Thursday, January 27, 2022

Newtron Bomb

Other than Saint Ronnie of the Trickle-down, there’s none in the bleak history of “modern” Republicanism more responsible for its turn to the politics of destruction than Newt Gingrich. The false promises of his “Contract [On] America” aimed directly at the buttons of resentment, and his
cynical instructions to R candidates on the use of inflammatory words to win elections have become the grist of their grift ever since.

Even after (or maybe because of) being censured and disgraced, by a bipartisan 88% of Representatives for ethics violations as Speaker, Gingrich enjoys favored status on Fox “news” and other purveyors of right-wing falsehood and lofty dudgeon. 

Letting the catastrophe out of the bag, his latest dissociative discourse foreshadowed not only the peril of Republican control of Congress, but how lost he is in the forests of fantasy. Said he, of the members of the January 6 investigation panel: “… [T]his is all going to come crashing down … they’re the ones who in fact, I think, face a real risk of jail for the kinds of laws they’re breaking … they’re running over people’s civil liberties. And what they need to understand is on 4 January next year, you’re going to have a Republican majority in the House and a Republican majority in the Senate. And all these people who have been so tough, and so mean, and so nasty are going to be delivered subpoenas for every document, every conversation, every tweet, every email.”

“Nasty.” Said Newt, owner of rights to the word. Gets a nickel whenever it’s used.

He chose not to enumerate the “laws they’re breaking,” nor was he asked to by his Foxian host. Because there are none. Because investigating a deadly attempt to overturn a fraud-free, certified election is what, among other protective actions, Constitutional duty demands.

It's true, though, that laws are being broken as the panel does its work: ignoring lawful subpoenas, Trump’s mobsters are refusing to cooperate, as Republicans and their media darlings rejoice in their scornful lawlessness. Hillary’s emails deserve eternal inquiry, but not organized sedition, pre-planned at the highest of levels of government. Gingrich wants Republicans to run on that.

Not one to share the spotlight, nor to be outdone, Trump weighed in, accusing the January 6 panel of being “vicious,” because “they’ll go after children,” referring to their requested audience with FORTY-YEAR-OLD daughter Ivanka. Mysteriously, he didn’t mention his own and his party’s “going after” the child Hunter Biden. Slipped his mind, probably. As to what’s left of what some still consider a mind, and not to pile on or anything, that video of him encouraging applause is pretty pathetic. Almost makes one feel sad for him. So desperately needy. 

It’s being reported Newt’s unwise counsel is still sought and accepted by Republican Congressional leaders. How great for America. If returned to majority status, they’ll continue to do what they’ve been doing in the minority: nothing. Not legislating, anyway, except, undoubtedly, more top-heavy tax cuts and deregulation. They’ll spend their time “investigating” Democrats for doing what preservation of our democratic republic demands. They’d deserve investigation if they weren’t.

(Side bet: If Mitch McConnell becomes Senate Majority Leader again, how long before he abouts his double-face and bans the filibuster?)

To the NY AG, Eric Trump pleaded the Fifth 500 times; Trump’s lawyer Eastman, 146 times to the January 6 panel. Alex Jones, "Almost a hundred." Witch-hunts? No “there” there? The Trumps have always been a crime family. Criminals attracting criminals.

At the end of the Trump administration, seeing voter suppression laws sprouting in red states like poison mushrooms, and the naked attempts of a major political party to overthrow a legitimate election with virtually no pushback from its members, the little-known but well-respected Center for Systemic Peace, which studies and evaluates governments around the world, judged the US to have “dropped below the democracy threshold,” qualifying, instead, as “anocracy,” with “a high risk of political instability.”

Who can argue otherwise? Trumpists and many Republicans have been predicting or calling for civil war. And passing legislation allowing legislators in red states to reverse disliked election outcomes. For what it’s worth, at the end of 2021, after a year of the Biden presidency, the Center placed the US back in the democracy column. At the level of Brazil. One can hope it’s a trend.

But if voters let Newt, Trump, Ted, Rand, Kevin, Mitch, Ron, Jim, Marjorie, Mark, Lauren, Tucker, Laura, Sean … have anything to say about it, it won’t be for long. Authoritarianism is their goal. They’ve all but promised it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Arizona Dreaming

Dang. Just when I had a non-political column in mind, Trump holds another of his “I’ll lie and you’ll love it” rallies. In Arizona, to thousands of happy receptives, he topped his prior pernicious effluvium with this hallucinatory whopper: “The left is now rationing life-saving therapeutics based on race, discriminating against and denigrating … white people to determine who lives and who dies. If you’re white you don’t get the vaccine or if you’re white you don’t get therapeutics. … In New York state, if you’re white, you have to go to the back of the line to get medical health.” (Medical health?)

It was, of course, a steaming pile of Trumpian b.s.; a deliberate misstatement of what is, in fact, a medically reasonable policy. It’s among his most transparently evil and desperate lies, and it speaks truckloads about how exploitably stupid he considers his acolytes to be.

How many of the worshipful attendees had a moment’s hesitation; thought, whoa, he’s gone totally nuts? Somewhere around zero, probably. If they turned out after seeing his perseverating election lies debunked, up, down, and sideways, they’re onboard forever. And, of course, they were treated to the most thoroughly disproved of the big lies: he won Arizona.

It was a pathetic show by a babbling crazy person; the kind that if you saw him ranting on a street corner, you’d want to roust the men with white coats and butterfly nets. And yet, deliriously oblivious, they stayed.

There he goes again, say some readers: this columnist is full of hate, maddened by “Trump derangement syndrome.” What a convenient excuse for dismissing the inconveniently obvious. Is it hate to reject a lying liar’s lies; ones that are steadily destroying faith in our democracy? Is it derangement to criticize the Republican Party’s goosestepping toward plutocracy? Readers who describe me thus have plenty to say about President Joe Biden. It’s usually false, based on what they heard from Tucker, et awful, but I don’t call them deranged. Except for the danger to our country, I’d feel sympathy for their disinformed, childlike credulity.

When you have no agenda other than enriching yourself and your donors; when the only things you want are harmful to everyone else, you have no way to win elections except by deception and suppression. And, in “the world’s greatest democracy,” it’s working.

Seeing him as their only hope, elected Republicans have convinced their voters to succumb to an authoritarian liar. To believe elections they lose are rigged; that election officials are traitors deserving of death threats, causing many to quit, to be replaced by Trump loyalists who, like him, have no compunction about actual rigging.

Anti-democracy Trumpublicans are so afraid of having to confront truth that they’ve ordered future candidates not to participate in presidential debates unless they’re hosted by their sycophantic, lying press. A Russian mouthpiece is now their favorite Foxian. Previously treating Hillary Clinton’s emails like a DefCon 4 threat, they’re refusing to cooperate with the January 6 Commission, tossing the Constitution away like a used napkin. They forged elector documents to overturn Biden’s victory. As Mike Pence just editorialized, they characterize attempts to compel states to carry out fair elections as, ominously, “nationalizing them.” Defend the Constitution, he implored senators.

Yes. Please do. Because this is what it says: “[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations.” (My emphasis.)

Of course it may. The founders understood the indispensability of fair elections and foresaw the possibility of states attempting to pervert them. If ever there’s a role for uniform federal regulations overruling states, it’s when they try to abrogate fundamental civil rights. You’d think the Supreme Court would agree. Especially “originalists.”

But Republicans needn’t fear. Mitch McConnell has seen to it that SCOTUS is packed with right-wing ideologues who’ll protect their attacks on democracy. The way they overturned President Biden’s vaccine mandate for corporations confirms their undisguised partisanship; producing, too embarrassed to sign the order, the non-sequitur that “A vaccination, after all, cannot be undone at the end of the workday.”

Such illogical contortions aren’t surprising from the likes of Injustice Gorsuch, McConnell’s choice after blocking Merrick Garland, who refuses, alone, to wear a mask to protect diabetic Justice Sotomayor. Stickin’ it to the libs. What a d..k.

Okay, maybe I am deranged. That Arizona grotesquery did it. When half the country still can’t see what a dangerous, demagogic, incoherent sociopath Trump is, ranting into the wind is all that’s left.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Voting Rights: Now Or Never


This really needs saying: If Democrats blow up Senate rules, millions of Americans will cease to have a voice in the Senate. Entire states would be shut out. Top Dems have floated breaking the rules for years now. This isn't about new voting laws. It's about silencing voters who inconvenience Democrats.

Okay, maybe I should have put quotation marks around the words following “saying,” because they’re not mine, they’re Mitch “I’m not a hypocrite, YOU are” McConnell’s, tweeting about Democrats’ desire to modify filibuster rules to allow a vote on ensuring fair elections for ALL voters. It needs saying so everyone understands his mendacious hypocrisy.

McConnell wrote that, after silencing voters who elected President Obama when it came to his ability to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. Who circumvented the filibuster to pack the court with rightwing ideologues intent upon silencing most American voices on women’s health choices, environmental regulations, and more; and who, by gutting the Voting Rights Act, allowed the silencing of minority voters around the country. Challenging belief in divine agency, Malignant Mitch wasn’t immolated as he fingered his screen.

Even without the filibuster, current Senate makeup allows the silencing of a large majority of voters, as the Republican half represents over forty million fewer Americans than the Democratic half. But it’s worse than that: the two Dakotas, for example, have a combined population of less than two million, and they have four senators; all of them Republicans. California, with over forty million people, has two, both Democrats. It’s unlikely our mostly-wise founders foresaw that level of inequity.

By requiring a sixty-vote supermajority to get anything debated, much less voted upon, the filibuster compounds that structural inequity, giving control to an even more skewed minority of voters. The will of the majority has disappeared in remnants of Parchment Age compromises. A post-Civil War concoction, the filibuster isn’t in the Constitution, and was, until Mitch, rarely undertaken. For one thing, it originally required Mr. Smithing, round the clock. Now, McConnell has only to wink. 

Using the filibuster as a sledgehammer, he’s fracturing the foundation of democracy. Which raises fundamental questions: in a democratic republic, what is the obligation of the winners of elections to the losers? To what are voters entitled when their preferences were disfavored by the majority? Isn’t their party’s Constitutional recourse – if they believed in democracy, which today’s Republicans don’t – either to rethink their message or to convince more voters they’re right? As opposed to (paraphrasing here) “silencing voters who inconvenience them?” That’s precisely what they’re doing in filibustering voting rights.

Average Americans have another option: electing the party that would improve their lives, instead of the one that refuses even to produce a platform. That promises only to punish Democrats if they win congressional majorities. Misplaced revenge, not policy. Lucky voters!

To understand the differences between Democrats and today’s Republicans, one need only rise above the Foxotrumpian fog. Ds believe in facilitating voting for ALL qualified citizens, without prejudice, their party or not. Rs have been doing everything they can to ensure only its preferred voters have easy access; and doing so “with surgical precision,” as a judge said in striking down North Carolina’s blatant exclusion of racial minorities.

Two bills await Senate votes: the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Both had bipartisan support in the House, where simple majority prevails. Neither contains rules that disfavor nor target any legal voters, or aren’t already in place, fraud-free and fair, in several states, including ours. Republicans, Democrats, truly equal access. How, well, democratic!

It’s only because their top-heavy plans are rejected by most Americans that Republicans fear free elections. Readers should learn what’s in the bills, to see if they find anything unfair. Here’s a place to start.

Being history’s most reviled as fraudulent, despite being shown, countless ways, countless times, to have been the cleanest, the election of Joe Biden makes the Republican game clear as a conman’s combover. Using every time-tested method of right-wing mind control at their disposal, they justify democracy-killing efforts by convincing the gullible that America’s exceptionally secure electoral systems are, in fact, rife with fraud. It’s a first-order, world-class lie. (Notably, of the insignificant handful of deliberately fraudulent ballots cast, nearly all were by Republicans.)

If it’s unfair to accuse Republicans of hating democracy, we’ll soon know. So far, they’ve only had to vote on cloture. When it comes to yay or nay on democracy itself, will any, belatedly, reject Trump’s big lie, standing for principle over party, democracy over Donald? Aye, there’s the rub meeting the road.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

We Can't Wish It Away

Entering the new year, so much needs saying that it’s been hard to choose where to begin. Serendipitously, help arrived from a reader, who provided the hook on which to hang this, the first column of 2022. Not that she’ll read it. Here, in part, is what she wrote in response to my year-end “predictions” column: 

“… You just dwelled on the negative and made your article downtrodden. Yes, it’s important to tell the facts, but we the people need more optimism and encouragement. To keep our heads high, fight for the good things in life, support each other, keep our faith and maintain a positive outlook to conquer each day… Thus, I am again bypassing and not taking the time in my day to read your articles.”

I sympathize. Plus, it was an order of magnitude better-written than what I typically receive from critics. So I appreciate it. If what I write were actually impactful, though, written my way or less “downtrodden,” reaching enough minds, in all fifty states, to change even a few about the imminent dangers of Trumpofoxification (it isn’t, of course), what she said would be sad. Because it reflects why we are where we are: people in the middle, like her (presumably), who’d rather not think about it, who’d rather hear sweet affirmations that it’s all okay, to justify doing nothing. 

Well, me too. Approaching the limits of tolerance, I’ve tried to turn it off, to stop caring, “to maintain a positive outlook to conquer each day.” (That desire also explains the attraction of mind-numbing drugs, and why, as existential uncertainty mounts, addiction and overdoses are increasing.) But, as I wrote back to her, my concern for the future of country and grandchildren compels me to keep thinking about and facing actuality, rather than ignoring or Pollyanning it.

It’s like witnessing a violent crime: too old and powerless to jump into the fray, at least I’d shout from across the street and call 911. Which would accomplish more than opining into the wind, but writing is about all I can do. That, and donating to people and institutions offering truth and solutions instead lies and obstruction. How nice if that lady, and people who think similarly, did the same. A few dollars, even. America needs commitment, not blinders.

Blinders, in fact, must explain why 68% of Republicans want to reelect Trump. Of all the dangers facing America, he’s the most immediate. In the long run, climate change is worse, but first things go first. Take it from Liz Cheney, a lifelong, hardcore conservative in all things, including Trump, whom no true conservative should ever have supported.

Confirming that he sat in the Situation Room on January 6, watching the insurrection on TV with delight, serially rejecting pleas to call for a stop to it, she stated the obvious: he must not be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office, ever again. His was unprecedented dereliction of presidential duty; anyone who thinks otherwise is no patriot. Nor a believer in democracy.

Proving the point, Trump just endorsed for “reelection” Viktor Orb├ín, Europe’s most brutal dictator. Anyone denying he’s a sociopath who wants to be like Vik, or Vlad, is delusional. Or, like my pixel pal, deliberately tuning it out.

Even if Trump were to lose, if he becomes the Republican nominee, which is likely, it would cement the permanent descent of that party into madness. And if he were elected, it wouldn’t herald the end of democracy; rather, it’d be because the end had already happened. It’d be because the Republican assault on free and fair elections, federal and state, had succeeded in destroying them. It’d be the beginning of autocratic rule by people whose views are rejected by the majority of Americans; people who barricaded the avenues by which we might return to majority rule.

Because the thing is, horrifying as the insurrection was, it was always part of a larger plan, an ongoing blueprint for overturning and preventing legitimate elections. And an indicator of why Republican leadership is so confident it can get away with undermining every Constitutional safeguard of democracy, while convincing people they’re doing the opposite. This level of brainwash-powered deception and acceptance of it appears irreversible. And 1930s ominous.

People of both parties say the country is heading in the wrong direction. The difference is that, for Republicans, it’s because of believing Trump’s perseverating and rightwing media-enhanced election lies, mandates necessitated by their own selfishness, baseless warnings of communism, and preposterous conspiracy theories. For Democrats, it’s because we’re seeing, clear-eyed, democracy imperiled and faltering. Surely, it’s the wrong time for silence.

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