Category Archives: Random Blogging

Then What?

In two weeks, Americans will finally go to the polls. The fat lady hasn’t sung, but she’s humming, and unless every reputable pollster in the U.S. is monumentally wrong, Donald Trump will lose by a very substantial margin.

What we don’t yet know is how much damage the Orange Disaster will do to the “down ticket” races. For the sake of the republic, I’d like to see the Democrats take both the Senate (likely) and the House (not so likely), because otherwise, we are likely to continue the partisan gridlock that has prevented the federal government from functioning at anything but a bare minimum.

When the only thing Republicans can agree on is the need to block anything and everything proposed by a Democratic President, it’s no wonder judicial vacancies (at all levels) go unfilled, only stopgap budgets get passed, decaying infrastructure goes unattended and even urgently needed responses to public health crises are months late.

Whatever the contours of the next Congress, however, the GOP will face an immediate quandary. Can the party be stitched back together? Can its three distinct elements–the white nationalists, the Religious Right and the business/”country club”/establishment wing–continue to coexist in the same political organization?

An article by the Brookings organization suggests that the Republicans take a lesson from British Prime Minister Theresa May, who recently laid out what Brookings described as “a bold plan to reform her country—and her party.”

Prime Minister May framed her party’s task as creating what she calls a “Great Meritocracy”—a country “built on the values of fairness and opportunity, where everyone plays by the same rules and where every single person—regardless of their background, or that of their parents—is given the chance to be all they want to be.” It shouldn’t matter, she said, “where you were born, who your parents are, where you went to school, what your accent sounds like, what god you worship, whether you’re a man or a woman, or black or white.” But if we are honest, she concluded, we will admit that this is not the case today.

Back when I was a member of a very different GOP, those sentiments may not have been universally embraced by the party’s rank and file, but the commitment to meritocracy and the rule of law were at least Republican talking points.

Working-class conservatism can be nationalist without being nativist or isolationist, Mrs. May insisted. It can reassert Britain’s control over immigration without endorsing prejudice against immigrations. It can reassert sovereignty over Britain’s laws and regulations without withdrawing from Europe or the world. And it can respect success in the market while insisting that the successful members of society have commensurate responsibilities to their fellow citizens.

I was particularly struck by the following quote from her speech, because it echoed populist themes that tend, in the U.S., to come from the Democrats:

 So if you’re a boss who earns a fortune but doesn’t look after your staff, an international company that treats tax laws as an optional extra . . . a director who takes out massive dividends while knowing the company pension is about to go bust, I’m putting you on notice: This can’t go on anymore. A change has got to come. And . . . the Conservative Party is going to make that change.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, the United States desperately needs two adult, responsible political parties. We don’t have a parliamentary system; there is very little likelihood of a third party–new or existing–emerging to fill the void that is the current GOP.

That said, I don’t see how the Chamber of Commerce members coexist with the David Dukes and the Roy Moores. I don’t see how a party that sneers at the very enterprise of government and views large (and growing) segments of its fellow citizens with disdain and explicit bigotry can expect to win elections.

I guess we just need to stay tuned…

Who Are We?

A few weeks ago, a friend shared an essay from the Philadelphia Magazine that I’ve now reread more than once. It was all about bravery in times of American crisis--not, as the author explained, the personal courage that people display running into burning buildings and in similar exploits, but civic bravery, which she describes as

directly related to being a citizen, and it requires both personal courage and a bigger-picture, idealistic, long-game sort of mind-set. That strain of bravery, birthed in Philly in 1776, is what Americans both great and unknown would tap into in years to come, and what propelled most everything we think of as progress in this country: women’s suffrage, the New Deal, the Freedom Riders and so forth.

The article goes on to hone in on an aspect of American society that has been the focus of much punditry, not to mention a number of comments to this blog–the pervasiveness of an unbecoming fear that is both self-serving and disproportionate to the objects that trigger it:

The troublesome part about all of this is that so many of us seem unable or unwilling nowadays to accept fear as part of being alive in tumultuous times, or to push for the greater good despite personal risk (or perceived personal risk) the way our best countrymen have through the ages. How else to explain why our elected politicians can’t get past reelection concerns to pass even the basic gun legislation when most Americans clamor for it? Why else are so many unarmed young black men, one after the next after the next, dying at the hands of police officers? How to reconcile otherwise compassionate, charitable people scared to welcome refugees fleeing certain death (yearning to breathe free, just like your great-grandparents)?

After quoting former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski for the proposition that fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and paves the way for demagogues, she says the obvious: “Hey Mr. Brzezinski, meet Mr. Trump.”

The essay ends on a hopeful note, citing signs that might portend a revival of civic bravery. Some–like substituting Harriet Tubman for Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill–don’t seem particularly brave to me, but at a time when the Presidential candidate of a major American political party has enabled and normalized bigotry (with, it must be noted, the enthusiastic approval of a majority of that party’s members), Black Lives Matter certainly fits the bill. As she notes,

The time I spent writing this overlapped with the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers, followed by a sniper attack that killed five officers guarding otherwise peaceful protests. It seems there is no end to the fear and the hateful fruit it bears. But then: Black Lives Matter, a movement started mostly by millennials, is gaining momentum across all generations. This movement begun by blacks is roiling across races, as more people are finding that the essential nubs — life, liberty, innocents not being shot to death, not allowing fear to ruin lives — are too important to ignore. The movement is facing down threats, counter-protesters, online vitriol, death. But it goes on. Think of that photo from the Baton Rouge protests a few months back: a young black woman, a calm protester, standing wordless and serene in the street, surrounded by faceless police in riot gear. No puppies. No bubbles. Civil Bravery circa 2016, it turns out, looks an awful lot like Civil Bravery circa 1965.

The entire essay is worth a read–and some sober consideration.

The Id Takes Over

This Presidential campaign has been like turning over a rock and seeing the cockroaches scamper out. I really didn’t think it could get any worse.

And I never, ever expected to agree with Charles Krauthammer about, well, anything. But even he was appropriately appalled by Trump’s “lock her up” descent into banana Republicanism–and the hypocrisy of denouncing him only when the “groping” tape emerged.

His views on women have been on open display for years. And he’d offered a dazzling array of other reasons for disqualification: habitual mendacity, pathological narcissism, profound ignorance and an astonishing dearth of basic human empathy.

All true. But everything we already know about the Orange One really does pale before his “unshackled” version, which is unabashedly embracing every white supremacist fever dream and unhinged conspiracy theory floating around the sewer of the “alt-right.”

Donald Trump has indulged in conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace, the FBI’s “rigged” probe of Hillary Clinton, the Federal Reserve’s “political” agenda and whether Ted Cruz’s father was linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

With his presidential campaign in full-blown crisis on Thursday, Trump was at it again, putting a new spin on a familiar tactic.

This time, there was a bigger, badder villain — “a global power structure” of corporate interests, the media and Clinton engaging in subterfuge.

As I read reports of his bizarre speech to a rally in West Palm Beach, I remembered a friend’s wry comment from our days in the Hudnut Administration. A neighborhood group had accused the administration of a conspiracy of some sort; after noting that we really weren’t capable of pulling off sophisticated plots, he remarked that simple incompetence explains so much more than complicated conspiracies.

Unless, of course, you are a bat-shit insane megalomaniac absolutely incapable of accepting responsibility for your own behavior.

“For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind. Our campaign represents a true existential threat like they haven’t seen before,” Trump said…

A day earlier, Trump appeared to allege, without evidence, that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and other GOP elected officials who distanced themselves from him were involved in a mass scheme to undermine him.

“There’s a whole deal going on — we’re going to figure it out. I always figure things out. But there’s a whole sinister deal going on,” he said.

Trump charged that Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special-interest friends and her donors.” As Martin Longman put it, at Washington Monthly,

Yesterday, he might as well have put the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his teleprompter for all the subtlety he used in going after the media and international bankers. He will be the new Father Coughlin and he’ll make plenty of money.

“International bankers” thus joins the racism of Trump’s “birtherism,” the xenophobia of his rancid anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and his “Alpha male” misogyny. His anti-Semitism–previously a bit more subtle–has now become more overt.

Donald Trump’s supporters in the white nationalist movement have found who is to blame for the tape in which the Republican nominee brags about sexually assaulting women: “The Jews.” Trump’s racist supporters are claiming that Republican consultant Dan Senor leaked the tape, and are responding with anti-Semitic attacks.

Members of the “alt-right” and white nationalist movement have been heavily supporting Trump’s campaign, and the candidate and his team have been courting members of the movement, including by appearing in white nationalist media, refusing to denounce them, and retweeting their messages.

The Daily Stormer is a virulently anti-Semitic website that celebrates Nazism, purports to document the “Jewish Problem,” and attacks “kikes.” Editor Andrew Anglin wrote an October 11 post claiming that “we knew whoever leaked the tape was a Jew. And a #NeverTrump Jew advisor to Paul Ryan is currently being pointed at as being responsible. Dan Senor.” He called Senor “a #NeverTrump kike” and concluded:

If we lose this election, it is going to be because of this pussy-grabbing tape. And having it be known that it was a Jew is extremely important. One of the GOP’s Jews being responsible makes it all the better.

Because if we lose, this country is going to enter a new age of anti-Semitism.

The 35% or so of the country that is hardcore pro-Trump is going to know that it wasn’t “liberals” that defeated Trump, but traitors within the party who abandoned him. And they are going to want to know why that happened.

And there is only one answer:

The Jews did it.

Yes, we Jews–in league with the Clintons, the banks, the Republican establishment, the media, the Kenyan Muslim in the White House (and probably the aliens who landed at Roswell)….all of whom are expertly and covertly co-ordinating a conspiracy to destroy America by defeating Donald Trump.

We do not have enough mental health professionals in this country.

Can We Spell Misogyny?

Okay, we all know what Donald Trump thinks of women. But how widespread is sexism, and how much Hillary-hatred does it explain?

A recent article in the Huffington Post was titled, “Stop Pretending You Don’t Know Why People Hate Hillary Clinton.”

It began

We go on endlessly about how “untrustworthy” she is, while fact checkers rank her as the second-most honest prominent politician in the country. (And her opponent as by far the least.)

We say that she has trouble with transparency, while her opponent refuses to release his taxes and the current administration sets records for secrecy.

We decry her ties to corporations and the financial industry, while supporting a walking tax shelter or mourning the exit of a president whose re-election was funded by a record-shattering Wall Street haul.

We list so very many explanations, all of them complete bullshit.

The remainder of the article (okay, rant) points out that for every accusation leveled at Clinton, similar or far worse behaviors have been exhibited by male politicians, many of whom are widely considered to have been excellent public servants.

The truth is, Hillary Clinton is held to a wildly different standard than male politicians–even when you discount the fixation with her clothes (pantsuits!), her voice (annoying!), her laugh (too shrill!) and other attributes that rarely merit mention when the politician is a man.

As the author noted,

When the Bush administration was discovered to have erased millions of emails illegally sent by 22 administration officials through private, RNC-owned accounts, in order to thwart an investigation into the politically motivated firing of eight US attorneys, just one talk show covered it that Sunday.

When Mitt Romney wiped servers, sold government hard drives to his closest aides and spent $100,000 in taxpayer money to destroy his administration’s emails, it was barely an issue.

When Hillary Clinton asked Colin Powell how he managed to use a Blackberry while serving as Secretary of State, he replied by detailing his method of intentionally bypassing federal record-keeping laws.

Gee–I wonder what the difference is….

Talk about your double standards: as Clinton is expected to walk an impossible line, we learn that, among his other sexist and predatory behaviors, Trump wanted the restaurants at his golf courses to fire women he found insufficiently attractive. If there was any doubt, the recent disclosure of the taped discussion with Billy Bush made it abundantly clear that, in his opinion, females are merely for decoration, sexual gratification and (inconveniently) procreation.

How dare one of us run for President!

As many of the readers of this blog know, I ran for Congress in 1980. Relatively few women had been candidates, even by that time, although the men who ran for public office depended mightily on the women who staffed their campaign offices, stuffed their envelopes (we actually used snail mail back then) and handled the nitty-gritty of campaign work. I can attest to the double standard that was applied, and to the patronizing attitudes even of many who supported me.

That was nearly 40 years ago. You would think we’d have made more progress.

News flash, misogynists: These days, being President or Congressperson or CEO rarely requires the ability to pound your hairy chest after killing large animals or capturing a mate. What today’s political or commercial jobs require are skills that are as– or more– likely to be found among us “weaker sex” females: intelligence, yes, but also a penchant for collaboration and compromise, an ability to learn by listening, and a genuine concern for the well-being of others.

So–all you men who are uncomfortable with a loss of male dominance and privilege–Get over it.