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Why Do Republican Billionaires Make Heroes Out of Killers?
The billionaire funders of GOP politicians could end this all in a single day — by refusing to further fund any politician who continues to embrace guns, dystopian rhetoric, insurrection, and hate...
Republicans are promoting death again, this time with DeSantis signing into law a bill that eliminates legal liability for doctors and other medical professionals (including EMTs) if they choose to let you die at the scene or on the operating table, or simply turn you away to let you die alone, because of their “moral, ethical, and religious convictions.”
The law says:
“[T]hat health care providers and health care payors have the right to opt out of participation in or payment for certain health care services on the basis of conscience-based objections” and “prohibits discrimination or adverse action against health care providers who decline to participate in a health care service on the basis of conscience-based objection…”
What started out as a slavery-, wife-beating-, and lynching-celebrating death cult fringe in the Southern Democratic Party — a group that called themselves Dixiecrats — has now fully taken over the GOP.
And the billionaires who support and fund the Republican Party are just fine with it. More on that at the moment…
There was, indeed, a time when Southern Democrats promoted the racist, misogynistic, and homophobic American Death Cult.
From before the Civil War until the 1960s, they consistently fought legislation to ban lynching, using the Senate filibuster in both 1937 and 1940 (the bill finally passed in 2022). In 1891 it was Southern Democrats who successfully filibustered legislation that would have ensured Black men in the South could legally vote.
When I was six years old it was, as any Republican apologist will tell you, Republicans and the Eisenhower White House, pushed by Republican Attorney General Herbert Brownell, who proposed and pushed through Congress the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first since 1875. All of the 97 votes against the Act in the House and the 18 votes opposing it in the Senate came from Southern Democrats.
But then came the 1960s, and Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s embrace of civil rights legislation. Republicans picked up the bigot vote, used it to win the White House in 1968, and never looked back.
Just a few weeks ago the Republican Party of Bonneville, Idaho hosted a “Trigger Time With Kyle” where donors could shoot with Rittenhouse himself — the guest of honor — with the same type of semiautomatic war weapon he used to end the lives of two BLM protestors and grievously wound a third.
Just this past week, as they did with Rittenhouse, Republican politicians helped raised over a million dollars for the white man who recently killed a homeless Black man in the New York subway.
Ron DeSantis tweeted, “We stand with Good Samaritans like Daniel Penny. Let’s show this Marine America’s got his back.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene joined in, tweeting, “The Marine who stepped in to protect others is a hero.”
As my SiriusXM colleague Dean Obeidallah noted yesterday in his excellent Dean’s Report Substack newsletter:
“This is politics at its most dangerous. The [Penny] case should be decided by a jury—not used as a political prop to score points. Instead, DeSantis is sending a message that if you are supported by the GOP base, we will have your back even if you kill someone.”
Violence against racial, religious, and gender minorities has always been a part of American politics, as has the acceptance of violence against women. From the time of the Civil War to the 1960s, it was mostly Democrats who championed such cruelty; that all changed, however, in a single decade.
I was a member of MSU’s SDS in the 1960s and remember well when a few of our members split off to join the Weather Underground. Both SDS and Democrats condemned their violence; both instead embraced the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts that had been passed in 1964 and 1965 and advocated nonviolent change.
That decade was the turning point, when Democrats abandoned hate and violence as a political tool and embraced an inclusive, pluralistic American society. But the racists and haters didn’t just vanish: they instead simply changed party affiliation.
In the election year of 1968, with Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” the Republican Party officially opened its welcoming arms to the racist, violent former Dixiecrats. Quickly, it was Republican politicians who were spouting hateful and violent memes.
Four days before the Kent State Massacre of May 5, 1970, California Governor Ronald Reagan called students protesting the Vietnam war across America “brats,” “freaks” and “cowardly fascists,” adding, as The New York Times noted at the time:
“If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement!”
By 2009, hate and violence were solidly a part of the Republican political landscape. When the late actor Andy Griffith made a TV advertisement promoting Obamacare that year, for example, he received so many credible death threats that he had to ask the Obama administration to pull the ads to protect his family.
More recently, Oklahoma GOP Chair John Bennett — who (like Reps Boebert, Massey, Ogles, and others) campaigned using pictures of himself, his wife, and his three children holding semiautomatic war weapons — called for Anthony Fauci’s execution to cheers from a Republican audience.
Like Duterte in The Philippines, Donald Trump just called for the death penalty for young people convicted of drug crimes, while DeSantis changed the law in Florida so a prisoner can be executed without an unanimous jury verdict.
Terrifying and angering Republican voters while explicitly calling for violence in response to their perceived victimhood is now the go-to strategy for GOP politicians and their media allies.
Although violent crime in America is at a 30-year low, Republican media and advertisements portray America — particularly cities with large Black populations — as savage hellscapes. Those portrayals frighten white Republican voters and that fear then fuels gun purchases, which lead to more deaths of American children.
Researcher Stephen Piggott notes that such misleading advertising and rhetoric are fueling violence instead of combating it.
“In recent years, there’s been a real mainstreaming of both violent and dehumanizing rhetoric, and it’s espoused by elected officials and media personalities,” Piggott told The Guardian.
“And it’s really served to kind of normalize this political violence. When you have individuals with large platforms, like elected officials and media personalities, and they’re talking about things like an impending civil war, it could lead to folks kind of taking that to heart and then acting on it.”
As reporter Aimee Green wrote for the statewide paper, The Oregonian, this past weekend, it’s become almost routine:
“It was supposed to be a carefree Fourth of July 2020. Two families had settled in for what they thought would be a relaxing Oregon summer evening on the beach of Lincoln City – an 80-mile, weekend getaway from their homes in Forest Grove and Hillsboro – when a group of seven men approached.
“According to witnesses, the white men walked up to the Black families, raised their hands into the air and exclaimed ‘Heil, Hitler!’ They told the families to ‘F—- off,’ then called them a highly offensive racist slur directed at African Americans. They waved Donald Trump flags in the air, blared music extolling the virtues of Trump and exclaimed, ‘You think you’re privileged because you’re Black!’
“One man lit a firework and threw it near one mom – warning, ‘That’s just a warm-up.’ Someone in the group mimicked a handgun with his fingers and pretended to shoot. One man also alluded to having a real gun….”
The small-town police in Lincoln City, Oregon showed up when one of the families called 911, but instead of arresting the racists they surrounded the Black families while the Black parents and their children packed up their things and left the Fourth of July celebration before the fireworks had even started.
As The Oregonian’s headline noted, “Hundreds of Oregon hate crimes go unprosecuted every year.”
America is today experiencing a national epidemic of hate and implied or actual political violence which has spread from racial- and religious-based hate all the way to threats of violence against scientists.
Just last week, we learned they’re now coming for meteorologists who mention global warming in their forecasts and reports, threatening them and their families with death.
My friend Michael Mann, one of the nation’s most prominent climate scientists and the inventor of the “hockey stick” graph Al Gore popularized, has been dealing with death threats and harassment for years.
The billionaire funders of Republican politicians could end this all in a single day — or at least marginalize it, as it was sixty years ago — by simply refusing to further fund any politician who continues to embrace guns, dystopian rhetoric, insurrection, and hate.
Sadly, though, those billionaires who fund or help the GOP — particularly the petrobillionaires and media moguls — won’t take that step.
For a few it’s probably because they share the same white supremacist worldview espoused by people like Trump, DeSantis, Greene, and Abbott.
But for most it’s because they know the difference between a Republican or Democratic victory in many states — enough to flip national elections — is held by that racist, misogynist, bigoted fringe. If Republicans lost their votes, Democrats would take the balance of the nation’s political power.
And, more than anything else, those billionaires want to continue paying only 3 percent (or less) in income taxes and know that if Democrats take power, they’ll hold corporations accountable for their pollution and make the morbidly rich pay something close to their fair share of the nation’s expenses.
After all, the morbidly rich appear to think, what’s so bad about terror campaigns targeting minorities and the gun-fueled slaughter of our children when billions in tax cuts and trillions that can be made hustling fossil fuels are at stake?