How Rugged Individualists Cannot Solve Global Problems

  • A note about my trip tomorrow to Austin;
  • How Mike Johnson characterizes Republicans as “rugged individualists,” yet who can still not get along to solve actual problems;
  • How Trump’s policies would increase inflation, and his fans haven’t noticed;
  • More about Republicans’ avocation of violence;
  • Short takes: David Barton and how myth becomes history; are rural voters more progressive than we think?; immigrants, democracy, dying young, and facists.

I could have mentioned yesterday that I am, in fact, headed to Austin TX tomorrow, Thursday, for the first time since Larry died, to go through his house. There was some complication about getting his actual Death Certificate (the Justice of the Peace in Hays County, which provides coroner services, somehow didn’t connect with the mortuary that took care of his body) so I am not as far along with “settling his affairs” like bank accounts as I’d hoped. But it’s in progress.

Meanwhile, for today, another batch of two or three days’ worth of posts about what the MAGA crazies are up to. After today, probably no posts for the next four days.

This is the most curious.

Joe.My.God, 24 Apr 2024: Johnson: Democrats Are “Collectivists And Socialists” But Republicans Are “Principled Rugged Individualists”

This aggregate site is capturing what Speaker Mike Johnson said on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

“The Democrats think and act like a union. They’re collectivists. You know, they move in a herd. Many of them are not deeply principled or philosophical folks and so you can command them, and they’ll move as social animals. They’re socialists, right?

“We, on the other hand, are rugged individualists, and we’re deeply principled and philosophical. And it’s difficult to get us to move in tandem sometimes.”

Sounds great, right? Democrats move in a herd but Republicans think for themselves.

Nonsense. Words matter. He’s playing to the American myth that “rugged individualists” built the nation by… living all alone on the frontier? When you live together with other people, in a town or city or an entire planet, you have to cooperate with others to get things done. We’re not living in isolated tribes, or on the frontier, any more. This was a central theme of the book I just read, Joshua Greene’s Moral Tribes (review here).

And Johnson plays on the fact that he can use words like “collectivists” and “socialists” and count on his followers to automatically assign such people as evil, without in the slightest understanding what those words actually mean.


Thus, these far-right rugged individualists cannot cooperate to get anything done.

Slate, Jim Newell, 24 Apr 2024: They Came. They Squawked. They Squandered Their Leverage., subtitled “Far-right Republicans in Congress have sabotaged every possible policy win for their party.”

In November, a characteristically impassioned Texas Rep. Chip Roy unloaded in a House floor speech about how lousy a job House Republicans were doing.

“One thing. I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thingone!—that I can go campaign on and say we did. One!” he shouted, inviting anybody hanging around listening to “come explain to me one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done besides ‘Well, I guess it’s not as bad as the Democrats.’ ”


There have been analogous articles about how this Congress has accomplished less than virtually any other. E.g., here.


I haven’t been following exactly how Trump’s policies would increase inflation, but here are these.

Vox, Eric Levitz, 24 Apr 2024: Trump’s team keeps promising to increase inflation, subtitled “Voters trust Trump to lower prices, even as his advisers put forward plans for increasing Americans’ cost of living.”


Media Matters, Zachary Pleat, 23 Apr 2024: Top 5 newspapers continue to mostly ignore presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s inflationary policies

Subtitled: “Newspaper coverage following the release of the February CPI report, which included the period after Trump clinched the GOP nomination, only mentioned his inflationary policies in 2 of 71 articles that discussed inflation”

Are voters paying any attention at all?

Well, probably not. I heard something — this morning on NPR I think — that claimed that people who follow the news closely are partisan and have made their minds up about who to vote for, and it’s only the uncommitted waffly middle that might be influenced by this or that news article. Is this how to run a democracy? With no accounting of policy to evidence and facts? Apparently so.


More about Republicans who advocate violence to solve every problem. In particular, Tom Cotton. And Josh Hawley.

The Atlantic, Adam Serwer, 24 Apr 2024: The Republicans Who Want American Carnage, subtitled “Calls for the National Guard to stop campus protests are not about safety.”

Tom Cotton has never seen a left-wing protest he didn’t want crushed at gunpoint.

On Monday, the Arkansas senator demanded that President Joe Biden send in the National Guard to clear out the student protests at Columbia University against the Israel-Hamas war, which he described as “the nascent pogroms at Columbia.” Last week, Cotton posted on X,  “I encourage people who get stuck behind the pro-Hamas mobs blocking traffic: take matters into your own hands. It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.” He later deleted the post and reworded it so that it did not sound quite so explicitly like a demand for aspiring vigilantes to lynch protesters.

This is a long-standing pattern for Cotton, who enjoys issuing calls for violence that linger on the edge of plausible deniability when it comes to which groups, exactly, are appropriate targets for lethal force. During the George Floyd protests of 2020, Cotton demanded that the U.S. military be sent in with orders to give “no quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters,” insisting unconvincingly in a later New York Times op-ed that he was not conflating peaceful protesters with rioters. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who had raised a fist in apparent solidarity with the mob that assaulted the Capitol on January 6 before fleeing through the halls to avoid them once the riot began, echoed Cotton’s call for deploying the National Guard to Columbia. (Both men, as it turns out, are in favor of some quarter for “insurrectionists” who happen to be on the right side.)


Mythology becomes history, to some. This has likely always happened.

Right Wing Watch, Kyle Mantyla, 22 Apr 2024: GOP Members Of Congress Gush Over Christian Nationalist Pseudo-Historian David Barton


NY Times, Farah Stockman, 23 Apr 2024: Rural Voters Are More Progressive Than the Democratic Party Thinks

How do we tell? By surveys. I think it’s a deep truth that we oversimplify reality by classifying red states and blue states, whereas in reality very few areas are completely one-sided. A flaw in our election process, perhaps. (Ranked voting! Eliminate the two party system!)


Running out of time. Just headlines:

Washington Post, Catherine Rampell, 23 Apr 2024: Opinion | You don’t want immigrants? Then tell grandma she can never retire.

LA Times, LZ Granderson, 23 Apr 2024: Column: Republicans aren’t protecting elections. They don’t want democracy

AlterNet, Thom Hartmann, 20 Apr 2024: Opinion | Want to die young? Bathe yourself in right-wing media and vote Republican

Salon, Paul Rosenberg, 20 Apr 2024: A prehistory of MAGA: “Mainstream” conservatives never really purged the fascists, subtitled “Author David Austin Walsh says ‘respectable’ conservatives have tolerated racists and neo-Nazis all along” (Comment: isn’t this obvious?)


Every day I reread and copy-edit my post from the evening before. If this comment is still here, I have not yet done so for this post.

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