In Field of Blood, historian Joanne Freeman describes, using newly discovered and newly analyzed evidence, the world of partisan and political vitriol and hate that was the sense of the Congress prior to the American Civil War. Soon after the election of Donald Trump, I sought understanding, wisdom, and distraction by delving into 19th century American political history, and this is where I started. Freeman’s monograph did not make me feel much better, but it did make me feel a little wiser. You should read it.
I mention it here because of an item way down on the front page in today’s newspaper. This is an item that should be front page news, and would have been had the journalistic context been a decade earlier. Not really one story, but a bunch of disgusting little stories. Decontextualized snippets:
… when Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) came up behind Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and began yelling in his ear, accusing him of elbowing him in the back as they passed each other in a crowded hallway….
… Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) brought a hearing about corporate greed to a standstill as he confronted one witness, stood up and challenged him to a fistfight.
Not coincidentally, right after I read those snippets and resolved to post on the matter, Professor Freeman herself made an appearance in the same WaPo piece.
Freeman told The Washington Post on Tuesday evening that it was important for lawmakers to denounce belligerent behavior and threats of violence, particularly when it comes from a member of their own party. “If no one speaks up it becomes representative of what that party stands for,” she said.
Description of the fray continues:
“Hey Kevin, why did you walk behind me and elbow me in the back?” Burchett asked as The Post interviewed McCarthy. “You have no guts.”
“I didn’t do that,” McCarthy replied. As Burchett continued to yell, McCarthy laughed and said, “Oh my God.”
Burchett was one of eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy as House speaker, a rebuke the California lawmaker has bitterly noted, publicly and privately.
“You are so pathetic,” Burchett said before slowing his steps to avoid being directly behind McCarthy.
“Thank you, Tim,” McCarthy said.
Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Bernie Sanders does an excellent job as WWE referee:
And the past and possible future president of the United States, Donald Trump, subtly calls for the jailing and/or extermination of, well, Professor Freeman, me, and you (probably), and everybody else:
We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections. They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American Dream…. the threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within. Because if you have a capable, competent, smart, tough leader, Russia, China, North Korea, they’re not going to want to play with us.
And there is parallel WWE video of The Fascist’s tough guy act as well:
One might hope that the deplorables that control half of our representative government (plus or minus a few percentage points) would self destruct, or at least, bloody each other enough to get frustrated and go home. Read Freeman’s book and see how it went in the 19th century. (See: American Civil War.) Yeah, it didn’t go that well. Slave power, the juice inside the belligerence that arose in the 1830s, persisted, ballooned, and continues today in some festering quarters. It is true, however, that the response to the bullying in Congress that made the most difference was standing up to it, having none of it, like Bernie pulled off in the clip above. I can tell that there are several Democratic members of Congress who must have read “Field of Blood” because they are standing up to it.
I think we face two obstacles to ending the evil clown show known as MAGA. One is the fact that the hate is not being reported as an outstanding and unique outrage, but rather, is being treated as more of the usual dysfunction. This is the fault of the mainstream media. The other problem is that 80% of the population isn’t really paying attention. This is actually the fault of the purveyors of the vitriol themselves, their minions, and their allies. By “flooding the zone with shit,” as so aptly phrased by Fascist Bannon, and sewing discord using a number of agents and agencies across the population and even within progressive communities, everyone has become tired, fed up, and is self-caring themselves into a state of silent-majority. It is up to us activists to identify and reach out to our “normie” colleagues, and help them to find their inner enthusiasm for ending this mess, bursting the rapidly growing fascist balloon, and restoring normal.
Over the next year, we have this job to do: Stop the bleeding, and clean up the field of blood.