I read this last week and was amazed at how well this Ethan Grey summed it up. I asked him for permission to repost it here. He said “sure!”
The text version, since I know some people can’t see Tweets (I’ve put the highlights in bold)
This is a thread on Republican messaging. The press doesn’t want to have a direct conversation with you about this. So as a former Republican who is now a consistent Democratic voter, I will. Thread.
Here is the Republican message on everything of importance:
1. They can tell people what to do.
2. You cannot tell them what to do.
This often gets mistaken for hypocrisy, there’s an additional layer of complexity to this (later in the thread), but this is the basic formula.
You've watched the Republican Party champion the idea of "freedom" while you have also watched the same party openly assault various freedoms, like the freedom to vote, freedom to choose, freedom to marry who you want and so on.
If this has been a source of confusion, then your assessments of what Republicans mean by “freedom” were likely too generous. Here’s what they mean:
1. The freedom to tell people what to do.
2. Freedom from being told what to do.
When Republicans talk about valuing “freedom”, they’re speaking of it in the sense that only people like them should ultimately possess it.
So with this in mind, let’s examine some of our political issues with an emphasis on who is telling who what to do. And hopefully there will be no ambiguity about what the Republican Party message is ever again.
Let’s start with the COVID-19 pandemic. We were told by experts in infectious diseases that to control the spread of the pandemic, we had to socially distance, mask, and get vaccinated. So, in a general sense, we were being told what to do. Guess who had a big problem with that.
All Republicans saw were certain people trying to tell them what to do, which was enough of a reason to make it their chief priority to insist that they will not be told what to do. Even though what they were told to do could save lives, including their own.
As you can see, this is a very stunning commitment to refusing to be told what to do. So much so that it is not in fact “pro-life.” But Republicans will nevertheless claim to be the “pro-life” party. That is because they recognize “pro-life” can be used to tell people what to do.
The reason they say they are “pro-life” when they are trying to tell women what to do with their bodies is not out of genuine concern for human life, but because they recognize that in this position, they can tell women what to do with their bodies.
That’s why when you use that same appeal—“pro-life”—when you ask Republicans to do something about gun violence in schools, it doesn’t work. Because you are now in the position of telling Republicans what to do. That’s precisely why they don’t want to do anything about it.
Anyway, gun violence in schools is not a problem, but their children having to wear masks in schools is. Because somebody is telling their children what to do. Dead children don’t bother them, but telling their children what to do? Only *they* should do that.
They claim to be for “small government”, but that really means a government that tells them what to do should be as small as possible. But when the Republican Party recognizes it has an opportunity to tell people what to do, the government required for that tends to be large.
The reason Republicans are so focused on the border isn’t because they care about border security, it’s because they recognize it as the most glaring example of when they can tell other people what to do. That's why it’s their favorite issue. You want in? Too bad. Get out.
If Republicans could do this in every social space—tell the people who aren’t like them too bad, get the fuck out—I’m here to assure that would be something resembling their ideal society.
Now, there are economic policies that we’ve proposed that we can demonstrate would be of obvious benefit to even Republican voters. So how do Republicans leaders kill potential support for these policies? Make the issue about who is telling who what to do.
They focus on the fact that Democrats may raise taxes. Even when it’s painfully obvious that Democrats aren’t going to raise taxes on everyone (or on very few people), what’s important here is that Democrats are the people telling certain people what to do.
If you want to know why Republicans can easily be talked out of proposals from the Democratic Party that are shown to be of benefit to them, it is precisely because they have to entertain the idea of Democrats telling certain people what to do.
What you didn’t understand from the very beginning is that Democrats should not ultimately be in the position to tell anyone what to do. Only Republicans should be in the position to tell people what to do.
On the issue of climate change, a lot of them don’t regard it as a serious issue to the extent that they think it is a hoax. This is because when you tell Republicans to do something for the sake of the planet, you are still ultimately telling them to what to do.
Furthermore, you are conceiving the planet as a thing that all human beings should have to share. I am here to assure you that the GOP’s main concern with the planet is to ensure that they don’t have to share it.
Now here’s where things get interesting: when you explain to Republicans you want them to do something and explain it’s on the basis of benefitting other people. Now you have really crossed a line. Not only did you tell them what to do, you told them to consider others.
The whole point of an arrangement where you can tell people what to do, but you can’t be told what to do, is precisely to avoid having to consider others. This is why this is their ideal arrangement: so they don’t have to do that.
As you can see, this is a very toxic relationship with the idea of who can tell who what to do. So much so that it seems like the entire point is to conceive of a “right” kind of people who can tell other people what to do without being told what to do. Yep, that’s the point.
So let’s add one more component to the system for who tells who what to do:
1. There are “right” human beings and there are "wrong" ones.
2. The “right” ones get to tell the “wrong” ones what to do.
3. The “wrong” ones do not tell the “right” ones what to do.
As you can see, I've just been talking about white male supremacy and the accompanying caste system structure it enforces all along. And I'm talking about this because the message of the Republican Party is that they quite like it.
But I realize that we are operating in an environment where white male supremacy is so entrenched that the press can’t even conceive of the Republican Party’s agenda of sorting the “right” human beings from the “wrong” ones as maybe presenting a “messaging problem.”
This is because the press has chosen to accommodate the Republican Party in a very specific way:
1. It normalizes the Republican agenda.
2. It normalizes framing the responsibility for stopping that agenda as ultimately being on Democrats.
Think about it: white supremacy is not allowed to be viewed as a “messaging problem.” Even when it’s a threat to democracy. Because if it’s a “messaging problem”, to Republicans, that sounds you're telling them that's a problem they have to solve.
Anyway, I made this thread mostly because I realize that the press has a "messaging problem." Namely, in the sense that they seem extremely averse to explicitly identifying the message of the Republican Party. It's called white male supremacy. Thanks for reading.