What It’s All About

Remember that old song, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” The melody and refrain were running through my mind as I read Tuesday’s “Letter from an American” from Heather Cox Richardson.

One paragraph in that Letter in particular really summed up the contemporary American–and global–dilemma. Forget, if possible, the daily eruptions that are evidence of a diseased polity–the crazed “representatives” doing anything but “serving” in Congress; the almost daily mass shootings; the bizarre behaviors of  state legislatures (and not just in Florida and Texas)…and the multitude of other examples.

Focus instead on the underlying dilemma, an existential contest that Richardson says is between liberalism and autocracy but might just as aptly be identified as a contest between good and evil. She began by reminding readers of the Trump agenda that plays to the GOP/MAGA base.

He offered its members the anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and antiabortion measures it craved, in exchange for utter commitment to his leadership. His drive for authoritarianism dovetailed with a religious movement to create a new ideology for the Republican Party, one that explicitly rejects democracy.

That argument, articulated most clearly by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, is that the secular principles of liberal democracy—equality before the law, free speech, freedom to go to church or not, academic inquiry, a free press, immigration, companies that can make decisions based on markets rather than morality—destroy virtue by tearing down the sexual and religious guardrails of traditional society. In order to bring that virtue back, right-wing thinkers argue, the government must defend religion and self-sacrifice (although it’s hard to miss that they’re looking for other people to make those sacrifices, not themselves). 

Last week, on May 4 and 5, the Conservative Political Action Conference met in Budapest for the second time, and once again, Orbán delivered the keynote address. The theme was the uniting of the radical right across national boundaries. “Come back, Mr President,” Orbán said of Trump’s 2024 presidential bid. “Make America great again and bring us peace.” Orbán claimed his suppression of LGBTQ+ rights, academic freedom, and the media is a model for the world. 

(Un)representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) called Orban, “ a beacon.” Richardson reminds us that the Americans who celebrate this ideology are those who routinely attack immigrants, LGBTQ Americans, the media, reproductive rights, and education.

Florida, led by governor Ron DeSantis, has been out front on these issues, but other Republican-dominated states are following suit. Eager to stay at the head of the “movement,” Trump recently claimed that universities are “dominated by marxist maniacs & lunatics” and vowed to bring them under control of the radical right. “He will impose real standards on American colleges and universities,” his website says, “to include defending the American tradition and Western civilization.” 

Needless to say, DeSantis–and Abbott, and the culture warriors in Red State legislatures very much including Indiana’s–have a very distorted picture of American tradition and Western civilization, one diametrically opposed to the expressed values of the nation’s founders.

The decision to hold the Right-wing CPAC convention in Budapest–for the second time!–is chilling enough, but the fact that Diego Morales–Indiana’s Secretary of State not only attended that gathering, but spoke at it, was a reminder of just how firm a grip Indiana’s MAGA Republicans have on the state. Morales joined Tucker Carlson (via video), unsuccessful Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, and other members of American and international Right. 

I’ve previously written about Morales, an election denier who should never have won his race against an infinitely superior candidate, Destiny Wells. (When he was nominated, James Briggs–then of the Indianapolis Star–called him “so broadly unacceptable that the selection must be setting some kind of record for political ineptitude.” Briggs evidently forgot that, in Indiana, unacceptable is now synonymous with “Republican.”)

Morales wraps himself in “conservative” rhetoric, but today’s Right is anything but traditionally conservative. I’m old enough to remember when “conservative” meant conserving the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights and the principles that Richardson correctly labels as inherent in liberal democracy—”equality before the law, free speech, freedom to go to church or not, academic inquiry, a free press, immigration, companies that can make decisions based on markets rather than morality.”

Those principles are what next year’s elections are all about. And as I observed in the book Morton Marcus and I recently published, I am reasonably confident that most American women (and a significant number of men who care about us)  will go to the polls to endorse those foundational principles, joined by voters disgusted by gun fetishists’ mischaracterization of the 2d Amendment, and by still others fed up with Republican refusal to make the rich pay a fair share.

That, “Alfie,” is what it’s “all about.”


  1. Another poster child for my idea of educating people (R’s in particular) on how to vote for individual candidates rather than straight ticket – Diego Morales who sickens me, and I told my mother about him & she felt the same but alas, it was too late and she’d already mailed in her (straight ticket) ballot. *sigh*
    BTW Sheila, I just downloaded your new book from Amazon; here’s to a pleasant weekend ahead.

  2. The far-right extremists in Washinton cowered to the MIC regarding peace. LOL So, the cowards pivoted toward the meek. How pathetic!!

    The populists on the Right have been allowed to fester to make the Democratic Party more relevant when it should have ignited the Left to meet their fervor. Why have Obama and Biden neutered the Left?

    It’s easy to see when you look at the money trails of the Oligarchies. We will end up with an authoritarian leader because that’s what the Oligarchy wants. It will all be organized by the entertainment media.

  3. “Forget, if possible, the daily eruptions that are evidence of a diseased polity–the crazed “representatives” doing anything but “serving” in Congress; the almost daily mass shootings; the bizarre behaviors of state legislatures (and not just in Florida and Texas)…and the multitude of other examples.”

    “…if possible…” is questionable at this time in our city, our state and our nation. Donald Trump owns the air waves; that old adage, “Even bad publicity is good publicity.” is going to get him reappointed, if not outright elected, to the White House. Those of us who are well aware of “What It’s All About” have reached mind-blowing levels of anti-right political views as others are driven into the shadows rather than face reality. Thinking back to the 60s and 70s and the changing social views of those days, I was reminded of my distant cousin, Bobby Grabhorn, who was inventor of the Biofeedback indicators…otherwise known as the popular Mood Rings. Many of us could use a Mood Ring today to warn us when our minds are nearing mind-blowing levels and take time to stop and count to 10. CNNs turnaround to give Trump free air time when he isn’t even a valid presidential candidate…YET still has me fuming. I did NOT watch it but have probably seen in full, by bits and pieces, shown repeatedly on all news sites.

    “I’m old enough to remember when “conservative” meant conserving the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights and the principles that Richardson correctly labels as inherent in liberal democracy—”equality before the law, free speech, freedom to go to church or not, academic inquiry, a free press, immigration, companies that can make decisions based on markets rather than morality.”

    “That, “Alfie,” is what it’s “all about.”

  4. In case there’s anyone out there who doesn’t know my position: Vote blue! If we can’t eliminate the threat on the right, we won’t have a republic in which to vote!

  5. The radical right’s idea of American tradition is white supremacy asshole-ism.

    Has anyone on this blog been able to find out what Dark Money organization funded Diego Morales’ trip to Budapest? I’ve had no luck with my search.

    With each election over the past few years my desire to leave Indiana has become stronger. The gop corporate funded machine has the financial ability to spread propaganda and it appears they prefer ignorant candidates who will obey orders to say and do what they are told. As others have said on this blog – Indiana is in the race to the bottom. The clear message is “sane moderates do not fit in and are unwelcome”.

  6. I forgot to mention that the corporate/wall street funded Democrat machine remains completely silent about the radical right’s propaganda. The national Democrat and gop party leaders are beholden to the same donors. Corporate welfare is both alive but thriving.

  7. Yes, Nancy is correct about our corrupted political parties. They were both captive by the 40s when Einstein wrote about them. Eisenhower blasted a shot over the bow as well. Chomsky and Sachs are screaming from the periphery. I’m getting ready to publish the Top 50 companies in the disinformation campaigns feeding the media.

    Any politician like Biden or Obama preaching about a moderate middle is disingenuous. Walk away from them. Just wait and see what Biden tosses aside in favor of “negotiating with the right” to save the country from “bankruptcy.” LOL

  8. Lots of fear bubbling to the top today. I think we could all take a breath and count to ten, as JoAnn suggested. Then rededicate to getting out the blue votes.

  9. Thank you Sheila for the best definition of our current political culture that I’ve read.

    We can have freedom, or order, but to have order we have to choose whose order.

    Conservative/authoritarians say that in order to avoid the possibility of us choosing the the wrong order, they will impose theirs on the rest of us. No decision required. We just need to stop depriving them of power.

    They are of this mind because they tell each other at every meeting, be afraid, be angry, the different are coming for your wives and children to lure them into the land of do what you want, not what we want you to do. How can that possibly be better? We are your order.

    Of course the Constitution is clear about what cannot be restricted by government, but that’s BS. With enough power we will restrict by law being different, being free, being educated, all in service of taking wealth from its creators, workers, and putting it service of aristocracy, we who are entitled to own, not do.

    It works so well in the Middle East, in Russia, in a China, in N. Korea. Why not here?

  10. Ah, I guess Corporate America is really “What It’s All About” when you get down to where the cheese binds relating to FOLLOW THE MONEY. I just watched a movie, “Margin Call”, no way my brain could assimilate and know how Corporate America works and maintains its control but one question was answered for me. I have always wondered why the picture of that group of people were always smiling and applauding after the closing bell of the Stock Market no matter how bad things went with their numbers. They are applauding themselves for fucking over enough Americans to make money no matter their losses.

    Not yet fully “Woke” regarding how it all works but keep in mind I am a high school dropout with a GED. Doubt I’ll ever be fully “Woke” to it all, but aware enough to support Sharon Miller’s comment to “…rededicate to getting out the blue vote.” will always be a step in the right direction.

  11. Yea Nancy! Also, there is one RED agenda anthem and all are marching to it. There is no ONE BLUE agenda and the “marching” energy is used to quarrel about what it is. First they came for…

  12. Mark Twain famously noted that “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” and I think that same logic is applicable here. There is a large reservoir of pro-democracy adherents out there and it is our task to energize them. Perhaps we can use the old Truman miracle election of 1948 as a pattern to do the job. Here we have authoritarian Republicans running off to Budapest to revel in the budding fascist Orban’s use of race and religion to grab dictatorial powers while those they left behind are steeped in putting food on the table, gun slaughter, getting their kids to college etc. No one thought Truman would win in 1948, so how did he do it? He went on a “whistle stop” campaign, put down the “do nothing” Congress in addressing the real needs of ordinary Americans, and won.

    Perhaps in energizing such reservoir of pro-democracy Americans we can remind them that Republican congressonial members who go to Hungary to hear how Orban uses race and religion to establish dictatorial government should be instead concerned with those living in Omaha and Greensboro rather than Budapest. Perhaps, so energized, we will reject authoritarianism and re-embrace liberal democracy.

  13. Gerald – dream on. You really see Biden doing that? Who would come out? Voters are busy working, making ends meet and having fun. They aren’t educated enough to understand what is going on (and could go on) and don’t believe they can make any difference. The saw what “Hope” and “Change” got them in 2008…

  14. I agree with statement about equality and freedom, but question that companies can make decisions on just the markets. This statement brought to mind how the Kochs made their fortune by selling oil to the Nazis. Follow the money on who is paying these extreme right wing agent office holders. Looks to me like they’re selling out our freedoms to the highest bidder without regard for far sighted results.

  15. It’s all about mustering the energy to get out the vote, to follow the advice of the old-time union
    movement, and “ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE!”
    I believe I read that Biden said, in response to TFG’s verbal diarrhea of the other night “Do you want
    four more years of this?” That seems to me to be a good starting point.

  16. “Organizing: today is very different. There is a tremendous loss of community and parallel growth in micro-communities. Responding to a call to vote/vote for a candidate from a “peer” (neighbor, colleague, “person like me”, etc..) is at least 10 times more affective than a knock/text/email/call from a stranger – that stranger is not much more than a robot…

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