Not the Year for Minor Parties

In America, we have a two-party system.  This is not the result of some mysterious cabal, but simply a natural outgrowth of of the way we run our elections. When people vote for a third party candidate for President, they know that there choice has virtually no chance of winning.  However, by giving support to a candidate whose ideas are on the fringe today, perhaps they can play a role in making those ideas more mainstream in the future.  Certainly, the Socialist Party under the leadership of Eugene Debs laid the groundwork for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the candidacy of George Wallace played an important role in shaping the direction taken by the Republican Party of today.  So, even if a vote does not contribute to immediate victory, it is not wasted; it has influence. It reverberates in the electorate.

In an effort to be more democratic, our major parties have developed an elaborate, lengthy process to select the nominees.  However, despite all of the primaries and caucuses, many people, both independents and party stalwarts, are dissatisfied with the choices that emerged this year. So, they are looking elsewhere.

gary johnson close up

Gary Johnson

I find much of Libertarian Gary Johnson’s platform appealing: protecting privacy and security on the internet, ending the disastrous war on drugs, and reigning in the military. The major parties, busy competing on the basis of who can keep us safe from both the real and imagined dangers of the modern world, come down on the wrong side of all of these issues: they will try to undermine encryption standards on the internet, they will ineffectively tinker around the edges of drug policy, and they will increase military spending.

However, I disagree with the Libertarians on their fundamentally laissez-faire approach to the economy.  I suspect they would try to dismantle the social safety net, since they think “the proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.” Their ideas of freedom ignore the vastly unequal bargaining position of an individual versus a corporation in the modern world. Their somewhat utopian vision of “a healthy economy that allows the market to function unimpeded” would simply allow powerful, unregulated multinational corporations to run amuck.

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Jill Stein

Since I am particularly concerned about the impact that our civilization is having on the natural environment, I am attracted to the Green Party, which has nominated Jill Stein, for President.  She has this to say:

 It’s time to build a people’s movement to end unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe; build a sustainable, just economy; and recognize the dignity and human rights of every person.

On internet security, the drug war, and foreign policy, Jill Stein makes statements that I am in full agreement with:

Protect the free Internet, legalize marijuana/hemp, and treat substance abuse as a public health problem, not a criminal problem….Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights.

However, I am far too moderate to be enthusiastic about the Green Party, which “seeks to build an alternative economic system”.  As much as I admire the goals of “creating living-wage jobs for every American who needs work” and “transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030,”  I am convinced by the Washington Post’s analysis: their plan is an appealing “fairy tale”.

Since I think for myself, no candidate is going to be perfect, that is, in agreement with me on every issue. Even if such a mythical person were to exist and get elected, they would end up having to compromise.  My vote, inevitably, also represents a compromise. I am ok with this.  My judgement is probably less than perfect anyway.

So, why are people so dissatisfied with the choices that emerged from the major party  primaries?

Hillary Clinton Speaks At The University Of Miami

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton has been in the public spotlight for a quarter century.  Ever since she said “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies” in the 1992 election, she has been pilloried by partisans who oppose her vision of the modern woman and by professional character assassins skilled in covertly leveraging the prejudices of the American public.  She has endured scandals, both real and fabricated, investigations, and an endless stream of congressional hearings. The details of her life have been closely examined by people determined to find a way to bring her down.  She is probably the most thoroughly vetted candidate in history.

Through it all, she remains standing.  Yes, she has her faults, and she has made mistakes during he long career in public service.  However, the worst that Trump can actually substantiate is that she didn’t handle her emails properly when she was Secretary of State.   All of this scrutiny over the years has trained her to be extremely cautious in what she says, and her lack of spontaneity puts many people off.  In addition, Clinton is far too moderate for many in her own party, as the remarkable candidacy of Bernie Sanders pointed out.  However, she is rational, experienced, knowledgeable, competent, compassionate, and, despite what was chanted at the Republican convention, basically honest.

It is ironic that the historic milestone, the first woman ever nominated for President by a major party, should receive such little attention.  That is because all the attention is being grabbed by the Donald, whose candidacy is what really makes this election historic.

Donald Trump is in many ways the opposite of Clinton: he is irrepressibly spontaneous, irrational, inexperienced, ignorant, incompetent, callous, and basically dishonest.  He has built a career promoting his brand, serving no-one but himself.

Perhaps you are tired of the Democrats brow beating you with the specter of some calamity should a Republican get elected.  Me too.  But this year, the Republicans have put forward an unimaginable catastrophe.  Historians, including Ken Burns and David McCullough, who usually keep their political leanings private, have taken extraordinary steps to warn the American people about Donald Trump.  Newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle which has usually endorsed Republicans, have come out against Trump in July, long before they would normally endorse anyone.  Even many Republicans openly oppose him.  One, Evan McMullin, has begun an independent campaign to oppose Trump because “someone needed to do it”.   All of these agree: Trump is a danger to our democracy.

And he could win.

His rallies are packed with supporters who enthusiastically cheer his most outlandish pronouncements.  Another contingent, having fed for decades on anti-Clinton propaganda, will vote for their party’s nominee no matter what he does or says, putting party loyalty ahead of loyalty to their country.  That adds up to a significant portion of the electorate.  If the remaining voters divide their support among the rational candidates, Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and now McMullin, it is quite possible for Trump to come out on top.

Currently, opinion polls are heartening.  However, such polls can lead to a dangerous complacency.  If a poll puts a state safely in one column or another, people may think that they might as well indulge in a minor party candidate, trusting others to make sure Trump doesn’t win.   Opinion polls have always had a margin of error, and the error is likely to be larger this year than in the past, especially with Trump disrupting the usual voting patterns.

In normal circumstances,  I would be sympathetic with those who choose to vote for a minor party candidate; such a vote can have important long term effects. However, nothing about Trump is normal.  When a fire starts, you put it out; long term planning can come later.   This is not the year to vote Libertarian or Green, even if you support the most radical of their proposals.  The stakes are simply too high.

If you care about the future of our republic, you have only one choice: Hillary Clinton.

 

 

 

 

Protesting the Ark Encounter: a Personal View

Ark Protest

A couple of years ago, after the debate between Bill Nye, the science guy, and Ken Ham, the Answers In Genesis CEO, I started blogging, under the perhaps foolish notion that I had something to contribute to the chatter. When I heard about the opening of the Ark Encounter, I looked for a protest to join, and found one organized by the Tri-State Freethinkers.   On Thursday morning, I headed off to the event, armed with my home made sign, a copy of the New Testament, and a few local Ordovician fossils.

I knew I was getting close when the traffic sign warned me to expect delays at next exit.  However, there were no delays.  In fact, for a grand opening, traffic seemed pretty light all day.

As I exited the highway about 15 minutes before the protest was scheduled to begin, I saw the protest gathering on the left of the exit ramp, just before the T intersection with the state route.  I found my way to the small graveled parking area up the hill and walked down to the protest area with a group of about a dozen. We were greeted by a volunteer who gave a safety talk: don’t get too near the road, don’t talk with people in the cars, because that would hold up traffic, don’t engage with the counter protesters over there, because we don’t want any trouble.  They talked about a possible “civil discussion” tent, but I don’t think this was ever set up.

I registered my presence at the main tent.  Appreciative of their efforts organizing the event, I donated some money but did not ask to join. Evidently, the money was considered membership dues anyway, and I am now an accidental member of the Tri-State Freethinkers.

We held up signs for the people on the exit ramp to see.  Some drivers honked approval, some looked the other way, or gave us a thumbs down.  No middle fingers that I saw.

2016-07-07 Ark Encounter Protest Me

A lot of the signs objected to taxpayer funding of the “Genocide and Incest Park”.  One guy had a life size cardboard cutout of the guy in the #ohnoahhedidnt sign.  My own sign, “Don’t Bury the Bible in Ignorance,” was too subtle for some, who were not sure which side I was on until they say my t-shirt from the “The Origins Centre”, a souvenir from South Africa.

Several people wore pink t-shirts saying “Thou shalt not mess with women’s reproductive rights.  Fallopians 4:28.”  For fun, I tried looking the verse up in Philippians; it ends with 4:23.

A guy stood up in a loud voice and said that he had an expert on the Constitution with him, and asked if anyone wanted to talk with him.  Nobody was taking the bait.  After a while, I said that I would start.  He asked me why I was there, starting off on taxpayer support.   I mentioned that I was not happy with the taxpayers of Kentucky supporting the ministry, but that was not why I was there.  He tried to correct me on the taxpayer support, which is murky, indirect, and has passed a test in court.  It was a little while before I got to why I was there: I showed my sign. He said “well I could say the same thing about you, that you were burying the Bible in ignorance.”  Meanwhile people at my side were telling me not to engage him, that he would just edit it to make me look dumb.  I had noted the video cameras, and said “I know that.”  However, it was clear that I didn’t represent what most people wanted, and I allowed myself to be guided by their supposed wisdom.  After I left to rejoin the sign wavers, the guy with the Satanic beard did exactly what he had told me not to do, and engaged in a heated debate.  I don’t know what he said, but he cheers from the on-lookers.  The interviewer, turned out to be Eric Hovind founder of Creation Today.  Here and here are his posts on the counter protest.

After a while, someone passed out a song: “Ark Encounter is a sham, E I E I O” etc.  Group protests like this are not the place for nuance.

As who thinks Young Earth Creationism is ignorant, I had plenty of company.  As a someone who calls himself Christian, I was at odds with pretty much everyone there.

One protester asked me further about what I believed.  Not enamored with dogma, I always preface my answer to such questions with prevarication:  I do not base my life on my notions about that which is beyond my understanding.  After a while, he tried to pin me down, asking whether I was an Old World Creationist.  I said that I was not really a creationist of any kind, but that I did not have a problem with Old World Creationists because they did not have to war with modern science.

I met one person who had a nasty sign about the Bible.  She had read it all the way through (I confessed that I haven’t) and has a visceral hatred of it.

I spoke with another very dogmatic protester: all religion was bad, all the scriptures were bad, I was part of the way there because I didn’t believe every word of the Bible, but the truth was whatever it was that he had figured out (I am sure he would object to me using the word “believed”).  I found in him the same arrogance I see in some evangelical Christians, eager to tell you what they know, not eager to learn anything from your experience or point of view.

2016-07-07 Ark Encounter Protest groupI spoke with one young man who asked me  what I thought was important in the Bible.  I pointed to the teachings of Jesus, particularly “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.  He asked “What does that mean”, and someone else responded with something like “jerk off your neighbor.”  The young man questioned further, “ ‘Honor thy father and mother’ what does that mean, really?”  I was surprised by the question, and without a quick answer. I was taking his question seriously, contemplating  in good Quaker fashion how to respond, but, unaccustomed to such pauses, he wandered away.

Any time I look around and see only one African American, I see it as an obligation to make sure that he of she feels welcome.  In this case, the man happened to be an officer of the state patrol, there to ensure order.  I introduced myself, with the observation that I was a little surprised that he was only black person there.  He said, “There’s plenty of us around.”  I thanked him and his colleagues for being there.  I think we both found it a bit embarrassing.  For me, it is the same embarrassment that I feel in some religious settings, where there are very few blacks.

Toward lunchtime, I encountered Harold, a volunteer about my age from Answers In Genesis.  He was there without cameras, or any group of followers.  He seemed genuinely interested in learning what our point of view was.  We talked for quite a while, finding points of agreement and of contention.  I mentioned one of my favorite Bible verses, which I quoted (not quite word for word, too many translations in my head)  “… what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  “Yes, Micah 6:8” he replied.  We spoke about the age of the universe.  I talked about the expansion that is going on, that light from the most distant stars will never reach us.  He sees that as a key to the thinking of Answers in Genesis.  I didn’t try to contradict him.  In the protest, I was making my voice heard against the ignorance of the ark, but in this conversation, I was there to find out who he was, and how he thought, and help him similarly understand my point of view.

Harold believes in a infinite God, whom he places first, above anything that man has devised.  He wants to have a firm foundation, and God’s word revealed in scripture gives him that.  I think that when Martin Luther used the Bible to free us from a corrupt and apostate church, he did a wonderful thing, but he did it without contradicting the scientific understanding of his day.  However, science has progressed, and his scientific assertions are no longer viable.  Harold thinks that since God’s word is eternal and unchanging, he should be able to rely on the same basic conclusions as his forefathers.   I also suspect that, to Harold, if the theology his forefathers relied on was flawed, their eternal salvation was in question as well.

Harold questioned me about my foundation.  I replied that my goals were a little more humble than that: I want to know what God would have me do.  We agreed that Micah 6:8 was a good place to start.

I told him that I know that he might not consider me a real Christian, but that wouldn’t bother me a bit.  However, that I fall short of following Jesus’s commandments, therein lies a judgement that I care about.  “But we all fall short of that” he replied.

Harold headed off to get some lunch.  The counter protesters had brought some food from Chick fil A which they offered for free, but since that chain has made a stance the LGBT finds abhorrent, the free thinkers would not accept the offer of free food.  Harold, however, was hungry.  I told him to enjoy his lunch.  I saw him still at the protest hours later when it was breaking up.  He was still smiling, and he had apparently enjoyed himself.

Toward the end of the protest, I had a similar encounter with Sarah, a young AIG volunteer who I think might be Harold’s daughter.  She had stopped by the Ark Encounter on her way home to Iowa from the National Education Association convention in Washington where she had manned the Answers in Genesis booth.  I joined a conversation already in progress that included an archeologist.  Again, it was a respectful exchange among people trying to understand each other.  Sarah did not pretend to have pat answers for everything.   When the archeologist asked about carbon dating, Sarah  deferred to experts and the web site.

Later I asked her about her experience of Jesus.  She retreated a bit and relied on the teachings of the Bible.  After talking for a while, including my reservations about dogma, I found myself called to make some dogmatic assertions: the view of the Bible expressed by Answer In Genesis is idolatrous, the Bible was never intended to be the kind of book they made it out to be, and their assertions about the age of the earth are absolutely false.  I then apologized for my inconsistency in making such a pronouncement within the context of our conversation.

Both Harold and Sarah require a firm foundation for their life.  They are grateful for the sacrifice that Jesus made for their sins.  My sense of the Bible as an inspirational text, but one that you have to pick and choose from, is fully unsatisfactory to them.  They see it as a whole, the inerrant word of God.  Their experience of the divine seems to be second hand, though they might object to me describing it that way.  They have accepted a teaching, and want to share that teaching with the world.  Both of them showed a humility and an openness that was completely lacking in many others who were there, both among the protesters and the counter protesters.

As the protest was breaking up, I asked about the rally being held at UC. It was really for members, and I (mistakenly) thought that I was not one. I talked with one person, who asked someone, and came back with a statement that I wouldn’t really be welcome. As I got the car, I happened to speak with someone in the parking area, who asked me whether I was coming to the rally. I told him that I thought I was not welcome. He called someone, and said something about “someone in the middle”. The upshot was that they did not want the event to be disrupted. Knowing that I was a theist, he thought I would hear a bunch that I wouldn’t like; I responded that I was not trying to live in an echo chamber. I said that if there was an opportunity to ask questions, I might make my position known, but I had no desire to make a nuisance of myself.

Later in the evening, I went to the rally which was broadcast live by Dogma Debate.  I learned about the background of the Tri-State Freethinkers, and later about the Young Skeptics.  This information I found helpful and interesting.

Jim Helton, President of the Tri-State Freethinkers, told us I the full story of the port-a-potties.  During the protest, there was someone who periodically would gather together a carful of people for a bathroom run.  It turns out that the Freethinkers had contracted with someone to provide a port-a-potty at the site of the protest, but on that morning, when the company realized that it was going to be at this protest, they declined to fulfill the contract, not wanting to have their brand associated with these atheist weirdos.  So, the freethinkers improvised, and found a location not too far away that had a port-a-potty available.  The port-a-potty turned out to be from the same company, so people took selfies of themselves with at the port-a-potty with the company logo to post on the web.

Aron Ra and Jim Helton

Aron Ra, Jim Helton and Family at the Ark Encounter

Typical of the other speakers was Aron Ra, of American Atheists.  He began his talk with an interesting exposition of the Mesopotamian sources for the flood myth.  However, it soon devolved into long catalog of what was ridiculous about the Answers in Genesis position on the Noah myth.  Another speaker went through the sources of the races, according to AIG, from the children of Noah.  People seemed to like it, but I found it boring.

One person suggested a web site devoted to refutations of everything that Answers In Genesis asserts.  Although that seems to be an interesting project in the abstract, it runs into two problems: the overwhelming size of the mountain of manure that these people produce, and the colossal boredom of actually shoveling out from in under it.

I was surprised in a gathering of freethinkers that there was no time for questions.  It was packed full of one presentation after another.  As it entered the third hour, I left.

There are a few conclusions that I draw from the experience.  First, both the Freethinkers and the fundamentalist Christians are most concerned about being able to pass their values on to their children.  For example, David Smalley, the host of the radio show, went on a free tour of the Ark, with Eric Hovind serving as docent.   He enjoyed much of it, until he encountered the children’s section, which he found almost frightening.  Another instance is the Young Skeptics, founded explicitly to provide an alternative to the after school programs offered by Good News Clubs.  Because we have a public education system, this struggle of ideas has a political dimension.  Both sides want to control the curriculum.  The creationists want to teach the controversy; the  overwhelming majority of scientists think the controversy was resolved over a century ago and don’t want any part of the Bible presented in science class.

Secondly, I found people on both sides that I could have conversations with, and engage with on a personal level.  However, with the leaders, those with a public face, conversation was difficult.  They had their agenda, their conclusions, and their debate points all lined up, and nuanced engagement was pretty much impossible.

Finally, both sides see the argument as binary: either you are for God and this inerrant Bible, or you are for science and reason.  In this, I was on an island, attached to neither continent.

Jim Helton pointed to a number of things that he thought the protest accomplished.  Of these, the most cogent was that they changed the story: the media no longer talked just about the Ark, but also of the the protest against this simplistic rejection of modern science.

I was also there to change the story.  I wanted people to see that the choice was not limited to  godless rationalism on the one hand or mindless dogma on the other, and that the Bible, though not a good science text, is a wonderful book.  In this, I largely failed, but I was energized by the attempt.

 

Open Letter to Protesters at the Ark Encounter

FreeThinkers ArkFree Thinkers:

To begin, let us pause for a moment to bask in the superiority of our own understanding.

<—–>

Wasn’t that fun?

Now, can we put aside the ridicule?  Young Earth Creationists have been enduring such mockery since the Scopes Monkey Trial almost a century ago.  If you have paid attention, you might have noticed that it accomplishes nothing.  It just makes them feel persecuted, and they love that.

And this noise about genocide and incest in the Noah story is also pointless.  Yes there are plenty of horrible things in the Bible.  Try taking a look at the book of Judges for example. But I don’t believe you care about that.

Another question: what is the harm?  People have the right to believe whatever they want.  Here, however, you have a point. In a democracy, people have power, and if a large number of us are misguided, it effects the whole society.  In a world as dependent on technology as ours, where our collective actions impact the environment of the entire planet, we absolutely need for the public to have a certain basic scientific literacy.  Instead, we put in power congressmen who think large chunks of the current scientific consensus are “lies straight from the pit of hell.”  Because of the success of groups like Answers In Genesis in this country, both our politics and our science education are a mess.

Their dogma also poisons religion.   They take this beautiful gift, the Bible, full of the wisdom of the ancients, especially the teachings of Jesus, and bury it in a mountain of idolatry and ignorance.  They hide the insights and beauty in the  scriptures with this elaborate pseudo science.  They  present God as deceitful: using our God given gifts of observation, we can see the world appears to be billions of year old, but the Young Earth crowd  insists that this is illusion.  They make it appear that Christ is opposed to Truth.  Just what kind of God are they serving?

There is in this an  emotional whirlpool that Answers in Genesis and its predecessors have long relied on, and one that the free thinkers are easily caught up in.   Creationists see their literal reading of the Bible as essential to true Christianity, and everything else falls into a tarpit of secular humanism or, worse, outright atheism.  Many have felt what they consider to be God’s presence in their lives.  They have witnessed people transform from selfishness to service, from disorder to discipline, and from despair to hope.  They are not about to give that up.  They will grasp at any straw to maintain a hold, no matter how tenuous, on the beliefs of their forefathers. What you might see as a choice between logic and faith, they see as choice between heaven and hell.  Answers in Genesis wants this to be the choice that its followers face, so they are happy to have free thinkers protesting their new theme park.

It is this mindset among Creationists that needs to change.  I believe that this can be accomplished by acknowledging the authenticity of their experience, perhaps even approaching them with enough humility that we admit the possibility of learning something from that experience.  However, validating their experience does not require adhering to obviously false doctrine.  Getting them to this point is the key to helping them separate from what is false and make peace with modern science.

I believe (there’s that word again) that no matter how far science progresses, we will still be faced with the reality of living in society as semi-rational beings.  In this, the teachings of Jesus and the message of redemption at the heart of Christianity and are a good place to start.

So, there is great harm in Young Earth Creationism, and this theme park means that the harm will continue for some time.  It is important that we register our opposition to it.  Eventually, we need to put Answers In Genesis where it belongs, along side the Flat Earth Society, a small, and mostly harmless anachronism.

I plan to join you in protest.  I will bring a Bible, a few local Ordovician fossils, and my sign:

Don’t Bury

the Bible in

Ignorance

See you there.

in peace,

jp lund

P.S.

https://jplund.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/to-young-earth/

https://jplund.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/willful-denial/

 

 

 

Clinton and Warren Electrify Cincinnati

Clinton Warren 1

Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren                                                          (Sam Green / Cincinnati Enquirer)

Electricity: that intangible Clinton’s campaign has apparently lacked in the run up to the nomination, Trump seems to have in abundance.  Well,  at the Clinton rally in Union Terminal in Cincinnati on Monday, I can testify that there was plenty.  As  the Washington Post reports, “Her rally with Warren had a different feel. It easily was one of the most electric events of Clinton’s campaign.”

 

Together, Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton showed a remarkable chemistry.  The papers seemed to think Warren stole the show, but that might be in part because she was what was new.  Warren was the attack dog.  Clinton delivered the substance, and a few effective jabs at Trump as well.

Warren is being vetted as a potential running mate. There are practical considerations that suggest this might not be the wisest choice.  Several people I have spoken with think that the American voter might balk at seeing two women on the ticket.  And there is the precious Senate seat:  electing Warren to the Vice Presidency would give a Republican governor a chance to appoint the replacement.

However, the surest path to victory in November is with rallies like this one, rallies that can energize the grass roots campaigners, the get-out-the-vote efforts.  If Clinton can generate the same enthusiasm with someone else, I am all for it.  But I saw an effective campaign partnership, and I would hate to see it broken up.

Cinton Warren Crowd

(Melina Mara / The Washington Post)

Clinton Warren me

That’s me behind the baby.  You can see my right hand sticking up behind his ear and my left eye, well covered by sunglasses.  (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

The Donald Still Dominates

donald-trump-donkey-hotey-4

photo/donkeyhotey

Even after banning half of the press from covering his rallies, Trump still takes up all the oxygen in the room.  It seems we just can’t get enough of this horror show.

For example, on Thursday (6/23) morning, on the Washington Post Opinions web page, almost half of the articles named Trump in the title.  The “Load More” added more essays, again about half were on Trump.

 

Hillary-Clinton-donkeyhotey-brown-background

photo/donkeyhotey

Clinton was not mentioned until you got down to “The Post’s View:” “Hillary Clinton offers a welcome concession to reality ”.  This was an analysis of her address on economic policy.  Hillary said things like “it takes a plan.”  She seems to actually have one.  The Post commented that her assessment of the economy “has the advantage of being true.”  It sounded like a relatively boring speech devoted to what actually needs to get done in order to govern well. It’s not going to win many hearts.

Of course, the article on Clinton’s policy statement also talks about Trump, who had just delivered a blistering attack, just what his supporters were hoping for: exciting, direct, forceful, and on message.  It was also mostly fictional.  The AP used a dozen fact checkers to keep up with all the distortions and out-right lies.  Trump knows how to push the emotional buttons, and those buttons are a lot easier to push if you not tethered to reality.

Realpolitik lies at the heart of Clinton’s appeal, but this is reality television.   Whatever Clinton says, she cannot turn up the volume loud enough to be heard, unless, of course, she starts making stuff up the way Trump does.  She is reasonable, compassionate, competent, and able to explain coherent policies in complete sentences. But these are simply boring when placed beside the ranting Donald.

Can reason win?  It’s possible, but Americans vote with their hearts.

Except on Fox News, the press coverage of Trump is more profoundly, uniformly negative than for any major political candidate in memory.  But bad news attracts our attention, and all eyes are on the Donald.  Clinton might be the most qualified candidate for president that we have had in decades, but most votes will be for or against that other guy.

Like it or not, this election is all about Donald Trump.

 

But Is It Racist?

Trump smirkThe Republican elites are used to having their bigotry served with a certain elegance: a nutritious entrée of reactionary policies smothered in a rich rhetorical sauce.  However, the Republican base has chosen fast food.  Instead of policy positions, Trump serves up empty slogans and preposterous proposals. Instead of carefully crafted, tele-prompted speeches, he offers a hot sauce of off-the-cuff remarks, without any concern for being politically correct.  His supporters love that.

For the rest of the party, this poses a problem: the bigotry is left out in plain site, for everybody to see.  Republican candidates find themselves continually accosted by reporters asking about the latest Trump gaff: Has it crossed the line?  Would you call it “racist”?

Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant, advises, “Get used to it. This is your life for the next five months.

Though his more recent comments reiterating his hard line against Muslims or calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” are problematic, the Donald’s most overtly racist statements since becoming the presumptive nominee of the party concerned Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the trial of the bogus Trump University.  Trump called the judge a “hater”, and said that the judge should recuse himself because of his ethnic heritage.

The very definition of racism” declared Paul Ryan, trying desperately to hold on to his personal integrity while still supporting the party’s nominee.  Poor Mr. Ryan wants the message to be about Republican ideas, ideas that he knows will have no chance under a Clinton administration.  However, his attempt to introduce the world to Republican ideas on fighting poverty got completely buried, as all the press wanted to talk about was Trump’s latest gaff.

In turn, Trump rips into Romney for the remarks on racism, and barely mentions policy.  The Donald can’t be bothered with the details.  He touts, “My voters don’t care and the public doesn’t care.

When asked whether or not he considers Trump’s remarks about the judge racist, California Republican State Senator Joel Anderson, a Trump supporter, showed a remarkable skill in avoiding the question in an NPR interview with Renee Montagne.  His deflected the question once, but she continued to press him for a direct answer.  Then, he responded:Joel_Anderson

Look, listen, we’ve seen story after story from the beginning of ambush interviews looking for the poison dart to kill Donald Trump. You haven’t found any in the press, and now you’re picking on a senator to try to find something.

He went on for a while, and Montagne ran out of time.  This professional politician wants his audience to believe he has was unfairly “ambushed” by a question about what had been headline news for days.  I’m sure that many Trump supporters agree with him that the mainstream media is simply out to get Trump.

However, many Republicans aren’t buying it.  One senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois, used this as an opportunity to withdraw his support for the Donald, almost grateful for being given an off-ramp to the Trump bandwagon.  At the other end of the spectrum, the spineless Rob Portman of Ohio could only muster up the courage to call the remarks “a distraction”.

People like Mitch McConnell and Newt Gingrich offered a different kind criticism.  These professional politicians view the campaign as a kind of game, like chess or poker.  To them, Trump has made a blunder.  “One of the worst mistakes Trump has made” declared Gingrich, going on to describe it as “inexcusable.”  McConnell instructed Trump to “get on message.”  Gingrich and McConnell seem to object not to the substance but to the amateurishness of the remarks.   They prefer the message be veiled in precisely the kind of politically correct language that Trump has derided his entire campaign.

Trump himself doesn’t see much of a problem.  Seeing the fallout, he has tried to defuse the situation by saying his comments were “misconstrued”, but this acknowledgement is as close to an apology as he is likely to get.

In truth, there was nothing new here.  Among Trump’s supporters, there was no harm done.  Those of us who were offended were not going to vote for Trump anyway.

However, for those who are running on the Republican brand, it poses a real problem.  The Republican Party has been covertly appealing to the bigotry in America for a long time.  With Trump in the foreground, the pretense is dropped, and the racism is out in the open. Republican candidates will have to decide where they stand.  Are they going to bow to pressure to maintain a unified front, regardless of what the front represents, or are they going to stand up for the American ideals of justice and equality for all?

 

 

 

 

 

Time for a Clean Sweep

trumpaustralia-1The proof is in the Trumping: the Republican Party of 2016 has shown itself to be morally and intellectually bankrupt.

The bungling of the Bush years you can chalk up to policies that, though misguided, were at least arguably well intentioned.  However, once the American people had the gall to elect that nigger president, those good intentions evaporated.  Starting with the “You Lie” blurted out during Obama’s first state of the union message, and continuing through today with their refusal to even grant Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing, the Republican Party abandoned all pretense of serving as a loyal opposition.  The party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower has transformed into the party of obstruction, disfunction, willful ignorance, and blatant racism.

Trump surveyed the ground and found it well fertilized with resentment, misinformation and obscure conspiracy theories, including one absurdity he helped propagate.  He seized an opportunity that nobody else seemed to understand, tapping into the fear and resentment that Republicans had cultivated over the years.

So what if his policy statements make no sense.  People haven’t cared about the policies anyway.   As Chris Ladd (goplifer) put it:

gopliferFrustrated by our failure to overtly embrace their agenda, Republican bigots have finally found a candidate who has dropped the pretense and run an explicitly white nationalist campaign. We are discovering that no one ever really cared much about abortion. No one cared about fiscal restraint, or tax cuts or nationalized health care. The Republican base we painstakingly assembled across fifty years is only really interested in one thing – preserving the dominant position of their white culture against a rising tide of pluralism. Other issues only mattered to the extent that they helped reinforce and preserve white supremacy.

Ryan

Paul Ryan (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Poor Paul Ryan doesn’t know what hit him.  He still thinks “Republicans lose personality contests … but we win ideas contests.”   This hasn’t been true for a long time.  Certainly, George W. Bush didn’t win on his ideas, nor did McCain loose on his personality.  If Paul Ryan actually gets around to making any of the positive proposals he claims to be interested in, he will find little support for them from the Donald.  Trump has no interest in ideas, and he makes no pretense of appealing to the intellect.  He succeeds because the party is intellectually bankrupt.

Make no mistake: Trump is danger to our democracy.  Beyond his obvious lack of qualifications, he shows all the signs of a budding tyrantA few  with integrity are standing on their principles, but the large majority of Republican running for office are falling into line, putting party unity and their own job security above all else.  Because the Republican Party is morally bankrupt, Trump will have little trouble in unifying it behind his candidacy.

The Republican base has chosen this narcissistic sociopath as their standard bearer, and it is now up to the American people to reject him and everything he stands for.  However, Trump is just the symptom.  In order to cure the disease, we must excise Republicans from power at all levels.  America must reject those who put party loyalty above loyalty to their country.

Perhaps from the ashes of a crushing defeat we can raise a second party that is based on principles rather than ethnic identity, and America will once again be offered reasonable choices worthy of a vibrant democracy.  But for 2016, vote straight Democrat.  It’s the only way to make America great again.