An Epidemic of political intimidation: Why America suffers from a cult of bullies who refuse to negotiate
Democrats must stop giving in to grifter bullies. If you don’t take on bullies, they keep going further and further until either they win or you fight back and defeat them. The best political example of this writ large was Hitler. He pushed around most of Europe and they kept giving in or trying to appease him, thinking at some point he’d have gotten enough.
Neville Chamberlain thought he could negotiate with a bully and came back from his meetings with Hitler believing he’d achieved “peace in our time.” But, of course, you can never actually negotiate with a bully: you can only contain or defeat them. Which is what FDR, Churchill and Stalin ended up having to do.
Bullies never stop. And, most importantly, every time they win they set their sights on the next conquest. Giving in to their demands only creates a newer and more elaborate set of demands.
People in the business world know this well, because some of the most successful and powerful people in that realm are, themselves, successful bullies and everybody in business has dealt with them at one time or another. We typically only learn late in their careers what tyrants they were, as in the biographies of John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford and Donald Trump.
But because they’ve acquired wealth and power through bullying their colleagues, competitors and employees, those business bullies who move into politics (whether as elected officials or those who buy off elected officials) their bullying tactics go with them.
We have so many of these bullies polluting our political waters today that it’s nearly impossible to get anything done that benefits anybody except the morbidly rich bullies themselves and their friends.
As lawyer and therapist Bill Eddy wrote for Psychology Today:
“Bullies don’t negotiate; they make demands, they make threats, and they fight for them. They generally lack the modern skills of win-win… So don’t think of their demands as a form of true negotiation. It’s more like warfare. And you don’t want to give in to that.”
Right now, America is suffering from an epidemic of political bullying.
Billionaires started bullying us in the 1980s, demanding that the top 74% income tax rate be collapsed to 25%; Reagan enthusiastically gave in (as did a few Democrats) and now the billionaires who are paying 3% tax rates (not a typo) are using their political muscle to block funding to the IRS to catch them and their fellow rich tax cheats.
It is totally bizarre. The IRS and tax professionals tell us that hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes that are legally owed to our government are not coming into the treasury every year because billionaires and giant corporations have an army of CPAs and attorneys to illegally hide their money.
When Democrats “negotiating” with Republican bullies on the “bipartisan” infrastructure deal proposed to pay for the $800 billion 10-year deal by simply authorizing a few hundred million dollars to rebuild the IRS back to where it was a few decades ago to catch these tax cheats, Republican bullies went ballistic. Now the entire deal is in trouble.
Qanon and other anti-vax cultists are bullying everybody else in America, saying that they shouldn’t have to get vaccinated or even wear masks in public places because they don’t want to and that’s that. As an anti-vaxxer bully recently emailed me, in classic fashion after a long, rambling rant about how terrible vaccines are, “You’re a simple-minded person. You truly disgust me and, let’s face it, you’re only on the air to sell your stupid books. F*ck you.”
Republican bully politicians went along and have passed laws in multiple states banning mask or vaccine mandates. “My way or the highway” is their bully slogan, although instead of leading to the highway their policies are filling our morgues.
France, Germany and the United Kingdom are now standing up to their anti-mask and anti-vax bullies, rolling out “vaccine passports” so citizens can feel safe when entering retail establishments and other venues.
But Republican political bullies here continue to push their anti-vax/anti-“passport”/anti-mask laws and Democrats cower in the face of their threats or try to “negotiate” with them while the majority of Americans, who’d just like to be safe, watch in horror as family and friends get sick and die.
Convicted foreign agent, bully and Trump toady Mike Flynn, who earlier suggested that a wholesale slaughter of minority Americans a la Myanmar “should happen” here, just upped the ante by saying, when presented with a new AR15, “Maybe I’ll find someone in Washington DC.”
The entire January 6th “insurrection” at the Capitol that Flynn encouraged, in fact, was the ultimate act not only of sedition but also of bullying. And now bullies and probable co-conspirators like Jim Jordan are doing their best to blow up any sort of serious investigation into it.
Our world is in flames, as climate scientists have been warning us would happen for at least five decades, but fossil-fuel billionaires here and abroad continue to bully civilized nations into a suicide pact. Just let them get richer and richer selling their poisons, they say… until everything collapses.
Mitch McConnell and his Republican bullies in the U.S. Senate represent 41 million fewer Americans than do Senate Democrats, but, like bullies worldwide, they are relentless. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is a nice guy but he has to learn how to call out and stand up to the other side.
Psychologist Shawn T. Smith, author of Surviving Aggressive People, notes that bullies almost always back down when they’re confronted. He tells the story of being bullied himself as a child, and how when he changed schools and stood up to the first bully who came along (and got himself beat up in the process) that bully and the other bullies in the school gave him a wide berth knowing now that he would fight back. Bullies are both lazy and cowards; preying on people who fight back is too much trouble and risk.
“[B]ullies and predators,” Smith writes, “…test, …prod, and…scan for vulnerability. When they do, responding quickly is more important than responding perfectly.” Fighting back is imperative. Otherwise you lose. We’ve been bullied enough. It’s time to put a stop to it.
The vast majority of Americans, for example, would like to have the same kind of healthcare and educational system that Canadians, Europeans, Australians and South Koreans have. Everybody covered, not a single medical bankruptcy, and undergraduate student debt largely nonexistent.
Why don’t we have what Europe got in the 1940s and Canada got in the 1960s? Because wealthy bullies don’t want to pay their taxes and so they buy off politicians who, themselves, are willing to bully the American people and the press.
We have “January 6th” bullies, anti-mask bullies, anti-vax bullies, an entire health insurance industry that bullies us, bank bullies who rip us off, Wall Street bullies stealing everything that’s not nailed down, anti-abortion bullies threatening women, and religious bullies threatening our courts.
America has a bully problem, and we are not going to solve it by giving in to them. Today’s Democrats need to take a lesson from FDR and LBJ and take on the bullies so they can get things done for the American people.
© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as America is Suffering from an Epidemic of Political Bullying
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