Tag Archives: Robert Hubbell

Lesson From Poland

Recently, an op-ed from Jennifer Rubin and a daily Letter from Robert Hubbell combined to send the same message: don’t lose hope! Loss of hope, after all, is what the Steve Bannons of the world want–to “flood the zone with shit” in amounts sufficient to wear us out.

Rubin took a lesson from last week’s election in Poland, which she very accurately described as a hopeful message for democracy. As she pointed out, authoritarian regimes count on increasing our depression, resignation, cynicism and despair; they know that continued outrages disable opposition and induce widespread compliance with even a despised regime. Her point: If free people are to resist authoritarian repression, they must cultivate the habit of optimism.

I read that column on the same day that I received Robert Hubbell’s almost identical exhortation. (For some reason–perhaps my position somewhere on the Pacific Ocean, I can’t find a link, so you’ll have to trust that my citations are accurate.)

Hubbell begins:

This is a pep talk to my family (and myself). You can listen in.

We are living through an extraordinary time. The world is being rocked by multiple overlapping crises: The terrorist attack on Israel on October 7; Israel’s subsequent declaration of war on Hamas; protests throughout the Middle East sparked by a Hamas missile strike on a hospital in Gaza; the ongoing war against the Ukrainian people by Vladimir Putin; the inability of the majority party in the House to elect a Speaker; the possibility of a government shutdown before Thanksgiving; upcoming elections in Virginia and Ohio that will serve as bellwethers for 2024; the hottest year (2023) and hottest month (July) since scientists began keeping climate records; and a new term of the US Supreme Court that could fundamentally reshape American society and personal liberties (or not).

          That’s a lot.

           It is easy to feel overwhelmed, to withdraw, to look away.


Hubbell continued by pointing out that our emotional exhaustion and intentional disengagement are the goals of today’s Republicans, a cult intent upon retaining power by undermining democracy and ignoring the will of the American people. (When Rep. Tom Cole nominated Jim Jordan for Speaker of the House, Cole emphasized one of Jordan’s “leading qualifications”– his commitment to cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Does anyone who isn’t a lunatic believe that such cuts represent the will of the American people?)

If the election in Poland teaches us anything, it teaches us that Hubbell is correct when he insists that “Our generation has one job: To endure, to abide, to keep the faith until this moment of reactionary extremism subsides.”

Exhaustion is the point of MAGA extremism. Republicans say:

Impeach Trump? We’ll impeach Joe Biden, Merrick Garland, Jack Smith, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Christopher Wray.

Indict Trump? We’ll indict Hunter Biden, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.

Recognize the equality of LGBTQ people? We’ll legalize discrimination against them.

Protect Americans from a deadly virus? We’ll undermine trust in science.

Fight human-caused climate change? We will make it illegal to discuss climate change in the classroom.

We must recognize those responses as a mind game designed to make us give up and go away.

We have one job: To endure, to abide, to keep the faith until this moment of reactionary extremism subsides. If we can do that, we will leave to our heirs a healthier, stronger democracy.

             We can do that. We must do so. We have no other choice.

He’s right. We have no other choice.

Poland’s election should serve as a lesson that–with hard work and perseverance –We the People can defeat the agents of discord and hatred, and return our institutions to the often dull but utterly necessary work of democratic governance. 

We need to hang tough….and we need to VOTE.

How We Got Here

I hadn’t planned to post about Trump’s latest indictment–the media has been all over it, including his trip to turn himself in and the mugshot (which perfectly captures this demented and hateful man’s affect). But the day after that unprecedented event, two newsletters that I regularly receive–from Heather Cox Richardson and Robert Hubbell–when read together, told the story of how we got here and where we are.

Richardson, of course, is an acclaimed American historian–someone well equipped to trace the trajectory of the once-Grand Old Party from Lincoln to Trump. And that is what she did.

In the 1960s, Republicans made a devil’s bargain, courting the racists and social traditionalists who began to turn from the Democratic Party when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began to make inroads on racial discrimination. Those same reactionaries jumped from the Democrats to create their own party when Democratic president Harry S. Truman strengthened his party’s turn toward civil rights by creating a presidential commission on civil rights in 1946 and then ordering the military to desegregate in 1948. Reactionaries rushed to abandon the Democrats permanently after Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, joining the Republicans at least temporarily to vote for Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, who promised to roll back civil rights laws and court decisions.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was the final straw for many of those reactionaries, and they began to move to the Republicans as a group when Richard Nixon promised not to use the federal government to enforce civil rights in the states. This so-called southern strategy pulled the Republican Party rightward.

In 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan appeared at the Neshoba County Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi, a few miles from where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964 for their work registering Black Mississippians to vote, and said, “I believe in states’ rights.” Reagan tied government defense of civil rights to socialism, insisting that the government was using tax dollars from hardworking Americans to give handouts to lazy people, often using code words to mean “Black.”

Since then, as their economic policies have become more and more unpopular, the Republicans have kept voters behind them by insisting that anyone calling for federal action is advocating socialism and by drawing deep divisions between those who vote Republican, whom they define as true Americans, and anyone who does not vote Republican and thus, in their ideology, is anti-American.

The bottom line is the transformation of a once-responsible political party into a racist cult. I would actually quibble with one part of Richardson’s summary–the GOP’s policies haven’t “become unpopular,” they’ve vanished. It is impossible to identify “policies” espoused by the party’s current iteration–unless racism, misogyny, homophobia and anti-semitism can be considered policy positions.

And that brings me to the concluding paragraphs of Robert Hubbell’s newsletter.

Trump’s mugshot will become the defining image of Trump for all time. His facial expression conveys equal parts menace, anger, and defiance. There is no hint of a soul behind the eyes, only animal grievance and feral resentment at being cornered. It is astounding that a mugshot could capture the essence of evil that resides beneath the surface in Donald Trump.

The photo is also a mugshot of MAGA extremism. It captures the hostility and meanness that animates most of the GOP’s “agenda”—including policies that demean and discriminate against Blacks, women, LGBTQ people, educators, scientists, and immigrants. Trump’s mugshot will likewise become the defining image of MAGA extremism for all time. Tens of millions of MAGA adherents will celebrate and glorify the image—confirming the virulent strain of authoritarianism that has infected the MAGA base.

Not just authoritarianism; hatred..raw hatred for the people who have stolen their preferred vision of America–a vision in which straight White (pseudo) Christian men rule the roost. Virtually every Republican candidate, local, state and federal, is pandering to the angry and fearful  members of a MAGA cult that has replaced a once respectable party. 

Hubbell focuses on the rest of the electorate.

By making this gargoyle of hate the “face” of the 2024 GOP campaign, Republicans are reinforcing the suspicions and fears of tens of millions of Republicans and swing voters who are looking for a reason not to vote for Trump—or to stay home. (As they did on debate night by boycotting his Tucker Carlson interview.)  

 Against the deeply unsettling MAGA mugshot, Democrats will feature the kindly face of Joe Biden as he reaches to pet a rescue dog or hug a survivor of the Hawaii wildfires. Joe Biden may be older than some would like, but his face exhibits kindness and wisdom. We should not underestimate visceral reactions to human decency—or lack thereof—in our leaders.

I sure hope he’s right.


The Eternal Target

Robert Hubbell is the author of one of the newsletters that appear in my inbox each weekday; some months ago, my sister recommended that I add him to my daily read and I can echo her endorsement.

Hubbell recently considered the anti-Semitism displayed by one of RFK, Jr.’s many conspiracy theories–this one, that the Chinese had “bio-engineered”  COVID  to disproportionately target Caucasians and Black people., while immunizing Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people.

As Hubbell wrote

Over the weekend, we learned that Kennedy’s conspiratorial thinking regarding the origins of Covid and the (alleged) evils of vaccines led him to the place where many conspiracy theories seem to inevitably land—blaming “the Jews” for the world’s problems. Most conspiracy theories begin by blaming the ubiquitous and anonymous “they”, which inexorably morphs over time to “liberal elites,” then “Bill Gates and George Soros,” and then “the Jews.”

 I sure wish we Jews were as powerful as these conspiracy-addled  lunatics clearly think we are. (Really, if I had a space laser, don’t you think I’d have used it against some of these nutcases by now??)

In Hubbell’s subsequent discussion of Junior’s “bioweapon” theories, he meticulously examined the ignorance it required.

He claims that the Chinese and American governments are developing “ethnic bioweapons.” The notion that governments are building bioweapons that will selectively attack people based on their “ethnicity” is a delusion based on monumental ignorance about DNA, biology, race, ethnicity, science, politics, and reality. It is the stuff of 1950s comic books, adolescent imagination, and Nazi eugenics—which is how sheer stupidity morphs into absolute evil in the reality free cauldron of conspiracy theories.

Hubbell examined RFK,Jr.’s “copious documentation” (so that we don’t have to), and found that–to the extent any legitimate documentation exists regarding “ethnic bioweapons”– “it relates to the fear that some government might exploit the gene editing technology CRSPR/Cas9 to develop ethnic bioweapons in the future.”

Rather obviously, a concern about what might occur  sometime in the future is not “evidence” that U.S. and China are developing bioweapons targeted at various genetic groups.

What struck me about this particular eruption of anti-Semitism–and Hubbell’s ability to demonstrate the ignorance that prompted it–was an insight it prompted about the nature of conspiracy theories in general: people who don’t understand the world they inhabit, and who are unable to tolerate the ambiguities resulting from that lack of understanding, are desperate for answers and explanations they can comprehend.

Conspiracy theories provide those answers. (So do some religions.)

Are LGBTQ people more visible than they used to be? There must be more of them, and that means that some groups–librarians and Drag Queens among them– are “grooming” children and turning them gay.

Are the FBI and Department of Justice closing in on Donald Trump’s myriad crimes? That’s convincing evidence that those federal agencies have been “weaponized” against Republicans.

Did your 87-year-old grandfather die a month after getting a COVID vaccine? Was your sister-in-law’s next-door neighbor’s brother’s child diagnosed as autistic after getting her measles vaccine? Aha! Evidence that vaccines are dangerous.

Are you a man who’s unable to get a date? (Okay, unable to get laid?) It isn’t because you’re unattractive or unpleasant (or nuts). As your fellow Incels will tell you, it’s evidence that “women’s lib” groups have poisoned relations between the sexes.

Is your life not unfolding in ways you had hoped? Are your children behaving in ways that you disapprove? It’s evidence that some shadowy group–probably the Jews–is running the world in ways that disadvantage good White Christians like you…

I’m sure readers of this blog can add to the list….

There is a reason for the growing political and social gap between educated and uneducated Americans. And by “educated” I don’t mean people with degrees; I mean people who read books and newspapers, open themselves to the lessons of history, and respect science and technical expertise. Educated people are humans who recognize–and have learned to live with– the inevitable ambiguities of modern life. They are people who understand that the world is a complicated place, that we humans are still learning about causes and effects, and there are many questions we can’t answer.

They are people who can tell the difference between evidence and fantasy, and are comfortable saying “I don’t know.”

Other people–those who are frantic for simple answers and desperate for someone or some group  to blame for their distress– cope by adopting fantasies that justify their fear and hatred of the “other.”

Today’s America evidently has a lot of them. Until their fevers subside, they can and do make life for the rest of us very uncomfortable–and for some of us “others,” very unsafe.