Charles Jaco – journalist, author, and activist (on Twitter at @charlesjaco1) – who took down U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s Republican challenger Todd Akin six years ago in a bruising broadcast interview, has come out of retirement to write for The American before the November 6 general election. He penned this guest Political EYE.
U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, the 85-year-old Iowa Republican who chairs the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has sandbagged the woman who’s accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault decades ago by complaining about everything except the fact that the nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court may be guilty of both sexual assault and perjury.
Grassley has complained about process and procedure, especially about the amount of time that had passed before Professor Christine Blasely Ford came forward with her charges. Grassley told reporters, “I’d hate to have someone ask me what I did 35 years ago.”
That would be 1983. Since I was a reporter covering Capitol Hill for NBC Network Radio at the time, let me refresh Senator Grassley’s memory: in 1983, you were the junior senator from Iowa, and had just been named by Washingtonian magazine as “the 2nd stupidest member of the United States Senate.” You supported Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts that led to today’s epidemic of economic inequality, and you voted against making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. I know. I have the receipts.
But the Iowa octogenarian wasn’t really looking for an answer. He was merely doing what conservatives have done for decades, taking a protest against a legitimate grievance and twisting it, focusing first on the method of protest (Prof. Ford’s letter making the allegations), then attacking the protestor personally (which is why Prof. Ford and her family have had to abandon their California home after a flood of death threats), and then, finally, twisting the meaning of the protest (claiming that a victim of alleged sexual assault brave enough to come forward is really a “left-wing political operative”).
These are the same tactics used to attack NFL exile and social justice quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Right-wingers ignored the reality of white cops killing and assaulting black people, and instead first focused on Kaepernick’s method (kneeling during the National Anthem), then attacked Kaepernick himself (an NFL player who couldn’t keep a job looking for publicity), and, finally, lied about the protest’s meaning (making it an insult to the flag, the military, and real, patriotic Americans. You know. The white ones.)
These are the same tactics white supremacists used to go after Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. First, they would attack King’s methods (mass marches, mobilizations, and civil disobedience were dangerous to law and order). Then, they assaulted King personally (most infamously through the J. Edgar Hoover FBI, which wiretapped King, claimed he was an adulterer, and sent him anonymous letters urging him to commit suicide). Finally, the entire purpose of the movement was twisted into a narrative of black violence and uprising (as a letter from eight white clergy on the eve of the 1963 March on Washington claimed).
Demonizing the messenger and perverting the message is nothing new. The same tactics have been used for the last century and more against Black Lives Matter, Vietnam War protestors, and crusaders for the women’s vote. Two things are different now: the ability of social media to amplify the voices of repression, and the explicit white male Christian supremacist beliefs of the Trump administration.
While Kaepernick is demonized to divert attention from white supremacy in policing, Prof. Ford is being attacked as a misdirection so that we forget why Trump and his collaborating minions want Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court in the first place. His would be the fifth and deciding vote when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, guts the remnants of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, and enshrines into law the racist misogyny that elected Donald Trump in the first place.
Republicans gladly go along because this is what the GOP believes. From the mass defection of racist whites to the Republican Party during the civil rights era to the GOP’s embrace of the Tea Party’s racist birtherism in 2008, the “party of Lincoln” has been careening toward becoming the White People’s Party since Harry Truman integrated the U.S. military in 1948. Their dirty secret, though, is that women are along strictly as window dressing.
Just as pro-Trump blacks like Kanye West and Cleveland Pastor Darrell Scott provide camouflage for Trump’s white supremacy, Republican women like U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner and Grassley’s colleague, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, provide fig leaves to cover the naked patriarchy of the modern GOP. To the Republican Party in the age of Trump, its white evangelical foot soldiers, and the big money conservative donors like the Green family (owners of Hobby Lobby), the Cathy family (owners of Chic-fil-A), and the mega-rich white nationalist Mercer family, a woman’s body is a man’s property, abortion is murder, and contraception is the same as abortion.
Naked racism, not any concern for the rule of law or patriotism, was the motive for attacks on King and Kaepernick. In the same vein, outlawing abortion, restricting contraception, and controlling what and when a woman can do with her own body are the motives behind attacks on Prof. Ford. Blathering about the Senate’s procedures or charging that she is some sort of activist out to torpedo Kavanaugh are just more snake oil.
During Trump’s campaign it was obvious that a vote for him was a vote for white nationalism. It was also clear that a depraved narcissist who bragged about grabbing women by the genitals and paid off porn stars viewed women as objects or brood mares, and was unlikely to support a woman’s right to choose much of anything.
Yet most white women voted for him. Why? Either his racist appeal trumped his misogyny, or, having dealt with males like him, they didn’t think he was serious. But he is, as serious as his eventual heart attack.
To Trump and his supporters, Prof. Ford is not a victim of sexual assault. She’s merely a speed bump on their road toward making “The Handmaid’s Tale” a documentary.
Charles Jaco is a journalist, author, and activist. Follow him on Twitter at @charlesjaco1.
Public forums on Nov. 6 ballot issues
The League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis will host two issues forums about issues on the statewide ballot on November 6 – Wednesday, October 3, at Manchester Parks and Recreation, 59 Old Meramec Station Rd. in Ballwin; and Thursday, October 4, at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Rd. in Clayton.
Measures on the statewide ballot on November 6 include Amendment 1 to clean up Missouri politics, three medical marijuana initiatives, Proposition B to raise the minimum wage, Proposition D to increase the motor fuels tax, and a constitutional amendment on Bingo. The League will also provide information on St. Louis County and local ballot measures.
For more information, visit www.lwvstl.org.