public democracy (referendum) which inherently questions the existential legitimacy of any group of people --- as California's Proposition 8 did. And both liberals and conservatives who participated in the vote lent their weight to this process.
Let's back up and slow down a little.
Let's get back to the voters for Proposition 8.
I've been saying that only people, in the United States, that live in and command semi-privileged and privileged social spaces have command of the commodity of tolerance.
I don't know if a class survey was ever done of those voters --- but let's say, for the sake of argument, that the "electorate" featured elite and non-elite elements, again, as it pertains to the desirability of the social spaces they inhabit.
Let's say some marginalized elements bothered to vote, in terms of race, class, and what I call "racial class." Let's say we're talking about "lower-middle-class" on down --- "working-class," "working-poor," in addition to marginalized elements by race and racial class.
What I mean is this: You may be wealthy in terms of socioeconomic class and therefore advantaged. You may also be a member of a disadvantaged group by race (racial class); you may be a Cherokee.
Though you are a successful tech entrepreneur and wealthy, by virtue of your Cherokee identity, within the context of the current political, social, and cultural climate we live in, you come from a disadvantaged group by "racial class."
One reason Southerners fought so ferociously to maintain slavery during the Civil War, was because that social system guaranteed a minimum level of status security for poor whites. They could know that no matter how deprived their circumstances were, they were always better than any blacks or Indians as a matter of law and custom. In other words, his racial class (his "whiteness") would only let him fall but so far.
Does that make sense?
If misfortune should befall our hypothetical Cherokee friend, and he should lose his money and his company, for whatever reason, then, having lost the social shield of his earned wealth, he would go back to being a marginalized and discriminated-against person from a racial minority group --- and treated that way by society.
In other words, the hardscrabble poor white farmer knows that there is a minimal level of social dignity he will be accorded at all times, no matter what his material circumstances might be. You might say that his racial class provides him "all over" protection.
Returning to Proposition 8: Why would poor people bother voting on such an initiative to ban same-sex marriage, when they surely have more pressing concerns of their own to deal with --- you know, as a function of being poor and everything?
Such a concern gives rise to a very closely related question: What's the matter with Kansas?
That is to say: Why is it that working people seem to be so easily induced to vote against their own economic interests?
Stay with me because the answers we consider for this economic question will intertwine with the cultural question.
Broadly, what we're asking is this: How come the elites are so darn good at getting ordinary working people to go along with them, even when doing so would appear to be plainly against the interests of the ordinary working people?
Stay with me. Back to the economic question: What's the matter with Kansas?
Why are working people so willing to vote against their own economic interests, in the United States of America?
There are many reasons usually given to a question like this.
- People have a variety of interests, including and aside from the economic. Depending on circumstances, other interests may assume a superseding import for them.
- The working class in the United States is the weakest, most poorly organized, and fractious in all the advanced industrialized world. What this means is that labor's victories have been few and far between. If we assume that people want to associate with winning causes and interests, then it is easy to see why workers would choose not to prominently self-identify as "labor" or the "working class" (I've heard the statistic that, in the United States of America, upwards of ninety percent of the populace claim to be "middle class").
- Race is always a factor. To take on small example: Race is the reason we don't have a single-payer universal healthcare system in the United States. It is well known that when President Harry Truman introduced the legislation in 1946, it was bitterly opposed by the American Medical Association on the grounds that it was "socialized medicine." It was also bitterly opposed and defeated by Southern Democrats in Congress, on the objectionable grounds---from the perspective of themselves and their constituents---that it would lead to racially integrated hospitals (4).
4. "Speculative heydays," wrote economic historian Kevin Phillips in 2002, "pull in large middle class participation, fueling themes about the democratization of money and investment, at least until the bubble pops" (5).
Financial historian, Edward Chancellor, concurs, writing in 1999:
"The boom in leveraged buyouts became the driving force behind the bull market of the mid-1980s. Conventional measures of values gave way to LBO valuations known as 'private market value,' which were calculated by examining how much cash ('free cash flow') a company generated and how much debt it could support. Professional 'risk arbitrageurs,' on the look out for the next takeover, became the medium through which private market value was established in the stock market. Acting in unofficial collusion, arbitrageurs searched for vulnerable companies and took large stakes in them, thus putting them 'in play.' Members of the public followed the arbs' operations and imitated them, just as their forebears had followed stock market pools in the 1920s" (6).
5. Speaking of "fueling themes about the democratization of money and investment," we learn from Kevin Phillips again [Wealth and Democracy, 2002], that the roots of what we might call the idea of the egalitarian "American Dream," has its roots going back at least as far as the American Revolution (1776-1783).
That is because: "The Revolution realigned status and wealth in the thirteen former colonies with a vengeance, literally" (7).
For one thing" "The exodus of roughly one hundred thousand loyalists from what became the United States between 1775 and 1784, often after the expropriation of their property, eliiminated perhaps one-third of the thousand largest prerevolutionary wealthholders. These exiles, many of whom received British compensation, included the Wentworths from New Hampshire, the Hutchinsons, Gardners, Apthorps, and Olivers from Boston, the De Lanceys and Philipses from New York, the Penns, Chews, and Allens from Philadelphia, the Calverts from Maryland, and so forth" (8).
"This political shake-up of wealth patterns --- the combined exodus of loyalists and their replacement by an elite with lucrative connections --- was widely remarked upon, especially in New England, where Robert Treat Paine of Boston said that, 'The course of war has thrown property into channels, where before it never was, and has increased little streams into overflowing rivers...' John Jay said the same of New York, and others of Philadelphia. Historian David Ramsey wrote that new men had replaced the old in Charleston and 'rapidly advanced their interests' (9).
The bottom line, according to Kevin Phillips?: "One corollary was to seed misperceptions of the fluidity of U.S. society itself" (10).
Stay with me!
6. The American Revolution (1776-1783) would not be the last time that the catastrophic circumstances of war, would provide at least a temporary bedrock of American prosperity, "realigning status and wealth with a vengeance," on the way, thereby "throwing property into channels, where before it never was," "increasing little streams into flowing rivers," which served to "fuel themes about the democratization of money and investment," ultimately "seeding misperceptions about the fluidity of U.S. society itself."
Economic historian Kevin Phillips again, speaking of war:
"... all six of the major waves of inflation that have swept the United States have come in its wake, from Bunker Hill to the Vietnam build up" (11).
"The money in circulation has always had to be increased sharply, and each new flood that sluiced through a wartime economy has left expanded enterprises, and huge profits in sectors from transportation and food to munitions" (12).
7. How else do the commanders of privileged social spaces, in our society, get the masses to go along with them---or vigorously campaign for their support? We'll take a look at how the corporate rich (big business) advocates on behalf of small business; and how this advocacy oftens turns out to be a classic "bait and swithch."
The document that is going to help us do that is a section from a free online book, written by economist Dean Baker: The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer.
Now, in Chapter Seven (titled: Small Business Babies) we read:
"This vast majority of small business owners in the United States are honest, hard-working people who are trying to make a better life for their children than the one they have. This is also true of the people who work as dishwashers, housekeepers, and custodians. The big difference between the two groups is that small business owners earn more money, on average, than dishwashers, housekeepers, and custodians, and they hold a more favored spot in conservative nanny state mythology. As a result, small business owners can count on a wide range of special benefits from the government, including low interest loans, special tax breaks, and exemptions from a wide range of health and safety regulations that are intended to protect workers, consumers, and the environment" (13).
"Small business owners earn this generosity by serving as an important prop for the conservative nanny state. There are a wide range of public policies that are defended or opposed based on their impact on small business" (14). I want you to remember that for later!
Here comes the "bait and switch" part. Let's talk about the Estate Tax issue from 2004.
"For example, in the 2004 presidential campaign, President Bush repeatedly defended the portion of the tax cuts that went to upper income taxpayers by claiming that these tax cuts benefited hundreds of thousands of small business owners. Focus groups apparently showed that a tax cut that benefited people who owned small businesses sounded more appealing than a tax cut that just benefited wealthy people" (15).
Dr. Baker continued:
"In the spring of 2001 a New York Times reporter called the American Farm Bureau, one of the main groups lobbying fro the repeal of the estate tax, and asked to speak to a family that had lost its farm due to the estate tax. The Farm Bureau was unable to identify a single family in the entire country who had been through this experience" (16).
In short, Dean Baker wants us to know that:
"Small businesses do more than provide a cover for policies that redistribute income upward. Small business owners, like highly paid professionals, provide an important political base for conservative nanny state policies. For these reasons, they earn the benefits that the conservative nanny state confers on them" (17).
8. I'm afraid even the term "small business" may be misleading in certain ways. In a book published in the mid-1990s---When Corporations Rule the World---author David C. Korten pointed out, first of all, that the largest 1,000 companies in the United States, accounted for 60 percent of the gross national product (GNP), leaving the balance to about 11 million small businesses (18).
To my knowledge, things have not really changed all that much, as of 2016. But the significance of the data supplied by Mr. Korten is this:
"The contracting-out process," wrote David C. Korten (and he is getting into the relationship between the big firms and small businesses), "does create new opportunities for smaller firms, but the power remains right where it has been all along --- with the corporate giants. Lacking independent access to the market, the smaller firms that orbit core corporations function more as dependent appendages than as independent businesses" (19).
Think about that. Why wouldn't you, as a full body, fully favor "policies" that were pro-hands, the appendages that extend your reach and grasp?
9. Not only that but there is a question of where "small business" comes from. One of the claims of the administration of President William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001) was that their policies had, somehow, stimulated small business growth.
Well, David C. Korten, citing a book by Bennett Harrison (Lean adn Meaan: The Changing Landscape of Corporate Power in the Age of Flexibility), shared the following insight with us:
'It is the strategic downsizing of the big firms that is responsible for driving down the average size of business organizations in the current era, not some spectacular growth of the small firms sector, per se' (20).
I will give an explanation of "strategic downsizing," as well as an example in the References and Notes section.
10. The rulers of privileged social spaces do a very good job of presenting themselves as having "Everyman" roots---often misleadingly so.
Here I would refer you to one of the best shows on radio or televison: This American Life with Ira Glass. This is a show that picks a theme and then presents three or four real life stories (without sensationalism or embellishment; this is not so-called "reality television") around that theme.
There is an episode (still available in their archives on their website) that was originally broadcast on June 19, 2009.The episode is called "Origin Story."
In the prologue, before the main body of the show gets going, there is a Professor Pino Audia featured. Professor Audia studied entrepreneurship at the business school at Dartmouth. Dr. Audia was interested in the "garage" as a myth, a mythical origin story of the heads of major corporations, as part of the "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" narrative of "rugged individualism."
Major corporations, whose names you would recognize, that feature such "garage" mythologies, include: Apple, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Mattel Toy Company, Disney, and Whammo Toy Company.
Example: Hewlett-Packard (1938) Bill Hewlett/Dave Packard
The mythology goes like this: According to the promotional video they put out (after spending millions to buy and restore the original "garage"), the two founders of the company started in a garage in Paolo Alto, California. They did so with a few hand-operated punches, a used Sears-Roebuck drill press that had just made the trip out west, in the back of one of their cars. They first set up shop in a rented flat over a garage.
The reality version goes more like this: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard studied electrical engineering at M.I.T. and Stanford, respectively. Packard had worked at General Electric. A Stanford professor hooked the duo up with leads; and an engineering firm allowed them to use equipment they didn't own yet.
Twenty-one-year-old Steve Jobs was already working at Atari; and twenty-five-year-old Steve Wozniak was working at Hewlett-Packard, when they started Apple in Jobs's garage. The Atari people introduced Jobs to investors.
The founders of this company began working on their search engine in 1996, while they were at Stanford. They did move into a garage in 1998, when they already had investors. But they only stayed in the garage for five months. In 2006 Google bought that garage as a company landmark,
11. Religion has a role in all of this. I am specifically to the "prosperity gospel." As a quick reminder of what prosperity gospel is all about, I will cite an article by Hanna Rosin of December 2009 called "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?"
I'll just quote a paragraph that summarizes:
"America's mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated---one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking adn intense material optimis. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depressionn, its still going strong" (21).
There is an excellent book on this topic I will also recommend: Posner, Sarah. God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters.
I am guessing here, but I think Fred Edwords (with an 'o') would agree with me, that as a "racial class," African Americans are among the most ideologically vulnerable to the panacea of the prosperity gospel.
I am referring to an article he wrote for the March/April 2012 issue of The Humanist magazine. In "Hidden Hues of Humanism," Mr. Edwords is concerned with one question: Why are people of color so lacking in an overt humanist (atheist) presence today?
Edwords referred to a 2009 Pew Forum study: "A Religious Portrait of African-Americans in the United States." Eighty-seven percent of African-Americans described themselves as 'religious' and eighty-eight percent said they were 'absolutely certain God exists" (22).
There were similar findings for Hispanics. Also in 2009, the Borna Group reported that 92 percent of African-Americans identified as Christians, and were more likely than whites to regard themselves as 'born again'; and they expressed a faith that was 'moving in a direction that is more aligned with conservative biblical teachings.' Again, there were similar findings for Hispanics. Overt atheism is largely taboo in these communitieis (23).
In trying to figure out why blacks have such a paltry showing in the humanist arena, as compared to whites, Fred Edwords concluded that: "unlike minorities living in oppressed neighborhoods or working hard to gain middle-class acceptance, whites generally lack the bunker mentality or out-group status that tends to promote cultural conformity and identity politics" (24).
Mr. Edwords article relies heavily on a book written by the feminist/atheist activist and author, Sikivu Hutchinson called, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars (2011).
Edwords quoted Mrs. Hutchinson thusly:
'The legacy of Jim Crow and de facto segregation has limited black residential mobility, creating socioeconomic conditions in which blacks of all classes, incomes, and education levels live in close proximity to each other. Hence, African Americans remain the single most segregated racial group in the United States' (25).
Faced with this, then, "American blacks rejected as exemplars the slave-owning freethinkers of the Enlightenment in favor of a Biblical Jesus who spoke to the humanity of the most dispossessed elements of society, and of a living God who would dole out just deserts with an even hand in the next life" (26).
Sikivu Hutchinson adds that the American blacks' acceptance of Christianity 'gave African slaves purchase on being human, on being American, and on being moral' (27).
12. Now, take everything we just looked at and add it to the fact that we live in a country in which ninety percent of the population calls themselves "middle class" (28).
Now, add all that up and what do you get?
What I get, or the "sum" I come up with is this: "Kansas" (as in What's the matter with...?) votes not for their current economic interests --- but Kansas votes for what they hope will be their future economic interests. In other words, I believe Kansas votes for policies that will keep the socioeconomic environment, they aspire to, well appointed and as smoothly functioning as possible---keeping the nest well-padded for their hoped for future arrival, as it were.
Does that make sense?
All I'm talking about is the classic mailroom-to-the-corner office ascension dream.
Now then, could you please, slowly and carefully, explain to me what all of that political-economic stuff you put us through, has got to do with----California's Proposition 8, Gay issues, "privileged social spaces," and the "commodity of tolerance"?
It's like this: As we look back over history, even going back into Biblical times, if you like, when we find strong emanations of institutionalized homophobia, we find that the catalyst is a security concern of some kind.
Stay with me.
The community faces danger, existential threat even---or at least the elites who think they own the community and control or try to control it---think that there is an existential threat to the community/to themselves, since they identify one with the other.
This feeling of danger generates the perceived need to make more of us! That is to say, we need to reproduce ourselves, to create bodies of our own kind to throw against the intrusion of the crisis. We need to make more US to protect ourselves against THEM; because if we don't, THEY will get us!
Still with me?
Now since it is of cosmic importance that we make more US to protect ourselves from THEM (or to face some other long-term crisis), any sexual activity not directed toward making more US is to be considered "indecent," "immoral," even "un-patriotic."
Stay with me.
For example, in his book A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium, historian Chris Harman explains something about how the political changes of the late nineteenth century changed the way capitalism itself, operated in the advanced Western societies.
Because those political changes of the late nineteenth century included the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, it was no longer possible to bring in huge supplies of foreign labor. Therefore, a premium came to placed upon reproducing the worker domestically. An entire policy apparatus was put into place to maximize the reproduction of US (29).
In England, and the capitalist world more generally, all practices that seemed to go against "family values," let us say, came to be officially and institutionally condemned as "immoral," "unnatural," and "indecent," and whatever other adjective you want to throw in. In the early twentieth century, male homosexuality was outlawed in England for this reason (30).
Stay with me here.
Let us call the "emergency need to reproduce US," the impetus or call to action.
This call-to-action generates an injunction: Reproduce US; and any sexual activity not dedicated to the Reproduction of US is prohibited as immoral, indecent, and un-patriotic.
This injunction has a practical, utilitarian origin: the existential danger faced by the community which necessitates the need to Reproduce US!
Stay with me.
But as this injunction is passed both down the social ladder and down through the generations --- it persists even as it naturally becomes detached from its original, practical purpose (perhaps it even persists because it detaches from its original practical purpose).
In other words, the injunction becomes self-sustaining and self-justifying. Its original purpose has long been forgotten; and those who wield the injunction like a light saber demand obedience to said injunction because it is "right," or even "God-ordained."
They say that it is because it always was. It was ever thus!
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
This was how President Bill Clinton's compromise policy was euphemistically termed. This issue was about gays and lesbians being allowed to serve "openly" in the military without penalty.
Now we can imagine that gays serving in the military must have presented an interesting conceptual problem for right-wing conservative (religious or not) homophobes. Because you see, organically Reproducing US is just one way to Keep US Safe.
The other, classic way of doing this is taking up arms to defend mom, apple pie, and the American Way.
The philosophical homophobe must have felt themselves pulled in two directions.
- From the homophobe's perspective, on the one hand, gays are not defending the community, keeping us safe, by taking part in organically Reproducing US.
- But on the other hand, the gay soldier is taking up arms...
- But on a third hand---or first foot---the gay soldier is not organically leaving behind reproductions of himself (preferably a boy or two), who can also take up arms if necessary...
- But on second foot, many same-sex couples are increasingly interested in having children through the process of surrogacy. However, I would imagine that to the mind of the philosophical homophobe, such an arrangement wouldn't "count" as anything other than a kind of "adultery," perhaps.
- Stay with me. In my opinion, the reason the philosophical homophobe feels this way is connected to the ancient, primordial feeling that gays are not doing their duty of community protection by organically participation in the Reproduction of US. But of course, they are not conscious of this---its unconscious. Consciously, they just think that homosexuality is "wrong."
Stay with me.
If manpower issues related to the functioning of the economy activated a "family values" apparatus of "official puritanism" (see References and Notes item #30), then the alleviation of those issues might be expected to have a relaxation effect on the system.
Here's what I mean. Wikipedia tells us that the gay liberation movement is dated from the late-1960s through the mid-1980s. And it is also interesting to note that "in general, the politics were radical, anti-racist, and very anti-capitalist in nature" (Wikipedia).
It seems to me that the We got to make more US anxiety must have eased a little with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, in the United States.
I'll just quote Dr. David Harvey, from his The Enigma of Capital. He wrote:
"The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished national-origin quotas, allowed US capital access to the global surplus population (before that only Europeans and Caucasians were privileged). In the late 1960s the French government was subsidizing the import of labour from North Africa, the Germans were hauling in the Turks, the Swedes were brining in the Yugoslavs, and the British were drawing upon the inhabitants of their past empire" (31).
In other words, it is not so important to make more US because, with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, employers all over the capitalist world were starting to bring in vastly cheaper versions of "US," which is always good for undermining and weakening unions. However, this situation put a little slack in the system of official puritanism, which opened up greater daylight for the gay community to push for their own civil rights.
But the We got to make more US panic is also related to race, as well as class, in the United States. Let me just give you the Patrick ("Pat") Buchanan quote that I love so much. He said the following when he was running for President of the United States of America, in 1992.
'I think God made all people good, but if we had to take a million immigrants in, say, Zulus, next year, or Englishmen and put them in Virginia, what group would be easier to assimilate and would cause less problems for the people of Virginia? There is nothing wrong with sitting down and arguing that issue, that we are a European country' (32).
In order to truly see what this quote means, we have to step back a couple of centuries, to before the American Revolution. Historian Thaddeus Russell takes us there.
First of all, Dr. Russell explains that the "Founding Fathers," like John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams, John Jay, and others, held a "low opinion" of "American virtue" among the common, ordinary folk. Indeed, the former seriously doubted that the latter even "deserved" liberation from the British (33).
Russell describes the scene:
"But what the Founding Fathers called corruption, depravity, viciousness, and vice, many of us would call freedom. During the War of Independence, deference to authority was shattered, a new urban culture offered previously forbidden pleasures, and sexuality was loosened from its Puritan restraints. Nonmarital sex, including adultery and relations between whites and blacks, was rampant and unpunished. Divorces were frequent and easily obtained. Prostitutes plied their trade free of legal or moral proscriptions. Black slaves, Irish indentured servants, Native Americans, and free whites of all classes danced together in the streets. Pirates who frequented the port cities brought with them a way of life that embraced wild dances, nightlong parties, racial integration, and homosexuality. European visitors frequently commented on the 'astonishing libertinism' of early American cities" (34).
"On nearly every block in every eighteenth-century American city, there was a public space where one could drink, sing. dance, have sex, argue politics, gamble, play games, or generally carouse with men, women, children, whites, blacks, Indians, the rich, the poor, and the middling. The Founding Fathers were keenly, painfully aware of this" (35).
Dr. Russell also took care to stress the ubiquity of alcohol at the time, as well as the general tendency of drinking establishments to be racially integrated (36). Alcohol is important because it is well-known as a substance which reduces or shuts down inhibitions. Indeed, under its influence, one is liable to do just about anything with anyone of any RACE.
I disagree slightly with Dr. Russell's interpretation. You see, I believe that what would have disturbed the "Founding Fathers" so very much, was the INTERRACIAL character of the frolicking.
First of all, I find it difficult to believe that the "Fathers" were not doing the exactly the same things, albeit behind the closed golden gates of their upper crust society---for the most part sticking to their own "race," I suppose --- but we all know about the liberties slaveholders (which many of the "Founding Fathers" were) with the slave women they owned (consider the well-known case of Thomas Jefferson fathering several children by his slave, Sally Hemming).
But this interracial cavorting among the masses!
In order to understand what I mean, you have to know or recall (for those of you who have been following this series), that some eighty-years ago, or so, the fathers and grandfathers of the "Revolutionary Generation," had gotten to work on inventing something called "The White Race" (37).
"White" is a designation invented in America toward the end of the seventeenth-century and the beginning of the eighteenth.
The landed Euro-American elite sought to protect themselves and the economic order that favored themselves from the previously interracial class solidarity efforts of runaway black slaves, runaway European "indentured servants," and hunted Native Americans --- who often worked in coalition, more than we usually learn in school, before the creation of "whiteness" shifted loyalties from class to race (38).
The interracial cavorting, described by Dr. Russell, would have defeated the entire purpose of the strategy put in place by the fathers and grandfathers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and that whole "revolutionary" clique.
Over time, Europeans who migrated to America would learn to become "white," and not German, not Italian, not Swiss, not English, not Irish, not Welsh, not Scots, and so forth.
It is important to understand, in this connection, that "[I]n its first words on the subject of citizenship, Congress in 1790 restricted naturalization to 'white persons.' Though the requirements for naturalization changed frequently thereafter, this racial prerequisite to citizenship endured for over a century and a half, remaining in force until 1952. From the earliest years of this country until just a generation ago, being a 'white person' was a condition for acquiring citizenship" (39).
The courts played their role in shaping the national racial character. That is to say their were several so-called "prerequisite cases" of petitioners seeking citizenship on the basis of their "whiteness."
And so, "the categories of White and non-White became tangible when certain persons were granted citizenship and others excluded. A 'white' citizenry took on physical form, in part because of the demographics of migration, but also because of the laws and cases proscribing non-White naturalization and immigration" (40).
What's the point here? What's it got to do with institutional homophobia?
Its about the panic that can overcome a society's elites concerning the need to Preserve US. In so doing, we must Protect Ourselves from being overrun by Them in a couple of ways: We must ensure the structural integrity of Our National Borders; and we must Reproduce a ready supply of US, so that We are not demographically overrun by Them.
Under such a "threat," any sexual activity that does not serve the purpose of "Protecting US from Them," by making more of "US" than "Them" must be considered anathema!
And of course, we can readily see how institutionalized homophobia relates to the institutionalized anti-abortion rights/ "pro-life" stance. Since We are in an existential peril from Them, crossing our borders illegally and multiplying too fast, the preservation of Our Culture is absolutely dependent upon a smooth, steady, and non-stop Reproduction of US, so that We do not get swallowed up by Them and forgotten by history --- I mean FORGOTTEN BY HISTORY! Therefore, birth control is "selfish."
So then, if we once again revisit Mr. Buchanan's quote about Zulus and Englishmen immigrating to Virginia --- I think we have assembled enough of the Rosetta Stone to decipher his meaning.
That meaning is: We have to seriously limit immigration to people who are most likely to agree with US ideologically and that is Western European Englishmen (among the fairest-skinned people on Earth) and not African Zulus. because the former would be "easier to assimilate" and "cause less problems for the people of Virginia."
What, in Mr. Buchanan's scheme of things, is to be the criteria: "[w]e are a European country," he said speaking of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-racial United States of America, in 1992.
Scholar Gerald Horne [Counter Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America] refers to this process as the militarized identity politics (of "whiteness").
That is a good word because, again, with the word "militarized," we get the idea of a "military," and with that we get the idea of the organized, armed protection of a community. In this case, a rather synthetic identity is being protected --- a synthetic identity of "race."
This, in turn, evokes the sense of a kind of "cultural" martial law. All hands on deck are summoned to protect the community, the survival of US; and in this atmosphere, tolerance for non-US-Reproducing activity is frowned upon.
Okay, that seems like a good stopping point. We'll talk about something else in Part P.
Thanks for reading!
References and Notes
1. (2005). Domhoff, G. W. The Rise and Fall of Labor Unions In The U.S.: From the 1830s until 2012 (but mostly the 1930s-1980s). Section 5: Big Hopes, But Rising Tensions: 1960-1968. Retrieved August 27, 2016. One of the foremost researchers into the American power structure is George William Domhoff. He wrote:
"... polls suggested that even though a majority of blue collar and white collar employees disliked the anti-war movement, they were opposed to the war as well. It therefore seems more plausible that the defections were due to the backlash against the Democrats' support for integration. Within the UAW, for example, a majority of the members were resolute in the belief that the civil rights movement had gone too far too fast, and should go no further.
"It is this defection by white trade unionists from the Democrats, not the alleged sudden organization of the corporate community, which explains the right turn in the United States on labor and many other issues. A fractured liberal-labor alliance was defeated by an enlarged corporate-conservative alliance that was revitalized by the resentment of white Democrats and Independents over the demands by the civil rights movement, feminists, environmentalists, and soon thereafter, the gay-lesbian movement."
2. Haney Lopez, Ian F. White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race. New York University Press, 1996. 198-199; quoting from a book titled, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal by Andrew Hacker.
3. Haney Lopez, Ian F. White By Law. 199
4. Krugman, Paul. The Conscience of a Liberal. W.W. Norton, 2007. (page number pending)
5. Phillips, Kevin. Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich. Broadway Books, 2002. xxi (introduction).
6. Chancellor, Edward. Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation. Farar, Straus, & Giroux, 1999. 262
7. Phillips, K. Wealth and Democracy. 11-12
8. ibid, 12
9. ibid, 15
11. ibid, 9-10
12. ibid, 10
13. Baker, D. (2006). The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer. (Chapter Seven). Retrieved August 28, 2016.
18. Korten, David C. When Corporations Rule the World. Kumarian Press, Inc. & Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1995. 217-218
19. ibid, 218
20. ibid, 216-217
21. Rosin, H. (2009, December). Did Christianity Cause the Crash? Retrieved August 28, 2016. (The Atlantic).
22. Edwords, F. (2012, March/April). The Hidden Hues of Humanism. The Humanist: A Magazine of Critical Inquiry and Social Concern. 25
26. ibid, 27
28. Palus, S. (2015, April 13). Nine Out of Ten Americans Consider Themselves Middle Class. Retrieved August 29, 2016, from smithsonianmag.com
29. Harman, Chris. A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium. Verso, 2008. 382
The "apparatus of the Reproduction of US" included laws: restricting the hours children could work; banned employment of women in industries which might have damaged the chances of successful pregnancy; and a few capitalist bosses built model villages, which included a strict ban on alcohol.
30. ibid, 382-383
"Practices which might challenge the model family, however widespread in the past," wrote Chris Harman, "were branded as 'immoral' or 'unnatural.' So premarital sex, divorce, contraception, and discussion of sexual hygiene and sexual enjoyment were all castigated in a new climate of official puritanism. Male homosexuality became a criminal offense for the first time in Britain."
31. Harvey, David. The Enigma of Capital And The Crises of Capitalism. Oxford University Press, 2010. 14
32. Haney Lopez, Ian F. White By Law. 18
"Strategic Downsizing" and MCA in the early-1960s
Strategic downsizing is what a corporation does when it gets into antitrust (monopoly) difficulty with the federal government. The corporation detaches a division or two, to act as a separate, individual, "independent" company. Then when the government changes and/or when the antitrust laws shift, the organization can simply re-absorb the detached divisional/"small business" entity.
An example of this is the movie giant, MCA, in the 1960s. There's no need to go through the sordid details. The bottom line is that MCA was busted by the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Department for continued violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (on seven counts):
- Monopolization of trade in the name of talent.
- Monopolization of the production of filmed T.V. programs.
- Conspiracy with SAG (the Screen Actor's Guild) regarding a "blanket waiver" and above-mentioned monopolies.
- Restraint of trade (including packaging of 'tie-ins.').
- Extortion for services not rendered.
- Blackmailing independent producers.
- Discriminatory and predatory practices.
MCA negotiated with Justice, who dropped all of the criminal indictments, despite the illegal blanket waiver and the company's twenty-five-year history of violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. As part of the agreement, MCA "vacated" its artist's agency work in favor of its more profitable production wing (which immediately acquired Universal Studios and Decca Records).
The talent agency business was sold to "former MCA employees," who formed the Artists Agency Group, which continued to do business almost exclusively with MCA.
From --- Russo, Gus. SuperMob: How Sidney Korshak And His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers. Bloomsbury, 2006. 269-270
33. Russell, Thaddeus. A Renegade History Of The United States. Free Press, 2010. 3-4
34. ibid, 4
35. ibid, 5
36. ibid, 5-7, 9
37. "White" as a "racial" identity was invented in British colonial America toward the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth. This concept had never been used before, anywhere else in the world. Europeans had never before referred to themselves as "white." They called themselves English, Irish, Scots, Welsh, Italian, German, Dutch, and so on. They also called themselves Protestant, or Catholic, or simply Christian. With the creation of "whiteness," the landed Euro-American elite basically invented "middle management," by which they could break up class coalitions among oppressed peoples (black slaves, European indentured servants, and Indians) and protect themselves against attacks on themselves and the elite-favoring economic system they put in place.
38. I have discussed this before, in this series and in other "hubs." You might take a look at: Zinn, Howard. A People's History Of The United States. You want to read the first two or three chapters, as I recall. You might also save time and look up in the index, the name Edmund Morgan, a historian specializing in the history of American slavery. Dr. Morgan is quoted at length as to the mechanics of the construction of the "white" race and its implications.
39. Haney Lopez, Ian F. White By Law. 1
40. ibid, 17-18