When it comes to dealing with difficult issues, Republicans have followed the same pattern, time and again. First, they will deny there is an issue. Then, they will rebrand it to create a controversy that never existed in the first place.
Whether it’s systemic racism, elections, a legislative logjam or even a deadly pandemic, there is no issue that Republicans will not twist, distort, obfuscate or even out and out lie about to avoid dealing with a problem. And they have right wing media to amplify their false narratives. In fact, many of these prime examples of Fake News originate from distorted reporting from these outlets.
The approach is as old as America itself, when the Founding Fathers had to create a Constitution that allowed the Federal government to maintain its authority while still allowing the individual states to retain their sovereignty. And with right wing media over-amplifying, and distorting the issues by creating “alternative facts”, the two-and-fro of varying interpretations will continue to divide the country.
Here are some of the issues and their alternative views:
When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick took to one knee during the National Anthem, it was to draw recognition to the unequal treatment of minorities at the hands of law enforcement. It immediately spawned a movement and a reason to protest. Although the Black Lives Matter movement had been founded five years earlier, following the murder of Trayvon Martin, it was drawing little attention. Black men were still dying at the hands of racists on police forces.
Kapernick was not the first NFL player to launch this type of protest. In fact, his first acts of defiance went unnoticed as he sat on the bench rather than stand during the playing of the National Anthem. Seeing the attention it drew, other NFL players joined in the protest. Then, players from other sports created a movement that sought to put a spotlight on systemic racism in America.
Cue the right wing propaganda machine. First came the denial that systemic racism was prevalent among members of law enforcement. Then, there was the rebranding of the protests as being disrespectful to the American flag. Spurred on by right wing media, signs, tee shirts and other forms of expression emerged with the slogan “I stand for the flag and a kneel for the cross”. This clever juxtaposition of phrases was meant to tap into a distorted sense of patriotism as well as have a religious appeal. These are qualities that are falsely claimed as being part of the Republican identity.
Ever the opportunist, Donald Trump seized on the controversy as yet another divisive issue. He called for a boycott of the NFL and even demanded that players who got involved in the protest be fired. He also called Black Lives Matter protesters “terrorists” and “thugs” to further drive a wedge between the various segments of our country.
And Black men are still dying at the hands of law enforcement.
Getting the Job Done
Prior to his time in the White House, Donald Trump made numerous campaign promises. Yet, according to PolitiFact, he broke or compromised on these promises at a ratio of more than 3:1. Meaning, for every promise he made, he failed to live up to two. Instead of owning up to these failures, Trump blamed the “do nothing Democrats” for blocking his agenda.
His promise to repeal and replace Obamacare came to partial fruition. A plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act passed the Republican-led House of Representatives, but died in the Senate, thanks in part to Arizona Senator John McCain’s famous thumbs-down rejection of the action. There was no real effort made by Republicans to introduce anything similar to replace the ACA, although Trump promised to release his own healthcare plan after the 2020 election.
Another HUUUGE promise made during the 2016 campaign was the Great Wall to stretch “from sea to shining sea”. Oh, and Mexico would be paying for it. Of course, the much ballyhooed Wall was never completed. While Trump claimed to have built almost 700 miles of his Wall, 654 of those miles were actually to repair or replace already existing pieces of the border structure.
Oh, and Mexico paying for it? Trump denied he said that Mexico would “write out a check”, and instead rebranded his promises to say Mexico would pay indirectly through tariffs and a reworking of NAFTA.
It takes a good deal of verbal contortionism to make that work.
The one piece of landmark legislation that Republicans were able to pass during the Trump administration was the so-called tax reform. Titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, it did give a small increase in the paychecks of the average citizen, but it was a major windfall to corporations and the wealthy. Rather than being a major overhaul of the tax code, as promised, it turned out to be just another rebranding of the failed “trickle down” approach Republicans have been pushing for decades.
Mitch McConnell has pledged to oppose the Biden agenda. It was a policy he used during the Obama administration. As a result, true election reform, police reform and Biden’s signature Build Back Better Act remain as Democratic pipe dreams. It’s a strategy he is using in an attempt to retake Congress in the 2022 midterms.
The price for this “do nothing” strategy is a sputtering economic recovery and more Americans suffering.
Good job, Mitch! Let’s hope the voters remember come Election Day.
Pandemic denial is not only wrong, but fatal. Despite this, there are still numerous Americans, primarily on the right, who refuse to believe the coronavirus is real. They’ve called it a hoax. They claimed it would magically disappear. And they continued to gather in large numbers even as cases and deaths continued to rise.
Even as they continued to deny the virus was real, they offered the conspiracy theory that it was actually a bioweapon created in a Chinese lab. Spurred on by Donald Trump, they rebranded it with the racist names “The China Virus” and the "Kung-flu". This resulted in a huge rise in attacks on those of Asian descent, as they were unfairly targeted for causing a pandemic they didn’t believe existed.
Around the world anti-vaxers are using the pandemic to spread antisemitism. Movements in Poland and Germany are blaming the continued spreading of the virus to the Jewish population, and are spurring on a rise in hate crimes throughout these countries.
Not to be outdone, numerous right wing conspiracy theorists, including some Republican lawmakers, have compared mask and vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. This deplorable comparison has resulted in rare apologies, but then they turn around and make the same claims days later.
There were already anti-vaxers all around us. So, when vaccines were introduced to combat the virus, the movement gained a huge amount of followers. Protests against the vaccine have been held around the nation, as more and more outlandish conspiracy theories have arisen. Misinformation that vaccines have caused athletes to die on the playing field, claims they contain a tracking chip, and even the wild accusation that they are turning people into cyborgs have spread like wildfire on right wing media.
Republicans have turned the pandemic into a political football. They have gone to court, where Conservative judges have overturned vaccine mandates for businesses. They have declared mask mandates in public schools to be illegal, while demanding that schools remain open to allow parents to return to work. And, as cases surge in their states, they are blaming President Biden for “not doing enough” to fight the pandemic, while they are enacting measures to ensure it will continue to spread.
By continuing to twist the narrative, deny, accuse and rebrand the pandemic, the right is attempting to re-write the story of the coronavirus. It’s not a story with a happy ending.
Critical Race Theory
Of all the non-issues, the one that resonates the loudest among Republican circles is Critical Race Theory. What began as a question posed by Harvard University Professor Derrick Bell, as to the role of race in determining the historical status of African-Americans has somehow morphed into an attack on what is, and is not, being taught in public schools.
The old saying goes, “Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it”. Perhaps that’s the purpose behind trying to push an agenda that wants to ignore how Blacks have been treated throughout American history. By ignoring the atrocities of the past, it gives Whites license to commit them all over again. Instead, they can deny the horrors of slavery, segregation and racism by painting an unrealistic picture of our past, as has been done in some Texas textbooks.
The ridiculous thing about protesting Critical Race Theory in public schools is that it isn’t being taught. Instead, it’s a subject to be pondered in schools of higher learning. It’s one reserved for law schools and not public schools, as so many ill informed parents are asserting.
That’s not stopping Republican governors from creating laws or establishing tip lines to ban its teaching. They are using this as yet another boogeyman to instill fear and divisiveness from their supporters. It’s also led to a resurgence in banning certain books by claiming they are somehow offensive to their delicate White sensibilities.
The real issue with the teaching of Critical Race Theory is that it’s a thinly veiled nod to White Supremacists. They want to whitewash history be creating a rosy picture of an America that is peaceful, wholesome and White. It’s a land where people “knew their place” or “went back to where they came from”.
It’s a land that never existed, except in their own warped fantasies.
The 2020 Election/January 6th Insurrection
There are two schools of thought when it comes to labeling the 2020 election and the ensuing January 6th insurrection. On the one hand, there are those who want us to move on from the election and focus on the midterms. They want us to forget the controversies, the refusal to accept the results, the multiple losing court battles and the ongoing Big Lie.
The other side of the story would have you believe that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election. They refuse to accept that Joe Biden was legitimately elected and that the election was somehow stolen or rigged. They want to engage in endless recounts and are using the false claims to justify enacting laws aimed at suppressing voting rights, particularly those of minorities who usually support Democratic candidates.
Then, there is the January 6th insurrection. Republicans will alternately claim that it wasn’t an insurrection or that those who took part were patriots. By attempting to halt the verification of the results, they were actually behaving the same as those who took part in the Boston Tea Party.
That was only one of many ways they tried to relabel the events of January 6th. With the help of right wing media, they were able to claim it wasn’t an “armed” insurrection, that it wasn’t an insurrection at all, but a protest, that it was actually Antifa or the FBI and whatever else they could think of to deflect from the actual facts.
Which is why they are trying to prevent the House Select Committee from getting to the bottom of who is going to be held responsible for this blatant attempt to overthrow the government.
It’s All Connected
Whether it’s the pandemic, racism, the election or any of a myriad of issues, when caught red-handed, Republicans will never miss an opportunity to deny then rebrand any controversy. Like a swindler playing Three-Card-Monty on a New York City street, the object is to create as much confusion as possible so the truth never comes out. It provides their supporters with plausibile deniability, or “alternative facts” to use when they are confronted with actual facts.
Unfortunately, far to many are willing to accept the lies as truth and vice versa. That’s why it is so vital to make your voice heard in the midterm elections. It’s entirely likely we will have a repeat of Georgia runoff elections where Republicans stayed away from the polls because they believed the lie that the election was rigged.
Let’s hope so.