Mary Shelley Percy’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus” began the wonderful and rich Frankenstein tradition. The 1931 James Whale film “Frankenstein”, a more loose adaptation of the novel, with Boris Karloff as “The Monster” (below, left), became the modern visual image for Dr. Frankenstein, his monster and their socioethical implications. Perhaps the 1972 comedic/satirical version, “Young Frankenstein” by Mel Brooks, starring Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle may be the most memorable of all Frankenstein films (below, right).
It is the basic storyline of the book and films that makes them relevant for social commentary of our current times: that is, in an experiment of radical social engineering, a madman creates a living being from a dead corpse and body parts. The experiment is successful in that the new living being can talk, walk, think and feel. But things go terribly wrong when the “monster” escapes from his creator and unleashes a reign of terror, mayhem and ultimately murder before being destroyed.
Moral of the story? We (as individuals and as a society) can create goodness and we can also create evil — it is simply a mirror of our values and priorities. While it’s hard to imagine creating too much goodness; creating or perpetuating even the smallest amount of evil can have devastating effects. Because once that evil breaks out of its cage and escapes into society at large, it becomes very hard to control and destroy.
I make this horror story reference because I see, in our beloved United States today, that a monster has been created, it has broken free from all of its constraints and it is rampaging through the very fabric of American society. It must be identified, it must be stopped and it must happen swiftly in order to avoid permanent and irreversible damage.
In our contemporary horror story, the character of Dr. Frankenstein is being played by the Republican Party. They have methodically and deliberately created a whole generation of monsters. It began in 1992 after Bill Clinton ended the Reagan-Bush presidential dynasty (1980-1992). The Republicans decided on an aggressive, no-holds-barred strategy to win back the White House, Congress, governorships and state legislatures. To their credit, the strategy has worked. Unfortunately for the country, they did it by doubling down on fear mongering, racial and gender divisions, anti-immigrant sentiments and voter suppression. These tactics were like blood in the water for the Religious Right, the NRA and even White Supremacists. The devout belief in God, devout gun ownership and devout belief in a pure, White race are largely fear-based ideologies. And the Republican party is damn good at spreading fear. In order to sell the fear, it was imperative to stifle or discredit intellectualism, science and facts. Many Republicans now seem to believe such ideas are practically un-American.
Since then, the Republican party has taken a hard right turn. They treated Barack Obama like the anti-Christ and didn’t just refuse to work with him but obstructed legislation (like health care, jobs bills, infrastructure, consumer protection and immigration reform) from which their constituents did and would have benefited. They put party over country time and time again. In my recent post, Dear Trump Voters, I used as an example an ABC/Washington Post poll comparing the support for Obama and Trump in using missile strikes to punish Syria. When Obama considered it, Democrat support was at 38% and Republican was 22%. When Trump did it, Democrat support was 37% and Republican was 86%!! The party membership of the President had virtually no effect on Democrats, but to 66% of Republicans it made all the difference.
The Republican backlash to the Obama’s presidency gave rise to the Tea Party — an almost entirely white, mostly older sect of hard core Republican voters. They covered their white and Christian privilege agenda by wrapping themselves in the flag and protesting that Government was too big, too expensive and generally bad at everything. Meanwhile, over half of them were probably enjoying Social Security, Medicare and/or Veteran’s Benefits. Tea Party politicians came to Congress in 2010 and 2012 with an “our way or the highway” attitude and not only paralyzed the legislative process but quickly created rifts with more traditional Republicans for their uncompromising and destructive nature.
Republican state legislatures began aggressively reshaping voting districts that in two states already (NC & Texas) have been declared illegal because of blatant racial discrimination. More states are being sued for similar tactics. Since 2006 they have pushed voter photo ID laws in 15 states on the grounds of “preventing voter fraud”. But the actual number of cases of in-person voting fraud is statistically near zero. Their real purpose is to place greater burdens on people who typically do not have a Driver’s License; urban dwellers, older people, poorer people and students (demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic). Republicans have also moved to shorten voting and registration times in their states, once again to make it harder for people to vote. These policies are racially and socio-economically motivated. See my previous post: The Successful Republican Election Strategy…..Divide and Conquer! Part 2: Voter Suppression.
On a Federal level Republicans have tried to protect predatory lending practices by numerous U.S. banks and financial firms. Who have been among the biggest victims? African-Americans, Latino and Hispanic Americans, the elderly and students.
Republicans have pushed for tougher criminal sentencing, particularly for drug related charges. Over all, African Americans are incarcerated at a rate of 5 times the rate of White Americans. For drug crimes, even though drug-use rates are relatively similar, African Americans are jailed at 6 times the rate of Whites (NAACP).
Republicans have fought against increases in the minimum wage. They have passed, encouraged or supported policies that would reduce health care benefits to millions (mostly younger and poorer) of Americans.
Republicans have demonized legal immigrants and obstructed any attempts at comprehensive immigration policies in favor of whipping up fear and vastly over-inflating the illegal immigrant crime rate.
On other social issues Republicans have denigrated women by denying them the right to determine their own reproductive choices. Republicans have denied tens of millions of women access to even basic pre-pregnancy and pre-natal health screenings, check-ups, medications and consultations. And what hypocrisy from the party that is so consumed with privacy rights and fears of government intrusion, except when it involves a woman’s reproductive system.
Republicans have also obstructed a national discussion about a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work.
They fought tooth and nail and spent billions of dollars to defeat state-wide referendums on non-heterosexual marriages and rights for LBGTQ Americans. Even though they finally lost at the Supreme Court, the Republican party continues to fight for the right to discriminate against certain groups of Americans based on sexual orientation.
And finally, to secure these votes, the Republican party has pronounced intellectualism, science and facts to be signs of either weakness or some sort of liberal conspiracy. They have instead fostered fear, intolerance, hatred, divisiveness, conspiracy theories, lies and misinformation because these tools are much more effective at manipulating people.
These are the “body parts” and “corpses” that the modern Dr. Frankenstein (aka The Republican Party) has used to build it’s new generation of monsters. For their 1st generation monster, Republicans played the “dumb-it-down” card when they chose an affable, yet clumsy simpleton who could be easily manipulated. W Bush (left) was wholly unqualified to be President and barely able to complete sentences but by teaming him up with a neo-con puppet-master, “Dr. Evil” Dick Cheney(below), they managed to preside over the 911 attacks, started two never-ending and failed wars, and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.
After the Bush catastrophe, John McCain didn’t have a chance, especially against the dynamic newcomer, Barak Obama. But in McCain’s desperation to “change the game” of the 2008 election, he nominated the even more recklessly stupid Sarah Palin (below with Frankentrump) who was among the first to openly promote the themes of anti-intellectualism, liberal elites and dividing the country along racial and geographic differences.
In 2012, Mitt Romney secured the Republican nomination, which appeared to reverse the “stupid is better” trend until he made his biggest campaign gaffe by saying “47% of the voters are dependent on the government….and feel they are entitled to health care, food, housing, you name it…47% of the people pay no income tax.” Though Romney would probably have lost either way, these comments exposed Romney as the whiny, privileged, out-of-touch rich guy that opponents said he was.
Then came 2016. The worst qualities of past Republican monsters found their home in a sleazy, reality TV buffoon, who was willing to say or do anything to rile people up, piss people off (both for and against him) and divide this country like no candidate in modern history. Two decades of policies and rhetoric supporting anti-intellectualism, racism, unjust fiscal policies, distrust of the press, unfounded anti-immigrant fear, overblown Muslim fear, denigration of women, promoting LGBTQ discrimination, anti-science and anti-regulation finally produced the Republican super-monster named Donald Trump.
Dr. Frankenstein’s actual monster, while terrifying, was strictly a local phenomenon. But the modern Republican monster is now President of the United States! There were some Republicans voices during the campaign that cautioned Trump could do irreparable damage to the party. But those voices were quickly drowned out by the noise of Trump supporters beating up protestors, calling for the imprisonment of his political opponent, and cheering wildly for the dismantling of the free press.
Now that the monster has been President for 7+ months, more Republicans are finally speaking out against him. Charlottesville may have been somewhat of a turning point. Moderate Republicans were “shocked” and “upset” that Trump failed to distinguish between anti-Fascist protesters and White Supremacists and Neo-Nazi’s? Really? When during his campaign had he disavowed hate groups before? Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller were his top campaign and administration advisors for fuck’s sake. But Charlottesville crossed the line?
Republicans shouldn’t be shocked. It is the policies that they support that created this monster and made it possible for him to become President. Trump couldn’t win the Democratic nomination, even if he pretended to be pro-choice (like he used to be), more LBGTQ tolerant (like he might have been once upon a time), or more liberal on financial issues (which he’s never been). No, the Republican party has spent 20 years laying the groundwork for a candidate like Trump, and now he’s uncaged, running amok and creating terror and mayhem wherever he goes or opens his mouth.
The cruel irony of Trump is that he is terrorizing everyone, including Republicans. He has created just as much discord among Republicans as he has the whole country. But most Republicans are still walking on eggshells when it comes to Trump — all on the fading hopes that their precious agenda of hate, fear, more income inequality, less health care benefits, fewer civil and voting rights, more freedom for polluters and carbon emitters, more predatory power for financial institutions, more restrictions on women’s reproductive choices and a deep suspicion of anyone who isn’t “American” can be crammed down our throats under the cynical guise of “Make American Great Again”.
Please Moderate/Traditional Republicans, spare us your Op-Ed pieces about how Trump has hijacked the party. Or that President Numb Nuts isn’t a “true” Republican. Or that Republicans are better than this. No, they’re not. Where were your voices over the last 20 years? I didn’t hear you shouting down Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Riley, Shawn Hannity, Ann Coulter or Fox News. I didn’t hear you standing up against voter suppression laws, illegal redistricting, the unbalanced proclivities toward incarcerating darker-skinned Americans, the debasing of women, or the irrational fear of Sharia law. Your Tea Party was so quick to blame Obama for everything but where was the protest against the Bush Administration’s role in two failed wars and the 2008 recession?
You stood by when seven different Congressional investigations were launched to witch hunt Hillary Clinton’s supposed Bengazi crimes or her private server emails. But no Republicans called for Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld to be investigated for lying about going to war in Iraq or for committing war crimes during the conflicts.
There’s only one thing Republicans can do if they are genuinely appalled by the words and deeds of Donald Trump. Obstruct him at every conceivable opportunity, tie his hands, refuse to cede him any additional power….and at the same time cooperate to the fullest with all investigations currently ongoing into his Russia connections and the possible collusion with his campaign, insist upon the full release of his tax returns and the divestiture of all of his assets into blind trusts.
Republicans have loosed this monster, he is your creation. Since your party also controls Congress it falls upon you, first and foremost, to take the lead in reigning this monster in and removing him from office so this black stain on the Presidency can end. For the good of the country this monster should be safely strapped to the operating table and neutralized, along with all of the formulas and ingredients that went into his creation.
We can create good and we can create evil. Which we choose to create is simply a mirror of our values and priorities.
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