The Politicization of Everything
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the GOP shifted the us versus them dynamic to Democrats
It’s as easy as pie. Remember this expression?
If you bake pies, you know that it’s a pretty simple process; but to the non-pie baker, the raising of fork to the mouth, filled with steaming congealed berry of choice, elicits such excitement that it surely seems such an expression of culinary art could be nothing but complicated, right?
But no, baking a pie really is simple, and just takes a little practice. For example, I can pull together a creamy sweet potato pie in about two hours. I guarantee that it will impress.
And while I am not sure if pies have fallen prey to the latest and greatest attempt by Republicans to tear our nation apart, I don’t doubt that pies will soon fall onto their radar; maybe someday very soon, Tucker Carlson will pucker his face up feigning inner turmoil over his latest stupid and vile story — is it me or are the Democrats declaring war on apples? If he does stray down this rhetorical path, we will at least be ready because we know exactly what he is doing — and we can completely disengage the Foxified when they try to act smart and say stupid like:
So then why are you the Democrats so anti-Winesap apples(info about Winesap for the un-appled)?
The Republican party has turned every thing into a political choice. There is little left in our society that hasn’t become an ah, so you like Starbursts, guess that means you are for babies being harvested for organs moment? The list is long, indeed.
Since the mid-1980’s the Republicans have turned the 1st Amendment into an us versus them moment — protesting with AR-15’s and Berettas is all-American but burning a flag deserves a prison sentence. They have politicized Christmas (Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays), unisex bathrooms, climate change, the national anthem, the police, healthcare, change, the simple desire to even have a government became an expression of us versus them. There are so many of these small things and I really can’t think of them all right now.
Being American, in many ways, used to be a lot easier. We had our differences but when you laid your head down at night, you knew that it was in one nation, under God and relatively indivisible that you slept. It’s just not like this anymore, though.
Take for example the God-forsaken mask. How did we arrive at a day when a small piece of material could cause so many problems? It’s not like the mask had anterior motive. It was just being placed onto the face so that, for instance, I wouldn’t accidently infect my neighbor; or, the woman ahead of me at the bank; or, the kid steaming up my cappuccino. It was a sign of respect for my fellow countrymen, my fellow Americans.
And yet, the mask quickly fell into that scrum of stupidity and became a sign that “I hated Donald Trump.” It became a signal that I was weak-willed and needed the tyranny of the federal government to guide me. The mask told them that I wanted some form of “ism” that undoubtedly wanted to take their guns, and deny them the right to worship the God of their choice.
A mask, they claim, signified all of this and more. Like a modern-day Tower of Babel, the mask, flimsy and easily folded into a ball and forgotten in the creases of an inner-pocket, somehow became a wrecking ball severing the final threads of civility — even sanity — conveying the most wild array of messages.
This pie might be my absolute favorite but not because the way it tastes — although, it is amazing blend of sweet and tangy. What I love more than the flavor, though, is the memory of my first time that every bite brings back to me. I can clearly recall the stiflingly hot August morning at The Flemington Fair in Flemington, New Jersey. It was 1976 — our nation’s bicentennial. The nation was rejoicing, it was celebrating. The nation was proud and united.
Still early, my father suggested we pop into a popular little eatery on the grounds. It would soon fill up and and he wanted to me to try his favorite pie. The counter-woman was the generic gum-cracking waitress who called everyone sweet-heart or honey. The small morning crowd was filled with men who served either in World War II, or The Korean Conflict. As the din of conversations rose gently up over newspapers, a large flag encased in glass hung on the wall in the center. I went over to look at it and some older man said sternly, don’t smudge that glass young man.
Startled, I returned to my father. The man approached and led me back to the flag. He proceeded to tell me, and everyone in there, how he, and as it would turn out two of the other men eating pie there that morning, pulled that flag off of a burning tank in Normandy — then punishing the enemy soldiers who had blown their tank up.
The pie-eaters all listened and chimed in with their own small stories of war, of service to the nation. No one whined or said anything ugly. I felt like I was a part of special club. The man then pinned a small American flag to my baseball cap — he was running the VFW stand at the fair.
We finished our pie. My father shook their hands and off we went. Richard Nixon resigned two years before — no one was threatening insurrection or toting guns around.
In order to better understand why the Republican Party made politicizing everything from 1980 onward priority number one, we need to reach back to Moscow 1986. In that year, Mikhail Gorbachev planted the seeds that would end the Soviet Union.
In a speech before the Politburo, he spoke of a need to launch “glasnost.” Glasnost can best be understood as a big national complaint box that was officially opened by the Soviet government. United by a universal understanding that the reality of Soviet life was never as good as the governing Communist Party members said, Soviet citizens, nevertheless, believed in a certain infallibility of the Soviet system.
The moment the government admitted that things were not as good as they said, and permitted its citizens to express those complaints, the shock that the system was indeed fallible set forth such an airing of grievances that it became impossible for the Soviet authorities to ask for continued patience.
As it turned out, once the economic reforms, known as “perestroika,” commenced in 1987 or so, life in the Soviet Union actually got much worse; not better as promised. The government said that the belt-tightening would lead to a stronger economy but things seemed to collapse — and with glasnost, people were able to express their complaints for all to hear thus further weakening the system.
The Soviet Union, without going into a long and tedious retelling of its more than seventy year failed experiment at creating communism, was an economy based on political considerations only. The most basic tenets of a functioning economy, supply and demand, meant little or nothing at all. If it was determined by a government statistician in Moscow that one million purple pens were needed, then they were made; and then, distributed throughout the country willy-nilly; but in reality, people wanted blue, or green ones — too bad, purple it would be.
While we often think of life in the Soviet Union as being an impoverished one, it wasn’t really. It was just one where not everything revolved around the consumption of consumer goods. Happiness was not measured in the quantity of material possessions; nevertheless, it was one characterized by extreme scarcity and constant shortages. The shortages came about both from just bad planning, and a lack of resources to make certain things. Soviet manufacturing was missing key western spare-parts and technologies due to the Cold War and closed economy.
In order to prevent its citizens from objecting to the less than abundant lifestyle, the government controlled the flow of information; created the truth that would be “sold” to its people; radically rewrote history to make it seem like the world was against the Soviet Union; and, manipulated the suffering and sacrifice of World War II (The Great Patriotic War) to motivate the people to stoically plod on, accepting the extreme deficit of material wealth. Today, Russia has a fully functioning market economy and none of the shortages that so characterized the Soviet-era exist.
Ronald Reagan’s choice to restyle the US economy so it would forever then be in the shadow of Arthur Laffer’s “supply-side” craziness, transformed the US economy from being one firmly set in the tenets of classic economics, to one being misshapen for political considerations. The Republican management of the economy since 1981 going forward has systemically impoverished the working classes while slowly whittling away at the nation’s foundation, always guaranteeing an upward flow of wealth from the upkeep of our physical and human infrastructure. Every policy put forward by Republicans in the past forty years has ensured a decreasing, or stagnating, base of opportunities, and so wealthy for the middle and working classes.
At first, there was an expansion of minimum wage jobs that benefitted the poor but in order to keep the flow of revenue going upward, the proportion of low-wage, unstainable wage jobs had to increase. With the passing of each set of destructive four or eight year periods under Republican governance, more and more radical politicization had to be undertaken to maintain allegiance to the cause — and to mask the failures of the “Reagan Revolution” of supply-side.
At first the Republicans used the culture wars to unite their base, distracting them from the failure of their economic programs; from the bankrupting of the nation for the benefit of the top earners.
Republicans became the apple-pie bakers, the standard-bearers of all that is traditionally American and Democrats became the communists, the immigrants, the gays, lesbians and transvestites. After 9/11, which of course happened on the watch of a Republican president, Democrats became the cause of “terrorism;” and, Democratic policies to help the working-classes became somehow associated with supporting future attacks on America.
Fox News, and the each Fox-christened Republican politicians, made everything about politics: Christmas, flags, anthems, peaceful protests, even mass-shootings in schools were quickly politicized by Republicans!
In my over two decades in Russia, I have been stunned by the things that Russians consider to be political calculations by the West against them. Just really crazy stuff flows from the roots of the Soviet-made reality; conspiracies abound in Russia so much that there is even a conspiracy that the conspiracies are so plentiful to distract people from the truth — full circle!
We ask — well, at least I do — how and why America became so hyper-politicized in the past forty years? It wasn’t this bad not too long ago, right? And, based on the example of the Soviet Union, the answer we have is the utter, if not criminal, failure of Republican economic policies since Ronald Reagan’s “revolution” was launched. Based on the scribblings of Arthur Laffer from that cocktail napkin in 1974, and then implemented in 1981 thus becoming the new orthodoxy for America, the road to today’s fascist right was paved.
Like Gorbachev, who would surely take back his announcement of glasnost if he could, the Republicans realized that they could not admit the error of their Laffer-obsession. If they did, they will be admitting fallibility. In order to remain infallible, they must politicize more and more of every day life — Trumpism, QAnon, etc.
Soon, it will become a political statement what kind of apples “real Americans” use for proper pie.
Soon, something like blueberry pie topped with a thick layer of panna cotta will be considered a step to communism by them. And even the expression, it’s as easy as pie will become yet another us versus them moment.