Home It’s all Northrop Grumman’s fault! Man, are Democrats out of touch with reality
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It’s all Northrop Grumman’s fault! Man, are Democrats out of touch with reality

Chris Graham
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If you want to know why Republicans seem, at the moment, poised to take back the White House, with a disgraced indicted insurrectionist ex-president as their standard-bearer, well, I’ve got a story for you.

“I am … surprised that you can say without an apparent flicker of awareness that ‘somebody has to do the heavy lifting to protect liberal democracy.’ Do you really think we are protecting democracy by aiding others in bombing some of the most vulnerable human beings on the planet? Do you think weapons proliferation and killing civilians advance our highest precepts and ideas?”

This is the framing of Nick Patler, who has written two guest columns that we published in AFP on Northrop Grumman’s pending arrival in Waynesboro, after a deal approved by Waynesboro City Council in November that will give the $69.3 billion market-cap military contractor so that it can set up shop.

It’s all Northrop Grumman’s fault, basically, if you buy Patler’s line of reasoning.

I wrote about the Northrop Grumman deal earlier this week, in a piece in which I focused my attention on how we need to rewrite our Freedom of Information laws to require localities to be open and public about these kinds of negotiations, which are worked out behind the scenes and then presented at the end of that process as a fait accompli.

The point being made: if Northrop Grumman wants to locate in Waynesboro, or anywhere, great, but the way the process works in the here and now, the Northrop Grummans of the world use the secrecy inherent to the current process to play localities against each other to get what amounts to millions of dollars of public welfare that we try to justify by calling them incentives.

Change the rules of the game, is my observation here, and we can redirect the public welfare that we’re giving the Northrop Grummans to our communities to boost K-12 education, to go toward healthcare, to mental-health services, to public safety.

I’m not sure what’s so controversial about this, except that I do: I’m a progressive liberal, but to a Nick Patler, it’s not enough to advocate for K-12 education, healthcare, mental-health services, public safety.

You also need to denounce Northrop Grumman, because, you know, military, bad.

“We care deeply not only about the devastation caused by products Northrop Grumman makes – a killing technology – but also about how they use their enormous power to proliferate weapons across the globe,” Patler writes. “We care about this, not because of any political affiliation—not because we are liberal or progressive or anti-war, which you seem to use pejoratively to describe us – but because our concern and compassion extend to families and communities globally as well as to our own. We want them to be safe, happy, and flourish, as we want for our own. We don’t want to collectively contribute to their suffering – and we don’t want that to be part of Waynesboro. We want to protect them as we want to protect our own.

What a nice glass house it is that some folks dwell in.

Here’s where I’ll depart from being part of Patler’s we: Northrop Grumman will employ more than 300 people in Waynesboro, and the jobs that they’re bringing will be real ones – in a local economy starved of living-wage jobs after manufacturers like DuPont and General Electric left here a generation ago.

To Patler, and the small group of local political activists that he’s speaking on behalf of, Waynesboro – median household income here: $52,519; median household income for Virginia as a whole: $87,249 – should’ve just said, no, thanks.

“The products Northrop Grumman and others in their industry design, build, and proliferate destroy human beings – children and women, men and the elderly – people we’ve never met or seen – and their living spaces. I am sorry to see that this seems incidental to you and an annoyance, as the tone of your piece suggests,” Patler writes.

Reality check: You know what else “the products Northrop Grumman and others in their industry design, build, and proliferate” do?

Wait for it: you remember that Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine two years ago?

Guess what is happening there?

Yeah. Putin’s war is all about destroying human beings – children and women, men and the elderly, people he’s never met nor seen, and their living spaces.

Try fighting for your homeland with … lofty ideals.

Sorry that seems to the Patlers of the world as “incidental and an annoyance,” but, that’s just reality.

The motivating factor for Patler in his takedown is the ongoing situation in Gaza, which, predictably, is told from a one-sided perspective.

“How I wish I could place those who treat this issue so abstractly in a bombed-out community in places like Gaza and let them hold the lifeless body of a mutilated child and hear the deep groans and cries of a mother who lost everything and smell and taste phosphorous and death. I think for you, Chris, and many others, your center of heart focus would dramatically shift, and you would not so easily be able to pat yourself on the back for being a ‘realist,’” Patler writes.

So, it’s “realist” thinking that Gaza is what it is because, what, Oct. 7 never happened? Because Hamas leaders aren’t still saying their goal is the complete eradication of the Israeli state and Jews from the face of the earth?

There are innumerable bad actors in the world: Hamas, the Netanyahu government, Putin, the Xi regime in China, the ruling theocrats in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

I’m leaving a lot of people out there.

It would be great if we could teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, but until we get there, do we just pretend that the bad actors won’t take advantage of the good actors if the good actors don’t demonstrate that they can protect their interests?

It’s taken me 1,000 words to get to how this thinking factors into the 2024 election.

People are tired of … all of this nonsense.

When we consider the concept of voting for the lesser of two evils, it’s not as cut-and-dried as people who share a lot of the world view that I have would seem to think.

As much as it is obvious to people like me that Trump is a clear and present danger to American democracy, to others, it’s as clear and as present a danger to empower the Karens who make it their life’s work to tsk tsk the rest of us to shame because we’re not sufficiently whatever they think we should all be.

I’m the odd progressive liberal who noted at the outset of the COVID pandemic, and the authoritarian response that shut life down, that maybe we shouldn’t be closing down our schools and forcing businesses to shutter, considering the pandemic planning that had been in place telling us that, no, don’t react the way we reacted.

Numerous studies are now confirming that, you know, maybe we did get that wrong, not that the peer reviews are getting headlines, because they’re not even news.

The kids who had two years of schooling disrupted will never get that development time back.

The rest of us who lost connections with their lives for that period of time will never get that back, either.

That we lost what we lost, and the holier-than-thous made it that we didn’t do near enough, has long since grated on people.

What I’m getting at is, not all of the support that is registering as support for Donald Trump in the polls is support for Donald Trump.

There’s a lot of protest vote baked into that cake.

And what’s the response from my side of the political divide: let’s double down on the political theater.

Me, personally, I’m not a Democrat because I want to put into place a regime where everybody has to think and act the way I do; I’m a Democrat because, quick tell of my life story, I was born to teen parents, raised in a trailer park, parents got divorced, we had nothing, and I was able to figure out early on that the deck was stacked against people like me.

Many days, the only square meal that I’d get was school lunch; it didn’t escape my attention as a grade-schooler that the Reagan administration, trying to cut funding for school lunches as it was cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires, decided that ketchup was a vegetable, for the purposes of meeting nutrition standards.

My life’s work has been to build a progressive liberal news website in the reddest part of Virginia to serve as a vehicle to advocate for K-12 education as a hand-up for the kids like me of today, to push for universal healthcare so that working-class and middle-class families don’t have to file for bankruptcy if somebody ends up in a hospital, to lobby for the kinds of jobs that moms and dads can work at to be able to provide for their kids, and for their kids to aspire to when they get out of school.

Northrop Grumman is bringing 300 of those jobs to our area, and the multiplier effect of injecting $30 million in salaries into the local economy each year will raise the tide a little for people outside those 300.

That’s real, just as it’s real that, Northrop Grumman, as a military contractor, helps make it possible that freedom fighters in Ukraine can try to defend their homeland, keeps the Xi regime, for the time being, from invading Taiwan.

I get it, that me welcoming Northrup Grumman to Waynesboro – it’s a qualified welcome; I don’t think they should get our public welfare – makes it so that I won’t get invited to local Democratic Party meetings anymore.

That’s fine with me, because they’re the ones hopelessly out of touch, not me.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].