A Modest Proposal

This morning, my ten o’clock consultation was with Morton Thiazide, Public Relations, Outreach and Communications Director at the Democratic National Committee. To say he presented a glum aspect upon ensconcing himself on the couch in front of the picture window overlooking the White House in my office would be a distinct understatement.
“Tom,” he opened, “The polls are showing us behind in almost all the crucial swing state districts. If we don’t do something about it, we’re going to lose the House and the Senate to the Republicans in the mid-terms.”
“Oh, really?” I japed. “I can’t imagine why. Whose fault do you suppose that is?”
Morton heaved a deep and protracted sigh of resignation. “Yes, Tom, I know – you warned my predecessor that Hillary Clinton was so loathsome to anyone other than rabid fans of Rachel Maddow that she was the only Democratic candidate who could lose the 2016 election to Donald Trump, and we didn’t heed your advice.”
“Thanks for finally acknowledging that,” I dryly responded.
“And, in addition, I acknowledge – ahem,” he continued, “let me see if I remember all this correctly – you also warned us in 2020 that despite being a nice guy, Joe Biden has an uncontrollable case of foot-in-mouth disease; and that affliction, combined with his misguided loyalty to his flaky son Hunter’s blatant exploitation of his father’s status as Obama’s vice-president, his slavish toadying to the left wing of the Democratic Party, and his own politically-tone deaf, politically-correct vice-presidential selection, ineptly calculated to counterbalance his reputation as a hair-sniffing, back-rubbing, bottom-patting masher, was going to cost the Democrats both houses of Congress in 2022.”
“Correct,” I affirmed, “don’t say I didn’t tell you so.”
“All right, all right,” he huffed. “you told us so! Look Tom, at this point, that and five dollars will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.”
“If you don’t order too many extras,” I noted.
“Oh, [expletive],” he spat. “Make it ten – whatever. That’s all water under the bridge right now, and we have major, persistent problems!”
“Such as?” I inquired.
“For starters, there’s still nothing we can think of down at the DNC to deal with the fact that the left wing of the party has no concept of political pragmatism.”
“Perhaps someone should think of something soon, Morton,” I chided, “because they’re still scaring independent voters to death yelling ‘defund the police’ every chance they get.”
“Tell me about it,” he ruefully muttered. “And the polls say that those very same people – the ones who voted Democratic in 2020 because Kamala Harris was on the ticket – are deserting the Democrats in 2022 because they didn’t get every last item on their precious radical-left wish list.”
“Compromise with idiots,” I remarked, “and you get idiotic compromises.”
“No need to rub it in, Tom.” he fumed. “What’s more, judging from the poll response demographics, it looks now like the centrists are going to be too lazy to get off their duffs and vote in the mid-terms. Plus, on top of all that, the Republicans are dog-whistling everywhere about QAnon conspiracy theories.”
“Every chance they get,” I agreed. “And that was quite an enthusiastic performance of dog-whistling they gave at the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings, wasn’t it? Maybe a bit too enthusiastic, actually – it appeared that Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Josh Hawley all got a bit… shall we say… overexcited about pedophilia and child pornography while questioning Judge Jackson concerning her sentencing practices.”
“Oh, my God,” Morton groaned, “I know, I saw it – the four of them were practically drooling over their descriptions of that disgusting stuff. And every time they mentioned it, anybody could see – it was so obvious – they were signaling “Pizzagate” and “QAnon” memes all over the place! No need to say anything about them outright with “pedophile pornography” this, and “child predator” that, and on and on, for hours! And those hearings were just the tip of the iceberg! Republicans are dog-whistling ‘Pizzagate’ and associated QAnon memes everywhere. There’s this guy, Chris Rufo, have you heard of him?”
“Sure,” I replied, “he’s the quasi-fascist demagogue who started that fracas about liberals teaching critical race theory in public schools – as if that ever actually happened anywhere.
“Right,” he nodded. “’Critical race theory’ is just Republican code for teaching the truth about the history of slavery and racism in the United States. And I’ll tell you what, Tom, he’s come up with another code word to reference these lies about the Democrats doing unspeakable things to children – he’s calling people ‘groomers.’”
“The same tactic,” I noted, “that Senator Joseph McCarthy used with the phrases ‘Communist sympathizer’ and ‘fellow traveler.’ Anybody who doesn’t agree with your authoritarian world view, anyone who opposes your power grabs, anybody who tries to defend innocent people from your slurs and attacks, you simply call them one of those phrases, constantly, over and over. As Joseph Goebbels once so famously said, ‘a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.’ And Rufo’s not just urging Republicans politicians to call their Democratic opponents “groomers.” He’s also a suggested stronger, louder dog-whistle, too, you know – “predator.” And Marjorie Taylor Greene has already spun off her own McCarthy-esque dog-whistle phrase, “pro-pedophile,” and used it on two Republican senators, no less – Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.
“I hadn’t heard about that one yet,” Morton admitted. “But did hear that Ron DeSantis is trying to sell the Florida ‘don’t say gay’ bill as ‘anti-grooming’ legislation.’ And I know that The American Conservative magazine ran an article with the headline ‘Disney Goes Groomer.’ Can you imagine that? They’re taking on Disney, for [expletive] sake! And when I saw that Fox News actually ran a chyron during Laura Ingraham’s show that read ‘Liberals are sexually grooming elementary students’ I about hit the [expletive] ceiling! And then she went on to say that elementary schools are becoming ‘grooming centers’ for ‘gender identity radicals!’”
“That’s reprehensible, but it doesn’t help matters much that the Democratic Party actually does have a bunch of loudmouthed gender identity radicals in it, and you guys in the leadership haven’t had the guts or wiles to make them shut the hell up about their marginal gender issues while the United States is heading for its most important national elections since 1858 and 1860,” I reminded him.
“What can we do?” Morton haplessly complained. “They’re entitled to their opinions, aren’t they?”
“Sure they are,” I affirmed. “But how about this – ask them how far they think their radical gender identity philosophy is going get them in a Republican-run concentration camp, round about the winter of 2026? Come to think of it, why don’t you also ask those knuckle-heads who keep yelling ‘defund the police’ what they think the police are going to do with them if the Republicans turn this country into a police state?”
“I guess I could try,” Morton acquiesced with a tentative shrug. “But what are we going to do about all these Pizzagate and QAnon dog whistles?”
“First of all,” I recommended, “recognize that the strategy works. According to the Economist magazine-Yougov.com poll, sixteen percent of registered Republicans consider QAnon a credible source of information, and forty-nine percent of them believe that it is either ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ true that Democratic Party leaders are or were involved in an elite child sex trafficking ring. Very impressive numbers, I’m sure you would agree. I bet Vladimir Putin could learn a thing or two about brainwashing from the Republicans.”
“Putin’s numbers are higher,” Morton countered. “RT reports that their polls show over ninety percent of Russians believe the Ukrainians are Nazis and approve of Russian military actions in Ukraine.”
“Of course; actually, it’s a somewhat surprising Putin’s poll numbers aren’t even higher,” I told him, “everybody who is contacted for an opinion poll in Russia knows that Putin’s thugs are listening on the telephone line. Under those circumstances, what would you say?”
“Good point,” he conceded.
“I suppose we’ll have to wait for Donald Trump’s second term to see poll numbers like Putin’s here,” I speculated, “unless, of course, the big ‘D’ Democrats can come up with a way to rescue small ‘d’ democracy from a similar dictatorship in America.”
“Something tells me,” Morton ventured, “that you are about to suggest how.”
“Good guess,” I assured him. “I suggest that someone… somewhere… start spreading the word that Republican bigwigs are secretly practicing cannibalism.”
“Cannibalism?” Morton shrieked as he reflexively fell backward from his perch on the edge of his seat on the couch. “What the [expletive] are you talking about? Cannibalism? How can we say something like that? It isn’t true!”
“Truth?” I mused. “’And Pilate said unto Jesus, “What is truth?” And Jesus replied, “I am.”’ Okay, so Jesus is truth. Now, think about it – what does that mean? How about this: it means that the truth is something you have to just go ahead in believe in, without any proof, because that’s what you have to do with Jesus, now isn’t it? So what do you think of that?”
“Well… uh,” Morton stammered, “I know yesterday was Easter, Tom, but I must confess, wasn’t expecting a… theological... approach to the analysis.”
“All right,” I explained, “my point here is that while the truth clearly shouldn’t be something that people believe in without any proof, nevertheless, it usually is. That’s how come so many people believe that the Pizzagate meme and QAnon conspiracy theories are true. And the fact that they believe in them without any proof is why the Republican’s dog-whistles work.”
“And you’re saying,” Morton concluded, “that if… someone… on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram or SnapChat or…
“All of them,” I interjected. “If someone were to get on all of those platforms – and plenty more you haven’t even mentioned yet, like 4Chan and Reddit – and did so under one or more anonymous guises, just as the Republicans have been doing for years, and started pumping out the preposterous lie that Republican leaders like Josh Hawley, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz direct squads of skinhead goons to kidnap poor people from inner cities and prepare them to be roasted alive on spits for secret cannibalistic feasts conducted in the basement of the Federalist Society at 1776 I Street, Northwest, Washington DC 20006, wouldn’t you at least enjoy listening to those scumbags deny it?
“I couldn’t say that I wouldn’t,” Morton allowed, “but then the Democratic Party would have lost the moral high ground. We’d be no better than the Republicans, would we? We’d be down there in the gutter with them!”
“In case you haven’t been following the the last two hundred and thirty-eight years of American politics,” I asserted, “the gutter is where the votes are. And isn’t it about time the Republicans got their karma back for sixty years of blatant lies calculated to divide the American public so they could acquire and maintain power as a minority party? Before there’s no time left, that is, and President-for-Life Donald J. Trump orders all of you – and your families – arrested and executed on prime-time television.”
“Um… well,” Morton pondered, “if we did go along with your… suggestion… we’d need our own... dog-whistle, wouldn’t we?”
“You would,” I vouched, “and I have just the term for you – concocted from a pinch of McCarthy, a soupçon of Goebbels, a dash of Stalin, a drop of Nixon, dollop of Reagan, and a heaping tablespoon of Donald Trump himself, all whisked into a frothy semantic confection redolent of our central theme, that being the horrific culinary perversity that is cannibalism. Your dog-whistle, sir, your reply to ‘groomers,’ shall be ‘preppers.’”
“Preppers?” Morton repeated, puzzled. “Meaning?”
“’Preppers,’” I elaborated, “as in ‘prep-staff,’ the minions who populate the master chef’s kitchen – the sous chef, the saucier, les petit chefs de garde manger, de cuisine, et de partie…”
“Sorry,” Morton interrupted, “you’ve lost me. I flunked French, I’m afraid. They relate to this in what way?”
“In English,” I continued, “the enablers of this alleged horror are all ‘preppers.’ Their actions lay the groundwork to prepare the food – the gruesome cannibal feasts, under the direction of the master chefs – the Republican’s political lackeys and staffers, for the demented gustatory pleasures of the Republican leadership. So that’s your dog-whistle term: “preppers.” Note that it elides nicely into the slang term used for people who are squirreling away rations, guns and ammo for the inevitable collapse of society so widely discussed on the Internet these days. Most of them are Trumpistas anyway, so it will be a nice double-entendre.”
“So,” Morton syllogized, “someone…. anonymously accuses Republicans of being cannibals who abduct and roast poor people…”
“And you tie in the Ku Klux Klan,” I embellished, “anti-government militias, white supremacists, secessionists, gun nuts… you name it – if it’s a Republican constituency, your insane conspiracy theory says they’re in on it, kidnapping poor people and roasting them alive on spits over greasy smoky fires of human fat rendered from previous Federalist Society cannibal feasts. And by the way, it’s also an effective metaphor for post-modern capitalism, don’t you think?”
“Seriously, Tom,” he averred, “I don’t believe the Democrats are quite ready for this… yet. After all, it’s still possible that the Republicans will come to their senses about this Pizzagate and QAnon stuff and rein in the dangerous, unprincipled, dog-whistling fanatics like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton, and we can have reasoned, respectful discussions of genuinely relevant issues during a thoughtful mid-term congressional campaign followed by an orderly election.”
“Sir,” I told him, “first of all, that is certainly not the way you were talking when you came into my office. Secondly, as to what you have just said is possible, I would note that it is also possible that someday, pigs may fly. They may learn to talk, earn money, buy airline tickets, show up at the airport, obtain a boarding pass, stow their carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment, fasten their seat belts and take off down the runway into the wild blue yonder.”
“But… not… likely, huh?” Morton slowly intoned as he rose from the couch and offered his hand.
“Nope,” I answered, standing and shaking it solemnly. “Not very.”
“Perhaps we should just depend on the truth to ultimately triumph,” he commented in a parting shot as he made for the pair of heavy oak doors leading out to the reception area.
“A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on,” I said as he touched the left knob. “Depend on that.”