The Modern Pirates

Republicans in Congress have more in common with buccaneers than statesmen

There are a lot of metaphors we could apply to the Republicans in Congress. They make a lot of empty promises like snake oil salesmen. They misdirect their audience to cheat them like a shell-game huckster. They have the dedication to their oath of office akin to a prostitute’s declaration of love to a john. But all of their dishonest tactics are really focused on one goal, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that, however much they cast themselves as moral beacons or muckrakers.

Republican politicians are primarily motivated by increasing their coffers.

It is that simple. I’ll tell you how I came to that conclusion.

When I was living in California, I often worked as a journalist for gay newspapers and magazines. One of my assignments was to do a feature on Log Cabin Republicans — in other words, homosexual Republicans. Since most Republican platform planks in the past few decades have been decidedly anti-gay, a lot of us wonder how they justify their political choice. In the words of the male and female members of the group, they consider themselves socially liberal but fiscally conservative, and they have left the cause of social progress to others to deal with.

The pyramid scheme

The more I talked to them, the more their enthusiasm about the Republican Party sounded like a pyramid scheme. Republican leaders hold out the carrot of wealth by claiming they are pro-business, and say essentially: “If you support us, we will increase your opportunities to make money.”

I listened carefully during each interview and tried to smile and nod a lot. Inside, I was thinking I have never met more self-deceiving, selfish, greedy people in my life.

There is a distinction though, between Republican leaders and Republican voters. I don’t think they are necessarily greedy, but they do share the selfish and self-deceiving traits. Almost every Trump supporter who has approached me online was minimally educated, heterosexual (about 20% of gays voted for Trump), white, and living in a small town in the hinterlands. Their preferred news sources assured them that the federal government was rife with corruption, and believed the lie that Trump was a good businessman (he has become successful mostly by defrauding contractors, consumers, and the IRS) who would break the gridlock (perpetrated by Republicans, by the way) and “make America great again.”

So many of them are experiencing the buyer’s remorse now. Trump’s approval rating dipped to a historic 36% this week. The fantasy of someone who was going to “drain the swamp” and who didn’t really mean all those racist, xenophobic, antisemitic, misogynistic, homophobic, shaming things he said started to crumble.

Through the new administration’s first week of playing with their new toy, we saw Trump ban refugees from certain Muslim countries, but not the ones where he owned properties. We saw him and his surrogates try to silence the free press guaranteed in the Constitution. And Trump went on and on about the size of his . . . crowd during the inauguration. This is smoke and mirrors essentially. The Republican Congress will decide how many of these conservative wet dreams will see the light of day.

Avast, mateys!

And while we are reeling from promises to make abortion illegal, wild communiques setting off foreign leaders, health care program cuts, and rising mortgage rates, there was a consistent theme. Republicans were looking for ways to cut budgets and programs and even tap into Social Security and Medicare to . . . metaphorically search for doubloons — gold they could use to fund other programs that would enrich them directly through payoffs or indirectly through their investments.

You won’t hear them getting defensive about cutting health insurance, arts programs, public television, minority and women’s programs, business and trade agencies, and transportation programs. They will reassure you that private enterprise and charity will pick up the slack. So instead of mandating insurance rates and coverage assurances, they are offering to give you a tiny discount on your taxes once a year and allow insurance companies to charge what they want. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have raked in millions of dollars from health insurance companies, and their rewards will likely increase as the industry’s coffers bulge. (You can find a full list of the cuts here.)

And those pipelines Obama was against? Full speed ahead, ahoy! If they were just another vindictive impulse of Trump’s to dismantle everything Obama did, that would be one thing. But it becomes clear when one looks at who owns significant stock in the companies building the pipelines, why Trump is willing to fight public opinion against them. Making himself richer is more important, and if people object, “LOOK AT THE SIZE OF MY INAUGURATION CROWD AGAIN!”

Pirates only thrive when we do not oppose them. Let us, please oppose them. It is for their own good. They will make more money when all of us are doing better any way.

Mark Salzwedel is a professional writer and editor living in Brooklyn, NY. I have never been a fan of pirate movies, but in my film and stage acting days, I was occasionally asked to portray one.