Bad Thinking: Left, Center, and Right*

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

*As I tried to finish this this essay Thursday afternoon, I kept being distracted by the spectacle of the Republi-controlled state legislature of Tennessee potentially and likely carrying out the expulsion of three democratically elected representatives: a Black man from Nashville, a Black man from Memphis, and a white woman from Knoxville. The representatives’ purported transgression? Joining a loud public protest inside the legislative chamber on behalf of sane gun control measures in the wake of the nation’s latest school shooting in Nashville.  There is a word for what is happening in the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville: fascism. If and when, as seems almost certain, these expulsions take place, it is my sincere hope that all good people in those three cities and other cities and town in Tennessee will come out into the streets and public squares to shut the state down. In the meantime, I beseech everyone reading this to get serious (if you haven’t already) about the fascist and Republi-fascist/Christian white nationalist/authoritarian menace stalking this country. There’s nothing “semi-” about it.

If you are or at least strive to be a principled radical or revolutionary socialist who embraces a scientific, evidence-based approach to reality, reading and hearing political commentary from people living in the open-air asylum that is the United States can get really painful. This includes commentary from folks who identify as on “the left,” whatever that means anymore.

Misplaced “Left” Concern for Fascist Coup Thugs

I was recently sent two left-identified essays that creepily stand up for the January 6 Capitol Rioters and for the freshly indicted ex-president Donald “Take Down the Metal Detectors Cuz the Guys with the AR-15s Don’t Want to Shoot Me” Trump. The first essay says that the very predominantly Caucasian January 6 “insurrectionists” being prosecuted and jailed for participating in the Attack on the US Capitol have been unjustly “lynched” by the Washington DC prosecutors and courts. It hints that the rioters are victims of FBI “entrapment” and argues that “the left” sets itself up for future government repression if it backs legal punishment of the thugs who trashed the Capitol in order to…you know, install Trump as a white nationalist dictator.

WTF. Anyone with a shred of racial honesty and common sense knows that Black, Muslim, Native American, and/or Latino Capitol Rioters and/or left radicals of any color who assaulted the US Capitol to try to change an election outcome (or anything else) would not merely be treated far more harshly by the criminal justice system than the January 6th mob but would have been shot down en masse on the Capitol’s steps. And nobody with a scintilla of racial sensitivity combined with some elementary historical knowledge – knowledge of the sort that the neofascist Trump and DeSantis crowd is trying to get blacklisted and whitewashed out of American schools– would use the loaded word “lynching” to describe the frankly modest punishment being handed out to the 97% white “fascist traitors” who tried to use physical force to cancel the peaceful transition of presidential power following their Dear Leader’s clear and overwhelming election defeat.

“Entrapment”? Please. That’s paranoid-style Tucker-Carlson and Taylor-Greene stuff. Trump and his minions and the far-right communications and planning infrastructure organized January 6, not the FBI and US Justice Department.

The essay evinces no hint of what ought to be the real concern about unfairness in the January 6th convictions and jailings so far – that it’s the foot-soldiers who have been prosecuted and jailed so far, not the actual ring leaders like Trump, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Rudy G, and the rest of the Trump coup team.

Are Future Actual Revolutionaries Endangered by the Prosecution of Revanchist “Insurrectionists?”

What of the claim that the prosecution and incarceration of January 6 perpetrators sets “the left” up for repression? It does not impress. Any real radical knows very well that a socialist uprising against capitalism-imperialism would elicit massive state repression – repression that would hardly be ameliorated by the precedent of fascist putschists escaping serious punishment for trashing the US Capitol. At the same time, such an uprising would not be about breaking into the US Capitol to stop the certification of a presidential election. It would involve a broad and prolonged, deeply organized insurgency in workplaces, streets, public squares, schools, and the broad culture across the country, with mass general political strikes and efforts to recruit and win over people from the military (and much more). We are far from the level of organization and political education required for all that, to say the least, but the notion that we would be more able to carry out such activities if a bunch of Amerikaners get off lightly for January 6th is absurd.

Trump v. the Duopoly? Seriously?

The second left-identified essay sent my way argues that Trump is being indicted not for his worst crimes but because his efforts to overthrow the 2020 election challenged the nation’s corporate political duopoly.

Well, it’s true that last Tuesday’s indictments are for some of his slightest offenses, of course, but…Trump versus the duopoly? Seriously?! Trump was and remains by far and away the leading 2024 presidential candidate of the Republi-fascist Party – the party that expels Black and female state legislators for protesting against the nation’s gun madness. If anything, last Tuesday’s New York indictments have solidified his hold on the nomination.

Look at how the party has lined up to defend him against his first felony charges, which are for very real and serious crimes even if they are far from his worst transgressions. The Republi-fascist Party is aligned with his claim to stand above and beyond the rule of law. It parrots his bombast about how he is being politically persecuted by the supposedly “radical Left” Democrats.

Dear Leader Trump is in legal hot water not just in New York but more seriously in Georgia and at the federal level NOT because he threatens “the duopoly” but because he attacked basic bourgeois electoral democracy and rule of law. Contrary to the frankly cartoonish thinking of the Trumpenleft, it’s not about Trump as some kind of proletarian-“populist” hero (“LOL,” as people say online) fighting the capitalist duopoly. It’s about fascist rule versus bourgeois democracy, such as it is. It’s about the Amerikaner neofascist movement, which has captured the post-Republican Party along with much of the federal court system and half the nation’s states, versus late bourgeois democracy, represented by the Democrats and a small smattering of Republicans.

And by the way, any readers who still can’t deal with calling the nation’s rightmost major capitalist party fascist at this point might want to consider the fact that the Republican-controlled Christian white nationalist (try fascist) Tennessee legislature is (as I finish this essay) voting to expel three elected Democrats (two Black and one female) for participating in a protest on behalf of gun control in the wake of yet another terrible mass and school shooting – a shooting that took place in Tennessee’s capital city, Nashville.

Class Blinded by the White: “If They Can Do This to Trump, They Can Do it to Anyone”

But enough about mistaken and preposterous thinking on “the left,” such as it is[1],for now. The single dumbest and most eye-rolling thing I’ve heard this week is the recurrent claim of Trump supporters claiming that “if they can put Trump in jail, they can put anyone in jail for anything.” Here his backers are channeling the poor victim Trump’s own rhetoric: “if they can do this to me, think what they can do to you. They are coming for you next.”

What pathetically class-blind nonsense. Right, as if Trump’s inherited and parasitic fortune and teams of lawyers and publicists and his presence in the White House haven’t long shielded him from prosecution and conviction for a long list of crimes. As if he doesn’t possess special plutocratic resources that have made him a longtime living embodiment of the old working-class slogan “money talks, bullshit walks”! As if he hasn’t ever broken the law. As if Riker’s Island prison and numerous other jails and prisons in the globally unparalleled US mass racist incarceration state aren’t packed with disproportionately brown and Black folks doing long stints for nonviolent offenses that pale before Trump’s monumental crimes thanks to their poverty and their race!

“Animal” Talk and The “Radical Left” National Archives

“I’m processing,” a correspondent writes, “the juxtaposition of a person with thirty felony indictments being able to walk out of the courtroom and being able to fly from NY to FL to live normally until the trial while a sixteen-year-old kid accused of stealing a backpack with little more evidence than an accusation languished at Rikers for three years without a trial” – and then killed himself, I might add.

Indeed. My only difference with that dead-on comment is the phrase “live normally.” The parasitic malignant narcissist and fascist reptile Donald Trump does no such thing in his gaudy Mar a Lago estate, where he gets standing ovations from star-struck club members before sitting down to dine with his twisted wife, and where he responded to his indictment(s) two nights ago by giving a demented and whiny speech in which he:

+ called the distinguished Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg, who happens to be Black, a “criminal” and a “radical left” tool of George Soros.

+ called his future Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis, who happens to be Black, a “racist.”

+ called the US National Archives “radical Left.”

+ suggested that the Department of Justice may want to have him executed.

+ repeatedly called the special federal Trump prosecutor Jack Smith a “lunatic.”

+ called New York state prosecutor Letitia James, who happens to be Black, “racist.”

+ attacked the supposedly “Trump-hating” New York judge overseeing his current indictment along with the judge’s wife and daughter hours after being warned against doing so.

Trump has previously called Bragg an “animal” and posted an image of himself menacing Bragg with a baseball bat.

What on Earth could lead middle- and working-class Trumpists to think that they share any kind of civil and legal vulnerability with “Teflon Don”? Beyond stupidity, the answer is class-blind whiteness overlaid with a ridiculous neofascist sense of victimization by imaginary “radical left” nonwhite oppressors.

“Get Stuff Done”

Honorable mention for the dumbest thing I’ve heard this week goes to the name of the failed neoliberal Obamanist political action committee in Chicago: GetStuffDone. “Get stuff done”? Really? Um, like what exactly? The Third Reich got a lot of “stuff” done in the course of conducting the Nazi Holocaust and starting a global war that killed 50 million people. Hitler’s fascist partner “Get Benito Mussolini was praised for “making the trains run on time.” He and his Blackshirts sure got a lot of “stuff” done.

“In the 2023 City elections,” the GetStuffDone PAC says, “we will promote candidates who embrace compromise over conflict: progress over politics. We want a City Council that excels at streets and services and shuns the destructive divisions of national political debates.”

Translation: make the trains run on time, pick up the garbage, and suppress serious debate and struggle over savage race-class inequality, race-class hyper-segregation, anti-immigrant nativism, the assault on women, racist policing, and racist mass incarceration.

(Some good news: GetStuffDone’s pro-cop mayoral candidate Paul Vallas – a ruling class metropolitan hit man whose record of getting “stuff” done includes dismantling and privatizing public schools systems in Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia – lost his City Hall bid last Tuesday. More on the Chicago mayoral election next week.)

Jesus Christ

Of course, I could have mentioned the dumbest thing said all year: Marjorie Taylor-Greene likening Trump to the Christian messiah after the porn star-payer was indicted. Greene, who traveled to New York City to protest Trump’s arraignment, cited the Easter season in which Trump was arraigned and then said this: “Jesus was arrested and murdered by the Roman government. There have been many people throughout history that have been arrested and persecuted by radical corrupt governments, and it’s beginning today in New York City.”

But that’s almost too easy to mock. Anyone who likens Donald Trump to Jesus needs what folks here on the South Side call “a check- up from the neck up.”

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).