(By John Andrews, Centennial Institute Fellow)
I am just back from a few days in the fever swamps of anti-American leftism. Whew, what a trip.
Okay, it was nothing to what my nephew Dave will undergo with the swamp phase of his Army Ranger training. But I got a stark reminder of why our new president’s mission to drain the swamp is so needed.
The swamp that Donald Trump, the Republican Congress, and their GOP allies in states across the land seek to clean up is not just in Washington, DC, and not just in government.
It’s a mindset indwelling most of America’s institutions and warping the reality of many millions of impressionable fellow-citizens, each of whom for better or worse can cast a thoughtless vote that cancels your thoughtful vote.
What comprises that mindset? The idea that this is a country with a uniquely shameful history. The idea that only the shame-faced, and the certified victims they advocate for, are fit to hold political or economic or cultural power.
And consequently, the idea that dissenters from this orthodoxy of guilt and payback are unworthy of any governing role whatsoever (or in Hillary Clinton’s words, “deplorable” and “irredeemable”).
Like the effusions from a rotten, stinking piece of wasteland where quicksand can swallow you whole in an instant, expressions of this mentality — self-righteous, smug, superior, entitled, scornful — can only be called swamp gas.
It’s foul, fetid, flammable, and toxic. Inhale it at your risk. Best just to ignore the stuff and keep draining. A dirty job but someone has to do it. Keep draining. We can all do our part.
My recent swamp-wading experience came when I was asked to lead a four-part discussion on civics with a roomful of young men in a job-readiness class. Eight guys from the inner city, pleasant, polite, earnest, ages 18 to 30, mostly black and Hispanic.
It startled me, to be honest, how the swamp gas poured out of them as we talked. But it made sense. They were just breathing out to me what they had breathed in from neighbors, teachers, entertainers, the media, and influencers in their racial subcultures.
Each with a high school diploma or GED, some with a bit of college under their belt, I found them woefully mal-educated in the basics of how we govern ourselves in a free society.
Worse, though, was the tone of resentment, grievance, and cynicism that ran through much of their talk about US history and current politics — often couched in wife-beating gotcha statements to old whitey up there in front, accusations disguised as questions.
Noxious gas indeed, and no fun to be enveloped with, even when coming from kids who didn’t know better, casualties of the bad leadership that elites of older generations have been inflicting on our nation for decades now. Here’s a sample:
Trump is racist. Republicans are racist. America itself is racist. Dark-skinned peoples originating near the equator are naturally less violent than light-skinned peoples from northern climes. “They” (unspecified) stole the election from Hillary since they’d never let a woman be president. To criticize a judge or the media is quasi-tyrannical.
“Make America great again” isn’t about prosperity or national security, rather it’s code for bringing back a time when women and minorities didn’t have full equality. Policing in America originated to catch runaway slaves and keep Indians on reservations, period. Immigration should be all comers from everywhere. Why are we excluding all Muslims?
Is video of the cops killing unarmed black youths what Trump means by “fake news”? (Sarcastic eye-roll when I told him it was Trump’s defeated opponents who coined that term.) George Washington was a bad president because he owned slaves. Andrew Jackson was a genocidist. Ronald Reagan started the crack epidemic and made millions off it.
Reparations were paid to Japanese-American internees and various Native American tribes while nothing was done for blacks. (Disdainful snort when I asked him if a trillion dollars in poverty funds over half a century for families of all colors didn’t count for something.) The Electoral College is a cheat. Secession is worth a try. Voting accomplishes nothing. The Declaration of Independence is a hypocritical fraud.
And so on and so on; there was more. On a show of hands for who voted last year, we learned five of the eight didn’t bother. Were they aware many state and local offices, not just the presidency, were elected then too? Most were not.
My having tweeted on November 9, “The system worked. America is back,” disqualified me to lead a fair-minded discussion, several said. My advice to be mature and deal with life as you find it, rather than obsess about America’s past racial sins, was rejected as unfeeling and “privileged.”
When next we meet — and we will, what’s a little swamp gas among friends — I hope to achieve somewhat of a redirect by having everyone bring in a Denver Post story of his choosing about state and local government. State and local is what I know best, after all, and it relates far more to job readiness, the whole point of the class.
It might work, or it might not. If they pick an item about Gov. John Hickenlooper’s syrupy remark, “I see neighbors,” front page in the Post on Feb. 23 after a welcome ceremony for Syrians (among whom a jihadi may lurk), we’re right back in the swamp.
Likewise if they pick an item about state Rep. Dave Williams’ bill to crack down on sanctuary cities, which gained urgency with the recent brutal murder by one sanctuaryian.
To repeat, I like these guys, and I’ve learned valuable things from our dialogue. I consider them swamp-gas casualties, not swamp-gas generators.
But that’s the thing about an epidemic. Somebody catches it one day, through no fault of his own, but next day he’s a carrier and the bad stuff just keeps spreading. It has to be antidoted and stopped; break the cycle. Have I done any good with them? Only time will tell.
As for the Denver Post, a venerable brand in journalism for the Rocky Mountain West, a breakfast-time companion for 40 years, which I have usually enjoyed and respected even when disagreeing (and for which I spent nearly a decade as a columnist) — wow, it seems to have gone full swamp gas during the 2016 campaign and now in these early weeks of 2017 as Trump takes power.
Even today in the twilight of print news, owners and editors have the choice to be either a serious, fair-minded paper with some standards, or a shrill opinion rag. The Post’s juvenile lunge to the left, with one house editorial after another headlined “Lying Trump,” blots its long-earned reputation for judicious commentary that readers can rely on.
To use a Trumpian adjective: How sad.
For another example from the Post, out of so many I’ve lost count, take the silly op-ed by local attorney Dan Recht on Sunday, Feb. 19, “Is Donald Trump sane? The evidence suggests he’s not.”
Recht starts with a disclaimer that he has no qualifications to diagnose mental illness, then proceeds to do it anyway. Like other media outlets from coast to coast, and their contributors, he and the Post editors have let Trump take up residence rent-free inside their heads. Want to know who’s nuts, Dan? Look in the mirror.
But stop and think what’s really going on when an ACLU partisan like Mr. Recht charges the newly inaugurated President of the United States, the winner of 37 states last fall, the tribune of 63 million fed-up average Americans, with insanity.
This is straight out of the Marxist playbook whereby dissent from the official line is ipso facto evidence of “false consciousness” — that is, delusion and mental incompetence. Lenin, Stalin, and their successors ran that playbook with brutal abuse of psychiatry to shut up and lock up the brave truth-tellers of Soviet tyranny in Cold War times.
The chilling details are in such works as Russia’s Political Hospitals by Sidney Bloch and Peter Reddaway. That was 1977. Fast forward to 2017, and the swamp denizens see delegitimizing the man voters elected to drain the swamp as one sly way to thwart him and keep their racket going.
So swamp gas is real, and it’s no joke, much as we may be inclined to laugh off the smelly stuff. As a Coloradan, I face the serious daily problem of where to get honest reporting — and balanced analysis or opinion — on what’s happening both nationallly and locally, now that the Rocky is gone and the Post is mostly a gasbag.
Although my preference for ink on paper is bone deep, I’m turning more and more often to the scrupulously even-handed RealClearPolitics.com. To stay current in-state, I like the websites CompleteColorado.com and ColoradoPeakPolitics.com (both right of center) as well as ColoradoPols.com (left of center).
In addition, The Gazette out of Colorado Springs is coming on as a truly statewide paper (and online product). Under new owner Philip Anschutz, it now has more heft than the pitifully thin Denver Post. Rumors persist that Anschutz may buy the Post and revitalize it. One can only hope.
I’m the furthest thing from a seer. I thought Romney would win in 2012 and the Falcons would take this year’s Super Bowl. Heck, I thought the Beatles were a flash in the pan.
But I did publish a book a few years back in which the rise of Element R, a citizens movement outflanking both political parties, was foretold as America’s arousal from self-indulgent freedom-on-the-cheap into a new era of “Responsibility Reborn.”
Not stunningly prophetic. But it wasn’t far away from today’s bottom-up push to drain the swamp and fumigate away all the gas while we’re at it.
So take heart, fellow deplorables. Never mind the mind games of desperate status-quo defenders hoping to narcotize and demoralize us with vaporous clouds of, excuse the expression, crap.
Ignore the swamp gas and just keep draining. We’re winning, for a change. Press on, patriots!