As a kid I was always a
head shorter than other boys, which meant I was bullied – mocked, threatened, sometimes
Childhood bullying has been going on forever. But in recent years America has become a culture of bullying – the wealthier over
the poorer, CEOs over workers, those with privilege and pedigree over those
without, the whiter over the browner and blacker, men over women.
Sometimes the bullying
involves physical violence. More often it entails intimidation, displays of
dominance, demands for submission, or arbitrary decisions over the lives of
those who feel they have no choice but to accept them.
The Kavanaugh-Ford hearings
before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27 was a window into our bullying
On one side: powerful men
who harass or abuse women and get away with it, privileged white men intent on entrenching their power on the Supreme Court, men vested with the power to take away a
woman’s right to choose what she does with her body.
On the other: women with
the courage to tell what has happened to them, to demand an end to white male
privilege, and to preserve and enlarge their constitutional rights.
Dr. Ford was poised,
articulate, clear and convincing. More than that: She radiated
Brett Kavanaugh, by
contrast, showed himself to be a vicious partisan – a Trump-like figure who
feels entitled to do and say whatever he wants, who suspects left-wing plots
against him, who refuses to take responsibility for his actions, and who uses
emotional bullying and intimidation to get his way.
Whatever happens to
Kavanaugh, a large portion of the American public will never trust him to be
impartial. Many will never believe his denials of sexual harassment. Most will
continue to see him as the privileged, arrogant, self-righteous person he
revealed himself to be.
Which brings us to the
coming midterm election.
It’s not really a contest between Democrats or Republicans,
left or right. It’s a contest between
the bullies and the bullied. It’s about the power of those who are rich, white,
privileged, or male – or all of the above – to threaten and intimidate those who aren’t.
And it’s about the courage of the bullied to fight back.
Donald Trump is America’s
bully-in-chief. He exemplifies those who use their wealth to gain power and
celebrity, harass or abuse women and get away with it, lie and violate the law
with impunity, and rage against anyone who calls them on
Trump became president by
exploiting the anger of millions of white working class Americans who for decades
have been economically bullied by corporate executives, CEOs, and Wall Street.
Even as profits
have ballooned and executive pay has gone into the stratosphere, workers
have been hammered. Their pay has gone nowhere, their benefits have shrunk,
their jobs are less secure.
Trump used this anger to
build his political base, channeling the frustrations and anxieties into racism
and nativism. He encouraged Americans who have been bullied to feel more
powerful by bullying people with even less power: poor blacks, Latinos,
immigrants, Muslims, families seeking asylum.
This bullying game has
been played repeatedly in history, by self-described strongmen who pretend to
be tribunes of the oppressed by scapegoating the truly powerless.
Trump is no tribune of
the people. He and his enablers in the Republican Party are working for the
moneyed interests – the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, other corporate
and Wall Street chieftains – by cutting their taxes, eliminating regulations, slashing public services, and allowing them to profit off public lands, coastal waters, and privatized services.
The moneyed interests are
America’s hidden bullies. They have enlarged their net worth by repressing wages
(or pushing the companies they invest in to do so), and enlarged their political
power through gerrymandering and suppressing votes (or pushing their political
lackeys to do so).
Their capacity to bully has
grown as the nation’s wealth has become concentrated in fewer hands, as the
economy has become more monopolized, and as American politics has become more
engulfed by big money.
It is time to fight back against the bullies. It is time to join together to reclaim economic and political power.
It begins with the
midterm elections, November 6.