The Republican agenda seems to be to destroy the country to save it from …what, exactly?
In early 1968, the Vietnam War, which had supposedly been going well for years (according to happytalk media reports) suddenly and unequivocally went pear-shaped. Viet Cong forces attacked and captured several government buildings and assassinated 43 officials in the city of Bến Tre as part of the Tet Offensive, a major escalation that Hanoi hoped would inspire a popular uprising. Ten days later, U.S. forces recaptured the city, but at great cost, with hundreds dead, thousands of homes destroyed and tens of thousands made homeless. Peter Arnett of the Associated Press quoted a U.S. Army officer as saying that “we had to destroy the town to save it,” a soundbite that went viral (for its time) and contributed to the public’s growing disgust with the war effort.
In recent years, however, one of our two major parties has taken up the effort to bring this tactic home. The GOP has set itself up as America’s savior in the war against their imagined version of socialism, but defending against this bogeyman requires such a range of suffering that one wonders if the victory is worth the cost. If we must ruin the country to save it, what do we have to look forward to when victory is finally achieved?
Consider these offensive efforts on the ideological battleground:
At least 23 states, led by Republican governors, have rejected enhanced unemployment benefits intended to help workers weather the pandemic economy. Led by the rallying whine of “Nobody Wants to Work,” as taped to the doors and drive-thru speakers of low-paying businesses across the country, the excuse is that we have to impoverish the country to save it. And by “save it,” I mean drive low-wage “essential” workers back into the rat race, because Karen wants her burger and she wants it now. Never mind that you have kids who are still home from school or immunocompromised elders that you have to care for or, just maybe, are taking the opportunity to look for a better job than the one where unvaccinated anti-maskers breathe in your face. Bow down before the ones you serve!
Once fierce opponents of net neutrality, Republicans are getting a taste of the results and it’s making at least one of them murderous. Net Neutrality is what would have kept the Internet treated as a public utility rather than allowing providers and other tech companies to serve as “hall monitors,” to quote Matt Gaetz. Gaetz, the Republican House Rep from Florida currently under investigation for sexually exploiting a teenager, recently decided he didn’t like tech companies deciding who could use their services if the people thusly deplatformed were Republicans, and suggested that Second Amendment remedies would be an appropriate response. They want to shoot at Big Tech to save it from market forces?
How about healthcare? In leading the charge to dismantle even the aspects of the Affordable Care Act that they once embraced, offering no viable alternative that would protect those who need care the most, and continuously blocking even the most watered-down public options, Republicans appear bent on sickening the country to save it from the nationalized systems enjoyed by others around the world. Then there’s COVID and our nearly 600,000 dead. From anti-mask to anti-vax for the sake of some version of “freedom” that increases the probability of early death or a lifetime of health problems, it’s clear that the Right places a high priority on lining the pockets of Big Pharma and the disease-industrial complex while simultaneously driving down the life expectancy for most Americans. That’s quite a trick. Why is it so important to them to spread illness and prevent people from getting the care they need?
The list goes on and on. Whether they’re sabotaging the Post Office, trying to force women to stay pregnant whether it’s a good idea or not (and compelling those who miscarry to get a fetal death certificate and bury or cremate the remains), polluting for profit, embracing white supremacy, pushing for more evictions, or making it harder for everyday Americans to vote, the Republican agenda is to immiserate the country to save it from …what, exactly? The alliance between the GOP’s business and puritanical wings means enriching the already-wealthy while reducing everyone else to the kind of desperation that makes begging from Twitter philanthropists look like a feel-good story. The carnage isn’t as sudden as a bombed-out city, but the damage and suffering are real. If this is the future that conservatives want, no wonder they need to spread bullshit and suppress the vote to maintain their power.
Related: Socialism. You Keep Using That Word…
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