I confess that I join the in the hand-wringing about Comey’s firing because I see it for what it is: a naked power grab. Unlike some of my card-carrying Democratic fellow-travelers, I am not shocked that their Republican counterparts aren’t comparably appalled. A lot of what we are witnessing is theater, acted out for the sake of TV ratings and social media clicks and while some of it may be sincere, it is mostly to raise campaign cash in order to get re-elected.
At the end of the day, what the GOP has become is a leaner, meaner version of the same bundle of contradictory idiosyncrasies that characterizes the modern Democratic Party, which is to say – a collection of well-heeled snobs who mostly only pretend to care about the less fortunate among their constituency to garner sufficient votes for victory during the next election cycle.
The Republican version of this formulation are the 1%-ers, pining for the good ol’ days of unrestrained aristocracy and longing for the trappings of inherited title, shoveling money at any organization that will help them peel off just enough votes via xenophobia and racism and sectarian bigotry to stay in power so that they may increase that same power. The obliteration of the stalwart institutions of democracy has always been on their agenda, since even before we were a democracy, and that has been the central thrust of their entire agenda since Herbert Hoover’s GOP got neutered by the FDR coalition, a vanquishing that endured for 30 years. Nowadays, they’re just afraid that Preznit Shitbird is moving too fast, not that he’s heading in the wrong direction. They want everything he’s grabbing and any grumbling you’re hearing is simply that he hi-jacked their long-term, multi-decade strategic plan for himself, which puts the whole program in jeopardy because any remaining strength in the institutions he’s destroying could derail their evil plot in the same way Nixon set the whole thing back at least a decade or two.
The Democratic version of this formulation are the educated, mostly-white professional class (engineers, doctors, lawyers, professors, etc…) who believe that education and credentialism are all the answers to every ill: an educated, credentialed elite will studiously guide the country to broad prosperity, while better access to good education will meritocratically select the best and the brightest for advancement into the elite who will make the country and the world a better place. Our last two Democratic presidents are picture postcard examples of precisely this logic. This group used to be natural Republicans, but Hillary’s husband – the best Republican president America had since TR, who got himself impeached for trying to play nice with the GOP scorpions – peeled off enough of this group in suburban America to build a rickety coalition on the dying remnants of FDR’s old one, mostly Labor and minorities, a coalition that was dying because it was bleeding to death through the deep, deep wound LBJ inflicted when he told the Dixiecrat racists that they were no longer welcome. And if we learned nothing else during the Civil War, it is that poor white people would rather fight and die for the economic interests of rich white people than improve their own lot in life alongside that of blacks, hence Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Reagan Democrats, Newt Gingrich’s “Contract On America,” Rush & Fox, GWB & the Brooks Brother “Riot” and now Preznit Shitbird. It is an unbroken line.
You’ll note that what is left out of all of the above is any mention of the operational word that should define the difference between the two parties: class. We don’t talk about class in America, because in the one-man-one-vote self-image of a healthy democracy, class shouldn’t matter. Except that it does, just ask anyone who puts a sticker with the name of their college on the back window of their SUV. Status matters in America and it isn’t just about who gets to take a more glamorous vacation or drive a sexier car. It truly is a matter of life-and-death, because being poor in America is a death-sentence. The problem with talking about class in America arises because the factors determining class are driven by so many other historical narratives that shouldn’t matter but absolutely do: race, religion, gender, regional identity… the list goes on, but the underlying truth is that money makes you a better person in the ways our society deems worth pursuing. Not just crass, direct ways like material success (nice house, nice car) but in more abstract ways that even the less-avaricious among us salute and which are not entirely off-base, such as when we say someone is “well-rounded.” Not only does money give you free time to pursue hobbies and interests like travel or music, it provides the kind of safety net for taking risks that results in adventure and professional success, to say nothing of the life-long benefits of education and, fundamentally, the security of being healthy with the money to always see a physician for whatever ailment may befall you. Someone working at McDonald’s for $7/hr is not spending summer break in Europe to broaden her horizons or taking winter break to go snow boarding or spring break to go mountain biking because, not only could she not afford to take time off work (to say nothing of the expense of food, equipment, travel & lodging), a broken leg would both ruin her ability to earn income to say nothing of risking ruinously astronomical doctor’s bills. The most-often-repeated reply to this kind of critique I hear is some version of the Horatio Alger story of boot-strapping, self-made heroics in the field of ambitious self-education and eventual life achievement of some variety.
Which, as far as it goes, is a fine and dandy thing when it can happen. But the implication is always that those who don’t thusly achieve similarly heady life success deserve their lot. Who will stock the shelves at WalMart if everyone was able to attain educational success the way the Democratic elite seem to think is the Golden Path? Which is why their “solution” is as much elitist bullshit as any of the bleating noises coming from the GOP. Both parties want a class system, the only real difference is that the Dems want those barriers permeable via the magic pixie dust of education and the GOP wants them as rigid and imposing as the Trumpkins imagine the Mexican wall.
So, what does all of this have to do with Trump firing Comey? I’m glad you asked. More on that soon…