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How witch hunts always end

The factor that made the Salem witch trials end is at work again in Florida. Ivonne Rovira explains.

2 min read

As Esquire’s great Charles Pierce repeatedly points out, history is so cool.

That’s because you can use the past to predict the future. You don’t even need a crystal ball, just the ability to read and Google. So it’s pretty obvious how the battle between Governor Ron DeSantis and the other MAGA opportunists is going to end: badly.

How can I be so sanguine? Because time and again the plutocrats have ignored populist movements — particularly right-wing ones — until it starts to affect them. Then it’s totally different, and we need to shut that stuff down!

And corporate America sees the attacks on Disney, Delta, and the very lucrative Affordable Care Act and exclaims, “That’s not what I signed up for! I’m here for tax cuts and permission to pollute at will!” It’s been taxes über alles, as Krusty the Clown points out in a Simpsons episode when he votes for the man who framed him.

The Koch Machine loves libertarian crazies as much as the next autocrat, but they drew the line at Trump, a dim-witted loose wheel that you have to flatter to control (see Kim Jong Un and Putin, Vladimir). And the rest of corporate America is starting to follow suit. The Club for Growth wants to use the rubes, thank you very much, not the other way around.

But thus has it ever been. As the late, great anthropologist Marvin Harris wrote in his Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture, the witch hunts continued in an area until the accused began accusing the prominent; then, so to speak, they’d fold their tent and take their show on the road to the next town. Uppity widows and feckless housemaids might be accused, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find the wife of a prominent merchant or clergyman being interrogated. As always, the upper class knew when to pull the plug on populist frenzy.

You see the same repeat in the McCarthy Witch Trials. Sure, Joseph Welch put the final nail in Senator Joe McCarthy’s coffin, finishing the job that syndicated columnist and hero Drew Pearson plus CBS’s Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly (I was lucky enough to study with the latter) started.

But the beginning of the end began when President Dwight D. Eisenhower was accused of being a communist. Like the Honorable Mitch McConnell, Eisenhower had set aside whatever conscience he might have had to accommodate a cruel, reckless, autocratic demagogue for political gain. In both cases, the appeasement ended up engulfing them, with Eisenhower himself being called a communist and McConnell being classified a dyed-in-the-wool member of the Deep State and a RINO. Eisenhower even had to issue an executive order stating that McCarthy couldn’t expect any White House employee to testify. I wish I could feel sorry for either of them, but I can’t.

But with the Red Scare starting to interfere with Wall Street instead of Main Street, it was definitely time to interfere.

Corporate America averted its eyes at the nascent anti-CRT and “Don’t Say Gay” movements, which, not accidentally, resemble the Red Scare of the 1950s.

But when it’s going to affect the bottom line, with valued employees on the line and with the majority siding against the extremist minority, it’s time for the witch hunt to move on.


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Ivonne Rovira

Ivonne is the research director for Save Our Schools Kentucky. She previously worked for The Miami Herald, the Miami News, and The Associated Press. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)



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