Untethered from Reality, The Conservative Cause Is Killing Us
This week on democracy-ish, Toure and Danielle have conservatives and capitalism itself on their shit list.
California Governor Gavin Newsom is facing a recall, and Black conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder is in the lead to oust him.
Elder, like many GOP politicos and media gadflies, is a climate change denier who argues against COVID-19 mask and vaccine requirements. He also wants to abolish the minimum wage.
Why are such extreme views even entertained in a state like California, and what does Elder’s candidacy tell us about the Republican agenda? How can we fight back against their lies and inhumanity?
California is sunny, beautiful and mostly liberal, but it’s no utopia.
As the most populous state in our nation by far, California’s economy is bigger than the GDP of most nations, including India and the U.K. So its leadership matters. And Governor Gavin Newsom is facing a recall, spearheaded by conservatives who railed against his COVID-19 restrictions from the start.
When Newsom was caught having dinner at the uber-expensive French Laundry restaurant without a mask, the recall effort gathered steam. Now the governor might actually be ousted by Republican candidate Larry Elder.
If you’re wondering who the fuck Larry Elder is, Toure sums him up as a “longtime conservative, kooky Black radio host” –– a Trump supporter who opposes gun control and abortion rights, wants to abolish the minimum wage, and pledges to overturn mask and vaccine requirements. He also denies the existence of systemic racism.
“I’m very disappointed in California right now,” says Toure.
Wait, isn’t California a super blue state? Yes, but its citizens elected Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003 (also a recall election).
“This is about more than just one man leading an important race,” Toure adds. “This is also about the coldness toward people who do not have opportunity and means coming out of the right nowadays. And it is quite often aimed at Black and Brown people.”
Danielle agrees: “The cesspool that Trump and the Republicans opened up in 2016 is this idea that you need not have any care, any thought, any empathy whatsoever.”
As media personalities like Elder, who built their careers “based on entertainment and lies,” angle for positions of even greater power, we need to be vigilant, says Danielle.
“It’s the red alert of red alerts,” she says. “But I don't think people are paying attention.”
Episode Highlights –– The GOP Is Crazy
Larry Elder is no statesman
“When you see a person like Larry Elder in competition with actual, real, thoughtful politicians at the height of a pandemic and an economic crisis,” says Danielle, “it tells you exactly where America is.”
Climate change is an ongoing catastrophe in California –– which “can damn near slip into the ocean at any point in time, given the multitude of earthquakes we’re seeing,” she adds. “Wildfires are burning hundreds of thousands of acres across the state.” But Elder doesn’t believe in climate change.
California has the highest minimum wage (aside from Washington, D.C.) at $14 per hour, double the federal minimum wage. But if Elder becomes governor, he would wipe that out –– an “assault on low-income people,” Danielle argues.
“A quarter of those people wouldn't even be covered under the federal minimum wage. What does that do for the state of California –– turn all of the streets into San Francisco-style tent cities with homeless populations burgeoning out of control?”
The conservatives’ safety net squeeze
When conservatives gut (or destroy) agencies like the EPA and social safety nets like Medicaid, “what is the end game?” Danielle asks.
It all comes back to empathy, says Toure. “It’s an incredibly important part of understanding politics and where people stand. Quite often, the left is associated with empathy, because so much of our politics is about helping the less fortunate.”
If the right wing has any empathy at all, “it’s just for the wealthy,” he adds. “When you talk about cutting out the safety net, which not only Larry Elder but the entire right wants to do, that is an extraordinarily frightening and dangerous proposition.”
Income inequality is already at an all-time high. The richest 1% own more than 90% of Americans put together. Threatening the safety net “is destroying the last fabric of what millions of Americans rely on to get through the day,” Toure argues.
But there’s a persistent, pervasive notion among conservatives that the poor are lazy, made bad choices in life, or struggle because the government gives them help –– that if we just remove those programs, “they’ll find motivation,” he says.
Economic justice delayed and denied
Lies about the lack of motivation among the poor belie the fact that poverty usually begins long before someone is even born –– particularly if their parents “were not allowed or able to create wealth or if they were shunted into redlined districts,” says Toure.
And still the Republican project continues: Curtailing voting rights, taking away access to quality education, creating virtual police states –– which restrict Black progress on a generational level.
“We are one of the richest nations in the world,” Toure says. “It just makes my blood boil when I hear people like Larry Elder talking about these things.”
He notes that European countries have a strong social safety net in part because “their neediest are white, just like the most fortunate. So it’s easier for them to psychologically and emotionally see those people who should be helped.”
In America, we dissociate the poor from the culture at large because so many of them are Black or Brown –– and it’s “easy to demonize” them, he adds.
“The reality is that the entire framework needs to change, which is what so many people in economic justice movements have been trying to do for so long,” says Danielle.
Capitalism is failing fast
The problem is deeply rooted in our very economic model.
“We’ve created a capitalistic structure that keeps people permanently on the bottom ... [it’s] as if the government is doing Black and Brown people, or low income people, a favor –– providing some type of charity by giving them welfare,” says Danielle.
“We have been bamboozled into believing that in America, you can do anything; you have all of these options.”
The policies that hold us back are created from a basis of Republican lies like the “welfare queen” and the idea that some people don’t “deserve” the minimum wage.
“In America, you shouldn't be having to work 80 hours and still not be able to afford rent,” she says. “You should not be in a position where … your employer is able to take advantage of you because it has abolished unions, and there’s no way to challenge them and make sure the work environment is safe.”
The endless swing-to-the-right cycle
The trend of right-wing media stars entering politics is so damaging because the “right-wing media bubble has had a far sharper, more tactile impact on politics,” Toure explains. There’s nothing nearly as powerful (or perilous) on the left.
“Thinking they're just two sides of the same coin is to completely misunderstand what’s actually happening,” he argues. “The right wing, over the last 30 years, has been steadily spiraling even more rightward … untethered from reality on all sorts of issues, from climate to the election to immigration, racism, the reality of being trans or gay, and on and on.”
That alternative-facts thinking is especially strong when it comes to policies that affect poor people, Toure notes.
“The right-wing media cabal is run by a group of people who … have to say something increasingly insane and mean and cruel to be heard over the rest of the folks. That influences the audience to agree … and GOP elected officials have to respond, because they are consistently getting primaried from those who are to the right of them.” That’s how this extreme rightward swing perpetuates itself.
Trust, lies and videotape
The cycle begins with people like Larry Elder, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson feeding their audience increasingly crazy ideas and demonizing legitimate news sources.
More objective and/or moderate news sources on the left don’t do that.
“Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes don’t say we can’t trust the New York Times or the Washington Post,” Toure points out. “Fox is constantly saying that … the whole notion of a left-wing media cabal doesn’t exist in the same way one does on the right.”
To reiterate: “We are dealing with a group of people who are feeding lies to the audience, the politicians have to deal with the lies and then the media leaders have to lie even more to be heard,” he says.
“This is a significant political cancer.”
Dems need to embrace the fear factor
At some point, “we are not going to be able to continue to blame the right for how the left continues to fuck up,” says Danielle, who wonders why we can’t figure out how to handle the lies, cruelty and incompetence of the GOP.
“We either make jokes about them or try to ignore them, which is what we did with Donald Trump. We’re not forceful enough in presenting a position that is clear. We do too much, which is why right wing media is way more fucking popular –– they have no rules. But we do great harm on the left by assuming the good in people,” she adds.
Instead of just telling the hard truth –– that the conservative agenda is “actually trying to kill you in more ways than one, we say: Well, I don’t know what’s in someone's heart. I pray for them,”
That’s why we need to go beyond eye-rolling and cheap shots at Larry Elder and just inform people that “if this man becomes governor of California, you are fucked in more ways than one,” she argues.
“We don’t use fear in a way that actually helps us. We allow the right to use fear to spread conspiracies and lies, as opposed to us saying: You are going to live in an apocalyptic present.”
Hate is simple; empathy is complex
Toure points out that because conservative positions are so frequently detached from reality, “they can say whatever they want. Imagine having a debate with somebody who doesn’t have to deal with truth and history. How could you possibly win?”
As a hypothetical, Toure imagines what each side would argue in a debate about trans people using public restrooms.
“They say: Your kid’s gonna get attacked in the bathroom by a trans woman who is actually a man. We’re like, no –– trans people are making a choice to be who they really are. We need to be empathetic.”
The latter is the correct, just argument, which is “honest, but complicated,” he notes. “We are asking straight white people to be accepting of people who they haven’t had to accept in previous generations. And this is often emotionally difficult for them. The right is not asking them to change. They’re saying, we’re going to restore the way that things were for your father and your grandfather.”
That’s especially resonant right now with white men, who “feel like victims, like they are the real ones being attacked by society,” he adds.
Liberty without nuance: Just let people live
Danielle “completely disagrees” with Toure’s framing of the problem as simple versus complex.
“We make things a lot more fucking complicated than they need to be,” she says.
That’s why the right wing is winning the hearts and minds of America “and will continue to do so until this country is totally destroyed,” Danielle argues. “We don’t need to have major nuances around the issue of of of transgender folks.”
It’s like “allowing Black people to be fucking free –– because they’re human beings,” she adds. “Autonomy, liberty, the pursuit of happiness … All of this fundamentally boils down to: Why can't you let people live? Why do you need to prescribe how they should show up, what they should look like, what bathroom they should use, how they should live, who they should marry?”
That, to her, isn’t nuanced at all.
“You don’t have to go into science or gender studies … It is basic. Allow people to live as they are, as they want to live.”
Toxic niceness vs. right-wing ‘apartheid’
One of the challenges Toure sees is that Democrats “are trying to speak to white people who are used to being in control, as well as allies and the people who have been controlled.”