Donald Trump and Ted Cruz lead the Republican presidential hopefuls. I don’t know if that’s more funny or scary.
After six debates among the Republican presidential hopefuls, this is where we are in America: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are leading the field.
We’ve arrived at a place where roughly half the people who live here can’t tell fact from fiction, can’t follow their own arguments to their logical conclusions, and think no one — including themselves— deserves an affordable education, quality healthcare, or a retirement income in old age.
We’re the only Western nation that doesn’t understand the value of a social safety net. There’s zero chance we’ll solve our more insidious problems — racism, sexism, violence — until most Americans aren’t scrambling daily to survive. Hustling for a meal or a place to sleep, working two jobs because wages have been stagnant for 50 years. Trying to get out from under predatory lending and stay out of debtor’s prison, which is suddenly legal again in Texas, where drivers now have their licenses suspended and are eventually jailed for being unable to pay the exorbitant fines that result from failing stringent auto safety and emissions tests.
If Republicans have their way, or if the Supreme Court steals another presidential election, we’ll also be back to fighting insurance companies that refuse cancer coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
We have good ideas about how to fix poverty, education, and healthcare. Doing so will require money, but a huge obstacle has blocked access to it: the folk tale that Republican lawmakers are so fond of, the one we’ve been repeating since 1630, when the Puritan leader John Winthrop delivered A Model of Christian Charity, the famous “City Upon a Hill” sermon that he preached as the first shipload of Puritans waited anxiously to disembark and set foot onto the New World. This narrative of American exceptionalism, a fantasy about how we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps, has now lasted for four hundred years.
Have we come far enough yet to admit that our American exceptionalism was built upon the backs of others, that our great, good fortune necessarily meant the misfortune of people of color? Our bootstrapping was made possible when our ancestors exploited the continent’s previously unspoiled natural resources, perpetrated a genocide of the indigenous peoples who populated North America, and extracted wealth from the land at the fastest clip possible by kidnapping Africans and shipping them to the New World to work as slaves.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
—The Declaration of Independence,
approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776
While the Founding Fathers were signing the Declaration of Independence with one hand, they cracked a whip in the other to maintain control over their slaves. The dissociation required to espouse a sacred belief in liberty and equality while owning slaves is akin to the modern libertarian entrepreneur who can’t perceive the privilege inherent in his having won the genetic crap shoot when he was born into a wealthy family.
He senses no advantage accruing to himself just because the income tax code ensures that high-income taxpayers keep more, if not all, of their money. No cards are stacked in his favor when he receives thousands or even millions of dollars in tax incentives (i.e., corporate welfare) for his business. And so he loudly demands that the poor must be rugged individualists and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, just as he’s done.
Now, as the raping of North America’s glorious bounty slows, the natural resources nearly depleted, shit’s getting a little tight in America’s wealth creation department. Candy Crush Saga does not put people to work the way coal mining or steel manufacturing does.
But you’ll never pry a cent out of the new millionaire to help shore up the public good — a blind allegiance to his awesome god The Market won’t abide it, and he’s got it buried in the backyard or in an offshore tax shelter and can’t access it right this minute anyway.
We’ll never get to the second-tier, poisonous problems like racism, sexism, and classism — all underpinned by a violent gun culture — while so many Americans are hungry, sick, and underemployed, too consumed by survival to turn their attention to more complicated problems.
In Fort Worth, Texas, where I live, if you can get to the grocery store and back home without being accosted by the Open Carry gun nuts, you count that as a good day.
Trump has been a long time coming, but now he’s finally here — the embodiment of the beliefs Republicans have been spouting since their messiah Ronald Reagan starred in the role of a lifetime, from 1980 to 1988, as leader of the American Plutocracy. That their desires have finally taken form in Donald J. Trump should surprise no one.