Tag Archives: GOP

It’s Not Politics: It’s Morality

Jennifer Rubin is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post. Her column on July 31st was a scathing analysis of Donald Trump and the political and moral challenge his candidacy poses to the GOP.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana (R) knew what they were getting into when they climbed aboard the Donald Trump bandwagon. They had watched him insult minorities, POWs, the disabled and women. They had seen for themselves how utterly ignorant he was about basic policy concepts. They knew he lied about big and small things (e.g., falsely saying he opposed the Iraq War, reneging on charity pledges until shamed by The Post). They knew he’d stiffed and swindled Trump U students. They never should have backed him; they were abetting a vile individual attaining the country’s most powerful office, for which he was patently unfit. Pence went a step further in agreeing to be his running mate, and now travels around the country cheerleading for Trump.

Rubin recounted the now-ubiquitous details of Trump’s attack on the Kahns–a Muslim Gold Star family–and notes in passing that it would be political karma if, after smearing all Muslims, his attack on these particular Muslims was the “bridge too far” that ultimately brought him down.

Rubin’s column wasn’t written to add to the mounting recognition of the danger Trump poses for America, however. It was a challenge to the Republicans who continue to support and enable him.

What does Pence, father of  Marine 2nd Lt. Michael J. Pence, do? He directs the press wanting comment to Trump. Really, that’s it? One wonders how 2nd Lt. Pence — and all the other Americans risking their lives — feel about that. Pence’s silence and continued presence on the ticket suggest he considers Trump within the bounds of normal political discourse. If Pence had a modicum of dignity or decency, he would tell the American people, “I made a terrible mistake. Mr Trump is so morally bankrupt and of such shabby character that I could not possibly serve with him.” Failing to do so, the same should be said of Pence….

The offices of Ryan and McConnell wouldn’t comment on Trump’s slur against Ghazala Khan or ludicrous claim he’s “sacrificed” just as the Khans have. Their spokesmen would only repeat the bosses’ prior remarks on Trump’s Muslim stances. That’s not the point. They know this but they are abdicating moral leadership because they cannot possibly justify their support of Trump. In their silence, they condone Trump and stand with him.

Rubin is unimpressed with the excuse that other Republican candidates find themselves in a difficult bind, unwilling to incur the hostility of Trump’s supporters by distancing themselves from his repugnant accusations.

Republicans who fell in line behind Trump cannot escape the moral stench he emits. He disrespects parents of a fallen warrior; they do as well with their silence. He attacks other Americans, lies habitually and embodies none of the qualities we expect of elected leaders; they demonstrate moral and political cowardice in refusing to condemn him.

At the end of the day, Rubin–and the many other Republicans who have publicly refused to support the GOP nominee–is making a moral argument. For moral individuals, love of country, concern for civility and fair play, and simple intellectual honesty should take precedence over partisan loyalty.

Paul Krugman recently made the same point.

The real sinners here are Republican leaders — people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell — who are actively supporting a candidate whom they know poses a danger to the nation. It’s not hard to see why they’re doing this. Opposing their party’s nominee, no matter how awful he is, would probably end up being a career killer.

But there are times when you’re supposed to put such considerations aside. The willingness of some people who know better to support Donald Trump is understandable; it’s also despicable.

And these columns were written before Trump suggested that “2nd Amendment people” could “take care” of Hillary.

Choosing a Future

If there is one clear message that emerged from the just-concluded political party conventions, it is that, in November, Americans will choose not just between two sets of candidates, but between two very different visions of America and our future.

I’ve always been a fan of science fiction–not “space opera,” but explorations of where mankind might be headed, extrapolations of current trends that raise interesting, even profound, questions about the nature of humanity and society. So the opening of the most recent Star Trek movie prompted me to compare Gene Roddenberry’s vision to the portrayals of America and its future on display at the Republican and Democratic conventions.

Roddenberry’s creation has been remarkably durable: there have been several television series and movies, spanning a period of fifty years. There is a reason for that. His portrayal of a positive future and a mature humanity is immensely appealing.

On the starship’s bridge, diverse members of Earth’s population work amicably with a variety of representatives of other planets. There is respect for difference, for the right of crewmates from other cultures to live according to their beliefs, so long as they respect the Federation’s rules in return. That respect is incorporated in the Prime Directive, which forbids interference with other planetary cultures. (The Federation doesn’t engage in “nation building.”)

There is explicit respect for science, education, and intellectual achievement, and for mankind’s quest to learn—to “seek out” and “go where no one has gone before.”

There is recognition of the importance of a legal framework that safeguards the moral foundations of society and confers authority. But authority, in Roddenberry’s world, does not come from legal status. It is earned by demonstrated competence and superior performance, and is expressed with intelligence, maturity and empathy.

There could hardly be a more dramatic contrast to Roddenberry’s “kumbaya” vision and humanitarian values than the overwhelming fear and anger exhibited by Republicans in Cleveland.

At the Democratic convention, we got optimism and uplifting messages about America’s potential.

In Cleveland, we got name-calling and stereotyping; the values displayed by the GOP at its convention were the antithesis of those championed by Roddenberry.

Respect for science? The GOP not only rejected scientific consensus on climate change, a significant percentage want to replace the theory of evolution with creationism in public school science classes.

Respect for the rule of law? Trump has demonstrated a total lack of familiarity with the Constitution, and has championed policies that are patently unconstitutional. Meanwhile, convention delegates clearly supported Senate Republicans’ refusal to follow the Constitution and “advise and consent” to Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination.

In Cleveland, in marked contrast to the multi-ethnic, multi-species bridge of the Enterprise, a crowd of overwhelmingly white, predominantly older delegates tried to mask the extreme divisions in their party by focusing on the one thing that they hope can unify them: fear and hatred of the Other. Hatred of Hillary Clinton, of Democrats, of Muslims, of immigrants, of LGBTQ Americans.

Throughout the GOP convention, Donald Trump displayed an understanding of “leadership”  very different from Roddenberry’s. Trump confuses authoritarianism with earned authority; he’s a “tough guy” who doesn’t bother to display mastery of –or even acquaintance with–the issues at hand, a thug who disdains restraint, nuance and expertise, who proposes to dominate by demanding, rather than earning, respect, and who responds to even the mildest criticism with childish name-calling in lieu of reasoned response.

Jean-Luc Picard he’s not.

At the Democratic convention, speaker after speaker argued for American possibility, and appealed to the “better angels of our nature.” One paragraph of President Obama’s superb speech, in particular, made me think of Roddenberry:

I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, young, old, gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love.

Speakers at the Republican convention, in stark contrast, painted a picture of a dystopia in which our only option is to hunker down, arm ourselves against our fellow-citizens, and barricade America against the rest of the world.

In November, what we will really decide is which of these visions will shape our future.

The Party of Cultural Resentment

Among all of the thousands of words being penned and posted by observers of the GOP’s convention, the phrase that may have most aptly summed up the current character of the Grand Old Party was an observation that it had devolved into the “party of cultural resentment.” (I wish I remembered where I read that, so that I could properly recognize the author.)

Trump began this political cycle with his embrace of birtherism–a stance firmly grounded in the conviction that an African-American could not possibly be a legitimate occupant of the Oval Office.

Trump’s Presidential campaign has been upfront and unembarrassed about its anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim positions; it has been somewhat more covert in its appeal to white supremacists and anti-Semites, but not much. David Duke remains positively euphoric about Trump’s candidacy, as are a number of other avowed racists. The campaign has regularly tweeted out quotations and symbols first posted to white supremacist websites.

At the Convention, on day one, the party had to close down its online chat feature after it was swamped with what was characterized as an “anti-Jewish hatefest.”

You can live stream the Republican National Convention on the RNC’s official YouTube page, but you can’t chat about it live anymore.

Why, you ask? Because the Republicans have now disabled the live chat window on the page after it got overrun by anti-Semitic Trump supporters.

It is hard to avoid the impression that the major source of Trump’s support is cultural grievance–resentment at the perceived displacement of WASP Americans from their formerly privileged social status. That sense of displacement hits particularly hard in people who are otherwise dissatisfied with their lives or economic prospects; it is noteworthy that Trump currently trails Clinton in polls of college-educated whites, a demographic that has previously been a reliably Republican voting bloc.

Trump’s campaign has drawn comparisons to Nixon’s southern strategy, but his appeal to the dark side has actually been far more blatant. The question is: how will the American public respond?

The frightening possibility is that, win or lose, this campaign will normalize an ugly underside of American culture, an underside that “political correctness”–aka civility and humanity–had kept mostly contained.

The hopeful possibility is that voters will reject Trump et al by a margin crushing enough to send the clear message that he, his campaign, and increasingly, his party, are the antithesis of what America stands for.

At the end of the day, the Republican “team players”– the ones who Rick Wilson (a longtime GOP operative) calls “Vichy Republicans”–  will have been responsible for one of two results: furthering national division and tribalism, making the country even more ungovernable; or the destruction of the current iteration of the Republican party.

 

Birthday Wishes…

Today is our nation’s birthday, and birthdays are a time to take stock.

If the 4th is a day to focus on America and its government “of the people,” it may also be a day for considering the sources of our various dysfunctions.

Like gerrymandering. (Yes, I know I talk about that a lot. But it’s more important than most of us realize.)

While I was on vacation, I read a book with a title that cannot be fully shared: “Ratf***cked” tells how operatives of the Republican party raised money, gathered experts and manipulated the redistricting process across the nation after the last census–totally outsmarting Democrats. (Democrats emerge from this story as disorganized and feckless, at best.)

The book is worth reading; it was written by a political reporter who interviewed most of the central “players” and followed the process in the most gerrymandered states (including Indiana). The obvious moral of the story is that in politics, attention to process matters hugely–and that the disinterest of most citizens in our democratic processes enables the sorts of chicanery that the book documents.

But there is a rosier side to this story, at least for those of us who are into irony, and it falls under the heading of be careful what you wish for.

The Congressional representatives elected from the large numbers of “safe forever” seats have made it impossible for their enablers to govern. They have no party loyalty; they are not team players in the appropriate sense of that term. They know that the only threat to their continued electoral success comes from their right flank back home–not from the party, not from the Speaker, not even from the party’s big donors.

If you don’t believe me, ask John Boehner. Or Paul Ryan. Or closer to home, Brian Bosma. Those oh-so-safe districts created by mapmaking whiz kids have given each of them a group of wholly intransigent lunatics to deal with, officeholders accountable to no one but the most rabid members of the party base in their home districts. Those zealots have made it nearly impossible to pursue the party’s legislative goals.

The success of the GOP’s “ratf**cking” (otherwise known as redistricting) is why most political observers do not think the Democrats can retake the House in 2016, even if they win the Presidency resoundingly. As one of the effort’s technicians put it, it would take a Democratic sweep of 5 or 6 points to reclaim the House, and victories of that scope are highly unlikely.

Of course, the party operative making that observation didn’t anticipate Donald Trump…

Happy birthday, America! Maybe your citizens can get you a reformed redistricting system for your next one…

Who Are We?

It’s bad enough that after the tragedy in Orlando, despite a Senate filibuster and a House sit-in, lawmakers remained in thrall to the NRA, refusing to pass even the most tepid gun control measures.

Less publicized was the fact that– even as they were offering their “prayers” for the victims–House Republicans once again refused to allow a vote that would have extended equal civil rights to LGBT citizens.