Thursday, May 27, 2021

Correcting A History Lesson


On Monday, the chairman of Snohomish County Republicans treated us to a letter to the editor, in which he unburdened himself of some deprecatory opinions, along with selected facts well-known to everyone with knowledge of American history. The Democratic Party, he reminded us, once included a bunch of Southern racists. Which, until several decades ago, it most surely did. 

Reaching back almost two hundred years, he wrote of times when his party didn’t. Name-checking Abraham Lincoln, he expressed pride in his party’s “rich history,” as he put it, “of supporting African-Americans.” Other than the current, dominant, southern faction of the chairman’s party, who doesn’t like what Abe did? Since then, though, along with science, equal access to voting, and preference for leaders who don’t lie about elections and pandemics, his party’s support stopped cold as a polar vortex.

The chairman’s lesson took a recess somewhere around 1965; which all but begs us to provide proper, less-selective updating. Key terms to keep in mind as we try: Southern strategy; “welfare queens”; LBJ; Voting Rights Act; Civil Rights Act; Shelby County vs. Holder.

Our lesson could be condensed, simply by pointing out it’s to the Republican Party those racist Democrats fled after LBJ powered the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts into existence; and that they were welcomed the way Democrats (not Republicans, weirdly) are welcoming vaccines. Understanding he’d be causing Democrats to lose the South, LBJ did it anyway. That kind of doing right for Americans, no matter the impact on party, has gone sadly missing from Republican leaders; especially in, but not limited to, the past thirteen years. 

After offering that Democrats should apologize for slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK, the chairman finished with a familiar flourish of bravado, proclaiming “I will not be bullied by someone who calls me a racist.” Good. If he isn’t, he shouldn’t be. (If, in fact, he’s been called one, it’s fair to wonder why, though.) But – and this is important – one can rationalize racist policies without being racist. 

Moreover, he holds office in Trump’s party, which now considers racists part of the base it must indulge. Bullied or not, he should consider owning up. Rather than employing ancient history to distract from the present, he should be calling it out. Apologizing, even. Because, unlike current Democrats with regard to past racism, many in today’s Republican Party are active practitioners.

Nor would it hurt if the chairman were to apologize for a party trying to erase what happened on 1/6 while blocking meaningful investigation into it. And for the majority of its members who still believe the “presidential” and party-promoted lies that incited it.

White supremacists, who idolize Trump and Tucker Carlson. Proud Boys. Neo-Nazis. Oath Keepers. QAnon. “Fine people on both sides.” Calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization. Removing polling locations and drop-boxes in primarily Black precincts. Requiring photo ID, while closing places to obtain them, in those same precincts. Troglodyte racist Stephen Miller, centrally located in Trump’s White House. Idaho. Might the chairman address those issues? They didn’t just appear, after all, but descended naturally from the devolution of his party over the last sixty years.

Recognizing to which party the racists had decamped, Richard Nixon deployed the “Southern Strategy,” whose purpose was to make sure they’d never leave. Later, Ronald Reagan reemployed it, rather unsubtly launching his “states’ rights” presidential campaign near where three freedom riders had been murdered. Nor was there anything subtle about his well-received attacks on welfare recipients, or to whom he was referring. 

Long before he became Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts was on a mission to cripple the Voting Rights Act, which undoubtedly factored into his appointment. Once on the Court, he greeted the lawsuit known as Shelby County v. Holder like a long-lost child. Declaring racism over, he and his Republican majority bled out requirements for federal approval of voting-related legislation in southern states.

The blood hadn’t dried when those states began the disenfranchising of Democratic constituencies – mainly the African Americans for whom Mr. Chairman professes party support – which continues, exponentially, today. A loyal Republican, Roberts pretended it wouldn’t happen. If it did, it wasn’t the courts’ business.

As policy, racism in our major political parties did a complete and lasting reversal in the century past. Confirming their abandonment of “supporting African-Americans,” sounding dishonest alarms about Project 1691, making false claims about Critical Race Theory, and legislating against teaching anything similarly related to slavery, the chairman’s party is trying hard to keep that fact hidden. 

Knowledge threatens their power, making public schools and universities only their latest scapegoat. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

They'll Never Change

The more things stay the same, the more nothing changes. Isn’t that what they say? Whatever. The point is, everything that can be said about Trumpism and our democracy has been said. Written. Filmed. Sung. Satirized. Tweeted. By politicians, historians, pundits, celebrities, comedians, influencers (whatever that means). Yet Trumpists still believe. If the Republican Party won’t renounce Trump’s big lie, democracy’s death is inevitable.

They won’t, and it is. To secure unpopular policy, their leaders are squarely on the side of untruth, committed to ensuring that their minority views will continue to override those of the majority of Americans. And why not? From their politically-packed, Roe-v-Wade-threatening Supreme Court down to state legislatures and local elections, it’s working. Two-thirds of Republicans still believe Trump’s election lie; half favor continued jiggering of election laws over presenting compelling policy. We’ve run out of gobs to smack. 

Unless Republicans acknowledge the no-fraud legitimacy of President Biden’s win, election-related laws pullulating in red states should be understood as ways to maintain their policy-lower but electoral-upper hand, undisirregardless of what they say about “restoring faith.” Lost faith in democracy has been their goal all along; it’s their excuse for voter suppression. It’s as if… Nope. There’s no analogy to such an obvious ruse.

Their latest are laws designed to intimidate poll-workers and observers. By the preceding understanding, it’s to prevent their chicanery from being reported. The intimidation also applies to those watching ballot drop-boxes, while requiring 24/7 observation thereof. Fewer watchers, fewer boxes, already disproportionately lacking in red-state Democratic precincts. 

Those are only the most noticed attacks on fair elections. Less publicized are laws that could have Republican legislators, not voters, deciding who wins in their states. As the non-partisan Protect Democracy reported: “… In 2021, state legislatures across the country—through at least 148 bills filed in 36 states —are moving to muscle their way into election administration, as they attempt to dislodge or unsettle the executive branch and/or local election officials who, traditionally, have run our voting systems… American democracy relies on the losers of elections respecting the results and participating in a peaceful transition of power. If, instead, the losing party tries to override the will of the voters, that would be the death knell for our system of government…” 

Notwithstanding attempts to erase what happened, we came close in January. Fearing the truth, with whataboutist excuses and acceding to demands by the Instigator-in-Chief, Republican leaders are lining up to prevent meaningful investigation. Even without a 9/11-style inquiry, though, it’s easy to know the what, why, how, and who of the insurrection. All Trumpists need is to detox from Fox “news” and its replicants. Timely example: last week, Hannity showed a clip of President Biden being asked about the Colonial Pipeline hack, edited to make it appear he gave a “bizarre” answer. It’s the kind of lie his viewers absorb like a sunburn.

So what shall we expect from the Arizona “recount,” dark-money paid and subcontracted to a rightwing business with no relevant experience, whose owner believes the election was stolen? Whose rules are lax, methods constantly changing, workers untrained. Using UV light to find secret Trump-placed watermarks; concerned about 165-thousand incinerated chickens (not kidding); hunting, by looking for bamboo droppings, for forty-thousand forged ballots they believe were shipped (beamed?) from Asia. (Possibly off-point, your columnist won’t be repurchasing bamboo toilet paper anytime soon.)

If they uncover nothing, will the two-thirds of Republicans who believed the big lie be convinced? History says no. And, given by whom and how it’s being conducted, if the recount “finds” fraud it’ll be suspect. 

Committed to a lie and the damaged man who promotes it, today’s non-conservative, democracy-rejecting Republican leaders show no sign of reacquiring their decades-past sanity; nor do the majority of their voters. There’s money to be made, by Trump and the conmen and propaganda networks around him, in keeping the delusions alive, no matter the damage to America. Or their trusting followers

The only way we’ll return to a functioning, two-party Congress is if those who still believe Trump cares about them, and that he made America great (and that liberals are communists and Fox “news” is truthful), will un-scale their own eyes; unimaginable though it be. By now, it’s clear: no amount of pleading, cajoling, or Demosthenesing from without will make it happen. (Check this, if no others.)

Absent bottom-up reformation from within, no one – least of all a small-town columnist with too much love for tinyurls and creating hapax legomena – can effect the Republican awakening that America so urgently needs. Which begs the obvious question. 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

"Free Thought And Debate," He Said.

Everyone needs a good laugh. So getaloada House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s note to his caucus, shortly before he orchestrated Liz Cheney’s beheading: “… [Y]ou should anticipate a vote on recalling the Conference Chair on Wednesday… And unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate.” 

Sorry if that forced coffee out anyone’s nose. Especially those who remember when, the day after Trump’s insurrection and before he used his wind-blown finger to dig out his own spine and replace it with cotton candy, McCarthy rightly put blame directly on Trump. Now, his people refer to it as “a normal tourist visit” by “peaceful patriots.” Not kidding. By next year, it never even happened

Liz Cheney is a hero the way someone who hasn’t strangled anyone lately is. She’s nastily slandered her Democratic Congressional colleagues, voted with Trump more often than her replacement. Since long before Trump, she’s been an active participant in her party’s departure from truth.

But she did what she did knowing it’d end her leadership role and, perhaps, next year, her job. For that, she is to be admired. Still, it’s what any true conservative should have done. Placing preserving our constitutional democracy above political self-interest, she refused to acquiesce to Trump’s big lie. In today’s Trumpublican Party, integrity begets dismissal.

Before the blade fell, she said what we’ve been saying in this column as many ways as possible: no one who supports Trump can be considered conservative. With his lies and calculated divisiveness, his power-grabbing attempts to create distrust of every aspect of democracy, his ten-fold documented obstruction of justice, his love of dictators, he’s the antithesis. 

“Ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Cheney said to her disinterested colleagues. “… I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy… Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution … This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure ... Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.” 

After which her audience figuratively hoed and hummed. Those who hadn’t already walked out.

As Liz’s head thudded into the basket, young Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), as despicable a being as haunts the halls of Congress (among Gaetz, Boberg, Greene, et. al., that’s something special), tweeted, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye Liz Cheney.” Of such stuff are Republican Representatives now made, and actual conservatives should admit it. One hopes for follow-through from those who’ve promised to form a sane conservative party; and that enough people might join to save conservatism – and America – from Trump. 

On the other hand, a self-described conservative emailed me last week. Among other things, he agreed President Biden won, the election wasn’t rigged, and that Trump has responsibility for the insurrection. Yet he’d voted for him. Yes, the insurrection happened post-election, but Trump was ginning it up long before. His rejection of Congressional oversight, his dismissive pandemic response, his claims about mail-in voting that every Washingtonian knows are false, were well-known. One assumes, therefore, this saner-than-most conservative won’t be joining any new parties.

With faces straight, Republicans decry “cancel culture.” If you need more proof of their hypocrisy, if you’re ready for another laugh (put down your coffee), the trainer whose Derby-winning horse was full of illegal drugs and is therefore disqualified from future races, went on Fox “news,” where truth and the meaning of words go to die, and called it cancel culture. (Need a napkin?)

The effectiveness of such cynical rightwing propaganda makes it hard to be optimistic, even though recent polling has shown that, among swing-state Republicans, Trump is seen unfavorably. Unsurprisingly, in a retreat with Republican leaders boosting Trump, the RNC hid the numbers. Tell us again about “Free thought and debate,” Kevin. 

Speaking of Trumpic damage to America, the Cleveland Clinic just published a paper showing that since January, over 99% of their patients requiring hospitalization had been only partially or not-at-all vaccinated. Another report stated that 82% of hospitalized patients suffered neurological symptoms, which conferred a six-fold increase in the risk of death.

Vaccines save lives. In addition to their unrequited loyalty, Republicans ought to rethink their majority refusal to be vaccinated. Trump doesn’t care if democracy or his cultists die, but we do and so should they. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Lie Or Leave

Last week’s column began with a quote from an actual conservative. Here’s another, from Michael Gerson, former adviser to George the Second: 

“… The GOP is increasingly defined not by its shared beliefs, but by its shared delusions. To be a loyal Republican, one must be either a sucker or a liar. And because this defining falsehood is so obviously and laughably false, we can safely assume that most Republican leaders who embrace it fall into the second category. Knowingly repeating a lie … is now the evidence of Republican fidelity…”

He’s referring, of course, to the perpetuated prevarication that, but for rampant fraud, Trump won the election. “Laughably false,” indeed. Yet believing or pushing it is now the standard by which Republican politicians are judged. Leave the lie, live lurched and languishing like Liz. In the United States of America, exceptional exemplar of democracy and integrity, it’s inexplicable. So let’s try. 

Republicans’ descent began long before Trump; otherwise, he’d have been laughed out of contention. Now they’re desperate to maintain the delusion. Why? The pandemic. It’s revealing truths about current conservatism so indisputable that the only available responses are lies and attacks on democracy. As in Arizona.

The pandemic has floodlit the falsehood of fundamental post-Reagan dogma; namely, that government is the problem. True enough, about bad government, of which we’ve seen plenty. And now we’re seeing the good kind. In differing responses to the pandemic, that truth is writ larger than Trump’s name on a bankrupt building. A wholly-owned subsidiary of multi-sued Trump, Inc., today’s Republican Party is doing its best to obscure the writing.

In that, they’ve had a head start for decades. But it’s been a struggle to rationalize more than half a million deaths and the incompetence, dishonesty, and contumacious denial that caused them.

Yes, the ground-breaking mRNA coronavirus vaccines, for which federally-financed research and development began years earlier, became available during Trump’s “presidency.” We acknowledge his big-government spending on final production, which any president would have ordered. But then he stopped.

Because of absent planning, misinformation, and what’s been described by taskforce participants as Trump’s disinterest, distribution lagged, while he deliberately sabotaged other efforts to stop the spread. When leadership in (mild) sacrifice was called for, he provided the opposite. Someday, psychiatrists might explain why.

But it supports the hypothesis: without government, the vaccines might never have been created; and had there been better government, distribution would have been wider and faster. For that, it took President Biden. Had Trump not spent months lying about or ignoring the virus, had he not hired sycophants and liars, had he not ridiculed protective measures, experts say, half the deaths wouldn’t have occurred. The contrast couldn’t be greater, the lesson more easily learned.

For Republicans, the consequences are monumental. When people were hurting, the economy in ruins, systems overwhelmed, Trumpublicans did next to nothing. Worse than nothing, after Biden took office, as they voted, unanimously, against his measures to restore the economy and help the desperate; laying down an unmistakable marker. (Unbelievably, as benefits arrive, they’re touting them, implying they deserve credit.) People needed good government, and are grateful for it. The pandemic brought recognition of current, effective leadership, and of its previous lack. Bad news for those voting “no.”

Or so you’d think. Never hesitant to dissemble, Republicans answered President Biden’s speech to Congress with plenty of it. A tale of two ditties, the best of words, the worst of words. What our president proposed were policies any functioning, democratic society should expect from a government of, by, and for its people. As he spoke of addressing child poverty, Republicans sat, stony. When he spoke of internal threats to democracy, of the value of government, tax fairness, education, healthcare, Ted Cruz nodded off. Seventy-percent of listeners, however, liked what they heard. Republicans represent the thirty-percent. 

Knowing the implications, their response warned of “socialism” and government takeovers. Understanding the threat to their rich-people-first agenda, they’re committed to blocking any progressive (i.e. helpful, popular) legislation “one-hundred-percent,” as Mitch McConnell just said. Lacking attractive alternatives, they’ll prevent as many Democratic voters as possible from voting, while ensuring their voters will distrust any lost elections.

The preceding thoughts are fact-based. Now for speculation: Perhaps what’s behind Republicans’ pathological push to forestall mask-wearing and vaccine-taking, now said to have made herd immunity unlikely, is discrediting President Biden’s people-positive leadership, which Republicans haven’t provided for decades; and, mainly, keeping his example of competence from taking hold among voters, even if it kills them.

Far-fetched? In today’s GOP-Q, we’re already seeing destructive anti-democracy treachery in abundance. 

[Image source]

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