Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Unity Delusion


Unity. It’s a divisive concept. After four years of Trump claiming Democrats “want to destroy you,” calling for his political opponents to be locked up, cancel-culturing journalists, and, now, threatening democracy by promoting his election big lie, it was disorienting to hear President Biden speak of it. Since our two political parties have starkly differing definitions, we know it’s impossible. 

For President Biden and Democrats, unity doesn’t mean policy agreement in all things, but common purpose when hashing it out. For current Congressional Republicans, it means Democrats don't propose anything they don’t like. Rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, for example: divisive. Unlike Trump abandoning them. Wanting to address domestic terrorism, racism, climate-change, take the pandemic seriously, create meaningful election reform. Most Americans don’t consider those divisive. Today’s Republican legislators do. Solutions, if any, will have to come from Democrats.

In the evenly-divided Senate, the fifty Republicans represent many millions fewer Americans than the Democrats. Add the Constitutionally-unmentioned filibuster and, for much legislation, the minority has veto power, which Mitch McConnell wields like a Samurai sword.

The minority rights protected by the Constitution are civil rights. Nothing in it says the minority should hold sway on political matters. Be recognized, considered? Sure. Especially back when they weren’t a haven for the insane. But preventing the will of the majority isn’t democracy. At the extreme, where Trumpism would take us, it’s dictatorship. The filibuster needs to go: something else that won’t happen.

Packing together during the insurrection, Republicans refused to wear masks. Afterward, packing side-arms, they declined to pass through metal detectors. In Georgia, several school board members remained defiantly unmasked at a meeting, despite the posthumous request of a teacher who’d died of Covid-19. This is how deeply Republicans are dug in to Trumpism.

Oregon’s Republican Party, having once produced such admirable people as Mark Hatfield, Tom McCall, and Portland’s then-favorite politician, my amazing aunt, recently selected a Qanonymizer as its senate candidate. This week they officially declared the D.C. insurrection a “false flag” operation, created to discredit Trump and Republicans. Right. Imposters: the whole maskless, Parler-posting, kill-Pelosi-and-Pence, Trump-cheering lot of ‘em. When even Oregon Republicans follow red-staters down the rabbit hole, their party has fully embraced the crazy.

Mountains of evidence to the contrary, three-quarters of Republicans still believe the election was stolen. Half think Trump should play a major role in their party’s future, seeing nothing wrong with a “president” pushing the big lie in an attempt actually to steal the election; nor with exhorting a crowd, boiling with manufactured anger, to march on the Capitol and not be “weak.” (The moronic, destructive, useless “anarchists” and “Youth Liberation Front” in Portland, by contrast, are neither supported nor encouraged by any major party.)

Momentarily bewildered when Trump didn’t show up at the last minute to take office and begin executing child-trafficking, cannibalistic liberals, Q-anoners now believe he’ll be inaugurated as the nineteenth (!) president on March Fourth. Not kidding. These are not rational people. Republicans, though, have elected several, including to Congress, at least one of whom supported calls to murder Democratic leaders. Too cowardly to censure or expel her, they put her on the education committee.

Trump will escape impeachment conviction. What consequences does the party of “law” and “order” and “personal responsibility” think he should face? None: there was no incitement, the rioters weren’t even his. No crime when the election was as fraudulent as Trump University. (They put it differently.)

Hoping to avoid taking a stand on his sedition, Republican senators say Trump’s gone, so why bother? Paraphrasing others, here’s why: Unpunished, a failed insurrection is a dress rehearsal for worse. Fearing their party’s new base, still the party of Trump, those public servants ignore their oath to defend the Constitution. Proclaimed patriotism, evidently, doesn’t include integrity. “Time to move on,” say those who pursued Benghazi for years. 

After taking office, Trump issued orders to please the minority that “elected” him and the corporations that paid for it, but which were unpopular with most Americans: undoing environmental protections, climate change agreements, worker protections, and the Affordable Care Act. His lopsided tax cuts. The Muslim ban.

In reversing Trump’s deleterious actions and introducing progressive ones, President Biden is doing what the majority of Americans want, which defines a functioning democratic republic. In its shrinking demographics and shaky future if democracy prevails, the Trumpublican Party doesn’t see it that way. Now, their D.C. insurrectionists and their Oregon party’s devolution, among many sad examples, prove how far down they’d take us.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Post-Inaugural Thoughts

In a post-inaugural interview, Congressman James Clyburn quoted Alexis de Tocqueville: America is great because its people are good. If its people cease to be good, America will cease to be great. That it was an inaccurate paraphrase of a misattributed quote is beside the point: in recent years, more clearly in recent weeks, we’ve seen the truth of it.

Trump’s insurrectionists who trashed the Capital, whose internet sanctum, Parler, is now hosted by Russia, aren’t good people. Nor are the politicians and media propagandists whose outrageous lies they believed. The result is a stain on America: A Green-Zone inauguration secured by thousands of troops; streets cleared; the National Mall – if movingly decorated – empty; the building still bearing wounds.

Addressing the tens who showed up to see him off, the blame-worthy “president” was absent; the first since 1869 to abscond from that confirmation of enduring democracy. Trump et uxor chose not to welcome the Bidens to the White House, nor did they join his predecessors and successor at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Amazing gracelessness.

Exiting, Trump, who only started domestic wars, pardoned a parade of perfidious politicians, tax-evaders (including a Fox spouse), and secret-keeping cronies. Among the excused, though, were some who deserved it, including several who’d received harsh sentences for minor drug crimes, mostly marijuana-related. Good for him. (For those whose lips are forming the words “Clinton” and “Marc Rich,” virtually all Democrats were outraged.)

Showcasing the scamanality of his “presidency,” Trump’s penultimate act was reversing his own “swamp-draining” order preventing his hires from lobbying, for five years; they’re now free as he to access the grift. “So long, suckers,” should have been his final words.

While Trump bunkers at Mar-a-Lago, we turn to President Joe Biden, recalling the astounding difference between his and Trump’s inaugural words.

Trump inherited a soaring economy, history’s longest run of rising employment, decreasing budget deficits, nuclear containment of Iran, and the tail ends of wars President Obama didn’t start but from which he was trying to disengage. Yet Trump spoke darkly about “American carnage,” a weirdly dystopian view of a country that was, but is no longer, surging forward; a speech foreshadowing the cascade of lies for which his “presidency” would become known, ultimately leading to the insurrection from which we’re trying to emerge. 

(If only one is feasible, let Congress invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment rather than finishing impeachment.)

In contrast, President Biden heads a nation deeply divided between fact and fiction; reeling from a pandemic so poorly managed by a mocking “president” that hundreds of thousands died unnecessarily, and the delivery of vaccines for which has been a cavalcade of disinformation and absent planning. Businesses closed by the thousands, staggering unemployment, people struggling to maintain food and shelter.

Yet, not ignoring the source and implications of the insurrection, he spoke with optimism and words of healing; reminders of what can be done when Americans cooperate with one another (already falling on many senatorial and rightwing media deaf ears.) Without specifying Trump’s biggest lie, he called for a return to truth -- tough for Tucker, Sean, et. al., whose success depends on inflammatory untruth. It’s doubtful they’ll reassess their complicity. (One sane Foxian approved.) 

Opposite to “I alone can fix it,” acknowledging it’ll take all of us, President Biden enumerated the challenges: racism, domestic terrorism, climate change (we’re back in the Paris Accords!), the economy. And, of course, the pandemic (we’re staying in the WHO!) Which is not to say he, or anyone, expects Congressional kumbaya; just a remembrance of commonality when arguing. It’s happened before, if so long ago it seems like an illusion.

Afterward, Kevin McCarthy, leader of the Republican insurrection in Congress, mouthed pleasant words. Likewise Mitch McConnell, who, after four years of catalyzing Trump’s destruction of Constitutional separation, comity, economic sanity, trust in elections, and pretty much everything else, had just, belatedly, acknowledged it was Trump’s lies that led to the attempted coup. Action, not words, are what’s needed now.

She gave no inaugural speech, but Kamala Harris’ presence was powerful. So many welcome firsts. The tie-breaker in an evenly-divided Senate, she might become the most consequential VP, ever.

Sincerity. It’s said if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Wordlessly holding a never-read Bible after gassing peaceful demonstrators, Trump faked it and seventy-four-million Americans bought in. You can’t fake the sincerity we heard in eighty-one-million-vote-getting President Biden’s speech. If we can’t all agree with his plans, let’s agree on that. And, with a little cooperation, see what happens.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

They NEED To Be Lied To

You don’t just have to be delusional to believe Trump’s lies about the election. To pillage our nation’s capitol, deface it, destroy treasures, defecate and urinate on it, set up a hangman’s noose and a guillotine, attack and murder cops whose blue lives you once said matter, you NEED to believe them, for reasons so deep-seated that nothing will open your eyes.

Self-evident to those whose eyes aren’t glued shut by Trump’s adhesive mendacity, you have to be – mostly – white, racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic. The logo shirts, the signs, the flags, the chants. The faces. The feces. Reenacting George Floyd’s murder. Seven FBI-identified racist groups. In Trump’s madding MAGA terrorists, there’s no mistaking it. Inside and outside the Capitol, in the White House and in their media fantasy-fortresses, democracy is despised for an obvious reason: in increasingly diverse, multicultural America, it threatens white supremacy.

It helps, too, to harbor such devotion to a lying “president” who affirms your hate that you’ll turn with him on people he praised moments earlier. Mike Pence, for whose execution they ghoulishly chanted, swallowing more Trumpdacity about the Constitution. They aimed to kidnap, possibly kill Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress. Impossible? They beat a police officer to death; another, they dragged down stairs and repeatedly struck with an American flagpole. “We love you,” Trump told them. “You are special people.”

Patriotism ended when they began shouting invective and marching to the tune of a criminally dishonest “president,” who even lied about joining their parade; instead, slinking back to the White House to do what he does best: watch TV. He loved seeing his inflamed hoard, it’s reported, desecrating the Capitol. Unmasked and unworried, traitorous Trumpists yelled “this is OUR country!” Not, evidently, Americans’ who, because we’re a democratic republic, voted Trump out overwhelmingly.

Posting their crimes on favored fascist websites, MAGA terrorists were surprised, later, to be hunted down by the FBI. “This is not who I am,” they wept. But it is. Freely, they chose to riot over freedom.

Not only those MAGA terrorists are inimical to America; it’s also Republican lawmakers and pundits who ceaselessly replayed Trump’s big lie, hypnotically exhorting their manipulees to “stop the steal.” They knew the election was fair; confirmation came from everywhere. 

Casting their lot with blood-eyed felons, they peddled the lie even after the insurrection, saying it’s for voters who, deceived into believing, “have questions.” Polls show a majority of Republicans say they’ll never trust elections again. Mission accomplished. The bigger the lie, the better it works on Trumpists. Telling truth to them is a career-killer.

Their lies wed them to Trumpism, forever. Afraid to be honest, most Congressional Republicans went along. (To be fair, in Trump’s un-great America, because of his homegrown MAGA terrorists, to oppose him is to fear for one’s own and one’s families’ lives.) The ten (only ten!) who, this time, voted to impeach, deserve admiration. 

Well-armed came the MAGA terrorists. In the aftermath, we’re hearing of shocking complicity from within. Congressional sergeants-at-arms, Republican state attorneys general. Many Capitol cops, crazed Qanon congress-people. The FBI downplayed explicit online plans for “war.” Even the Pentagon, which sanitized them as “First Amendment protestors,” slow-walked authorizing the National Guard. Does anyone believe Trump was unaware of intelligence warning of insurrection? Is it unlikely he gave orders to stand back, or that his lackeys followed them? 

The difference from responses to Black Lives Matter demonstrations couldn’t be more revelatory. 

Having pushed their divisive dishonesty for months, Trump’s Congressional mouthpieces called for “unity.” Enough to question the existence of G-d, their faces didn’t melt. Stop the divisiveness, they hypocrisize, after perpetuating a “president” who couldn’t survive without it. Let’s not hurt those marauders’ feelings, nor the non-marauders’ who believe our lies. Including our latest, observably false, that the MAGA terrorists were antifa. 

Like debriding a suppurating wound, punishing Trump’s incitement is a prerequisite to healing. If “unity” is what those guilty Republicans suddenly want, let them state, unambiguously, that Trump’s claims about a stolen election are seditious lies; apologize for waiting so long to say so; renounce their craziest members and stop lying to voters who elected them.

Deadly as a virus, fascism is infecting America: in the White House, in some police, military, Republican legislators, and throughout Trump’s minions. If Trump and the nationwide terrorists he created aren’t punished maximally, our Constitution is meaningless. Demagogues like Trump – there’ll be others – easily create murderous mobs out of “ordinary” people. It can’t happen here? Abetted by millions of self-described conservatives who stood by, on the precipice, silent, it just did.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Trump's Terrorists

This week we – and the world -- recognized who Donald Trump has always been, and what he and his party have done to our country. The good thing about Republican senators letting him off the hook after impeachment is that we’ve come to see how right Adam Schiff was when he predicted it. And we’ve learned the price of that party’s descent into insurrection. 

Henceforth, barring an unlikely return to conservatism and respect for the Constitution, today’s Republican Party will be remembered as the outlaw party. The party that chose a racist, xenophobic, lying bully, sex predator, and scamming, tax-cheating “businessman”; and, for four disgraceful years, condoned his contemptuous spurning of the law. That chose authoritarianism over constitutional governance, that embraced Trump’s attempt to delegitimize a fair election Joe Biden won decisively. (It wasn’t Trump’s election most Democrats contested: it was his subsequent criminality.) 

The party that considers any vote not for them to be fraudulent; a win by any Democrat, anywhere, to be, by definition, illegitimate. Whose claims of election fraud have been debunked, their legal arguments dismissed as ridiculous; who didn’t care and kept pushing, right until – and for some, even after – Trump’s riot.

What’s the constituency, other than the psychopath-in-chief, to whom those refusenik R senators and representatives were playing? Violent Proud Boys; the cult of Q-anon; domestic terrorists responding to Trump’s call to “be wild” by storming the Capitol; the millions of Trumpists (including tens who write to me) who, believing his hallucinatory claims of massive fraud, repeat the disproved “evidence” as if it’s implanted in their brains -- not by Bill Gates’ vaccines, but through the neurotoxicity emanating from rightwing radio, internet, and TV.

To secure permanent deregulation and tax cuts for themselves, Republican leaders have created ignorance and suborned rejection of democracy among their voters. To them, our system of governance and its institutions are anathema.

So let’s call them what they’d become, until, maybe, around midnight Wednesday: the party of treason, led by a traitor to the Constitution, who, throughout his entire “presidency,” fomented the violence that occurred during a process that’s always been a testament to America’s tradition of peaceful transfer of presidential power.

The list of those responsible for that seditious despoiling is long, starting and ending with Trump, who’d brutally cleared peaceful, non-violent protestors so he could wave a Bible as if he knows what’s in it, but did less than nothing on Wednesday. Who, after his phalanx of phools responded to his incitement earlier that morning, unconvincingly called for “peace,” then canceled the call by repeating his malignancy about stolen elections and evil people, announcing his “love” for those defiling “special people.”

The list includes Pence, McConnell, Graham. Cruz and fist-raising Hawley. Rightwing media ogres like Hannity, Limbaugh, Carlson, Ingraham, who profit from making their listeners angry and stupid, the success of which we’ve just witnessed. Every complicit Republican who, save but one, either perpetuated Trump’s lies and malfeasance or cowardly ignored them, who forsook their duty during impeachment, who feared telling the truth to their voters. 

Buffoonish Rudy Giuliani, who called for “trial by combat” right before the Capitol was stormed by rioters seemingly confident police wouldn’t stop them or, because they’re white, do them harm. (Some cops, who should be fired, took selfies with the rioters.)

Every brainwashed Trumpist who repeats his lies, refusing, as taught, to become informed. Who swallowed Trump’s mendacity about BLM but cheer rightwing terrorists whose goal – unlike BLM’s – is violence. Who continued to follow him, despite – or maybe because of – his perpetual lying.

How worse than ironic, seeing Trump’s terrorists vandalizing the Capitol, waving the American flag while figuratively burning it; raising Trump and Confederate flags, confirming their rejection of the Constitution. Every one of those delusional subversives, whose hate for America they consider, in their poisoned minds, love, should be arrested, tried, and deported. To a country whose leaders think like they do: North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Russia. Countries that watch Trump and his traitors attacking America from within and cheer.

On January 6, 2021, the legacy of Trump’s “presidency” and of the sad fall of the Republican Party that led to it, was sealed. The culmination of cultivated ignorance by Republican leaders, at least since Newt Gingrich, it’s the whirlwind they reaped, their fleas from lying down with dogs. MAGA, indeed.

It’s Trumpists’ legacy, too; including those who write to me, slavishly repeating his lies. Even more than Trump, they shame America. And themselves. Maybe Trump’s insurrection will awaken enough Republicans to the damage they’ve facilitated, helping to assure someone like him will never again sit behind the Resolute Desk.

In Congress Wednesday night, after Trump disgraced himself and our nation, it almost seemed like it might. Sudden sententiousness, after years of ignoring the obvious.

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