Sunday, January 3, 2021

Happy New Year: the Red Menace back for a 121st season!

By Leo Frank, Southern Bureau Chief with
Emma Goldman, Social Affairs Editor

It's 2021.  America is gripped by death, disease, economic calamity, and Louie Gohmert.  What, according to the Republican Senators running for re-election in Georgia, is the greatest threat facing this prostrate nation?

You guessed it:

NORCROSS, Ga. — The biggest applause lines in Senator Kelly Loeffler’s stump speech are not about Ms. Loeffler at all.

When the crowd is most engaged, including Thursday morning at a community pavilion in suburban Atlanta, Ms. Loeffler invokes President Trump or attacks her Democratic opponents as socialists and Marxists. Her own policy platforms are rarely mentioned.

“Are you ready to keep fighting for President Trump and show America that Georgia is a red state?” Ms. Loeffler said when she took the microphone. “We are the firewall to stopping socialism and we have to hold the line.”

Once again, the specter of the Red Nightmare looms over an election that desperate Republicans fear with good reason they will lose.  Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of its Baltic and Eastern European satellites, Republicans are still able to terrify (white) voters by claiming insanely that Democrats will usher in the Socialist apocalypse.

It's a frequent theme of ads from the Republicans' campaigns and their outside PAC's, including American Crossroads:

Loeffler's campaign has sought to portray Warnock as "a radical liberal." He is, according to Loeffler and groups including American Crossroads, a socialist, implying that he is therefore anti-American.

Jon Ossoff, a Democrat running against Republican Sen. David Perdue for the state's other Senate seat, has also been subject to similar claims of socialism and of being a threat to an unspecified "us" in ads by Perdue's campaign and outside backers.

You will of course hear Republicans claim they are shocked, shocked to discover that certain fringe elements of their party are stooping to such blatant fear-mongering.  So who's behind the American Crossroads Red smears?

Wait for it:

[Karl] Rove, the famed political consultant and former Bush administration official, is coordinating fundraising efforts for Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in her battle with Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock and GOP U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is fighting off a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff. The runoff election is Jan. 5.

So it stands to reason that American Crossroads, co-founded by Rove, is one of the earliest and biggest super PAC spenders on election advertising in the state. According to Federal Election Commission records, the group reported distributing almost $6 million just on Tuesday for television, radio and online ads in opposition to Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. 

Karl Rove? The man who engineered the “election” of George W. Bush as President and then served him loyally (by among other things, concealing his dirty tricks on his private email account, which as we all know is a capital offense)?  For it is he.

It's almost as if smearing Democrats as Socialists, whatever that means, has been a mainstream Republican political mugging for like forever.   That square-jawed figure above, later canonized as St. Ronald of Bitburg, rose to fame by inveighing against Medicare as “Socialism.”  And he didn't invent the false equivalency between government spending to ease the plight of the poor, like to keep them dying for lack of medical treatment, and Stalin's Gulag.

Here's a gem from the keynote address at the Republican convention of 1932, at which Republicans were finding it somewhat difficult to run on their record of economic ruin and human misery, as recorded in The New York Times, October 4, 1932 at 14:



Just in case you didn't understand to whom the Republicans were referring, President Hoover summed it up on November 1, 1932:

Spoiler alert:  His rival was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who won but did not bring Socialism to America.  (Apropos of nothing, remember how shocked Republicans were in 2020 when Democrats tried to make an issue of Republican domination of the Supreme Court?)

Now Socialism is actually a term with a meaning. You could look it up, not on a search engine or other super-spreader of disinformation.  It means advocacy of public control of the means of production, like industries and services. You may think that's a good or a bad idea, but that's what Socialism is.  It is the opposite of capitalism, not the opposite of democracy.   There is zero, zip, zilch evidence that either Jon Ossoff or Rev. Warnock support Socialism.

So what's all the fuss about?

From the torrents of bushwa flowing out of Republican mouths since 1932, you might think that Socialism was code for taking a dollar out of a billionaire's pocket to pay for a poor kid's school lunch, and you'd be right.

But that's not the whole story.  There's a whole second level of malice behind the Socialism slur that's been in wide circulations since the 1950's.  Here's lovable ax-handle wielding and future Governor of Georgia, of all places, Lester Maddox, who inveighed against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as foisted upon upstanding white folks by “the Communists and the Communist-inspired agitators . . . that will enslave all Americans.”

Next door in South Carolina, those who sought to implement the long-delayed dismantling of schools illegally segregated by white racists were excoriated by by Republican stalwart Mendel Rivers: “He talks like a Communist . . . those of us who know him call him a commissar of integration.”

(R. Perlstein, Nixonland at 131, 136 (2008).)

Is it possible that when rich white Southern Republicans like Sen. Fembot throw around terms like “Socialism” to smear an opponent who just happens to be Black that she's really trying to mine the rich vein of white racism and anger?

Surely no one could take seriously the charge that a respected Black pastor was in fact the reincarnation of Karl Marx, right?

You know what the answer is:

The problem, though, is that the “socialism” narrative was never about actual socialism ― it was about culture, identity, and pushing back against the left more broadly. 

Socialism (Source: Illustrated
Republican Encyclopedia)

“What they were doing is waging culture war, and creating a kind of MAGA identity within certain subgroups in Miami-Dade,” [Political Consultant Carlos] Odio said. “‘Socialism’ is shorthand for a more multipronged attack. It’s not just about foreign policy. It’s not just economics. It’s also about culture, and it’s also about race.

The Trump campaign sensed that early on, too, and folded its arguments on other subjects ― the mask wars and nationwide racial justice protests, in particular ― into its broader anti-”socialism” campaign. And it filtered those to voters through a right-wing media ecosystem that could echo every argument it made with little pushback. 

In one Spanish-language ad, the Trump campaign argued that Democrats were “puppets of the radical left, a gang that prefers anarchy and chaos.” 

Ever since Republicans embraced white supremacy and racism as their path to victory half a century ago, the real meaning of “Socialism” in their attack ads is the specter of scary Black people doing terrifying things, like demanding racial justice after 400 years of pretty much the opposite.  

Will it work in Georgia on January 5?  

Are you willing to put up real money that it won't?

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