Welcome to Unfucking the Republic (UNFTR)
So what is this? Glad you asked. Long story short, and as you have no doubt observed, our little republic is fucked. On so many levels. The central objective of the UNFTR podcast, however, isn’t to prove how fucked we are but show that we’re fucked in ways we haven’t really considered. The blame for our predicament is evenly distributed across the political spectrum with corporate media and lobbyists fanning the flames every step of the way.
I spent more than a decade as a political writer and columnist highlighting the disconnect between policy and reality. I never imagined back then just how much worse things could get until the 2016 election when the ultimate charlatan won the hearts and minds of so many disenfranchised Americans who were willing to light a match and blow up the system. The Electoral College, designed by the Founders to protect against dangerous populists and install, “a man who is not in eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” quite ironically delivered us a dangerous populist who lost the popular vote by nearly three million and just happens to possess zero requisite qualifications to run the country.
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And even though a majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, the stubborn fact remains that the electoral system designed to protect the interests of all Americans gave birth to a highly volatile authoritarian regime fueled by corporate interests and normalized by right wing news organizations that give credence to dark web conspiracies.
And so here we are. But Donald J. Trump is just the tip of the puss-filled zit that Dr. Pimple Popper is waiting to bust open. What’s underneath is years of toxic mucus packed in by lobbyists, greedy whore mongering politicians and some really conniving figures in the shadows that have successfully hijacked the American political consciousness and turned us against our own self interests.
It’s a pretty lofty goal for a podcast - and now a newsletter - to try and unpack decades of bullshit, but hopefully you’ll find it as cathartic as I do to get it all out and begin to see things for what they are and not what we’ve been sold.
Before we go back, let’s talk about 2016.
Trump supporters in 2016 fell generally into four categories. One. You love the guy. I mean genuinely love him. How he carries himself, what he stands for and the things he says and does. Two, you really dislike Hillary Clinton. Intellectually you might have thought that she was more prepared for the job but her emails. Benghazi. Pant suits. Her lecherous husband. Whatever. Three, you’re a dyed in the wool Republican and this is the guy you got. You had faith in your party to put bumpers in his lane so he wouldn’t throw gutter balls and aren’t really sure how this all happened. But you pull ‘R’ straight down the line and you’ll be damned if you’re gonna change. The fourth category is the outlier and kind of new to the political scene. I call it the “fuck it, light a match, I hate them all, what’s the worst that can happen” vote. Well. Now you know. If you identify with two through four, this podcast is for you.
The con artist was ultimately taken out by Hillary: Chapter Two, in the form of an old familiar face. Joe Biden. (Sigh) Uncle Joe doesn’t inspire the same visceral level of disdain that Hillary did for some. In fact, Uncle Joe doesn’t inspire much of anything other than, “he’ll do.”
So the Hillary and Biden supporters fell along similar lines in my mind minus the fourth “fuck it, let’s see what happens” persona. One. You just love Joe Biden. Two. You’re a dyed in the wool democrat and go blue down the line every time. Three, you hate Donald Trump and would sooner burn your own hair than vote for this idiot. If you’re in camp two or three, this is also for you.
Bottom line, if you’re dug into one side so deep you can’t see the other, then Unfucking the Republic is likely just partisan noise that provides no discernible benefit. This is not an echo chamber. We won’t reinforce any existing beliefs or throw chum in the water. It’s an attempt to unpack the biases behind our political divide, unearth the deep disconnect we have between policy and reality and delve into how exactly we arrived at a point in our history when we were asked to choose between the frying pan and the fire to determine our collective fate.
Before he’s officially gone from public office (though he’ll never really be gone), let’s talk about the Trump phenomenon. In a self proclaimed democracy of flag-waving, Constitution-hugging, God-fearing renegades who see themselves as the embodiment of Puritan work ethic and the frontier spirit, it’s hard to understand the allure of a feckless authoritarian. It’s considered obscene to compare Adolf Hitler to pretty much anyone unless we’re talking Pol Pot, Slobodan Milošević or Stalin. Cries of current leaders being ‘Hitleresque’ are often met with appropriate rebuke, but the idea of an authoritarian leader rising to power on certain principles that otherwise offend a population’s natural feelings of basic decency bears exploration.
Long before Hitler aspired to political office, he was a painter. And a failed one. His attempts to become an artist in Vienna partially and bizarrely led to his antipathy toward Jews. He made wild claims of his bravery in World War I when historians have uncovered that he saw little action and was likely awarded the Iron Cross for being affable. Sort of like the best sportsman award to the worst athlete on a team. He was about 5’ 9”, had dark hair and was addicted to opiates. But he rose to power by promoting an image that was completely antithetical to the one he portrayed. Tall, blonde, pure, athletic and brave. This was the image he sold to the world, despite being short, dark-haired, drug addicted and rather unathletic.
Donald Trump’s inconsistencies are even more radical. First there’s the premise that he is wildly successful due to his business acumen. New Yorkers knew this to be patently untrue because he’s been essentially unbankable for years - meaning no legitimate US-based bank would extend him credit. A Fortune article in 2015 examined his alleged $4billion dollar net worth, which of course is completely unsubstantiated in and of itself, and projected that had the now president invested his 1987 inheritance in index funds his net worth would be around $13billion.
In fact, since striking out on his own he has shut down thirteen companies and bankrupted six others. That’s almost twice the average number of jobs a working person has in their lifetime.
Then there are the soft factors Americans tend to seek in selecting a leader. Toughness. Literacy. Leadership skills. Ethics. Faith. Stability. Here again Donald Trump fails the American litmus test on every level, bar none. He dodged the draft, admits he never reads, cannot retain talent in his organizations, was considered one of the most unethical developers in New York even prior to his scandal-ridden presidency, claims to be Christian but has no understanding of Scripture, has been divorced multiple times, cheated on his pregnant wife with a porn star and has no firm policy beliefs other than tax avoidance is legal and smart.
As a political writer, I spent years criticizing the Obama Administration and some of its policies. But if we simply lined up the attributes that Americans, particularly Republicans, claim are important to them, Barack Obama is quite literally the perfect leader. He’s athletic, erudite, accomplished, educated, religious, faithful, unflinchingly stable, and completely devoid of scandal if you discount the whole tan suit incident. I will go a step further and state that if you examine his policies and record, Barack Obama might be one of the greatest republican presidents in our history.
He sided with the banks during the financial crisis and insisted no criminal indictments were pursued. He doubled down on the surveillance state and waged a war on whistleblowers to the extent that his justice department indicted more whistleblowers with the terrifying Espionage Act than every president before combined. Guantanamo, though its population was greatly reduced, remained open despite campaign promises to the contrary.
He oversaw unconstitutional and extra-judicial strikes against several countries that we weren’t at war with. He extended the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals and corporations, put more teeth into the Patriot Act by authorizing and re-authorizing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and created a national healthcare system modeled on a Republican think tank plan that generated increased profits for private healthcare companies and insurers. Oh, and undocumented immigrants into the United States declined every year under Obama earning him the nickname “Deporter in Chief.”
So when we talk about ideology in this country, particularly our notion of conservatism, we need to re-establish the baseline.
We’ve been losing our grasp on reality and understanding of how the world works for a long time now. The scariest part of what’s happening today is that Trump succeeded in his singular mission to destroy the credibility of our institutions in order to promote his own version of the Great Man theory, the idea that he and only he is capable of saving us from the very illnesses he’s partially caused.
We’re living Idiocracy as though it were a documentary and the most insulting realization is that your vote counts as much as the person who thinks Q-Anon is real. The stupid have emerged as a discernable voting block in this country, which quite laughably is the very thing that many of the Founding Fathers, most notably James Madison, feared would happen.
Throughout this show I will likely lay both sides of the political aisle to waste. But the most vituperative attacks will be reserved for so-called Republicans who support Trump. Their hypocrisy knows no boundaries. I don’t really blame the uninformed voter who fell for conspiracy theories and swallows cable news stories whole. They’re not doing their homework, have no regard for context and are precisely the type of person who cannot be swayed by things like logic, facts and math.
As for the UNFTR podcast, my hope is to have some fun with some valuable insight that turns the tables on conventional wisdom, makes you question some of your own assumptions as I’ve done over the years and inspires you to think differently about this great experiment of ours.