Posts from ‘Politics’

May
11

As the political primary season rolls on Trump endorsed candidates keep winning their races. The media keeps seeing this as proof of his continuing power and influence within the Republican power. That’s all well and tidy, but I didn’t expect his power or presence to wane.  At the same time members of the former Trump administration keep revealing startling stories of how extreme, far-fetched, and dangerous his ideas were that had to be kept in check by more reasoned subordinates. Moreover, the Republican party has become a party of extremists. Not only is it racist, anti-immigrant, and pursuing Taliban-like policies toward women, it has become a party of federal interventionism, cozying up to our foreign opponents, and Christian religious fervor, that has caused real conservatives like George Will to leave the party.

The only hope we have of not sinking into Trump led authoritarianism has always been voting Democratic. To be sure, the Democrats have not made that easy with their lackluster candidates, stalled policy programs, and mixed messages. The story of the upcoming elections will be whether the Democrats can turn out enough voters to stop Republicans who are pursuing policies that most Americans say they don’t want. Some pundits say that the Biden administration’s failure to stop inflation will outweigh opposition to abortion as an election issue. We can only hope that the abortion issue becomes a “bridge too far” for the Republicans, but there is no guarantee.

Despite the fact that Biden himself can do little about inflation, America’s obsession with a cult of personality finds him boring compared to the flamboyant Trump. The fervor that extremist Republican voters have must be countered by an anti-Trump get out the vote movement. This would of course be easier if the Democrats united behind a policy program that actually served the needs of voters. They seem unable to do that. Even worse than that, the Republicans are winning without a program that would actually help the economics and well-being of the non-one percenters who support them. They are winning by appealing to the defensiveness of voters who feel they are losing some of the little they have, voters who have given up on believing the government will improve their condition and will settle for not slipping backwards. They feel they are under attack and the Republicans are their best chance at defending them from the people of color, non-Christians, and immigrants (legal and illegal) who threaten them.

The growing number of people of color in the country means that this is a losing strategy if the POC vote for Democrats. While this may bode well for the future all we actually have is the meantime and indeed it is a mean time. That is why voter suppression is such an important part of the Republican strategy. Many states have already implemented redistricting to weaken the political power of opponents to Republican candidates. That is the battlefield on which the coming political war will be fought. All of us who oppose Trump need to get out and vote as well as helping and encouraging others to do so too. That is why I contribute to groups like Stacy Abrams’ Fair Fight and Ride2vote. This is not the time for voter apathy, symbolic votes for third party candidates, or waiting for the right candidate to come along. We must hold our noses and vote for whoever can best stop the Trump endorsed candidates. This is a war in which some of us are fighting for our lives literally. We cannot be picky about what weapons we use. I detest the Democratic National Committee, it is out of touch with voters, too corporately oriented, and has engaged in some shady tactics. Nevertheless, it seems that our only choice is to vote Democratic this year and work to have better choices in the future.

Feb
19

This is going to seem like a long meandering entry that takes its time getting to its point, but please bear with me. As those who follow my Facebook newsfeed may know, I am currently rehabbing from hip replacement surgery. In the course of that rehab a musical phrase kept occurring to me: “I’m not what I used to be, I’m not what I want to be” I wracked my brain, searched the internet for those lyrics. Where had I heard them? Then I finally remembered. I used to teach four courses per year (I know, seems like a luxury nowadays) at a college. Some courses had to be taught in a two-year sequence, but every two years I had an open spot to teach a course of my own devising. Over 25 years ago with my free course I taught a course called “Redemption Songs” which looked at African American history through the prism of its religious and related secular music. It took as its title and central point Bob Marley’s song “Redemption song” which begins

“Old pirates, yes, they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit

But my hand was made strong
By the ‘and of the Almighty
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have
Redemption songs

The course was about how such redemption songs enabled African Americans to survive and move forward “triumphantly.” We looked at work songs, spirituals, blues, gospel, r&b, Motown, and finally reggae songs to explore the relationship between the music and survival. I remember we had some friends over for dinner and when the conversation turned to what I was currently working on. I played for them some of the music I was “auditioning” for the course. My friend turned to me in amazement. “You got somebody to pay you to listen to this music?” As I sheepishly said yes, he just shook his head. As part of the course, I showed a documentary “Say Amen Somebody” about the rise of African American gospel music built around the career of Thomas A. Dorsey who played the blues with Bessie Smith and composed many of the first gospel songs including “Precious Lord Take My Hand.” The featured artists in the documentary included the Barrett sisters who were quite well known and loved within the black community, but little outside it until this movie. Sure enough I found the phrase I had been looking for within one of their performances of “He chose me.” in the film. It wasn’t a part of the normal lyric for the song but an expostulation they added. It also led me to another of their performances in the film, this time of the song “No Ways Tired.” This song had begun life as an African American spiritual and had been “gospelized” by the famous gospel choir leader James Cleaveland. The Barrett sisters’ version had the lyric:

“Nobody told me that the road would be easy, but I don’t believe that he brought me this far to leave me.
Sometimes at night you know my way gets drear, but I hear my God say I am here.”

Given the song’s origin as a spiritual during slavery I could imagine those lyrics going through the head of a runaway slave or just a slave who had a hard day. The lyrics fit my current situation, but my situation seemed so petty in the face of those faced in slavery and freedom by so many other African Americans. This reminded me of an opinion piece I had read in the New York Times on February 13, 2022 by African American historian Dr. Tiya Mills:

“Everyone around me seems to be talking about the end. The end of nearly a million American lives in the Covid pandemic; the end of American democracy; the end of a public bulwark against racism and blatant antisemitism; the end of the post-Cold War peace in Europe; the end of the stable climate; and the end of our children’s best futures, to name a few undeniable possibilities. A condition of apocalyptic anxiety has overtaken us, raising our collective blood pressure, and sending us deeper into a maelstrom of suspicion, conspiracy thinking and pessimism. I confess that I have also been down in this foxhole of doomsday thinking, but hearing it voiced by one of my children, a girl who should have a whole, vibrant life ahead of her, snapped me out of my anxious crouch.

This is just a change. I have given these impromptu words of maternal reassurance some thought since then, and I am not prepared to retract them yet. This is not the end. It is a change, albeit the largest and most dramatic transformation that many of us have seen in our lifetimes. Change is often frightening. We strive for stability. Because of the stress change causes, we often shrink or freeze in the face of it.”

She continues:

“The capacity to recognize those moments of emergency, catastrophe and impending loss as moments of change and then to anticipate what might come next are part of the psychological and emotional tool kit that saved Black America….Despite our anxieties, we are not standing on the precipice at the end of America or the end of the world. Instead, we face change of a nature and magnitude that we may not fully perceive, but which history gives us a way to confront.”

I live in the state of Texas nowadays where conservatism has such an iron grip on politics, that I often feel like Dr. Mills describes. It is a state where actions to stem the spread of Covid are prohibited; there are bans on abortion; teaching history that might make white folks uncomfortable is prohibited; books that describe different experiences of America are banned by conservative parents who are taking over school boards; where walls are being built to keep out immigrants, and where the fossil fuel industry prevents meaningful climate change.

I will take her advice however and work to create change and mitigate the effects of these policies to the best of my abilities. My own problems seem “a hill of beans in this crazy mixed-up world” to quote the movie Casablanca. Perspective, it’s good for the soul.

Aug
10

I currently live in the state of Texas where the Republican governor and the majority republican legislature have come down firmly that no government entity, including public schools, should issue a mandate that masks have to be worn in the current pandemic. They argue that people have the right to remain unvaccinated. They legally enjoin any government entity from even telling folks about those refusing to be vaccinated. They discourage private entities like hospitals requiring their personnel to be vaccinated. The basic argument is that the right of individual freedom supersedes the responsibility that any one has to their community and that no one should be forced to do otherwise. This of course flies in the face of the fact that governments do just the opposite all the time. Think of speed limits or taxes for example. However, this concern about individual rights has become part of the bedrock of Republicanism. It is the public rationale for opposing government spending, universal healthcare, business regulation, prevention of climate change and on and on. Under the surface it is about the winners of the capitalist game feeling that they shouldn’t have do things for anyone else. If they want to, they can engage in individual acts of philanthropy or even just kindness towards a few individuals. They just should not feel they have to be concerned with society as a whole.

Even if you believe in such individual freedom what happens when individual choices are a) Based on disinformation, b) Harm the community or c) Create chaos. To take these one at a time let’s start with disinformation. There has been a lot of disinformation about the Covid vaccines for example. People have heard that the disease isn’t so bad after all it has a relatively low fatality rate; that the vaccine itself has harmful side effects like infertility or ineffectiveness; and that the injections are part of a government conspiracy to place “trackers” in the population. Aside from its low fatalities the disease can easily become worse than the “flu” to which it has been compared, have long range respiratory, neurological and even physical effects. The vast lack of ill effects in the millions of people who have been vaccinated is evidence of the lack of extensive, severe side effects. Why people who carry a cell phone think the government needs to inject something into them to track them, speaks to the lack of understanding of how things are traced. If they think they are not being traced now, just have them click on an ad in Facebook. Granted the U.S. government has a long history of experimentation on unwilling subjects (I’m looking at you Tuskegee syphilis study), but the truth is these studies have been focused on the poor, indigent and people of color populations. The vaccine program hits the entire population including those movers and shakers who you know are taking care of themselves first. Those who believe it is part of some vast government conspiracy haven’t attended a committee meeting and seen how inept large groups of people are at getting anything done. Should people’s individual choice when they are based on such disinformation supersede the effect it has on the community at large?

This brings me to the second point. This respect for the individual choices will prolong the pandemic, endanger the immuno-compromised and the unvaccinated children, and slow economic recovery. It will thus have several harmful effects on the community beyond putting the unvaccinated at personal risk. What does it say about the social contract? The “social contract” is a term to describe what philosophers like Rousseau, Hobbes and Locke argue that “government” should do. In a nutshell they say that government is a subsuming of individual will for the benefit of society as a whole. It is the turning of the Republican view on its head; it says that the responsibility one has to the community should supersede the right of individual freedom and that rulers or governments are established to enact this social contract. Although what constitutes the social contract in a particular circumstance has changed since the 1700’s, the principle remains the same.

The result of ignoring the social contract can be chaos. I was reminded of this as I escorted my granddaughter to her first day of school this morning. We are lucky enough to live withing a ten-minute walk to school; we do not have to drive. However, many more people do have to drive. The parking lot at the school is clearly inadequate for the volume of vehicles when so many drive as on the first day. People were parked willy-nillly wherever they could find a place. They did not care that they were parked illegally, blocking paths that school buses would take, and preventing emergency vehicles for entering (God forbid that they needed to.) They were fulfilling their needs and the needs of others be damned. There was a police officer around, but she was so concentrated on making sure it was safe for children to cross the busy road on which the school is located, that enforcing parking regulations never entered her mind. I agree with her priorities here. The result was of course chaos. I could not help comparing this to the governor’s and state government’s stance on Covid 19 vaccinations. Both scientists and our experience so far tell us that the state government’s position on Covid, the support which Fox “News” and conservative politicians have given the anti-vaxxers, and the disinformation that has been spread about the vaccine, have created a “chaos” about this pandemic which is going to lead to more deaths, more infections, more strain on the medical system, and hopefully lessening support for those very politicians. As Levar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow “you don’t have to take my word for it” just wait and see.

 

 

Jun
22

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been around since about the 1980’s but all of a sudden you are hearing about Critical Race Theory on the news. What is it and what is it not? Why are you suddenly hearing about it? What will be the result of banning it? It started as a movement among legal scholars to explain why the liberal tactics of affirmative action, elections, and federal action which were the blueprint for Civil Rights Movement, haven’t produced the longed-for end of racism in our country. It seeks to understand how the social structure and the professed ideals of “equal protection,” and the “rule of law,” have helped maintain white supremacy and the subordination of people of color. It elucidates these connections in order to change them. It has been largely an academic movement discussed intellectually though some of its ideas have seeped into the mainstream especially as police violence against people of color has become a more prominent issue. Republican politicians and legislators are now starting to make it the figurehead whipping boy of an all-out assault on teaching about racism in public education from primary schools to university. Why? It doesn’t take much to convince people of color of the white supremacy in the politics, laws, and economic policies of this country. Preventing racism from being questioned or taught will not convince them of the absence of racism when their daily lived experience tells them otherwise. It is obviously addressed to white people and possibly their fringe hangers-on of color. We are seeing this movement to halt discussion of racism because of recent Republican losses in the presidency and the Senate. Republicans are appealing to whites who are threatened by the loss of their supremacy by painting themselves as the defenders against attacks against them and the growing threat of people of color or the politicians who support them. They are trying to regain the presidency and the Congress in the next elections.

Whether these politicians are honestly ignorant and do not believe there is structural racism or whether they are cynically doing it to gain voters, is largely irrelevant to me. I am sure there are both. I am more concerned about the effects their actions will have in the real world. Structural racism will continue whether they acknowledge it or not. In a world in which people of color are becoming a majority in this country (it is already true for the population entering grade school) attempts to plead that structural racism does not exist will become a harder and harder sell. This of course makes little difference to politicians who only look to the next election and not to the long run. If they did, they would come out against structural racism to put themselves on the side of the angels and the most voters. Indeed, we may be at a tipping point when their support of white supremacy has created such a backlash against them particularly among voters of color, but among some whites as well, that they will increasingly find it more and more difficult to win elections. That is why the suppression of voting rights is also important to them. They cannot even now win fair and open elections so they have to resort to limiting the franchise to “the right (read white) people.” Regardless of success or failure of federal efforts to protect voting rights, their voter suppression efforts, although they may appear to work for the next election cycle, will eventually fail to secure their victory among a declining white electorate. In fact, their voter suppression measures like restricting mail in voting and days, places, and times for voting may affect their own supporters who are aging. Control of state legislatures and governorships which has been sustained by outsized power of voters in rural areas, will be overwhelmed by the votes in urban areas and increasingly diverse suburban areas. This is even happening in Texas where I live which has been a solidly red state. Whether this happens by 2022, 2024 or later I cannot predict. I can say that eventually it will happen.

The problem with the ostrich proverbially sticking his head in the ground to ignore the danger approaching, will eventually plague the Republicans. While they may soothe themselves with palliative measures like banning public school discussion of racism, reality is coming for them and they may not be ready for it.

Oct
08

The amount of violence whites have inflicted on blacks is staggering. Police violence has been in the news lately, but there is the history of this violence stretches way back before this modern incarnation. Have you ever heard of a mob of angry blacks lynching a white person. How about attacking a white person who moved into a black neighborhood? Black folk attacking whites who were protesting? The very idea of these things is ludicrous. Until the 1960’s a race riot meant whites were attacking black folks rather than vice versa. Have you heard about these race massacres: Wilmington NC 1898, Atlanta 1906, Springfield, Illinois (which sparked the formation of the NAACP,) East St. Louis 1917,  26 cities (including Chicago) during the Red summer of 1919, Tulsa 1921 and Rosewood, Florida 1923. In each of these whites attacked blacks, killed black people, burned their homes and belongings. It was only from 1965 on that race riot meant blacks looting and burning. Even then they were attacking white storeowners in their community not marching out to the white suburbs attacking whites. I have often felt that the fear whites have about blacks is not about  some intrinsic violence in black people, but about a fear of blacks finally exploding in rage at the violence whites have perpetrated upon them and the subjugation blacks have endured. It is white guilt consciously or unconsciously leading to a projection of violent tendencies onto blacks. You can trace a direct line from the fear white slaveowners had of blacks rising up to end slavery and oppression, to the race massacres of the past, and the police violence of today.

Yet many bring up “black on black” violence to deflect charges of police brutality, as if that excuses it. Yes over 90% of violence against blacks has been perpetrated by other blacks. It is also true that over 80% of white violence is “white on white” violence. A better way to look at it would be to call it “proximity violence.” People commit violence most often against those closest to them. Most people committing violence don’t want to commute. Racial segregation, redlining, federal housing and loan policy show the lie that most residential segregation is because black folk want to live near other black folk and white folk most often want to live near other white folk. Whites have hidden behind a fear of declining property values or some other such rationalization. Racial segregation has been an explicit public policy.

That brings us to today. The few people commuting to commit violence are white folks like those in Charlottesville and Kyle Rittenhouse, both of whose victims were white. We have a president who has condoned this violence by calling them good people, celebrating them, and even telling the violent white supremacist group the Proud Boys to stand by. He has said that a loss of the election might trigger a civil war. The couple who threatened peaceful protestors as they were passing by, who brandished their weapons, were invited guests at the  2020 Republican convention. This presidential call for violence flies in the face of the FBI’s calling white supremacist groups the great domestic violence threat. Yet the president emboldens them. The news includes the FBI arrest of 13 people plotting to abduct the governor of Michigan and other Democrats to start a civil war. These incidents are examples of “white on white violence” that is done because of the furor which Trump has stirred up to mobilize his base. He has argued that there is an “antifa” organization trying to take away the freedom of Americans when law enforcement knows there is no such organization; that the Democrats are planning a socialist takeover of the country which figurehead Joe Biden will allow; and that federal “agents” (who are really a private army for him) are necessary to secure peace in protesting cities. These are lunatic charges that are being leant the power, credence and bully pulpit of the office of the president of the United States. Donald Trump may end up being the greatest perpetrator of white on white violence the country has known since the Civil War.

This goes beyond partisan politics to the very glue that holds our disparate ethnic groups and unequal economic system together. We used to believe that whatever the differences in political views were, the democratic system would allow a way to work them out without violence, That is no longer the case and the reason I see Trump as a threat to the very idea of democracy. There are certainly some Republicans and conservatives who agree, but they are not the rank and file. They are usually the Republican out-of-office elite. The rank and file are yet to be heard from and will be in the coming election. Let us pray that there are enough of these people who have awakened from Trump’s spell to see the naked truth and are repulsed by it.

 

Sep
01

I’ve been thinking. I struggle to understand why people continue to support Trump after he has demonstrated his unfitness to be president (at least in my eyes) time and time again. As a young math prodigy I learned that the mathematical systems we use depend upon which axions or postulates we accept as true and unquestionable. If you accept the principle that say zero multiplied by anything equals zero (zero x a = 0) you get a quite different mathematics than if you base it on the principle zero multiplied by anything equals that thing (zero x a = a.)  In short, where you start determines where you end up. The starting postulates are not arbitrary but determined by choices one makes.  Some resulting mathematical systems are useful e.g. Boolean algebra from which computer machine language developed, and some are simply mind experiments that have no value in the real world.

Something similar has happened among Trump supporters. Chinese philosophy defines Tao as the absolute principle underlying the universe or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order. What then are the axioms that people who support Trump believe in? What is the Tao of Trumpism? It would be too easy to say that it is white supremacy although that plays a role. It seems to me that the basic idea is that something has been taken from them or something threatens to take it from them. For example, non whites, immigrants, the “Deep State,” protestors, government sanctioned pedophiles, “socialists,”  or Democrats, are coming for your guns, rights, freedom, tax money, or neighborhoods,  Although none of these threats is real, the fear is. Trump has pitched himself as the only one who can prevent these things. Praising armed gunmen who attack protestors and denigrating silly things like the Constitution, laws that protect these threats, government policies that encourage or allow these threats. Despite his failure to adequately protect them by responding promptly and effectively to the corona virus, ignoring Russian bounties placed on American troops in Afghanistan, foreign policy failures like his North Korean and China fiascoes, failure to build his wall and have Mexico pay for it, his supporters still think of him as a savior. His re-election campaign is based upon exploiting this fear, by arguing that oatmeal man Joe Biden, despites his blandness and decent guy reputation is a new threat. He has supposedly been “captured” by the “left wing radicals” of the Democratic party and forced to go along with their agenda. This is what historian Richard Hofstatder dubbed “the paranoid style in American politics way back in 1964, in criticizing Barry Goldwater’s campaign.

The question is “will it work?” Are enough Americans dumb enough, misinformed enough, and fearful enough to continue to support this lazy and arrogant conman.  After all it did work in 2016. In the famous words of cynical, newspaper columnist H.L Mencken in 1926 “No one in this world, so far as I know … has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”  That there are convoys of armed men going to confront protestors, evangelical Christians who support this adulterer, sinner and unbeliever, poor people who support this champion of the rich against their own interests, is proof of the truth of this adage.  Part of the problem is misinformation. Trump and his administration spout lies that come like a torrent of water from an open fire hydrant, yet his supporters believe he is telling the truth. Right wing news and news silos persuade people. People have been taught to mistrust the mainstream media and their “lies.” The K – 12 educational system is not only failing to educate but indoctrinating students to believe in an America that doesn’t exist. The mainstream media coddled and didn’t challenge Trump lies for too long in a mistaken belief that it was being objective and presenting both sides.

However Trump won in 2016 not just because of this support, but because of the support he got from independents, suburban women, and those just fed up with the current system. I hope enough of these people have had enough of Trump. His margin of victory was slim, only hidden by the Electoral College. If he loses that support and the Democratic turnout for the election can overcome the Republican attempts at voter suppression and opposition to mail in voting, he may be in trouble. Although the fear that he may claim voter fraud if he loses the election remains high, November may finally bring an end to his reign and the would be king. If it doesn’t we will be facing a challenge to democracy from which we may not recover. Get out and vote.

Jan
22

I don’t think there is anyone who believes that Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will end in anything other than an acquittal along partisan lines. From even the limited evidence revealed so far there is no question that Trump withheld aid to the Ukraine authorized by Congress as in the national interest, in an attempt to extort Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Biden’s that would be in Trump’s personal interest in the 2020 election. The bigger game afoot is the 2020 elections. Republicans believe that their steadfast support of the president will aid them in gaining the votes of Trump supporters in their bids for re-election. Democrats believe that laying the case out that Trump is a self centered s.o.b. who puts his own interests ahead of the country’s, will lead to a backlash against him or at least a fatigue with him and this whole mess that will lead to his ouster. They hope that by painting the Republican defense of him as a cover-up they will gain enough opposition to them to sway the electorate in their favor. Adam Schiff as the lead Democratic presenter has been effective in making this case.

Some analysis I’ve read has argued that it is not Trump who is on trial here, but the Senate. Will senators, particularly Republican ones, but also Democratic ones, put country over self interest, morality over corruption, democracy over partisanship, and the Constitution over politics. I disagree. The Senate has already failed these tests based on their actions to date, their words, and their plans. They are counting on the American electorate to reward them rather than to punish them for being the low life scum they are. They are counting on the electorate to allow corruption because of indifference or eagerness to get certain policies passed. They are counting on the short term memory loss that would allow people them to forget in November what happened in January. They are counting on gerrymandering and voter suppression to make nonvoters of those opposed to them. They are counting on receiving corporate money to run misleading ads that portray these enemies of democracy as its defenders.

This means the trial is not of Trump or the Senate. It is a trial of us the electorate. Are we going to let them get away with it? Are we so inurred to, accepting of, and fatalistic about the corruption of those in high office that we will sigh and continue to live our little lives. Or will we “take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them?” (little shout out to Hamlet there.) In a real sense it is just as the founders feared, a test of the American experiment in democracy. Have we become so shallow that we allow demagogues to rule the country with impunity? Will we allow their words rather than the facts, the reality around us, to condition how we act?  Are we witnessing the failure of democracy?

I believe not. I still have hope that enough members of the electorate see through what Trump and the Republicans are doing to end the farce they are performing. I take solace in the polls that show a plurality or even a majority believe in Trump’s removal even though it probably won’t happen by impeachment. I remember that in 2016 a majority of the popular vote rejected him and his victory came by relatively few votes in some key places. Could he win again? Sure, if we are not vigilant. If the Democrats nominate a candidate who does not excite the electorate or convince them that they will govern in the interests of of the majority of people, Trump will win. We need to learn from the mistakes of last time, unite behind the Democratic candidate, not be misled by arrogance or overconfidence, offer a candidate who offers hope not division, and get out the vote especially in those key areas that Trump needs to win.  If we understand that it is democracy itself that is on the line, we will be able to have a government of the people, for the people and by the people. It is not a time for despair, it is a time for action. Do what you can to end this farce.

Sep
28

I recently had occasion to speak with a Trump supporting retired CEO who had a few dealings with Trump the businessman.  He said that those who call Trump stupid are way off base. For the record I have never called Trump stupid. Vain, narcissistic, corrupt, and a miserable excuse for a human being, sure, but never stupid. After all he was clever enough to take a fringe candidacy and turn it into a winning presidential campaign. That he did so through lies is just proof of his intelligence. He knew what lies to tell, how to tell them, and to whom. What Trump is though, is ignorant. Ignorant of the history of the founding of this country, the Constitution, the law, and the checks and balances in the government. He is treating the presidency as if he were CEO of the country when the founders explicitly set the system up to prevent a CEO, er, king, from ruling them. He argues that Article 2 of the Constitution allows him to do anything he wants when it actually does not. He finds that Constitution a burdensome thing which gets in his way more often than not. His lack of knowledge about the law is shown in how many of his policies are challenged or overturned in the courts until he can appoint enough judges or Supreme Court justices to support him. He is finding out now whether the check on his power called impeachment can overcome the support of the 62 million people who elected him in 2016 and those who will try to re-elect him in 2020.

His ignorance of the law was shown in his willingness to release the so called “transcript” of his telephone conversation with the Ukrainian leader in which he tries to get him to dig up dirt on Joe Biden’s son for the 2020 election and then give it to Attorney General Barr or his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. He sees nothing wrong with what he was trying to do and feels that the law can’t touch him for doing it. He is going after Biden who he sees as his most dangerous challenger among the Democratic presidential candidates. His aides understood that his actions may have been illegal and have had to work hard to cover it up as a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly exposes. It is not the first time that the legality of his actions as president have come under scrutiny e.g the Mueller report, which implies at least, that his obstructions of the Justice Department would have been prosecuted were it not Justice Department policy not to lodge cases against the President. To this point it has been the cowardice and ineptitude of Congress that has prevented the checks and balances established by the founders to do their job. Republicans fear that opposing Trump will cost them their seats because his supporters have taken over the party. The Democrats are a motley crew that so far haven’t been able to mount an effective challenge to Trump’s behavior. Those checks and balances exist regardless, just waiting for some true patriots, some real believers in preventing the tyranny of autocrats, some advocates of democracy, and some who put country over party, to use.

Trump is trusting that few of the electorate and few of his supporters will care that his actions are those of an autocrat. For all the independence and rebelliousness that Americans profess, long ago historians identified  an authoritarian strain in American society. Some love to be told what to do, that is, to have a leader who takes the burden of decision making off them. Some are more comfortable with things that are literally black or white where white is good and black is bad and that don’t mess with Mr. In-between. They relish simplicity rather than complexity, worship order and what they see as common sense, and believe in obedience to higher authority. It is still controversial whether there is an “authoritarian” personality within the electorate and whether Trump’s voters fall into that category. Here is a New York Times article that talks about that controversy. It remains to be seen whether Pelosi’s institution of an impeachment inquiry hurts or helps Trump’s approval rating.

I have never believed that impeachment is the way to get rid of Trump. Unless Trump’s enablers in Congress, especially in the Senate, grow some “cojones”, this impeachment process will come to nought. However, it may have an affect on the 2020 election, though it is risky. With over 13 months to go till the election and many chances for the Democrats to blow it, it remains to be seen if the electorate resists Trump’s authoritarianism or succumbs to it. It will be a very interesting 13 months.

Jul
31

Watching Donald Trump play the “race card” is fascinating. On the one hand he is appealing to his white supremacist base by using “dog whistle” racist comments, that is, by appealing to race while not using the word race itself. Racism is as racism does. It is only non-whites that he has railed against. You haven’t heard him tell any white congress people to go home to where they came from. He hasn’t told white congress people who represent majority white poor districts that their districts are unfit for human habitation. You haven’t heard him say or tweet that white immigrants are rapists. You haven’t heard him call places from which white immigrants come “shithole” countries.

Like all of his ilk he has little experience of African Americans and their lives. He presumes that African Americans all live in poverty with the exception of the entertainment and sports stars that he has met. He believes that most of them live in “shithole” countries or rat infested inner cities perhaps in buildings owned by his son-in-law. People of color are less than human and the conditions in which they live are the fault of their own laziness, culture, and politicians. In fact people of color don’t just “live” they “infest” as he has said many times, in many contexts.  This association of otherness with metaphors of disease has been used throughout many countries, at many times to justify the second class citizenship imposed on people of color. The blaming of non-white poverty on non-white behavior is a cornerstone of white superiority. His dog whistle racism is about solidifying his support among his base so you don’t hear similar things about the white poor who are the majority of the poor in this country.

At the same time by not mentioning race specifically he has been able to claim that his opponents are the ones who introduce race into the conversation of his racism. This is “blame the victim” at its finest and George Orwell’s “doublespeak” come to life. The authoritarian government in Orwell’s book 1984 says”War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength,” and now pointing out racism has become racism itself in the world of Trump. He goes further and claims that African American “leaders” like Elijah Cummings, Al Sharpton and even John Lewis, have not been able to improve conditions for black folk. He of course doesn’t mention the white institutions and politicians that keep them in poverty. He alludes to “corrupt” politicians (presumably but not exclusively black) who perpetuate their poverty. He doesn’t mention that he has done diddley-squat to help black folks specifically and doesn’t intend to do so. He takes credit for falling unemployment rates among African Americans when they actually began coming down under Obama. It is too soon to see the effects of his economic policies as they haven’t worked their way through the system yet, but they won’t create jobs and may in fact lead to recession. With his typical hyperbole he claims to have done more for African Americans than any other president. I guess he forgot about Lincoln freeing the slaves.

He is using race to get white support by not mentioning it and to get get nonwhite support by mentioning it. As the alien immigrant Mr. Spock would say, “fascinating.” His racism is that savage beast inside him yelling to the crowd and giving them license to release their own. According to recent polls most Americans realize that he is racist, though his supporters and enablers publicly deny it. The real question is not whether he is racist or not, he is, but what do we do about it.

 

Jul
15

I wondered why women continue to support Trump given his record of adultery, womanizing, misogynistic tweets, body shaming, and overall lechery. So I went online to look at statements from female supporters. I think I need a shower now. What I found was that women support him mostly for the same reasons men support him. They like the conservative policies he espouses, they don’t believe his critics in the mainstream media which they feel is biased against him, and they are willing to accept his character flaws because as one woman put it “he’s not dating my daughter.” They praise his bluntness, what they see as his candor, and the fact that he speaks directly to them. They believe he speaks the “truth” unlike the politicians who came before him. They excuse his “toxic masculinity” because they reason that all men, including their husbands, sometimes speak and think this way.

What to make of all this? First of all, anyone who believes that Trump speaks the “truth” is beyond arguing with. They are immune to facts, logic, different experiences, and anything that contradicts him. The Democrats think there is a spectrum of Trump supporters that range from the “true believers” to those who can be swayed and won over to centrist Democratic candidates. I do not think so. Secondly, his supporters agree with his racism even though some try to protest against the way he expresses it. I do not shy away from calling his followers racists although some argue that they are not all this way. Yes they are. Some deny it, some resent it, and some admit it when they are confronted with this label. Those who do not call him out on his racism, accept or condone it, or even deny it, are themselves racists especially when they do not admit it. Time and time again we see whites who feel that racism is a state of mind and if they do not have that state of mind then they are not racist. Racism is not just a state of mind, it is a series of actions. If you perform those actions, if you behave that way, you are racist whatever state of mind you are in. If you support Trump’s racism by inaction, silence, or looking the other way, then you are racist. How’s that for bluntness?

Some analysts believe that it is counter productive to call out their racism because it means they will stop listening to you. I would argue that they are not listening to you anyway. They see politics as a “holy war,” a moral crusade, with those who disagree with you as “the enemy” who must be defeated not compromised with. Normally I would try to reason with them, but that is impossible. The American political system is based upon the idea of a loyal opposition who will compromise with those in power to get things done, who believe in the same enemies, and will work for the country’s good. This is not the situation that we face. The “good” each side believes in is not the same. Trump’s lily white 1950 country with whites in charge is at odds with a reality in which people of color already outnumber whites in the under 15 age groups and will eventually do so in all age groups. The “good” the other side sees is a diverse America, where people of all races have opportunity, and live together in harmony. They differ in what will make America great and whether it was ever so. Working together for the country’s good has been replaced by win at all cost.  This is a battle, a holy war if you will, for who we want to be as a country. The Trump supporters realize it, the Democrats need to understand that too.

One of the things that was so striking in these interviews was the the normalization of “toxic masculinity.”  Trump’s female supporters give him a pass on his outrageous behavior because they feel he is like most men only more candid about it. Accusations against him and Brett Kavanagh for example are brushed aside and women are criticized either for coming forward too late or for coming forward at all. What saddens me is that this is accepted as just what women have to put up with now and in the past. The “Me too” movement is just women being overly sensitive and protesting too much. The resignation to this behavior in their husbands and towards their daughters is tragic.

Finally they feel that Trump’s policy have not only not hurt them, but have improved their lives and the country. This is white privilege at its finest. From the safety of their homes they criticize people who are running for their lives. They are not people of color who can be told to go back to their “shithole” home countries, they are not refugees who can be put in concentration camps, they are not illegal immigrants separated from their children, they are not the religious or ethnic minorities who they feel have gotten too much in the past, and they are not people who have to endure ethnic slurs, police intimidation, a biased court system, or high rates of incarceration. Trump supporters’ lack of empathy for non-whites is astounding. Instead they blame the victim, denigrate them as at best a different species, not human at all.  This behavior calls for us to do some soul searching. Who do we want to be as people? Who do we want to teach our children to be?