Trump, Russia and The Threat to Democracy

Putin behind curtain

People are all excited about the investigation, now led by special council Robert Meuller.  Did the Trump campaign collude secretly with the enemy?  That would be high treason.  Frankly, I was extremely skeptical .  It seemed that this was nothing more than another political sideshow, but, as Douglas Blackmon reports: “This scandal has metastasized more quickly and destructively than I could possibly have forecast.”

There is nothing surprising about Russians doing what they could in the American election.  Both Russia and America have been meddling in the internal affairs of other nations for decades.  Sometimes, the United States, contrary to the lofty principles of our founding fathers, has helped overthrow popularly elected governments in favor of those willing to support our military or business interests.  Khrushchev claimed to have had a small but perhaps decisive effect on the election of Kennedy over Nixon in 1960.  In 1984, Russia tried in vain to help defeat Ronald Reagan, but he won in a landslide.  So, Russia meddling in our affairs is not new.  However, this time, as explained by Eugene Rumor in testimony before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,

The experience of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election should be judged an unqualified success for the Kremlin.

Since the turn of the millennium, Russia has morphed into a more and more authoritarian kleptocracy.  As in the Soviet days, it sees democracy as the enemy.  To combat this enemy, it has developed an impressive arsenal of political weapons, called “active measures”.  Some of these, such as assassination, are truly frightening. However, most target the public’s ability to determine what is true.  As historian Timothy Snyder says:

Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder

So if you want to rip the heart out of a democracy directly, if you want to go right at it and kill it, what you do is you go after facts.

Thus, the first line of defense against these active measures is good journalism.  Throughout the previous century, America had a vibrant core of reliable news sources dedicated to providing the public with a firm foundation for making informed decisions.   Of course, we also had the National Enquirer, but its wild fabrications were pretty harmless in the context of the whole information scene.

However, new technologies have disrupted the news business, fragmenting it and undermining its traditional business model.  Newspapers are reducing their staff or closing all together, and new sources of information are gaining prominence.  Some are excellent, but many publish wild distortions and outright lies.  With our  information infrastructure weakened, fake news is no longer so harmless.  Our society has become more susceptible to disinformation campaigns.

Clearly, the Russians aren’t the only ones engaged in such campaigns.  With its denial of climate change and thinly veiled bigotry, the “conservative entertainment-outrage complex” has been peddling misinformation, willful ignorance, and bizarre conspiracy theories for years.  Pundits have found it lucrative to provoke outrage with purposely misleading or blatantly false assertions.  The Republican Party, after discovering how well these techniques worked, got on board this plush, well-funded train and lurched ever more towards the reactionary right to appease the loudest voices in the crowd.

Having largely abandoned thoughtful and reasoned debate, the party found itself helpless in the face of a hostile takeover by a showman brandishing even more brazen bigotry, more outlandish conspiracy theories, and an almost complete detachment from reality.  Trump dominated the 2016 field in the primaries, effortlessly sloughing off all attacks.  The fact checkers declared “pants on fire”.  Big deal.  They were always making noise about something.  Trump’s proposals were unrealistic and impractical.  So what? Almost all of the Republican proposals were.  Trump could say something that qualified as “the textbook definition of a racist comment,” but the party base didn’t care.  They were tired of all this “politically correct” pussyfooting around.  They wanted someone who would tell it like it is, and Trump delivered.  Thus, the Trump phenomenon sprouted out of ground that had been richly fertilized with fake news and manufactured outrage for many years.  Trump is a symptom, not the root cause, of the disease affecting our democracy.

We have the remedy to this disease in hand: multiple reliable sources of accurate information.  However, there is a core of Americans who have developed resistance to this remedy.

Donald Trump Tweet

@real@realDonaldTrump

Trump, recognizing the threat that good journalism poses to him and what he represents, lashes out at the press whenever he can.  In one case, he tweeted

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

In truth, it is pretty easy to see why he is so upset with the mainstream media.  A Harvard study has shown that the coverage Trump received in the first 100 days was much more negative than for other presidents.  Almost every day, the Washington Post calls out something that he said as demonstrably false, or at least inconsistent with what he said earlier.  Almost all of the newspapers in the country endorsed Hillary Clinton.  To someone who supported Trump in the election, it must all seem pretty one-sided.  However, these reliable news sources rejected Trump for a good reason: he is manifestly deceitful and unqualified.   How can you provide fair and balanced coverage of a man who lies so persistently?

I actually agree with Trump about the significance of fake news; I disagree with him about which news is fake.  And the phrase “enemy of the people” has a frightening pedigree, particularly as used by Stalin during the purges.  This is all a part of a calculated strategy, one pulled directly from the fascists in the 1920s and 30s, that Timothy Snyder describes it this way:

Step one: You lie yourself, all the time. Step two: You say it’s your opponents and the journalists who lie. Step three: Everyone looks around and says, “What is truth? There is no truth.”

And then, resistance is impossible, and the game is over.

Trump has praised Stalin’s heir, Putin, for the strength of his leadership and for his high approval rating.  Of course, Putin, like Stalin before him, assures the security of his regime and his high approval ratings by systematically suppressing dissent and controlling the press.

Trump seems envious of Putin’s power, unfettered by that pesky Constitution.  In his recent trip, Trump appeared much more at home with the Saudi monarch than with the leaders of European democracies.

During the campaign, I was continually mystified by Trump’s praise of Putin and by the presence of aids in his campaign with known ties to Russia. Trump even asked for the Russia’s help getting at Clinton’s emails n a nationally televised debate. (Though he wasn’t referring specifically to the emails at the DNC, I imagine he was pleased enough at what he got.)  How did the party of Reagan and Eisenhower ever get to the point that they acquiesce  to such as this?

Even so, I had trouble believing that there was actual collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, not because I believed Trump when he claimed there was none, but because it was so unnecessary.  The Trump campaign meshed naturally, publicly, with what the Russians were trying to do.   No behind-the-scenes coordination was needed.

robert-mueller

Robert Meuller

So, what will Meuller find when he looks into Russia’s meddling in our election?  Probably, he will confirm much that we already know.

 

Clearly, someone hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s server and leaked a boatload of emails to WikiLeaks.  The intelligence agencies claim to have established that this was done by Russians, apparently under the authority of Putin himself.  However, given the DNC’s rather cavalier in its approach to security, I’m not surprised someone broke in.

The Russians probably funneled money to the campaign of Donald Trump, perhaps also to Bernie Sanders, through some front organizations. They used dummy accounts to promote certain stories on the web that might otherwise have been ignored. They might have added a bit to the fake news, but there was so much of that I hardly see why they would have bothered.  In general, I expect the Russians amplified the havoc, but they certainly didn’t create it.

It might be that Trump or one of his functionaries was dumb enough to step over the line and do something that would justify prosecution in a court of law.  Certainly, people in the Trump entourage, i.e. Paul Manifort and Michael Flynn, had financial ties to some unsavory Russian characters.  It appears that Trump has attempted to interfere with the investigations, and there might be something in the cover up that was illegal.  You would think Trump would have learned enough from Nixon in the Watergate scandal to avoid this, but Trump occasionally shown himself to be phenomenally brash and ignorant.

In summary, Russia’s political tools are sophisticated and their motives are sinister.  We need to understand what they are up to and how to combat them.  But while we concern ourselves with the active measures of foreign governments,  we also need to pay attention to the attack on truth from within our own country.  This actually poses the bigger threat to our democracy.

And subscribe to a good newspaper.  We need them.

 

It’s Over

The evening of the election, I planned to ignore the watch.  I had canvassed door to door, donated money, and voted.  I was done.  However, before bed, I peeked at the returns.  Ohio was leaning bad.  In the middle of the night, I woke up and could not get back to sleep.  So I got up, and looked on the internet.  It all looked bad. I was still in a state of disbelief when I turned on the radio, just in time to hear the acceptance speech.  I posted to Facebook:

We are so screwed. The whole world is so screwed.

Politicians have long been fond of saying they have “faith in the American people.”  Trump’s election proves another saying more apt: “There’s a sucker born every minute”.

In the following days, around the country there were pointless juvenile expressions of denial.   Just what were they protesting?  The Constitution?  Where was all of that energy before the election, when it could have done some good?

trump-klan-flyerThe election is over.  The American people have spoken. Once the party of lofty ideals personified by Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican Party, has become the party of bigotry, deceit, and willful ignorance, personified by an operator of bankrupt casinos. Nevertheless, voters have put Republicans in control of the presidency, both houses of Congress, and most state governments.  The party that begat interminable Benghazi hearings is will now be appointing judges throughout the land.  Willful ignorance, in the form of climate change deniers and Biblical creationists, will be put in charge of protecting the environment and educating our youth. White Nationalists are holding victory parades, and hate crimes are being reported across the country.

The American Century is over.  America once saw itself as a “shining city on the hill” (Matthew 5:14), spreading freedom and prosperity throughout the world.  However, the American people looked at the bold new brightly colored multi-cultural world of the future and fearfully retreated to a dim dream of the past.  The America of today does want to be leader of the free world, and frankly, a people that elected a such a charlatan is not worthy to lead it.

Democracy is difficult.  It demands informed, engaged citizens committed to the civic good.  Around the world, democratic republics are overwhelmed by by identity politics, by corruption, by the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, and by institutions that primarily serve to perpetuate the wealth and power of those in charge.  The opposition, weak, disorganized, and fragmented by competing utopian visions, is easily suppressed.  In such places, the democratic institutions might appear to be intact, but the vision “of liberty and justice for all” is but a distant dream.

vote-trump-burned-church

Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, Greenville, Mississippi

However, that is not going to happen here.  The Fascists might have won a battle, but this is not the Germany of the 1930s.  Even in Mississippi, the vast majority has no desire to return to the days of church burnings and lynchings, when the KKK was allowed to run rampant.  The burnt out church will be repaired, the sun will rise, and the rafters will again resound with the people praising God.

Our constitutional institutions are intact.  Throughout America, there are people of integrity, judges, policeman, bureaucrats, and even some Republicans, ready to prevent abuses of power.  We need to be vigilant, informed and ready to act.

After the new Constitution was written, Ben Franklin was asked what kind of government it was.  He replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.

We can and we must.  This election has shown us that our democracy is much more fragile than he had imagined, but the great experiment in government by the people and for the people that began over 200 years ago is definitely not over.

Let us join together and make America great again.

 

Aftab Pureval for Clerk of Courts

I started evaluating the candidates for local office, but in most cases, I found my result so heavily influenced by party affiliation that it was not worth posting on the web.  I think the Republican Party, despite Governor Kasich’s attempt to steer it past the current catastrophe, is morally and intellectually bankrupt.  At the national level, Trump is the proof.

ruehlmanAt the local level, we have Judge Ruehlman, formally reprimanded by the Ohio Supreme Court, reversed on appeal for a “brazen” ruling, and described as pretty much a nightmare in his handling of a case involving alleged rape.   Even the Cincinnati Enquirer, which usually supports Republicans and seldom involves itself at all in judicial races, says that it is time to “retire Judge Ruehlman”.  A robust party committed to good government would have found a candidate to replace him, but this party is more interested in using the political advantage of incumbency to win the election.

In my opinion, the Republican Party needs to be thoroughly gutted so that we can replace it with a party that embraces truth and good government.  In light of this, it hardly matters what I think of an individual candidate.

news1_aftabpureval2_photochristinberrybluemartiniphotography-57b46de410e2e

Aftab Pureval (CHRISTIN BERRY/BLUE MARTINI PHOTOGRAPHY)

However, there is one, Aftab Pureval for Clerk of Courts, whom I can endorse based on his qualifications and ideas, not just because his opponent is another no-good Republican (though she is at best mediocre).  I met him at a block party for my new neighborhood, where he introduced himself as “Aftab”, saying that people had trouble with his last name.  With him was a friend, a volunteer, wearing an “Aftab” t-shirt. I have seen that t-shirt pop up at other events: a political rally and a community counsel meeting.  I am impressed that he has such volunteers supporting his campaign.

Meanwhile, the Republican incumbent has been getting into trouble for pressuring the people she supervises to volunteer for her campaign.  Apparently, this is not illegal, but we voters can judge whether or not it is ethical.  Aftab promises to end such practices if elected.

Aftab Pureval, though relatively young, already has an impressive resume.  He graduated of Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati Law School.   As a lawyer, he has worked for a firm in Washington DC, has represented battered women, has worked as a federal prosecutor, and currently is working in house for Proctor and Gamble.  He is also a co-owner of a small business.

Tracy Winkler was appointed to be the Clerk Of Courts in 2011.   She seems to have gotten the job because of her family connections: she is married to Judge Ralph Winkler.  In 2012, she won the election as the incumbent Republican.

Pureval has ideas as to how the Clerk of Courts could be run better.  Winkler brags her office is running a surplus, but the fees that we pay here are higher than in Cleveland and Columbus.  In some other counties in Ohio, court records are available on-line; Pureval thinks he can make that happen in Hamilton County as well.

The reality is that Clerk of Courts is probably the pinnacle of Tracy Winkler’s career, while for Aftab Pureval, it is a stop on the way.  Once he has successfully accomplished his goals for this office, he will probably move on.  However, Hamilton County will be well served.  He is qualified, articulate, and hard working.  He will improve the services provided by the office.  He deserves your vote.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

A New Kind of Smart

Diamond and Silk w Trump
I’m, like, a really smart person,” proclaims the Donald.

And smart people, though they are probably not as smart as the Donald himself, love him.  “I have standing ovations from very smart people. These are intelligent people, these are great citizens.”  Here is a video of two prominent supporters, Diamond and Silk, displaying their vast wisdom.  (No, this is not a Saturday Night Live skit.)

Meanwhile, this country is being run by “very, very stupid people”, referring Obama in particular, but more generally to everyone in power, the press, and anyone else who opposes the Donald.

Obviously, the Donald is using more modern, up-to-date definitions of these old fashioned words than most of us:

smart
.    adjective \ˈsmärt\
.    1. having essence of the Donald.
.    2. wanting to have essence of the Donald.
.    Synonyms
.              trumpish

stupid
.    adjective stu·pid \ˈstü-pəd\
.    1. unlike the Donald.
.    2. not wanting to be anything like the Donald.
.    Synonyms
.             obamish

To be fair, the Donald has other words as well for his opponents:  “losers”, “weak”, “clowns”, etc..  Being a skilled entertainer, he is able to keep coming up something just different and outrageous enough to grab the headlines.  And this is where his true genius lies: he treats the election as a new kind of reality TV, a format that craves celebrity and drama, both of which he supplies in abundance.  Here, entertainment, especially attention grabbing extravagance, dominates; actual facts and in-depth analysis are boringly irrelevant.  In the words of one of his (presumably very trumpish) supporters:

At some level, I don’t really care how things go with America as long as it’s fun to watch.”

Enemy is UsBeing obamish myself, caring very much how things go with America, I’m becoming frightened.  ISIS, the latest incarnation of that murderous terror, is on the other side of the globe; the Donald and his apparently loyal minions are right here and inching ever closer to real power.