The Explanation

I  no  longer know where  I found  this quote–I neglected to record its origin. It  may have been from  a private exchange, but if not, and if any of you reading this can point me to the source, I’d appreciate  it.

The thing  is, it really explains a  lot:

I looked at the hundreds of people at Trump’s rally tonight, unmasked and older, and almost all so very white, and saw a group of people so afraid of the future they are willing to say yes, willing to throw in their lot with a malignant narcissist because he tells them they can recover a world in which they felt more relevant, a world they control.

A reactionary group of older white men look at a global future in which questions of clean energy, climate change, economic fairness, and human equality are uppermost, and their reaction is to cling to a world they control.

I’ve recently read several commentaries pooh-poohing what their authors  regard as  “over the top” descriptions  of what’s  at stake on  November 3d. I don’t know what reality those authors inhabit, or what histories have informed their opinions, but I firmly believe that anyone who doesn’t see this election as an existential choice is either willfully blind or disastrously uninformed.

Every single day, credible media report on new actions taken by this administration that intentionally undermine the common good. Environmental protections have been eliminated, public schools undermined, the rule of law decimated. Trump’s tweets and rhetoric continually set Americans against each other. Agencies charged with the health and well-being of the population have been subverted, and people have died  unnecessarily as a  result. A lot of people.

In place of the  accountability and communication Americans have a right to expect, we are   inundated daily with lies, manipulated videos, altered quotations–constant disinformation and propaganda.

If Trump was simply incompetent, that would be troubling but not existential. If  he  was simply corrupt, that would  be concerning, but  also not existential. But he and the supine GOP have gone  much further than mere incompetence and corruption.

Traditional aspirations–think “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” have been turned upside-down in favor of an increasingly explicit white nationalism. In the place of  a platform and policies, Trump and the GOP  that is now his reflection simply promote fear–fear of the “other,”  fear of losing white Christian male dominance, fear of social change. In place of efforts to bring us together, they continue to sow discord and encourage political tribalism. 

In the last  few days, Trump has increased  his encouragement of violence and mayhem,  presumably believing  that increased unrest will cause voters to rally to  his  “law and  order”  candidacy.

What keeps me up at night is the possibility that my life-long belief  in the essential goodness  of most Americans–not all,  but most–has been misplaced. What if there  are many more white guys afraid of a future they have to share with women and dark people than I ever thought?

I follow Nate Silvers’ FiveThirtyEight.com, and have  trouble wrapping my head around the polling that shows a steady 40% approval  of the childish buffoon who has commandeered our government. I look at scholarly research showing that “racial  anxiety”–i.e., racism–is the single most  reliable  predictor of support for Trump and his GOP. I see  comments on Facebook  by presumably reasonable people endorsing  bizarre conspiracy theories and patently obvious untruths.

And I’m terrified. When I wake up on November 4th, I want to breathe a  sigh of relief because the people I believed in have gone to  the polls and put an end to our four-year American nightmare.

What  if I’ve been wrong all these years? What if  it can  happen  here?

47 thoughts on “The Explanation

  1. It can. And, wow, it isn’t just men who embraced that vision. That ANY woman could support TRE45ON then or now is beyond me but there’s evidence that SOME who voted for him in ‘16 are abandoning him, and cancelling out their hubbie’s vote. That’s a foundational crack in the wall for his re-election.

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-06-26/behind-trumps-sharp-slump-white-women-who-stuck-with-him-before-are-abandoning-him-now

  2. For several years, we spent winters sailing in Central America. We have recently begun joking that if Trump wins another term we would move to Belize. The closer we get to the election, the less of a joke it seems.

  3. In my opinion, for whatever that’s worth, which is about zero on this blog, would be to first examine: What, “in the hell,” did we do that allowed this catastrophe to happen? Then maybe we might have a fighting chance to save our families and, maybe, even ourselves.

  4. I share your concern. I can’t believe the people that I know in real life that either say they still don’t know who to vote for or think Trump has done “a good job with some things” and “they like his policies.” The lack of critical thinking and empathy with others is appalling.

  5. Before everyone on this blog goes bat shit crazy with despair over our country’s present situation let me remind you of the mid and late 60s and early 70s. Back then the country was up to its neck in Vietnam, there were assassinations, the Civil Rights movement was still underway, Nixon was committing crimes, and the Women’s Movement had begun. If families and friends did not divide over the war, they did over civil rights. Young men were drafted into the army, or they dodged that duty, or they took off for Canada. There were riots and more riots. The night Martin Luther King was assassinated federal troops had to be called out in Washington DC in order to protect the Capitol and the White House. It seemed that we were coming apart…. but we didn’t.
    As the British say, ” Keep calm and bugger on.”
    And for some real cheering up take a drive up North Meridian Street to the Governor’s mansion. Check out the yard signs… the dozens and dozens of Black Lives Matter and Biden signs. Imagine the Republican politicos having to drive pass all of that on their way to Holcomb’s temporary housing.

  6. Theresa,

    Very well said. When one party exhibits fear, the opposition wins. Yes, we’ve been down risky and existential roads before, but this one is different.

    As Sheila points out that title from Sinclair Lewis of 1935, “It Can’t Happen Here”, Marv concurs: It IS happening here. We have more punditry today than ever before, and some of it is poignant beyond the words: “EVERYTHING TRUMP TOUCHES DIES” is my favorite and most informative.

  7. I’m going to comment on yesterday’s blog after reading the late posts this morning regardubg what I gleaned from many of the responses agreeing with the German trial of unearned income ultimate outcome and trying it here. What I see is why Republicans have always called Democrats bleeding heart liberals with their give-away programs. It came to mind that it is not unlike the Edward Snowden dumping of many thousands of hacked E-mails only because he could which led to his exile in Russia. A line from the movie “Jurassic Park” came to mind; the scientists proved they could recreate the Jurassic Age but never considered if they SHOULD. Had Snowden released specific E-mails revealing information which the public should be aware of, he would have been hailed a hero and would be comfortably living in his home country of America. Giving away cash without knowing the recipients need for help is a waste with so many in this country in need of jobs, food, homes and medical care who are deserving of the help. Personally; I do not want a handout, but an occasional helping hand when needed.

    The same “Jurassic Park” question can be applied to today’s blog about Trump and his supporters; it is highly probable that they can carry this election to another four years of Trump’s dangerous words and actions but none of them have asked if they SHOULD.

    “…a group of people so afraid of the future they are willing to say yes, willing to throw in their lot with a malignant narcissist because he tells them they can recover a world in which they felt more relevant, a world they control.”

    They fear change will happen if their “malignant narcissist” is voted out so they say “yes”, never asking if they should so they stay united. We know there will be no change if he stays and with that knowing, we live in fear and yet we continue in-fighting about petty grievances. Their fear immobilizes them into one cohesive group living their American dream; our fear splits us into separate immobilized groups aware of the current American nightmare. Republicans refuse any and all explanations for change; but we are the ones who need to explain why we cannot/do not unite to force change.

  8. Well, in case you couldn’t imagine it getting worse, it just did. US Marshalls just killed the Portland suspect in the murder of a right-wing counter-protestor. He called to turn himself in and was murdered by Marshalls during the arrest. They claim a gun was brandished. The shit is going to hit the fan.

    Instead of focusing on the Kakistocracy known as the Trump administration, maybe we should spend more time looking behind the scenes at those funding his campaign to stay in power despite his “buffoonery.”

    Max Blumenthal has a membership of the Christian-right organization known as the Council for American Policy. Now, why would these loving Christians support conmen like Donald Trump and Mike Pence? Why do they want the USA to be the laughing stock of the world?

    https://thegrayzone.com/2020/08/30/membership-list-powerful-secretive-christian-right-america/

  9. Theresa and Vernon,

    Agreed. But we have never faced anything like this before. No doubt more and more people are becoming alert, to the fact that the “house is burning down.” You need more than that. You have to have the ability to “extinguish the fire,” BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

  10. Todd,

    “Instead of focusing on the Kakistocracy known as the Trump administration, maybe we should spend more time looking behind the scenes at those funding his campaign to stay in power despite his “buffoonery.”

    Exactly right. It’s called the RACIST/ANTI-SEMITIC OLICHARCHY. And we better do it “quicker than a New York minute.”

    Read: “German Big Business & The Rise Of Hitler” by Henry Ashmore Turner, Jr. (Oxford University Press, New York, 1985).

  11. The more BLM and “We Believe…” signs I see, the more frightened I get. Putting a sign on your lawn changes the world – REALLY? I does enrich the sign makers and make you feel better – WOW. When was the last time you took ACTION for change? I don’t mean marching. I don’t mean calling or sending an email to your folks in Congress. I mean ACTION – doing real work with your time for a candidate or cause that will make things better. ACLU? Environmental Defense Fund and its local equivalents? Signs and checks are easy…GET SKIN IN THE GAME.

  12. Lester,

    Unfortunately, Your type of ACTION isn’t going to be enough. That’s been proven by the present reality.

    “ACLU? Environmental Defense Fund and its local equivalents? Signs and checks are easy…GET SKIN IN THE GAME.”

    That’s nothing new. We have to go much deeper than you’re willing to go.

  13. Marv,

    US Marshalls = Brownshirts

    I would bet the order was given to kill the shooter of the right-wing counter-protestor in the name of “law and order.” If Trump will defend Kyle for his blatant murder of BLM protestors, I am sure he will congratulate the Marshalls.

    It will be interesting to see how local, county, and state law enforcement handle the situation.

  14. If we wake up on Nov 3rd, and feel the way we felt when we went to bed on Nov 6, 2016…
    well, we just can’t let that happen. Please, don’t let that happen.

  15. Last Sunday’s Times magazine featured Don Jr. and one take away clearly was that he’s been bitten (infected?) by the political bug, and if his papa loses in November, the man child’s oldest, probably not the smartest or wisest, will take up the mantel.

  16. Cheryl,

    “well, we just can’t let that happen. Please, don’t let that happen.”

    It’s going to happen one way or the other, unless we, immediately, ORGANIZE in an effective way to stop it. There’s nothing to stop them now.

  17. In parting, all I can say is the only EXCEPTIONALISM I can detect in America, at this point in time, is its lack of CIVIC COURAGE, which I have mentioned a few times before. I’m sorry to say it is appalling. It destroyed Germany in the ’30s and is doing the same to America in 2020.

  18. We can’t afford to run away from the SYSTEM that the RACIST/ANTI-SEMITIC OLIGARCHY controls. We did just the opposite in Dallas in the ’80s and early ’90s in Dallas, where we won the battle for 1 man,1 vote by NEUTRALIZING the RACIST/ANTI-SEMITIC OLIGARCHY.

    What can you do after George Soros joins with Charles Koch?

    See http://www.TheAlarmReport.info.

  19. JoAnn Green has said much of what I see as ways to be part of a progressive force for positive change and be responsible at the same time.
    Social unrest and fear are at the base of this current dilemma.
    Do all that you can to support getting out the vote. That is our “ticket to ride”.
    Great blog today Sheila, as always.
    No go VOTE!!

  20. Stephen,

    “Do all that you can to support getting out the vote. That is our “ticket to ride”.

    That’s the best any Progressive can do. But it is not enough in this political environment. We have to make sure the election takes place and from my long time observation, the Progressives don’t have the NERVE to ensure that outcome.

  21. Marv – WADR – enough already. Supporting “the vote” real actions can and are being taken: volunteer to work at polls, do “peer-to-peer” communications via email/phone/text to encourage everyone you know to vote, call out attempts at local voter suppression, etc.

  22. If Trump loses in 2020, he will still be eligible to run for re-election in 2024. Think he will gracefully cede the spotlight to a successor, perhaps his son Don, Jr. ? Not a chance. He’s likely to remain in the picture, undermining the GOP, making sure it can never became a nationally competitive political party again.

    Of course, if Trump is re-elected, our very Republic is in deep trouble. We’ve already given Trump the green light that he won’t be held accountable for anything he does…that he can violate any law w/o facing consequences.

    I don’t agree that today’s no worse than the 1960s/1970s. When Nixon went down b/c of Watergate, people still cared about the truth. You didn’t have 40% of the population living in an alternative reality. And as bad as Nixon was, he was not willing to burn down the country to save himself. Think Trump would have made that same decision? Not a chance.

  23. oh yes, 1968 (and the years after) I remember all too well. yes, it was a bat shit crazy world then… and we somehow got beyond it. How?

    I would submit, as the Watergate Committee proved, there were, still, some real “public servants” in our Congress who were willing to go beyond party affiliation as see right as right and wrong as wrong! I remember, in particular, Senator Howard Baker, Republican, who was as determined to uncover the corruption of “his” Republican peers and President as any Democrat on that committee! A true bipartisan effort to do the right thing for the people and the institutions of our democracy! Ha! Seems like a dream now.

    Speaking of those Institutions of Democracy. Back in 1968 and after, there was, Still, a feeling that those Institutions mattered, that if The People spoke, marched, protested, etc, those Democratic Institutions could be “authentically” moved, changed, swayed, altered, etc, to reflect the truth and justice being demanded by the citizenry. Ha! Does anyone really believe those institutions work on our behalf today? If so, I got that bridge…

    The Media. In 1968 up to 1980 or so, the Media (the proverbial 4th Branch watch dog) was engaged in Fairness (by law) to the whole of society for disseminating information the public needed, presumably, to be edified and educated on what was happening “out there” in the far reaches of our country, the world as well as down the street in our neighborhoods. Walter Cronkite was our older national father (local stations had their own Walter) who we trusted to give us the facts of the day’s events. He caused a literal shit storm when he visited Vietnam during the war and came back to report to America “his personal feelings” about it! Back then, it was heresy that ANY reporter worth their salt would betray the people’s trust in getting facts rather than personal opinions and/or biases. Ha! Today? One would be hard pressed to find ANY significant news outlet that is not merely a propaganda machine of right, left, etc. Frankly, there is no “watch dog” in the Corporate owned media monsters. Those dogs were euthanized decades ago.

    The economy. The 60’s and 70’s was (still) a time when one could graduate from high school (or not) and get a union job with a steel manufacturer, with Sears automotive, a machine shop, teaching or some other good paying, good benefits and pension, good sick time and vacation allowances, etc, job you could see as a “career.” Ha! One can count on one hand (maybe two) those “careers” that exist in this country today. And for those, one has to foreclose on any economic future through a lifetime of debt to pay for the training/college necessary to compete in those exclusive careers. Our economy went from creating and making to Walmart and Amazon and the so-called “gig” jobs. We went from the possibility of a solid middle class society to a poverty wage tsunami of economic despair.

    I could go on (most of you probably could do a far better job of remembering and chronicling), but the BIG DIFFERENCE is this: HOPE.

    There was HOPE in the worse of 1968 and the years after. There was still a true gut feeling that things in our society, as broken and limited as they were (Blacks, for example, lived in a 40-50% poverty rate in the 60’s), could still IMPROVE, get better, grow, heal, etc.

    As I see it (and many on this blog), that light of authentic and grounded hope is all but gone. Those things and institutions that were the bedrock of our hope in 1968 now seem, as I stated already, a dream, even someone else’s life on another planet. Hope? Ha! If only.

    Those systems (and others) stated above have done a complete reversal. Politics and the economy of 1968 has gone from Us (granted, an ongoing work in progress…) to Me. I cannot, as much as I look for any sparkle of hope, see any way of these conventional layers of community and civilization to have some kind of authentic transformative awakening from its decades long sins of systemic greed and selfishness.

    As Gandhi stated long ago, REAL change, a REAL awakening, has to happen in the heart of the individual before it happens in the larger society. Wars and violence start in the lurid imagination of the heart long before the killing starts on the ground.

    In the words of another person of journalistic integrity who watched German buzz bombs rain upon London month after month from his bedroom window, “Good luck, and good night” America.

  24. Yes, it can happen here and this upcoming election may be properly labelled existentialistic, but while perhaps 35 or even as much as 40 percent of voters will vote for Trump that leaves a substantial majority who will not, and our job is to rally our majority to the polls. Nothing is more important than turnout two months from now, and I for one am going to use my time and energy in the present to win this election rather than lament what may happen in the future, though fully aware of such potential. Sinclair was wrong; it can happen here, and is happening, but so are the counter measures of which we are a part. This civil civil (not a misprint) war is far from over, and for those who fear that we will never see unity again, read Reconstruction history, a rupture in our unity in certain areas which is continuing to this day. Our task is to elect a sane president come November and structure our own post-Trump reconstruction history.

    Margaret: I was in Belize several months ago to check out an ex pat sanctuary in the event Trump is reelected, but decided to stick with my first choice – Kamloops, British Columbia (assuming I can legally transverse the border by then and if the worst happens).

    John Street: Richardson’s letter nailed it, but some day we are going to have to work on root causes (racism, wage inequality etc.) as well as symptoms (Trump, Mitch et al) in quest of the common good.

    Marv: I disagree that it’s over and instead adopt the view of Yogi Berra that “It ain’t over till it’s over.” I think that we are in the Kansas Missouri Compromise phase of history preceding the Civil War, not that of the post Lincoln assassination, Jim Crow, and KKK formation – not yet. I think Professor Berra was right. As to a combination of Soros and Koch, no problem. Foster rampant inflation and destroy our currency with a back to barter economy.

    To Theresa: Ditto.

    To All: Yes, our democracy is at stake in the upcoming election and Trump is a fascist whether he knows it or not – a mentally impaired Wallace on steroids – but our task is not to panic but rather to hunker down in doing whatever is necessary to win this election and begin to heal our battered democracy with unifying social and economic policies Biden will propose, policies which will attack root causes of our current upheaval as well as its symptoms. To do: VOTE!

  25. Never been the alarmist type, but I think we need to accept the very real possibility our Constitutional Republic is dying. If, transported back into time, we told the founders that the government structure they set up for would last for 240 years, they would have been celebrating its longevity, not bemoaning its death. I doubt anyone at the Constitutional Convention thought what they were doing would last in perpetuity.

    Orange Man is bad, certainly, but our problems go a lot deeper than the clown in the White House.

  26. Gerald,

    When did I say that it was over for me? I’m not a Progressive, but a REAL, little “d” democrat. Unfortunately, there are very few us still alive in the U.S.

  27. There is that 40% that will not abandon The Trumpet no matter what. They are like the Japanese Soldiers of WW 2 who fought the death no matter what. It was clear at a certain point they would lose the battles and the War – They fought on. The German SS troops had a similar mindset.

    It is the 60% we must concentrate on to make certain they realize this is NOT going from Bush the Elder to Clinton to Bush the Younger and then to Obama. There was a degree of decorum with each of these presidents. I may have disagreed with their policies, they still had respect for the system and the office of president.

    I suppose in military terms The Trumpet is conducting a scorched earth campaign, he could care less and is profoundly indifferent to any rules. Anything that will keep in power – He will use.

  28. Theresa,
    “As the British say, ” Keep calm and bugger on.”
    I think we could find a few million Germans were saying the German equivalent of that in the early 1930s. It was about as effective as the British chant was in preventing Germany’s air and sea blockade and the Blitz, beginning in July 1940.

  29. It can never happen here….well, that depends on what “it” is.

    If “it” means a takeover by the Oligarchs, it has already happened.

    If “it” means overturning the takeover by the Oligarchs; well, that “it” may prove the saying to be correct: the overturning, the breakout, the revolution, may never happen.

  30. Larry and Monotonous,

    Both of you have stated much better than I can do, on the points you have both pointed out. I believe you need to have military experience to understand what’s going on with me. I was an R.O.T.C. artillery officer from Penn, who lucked out by my eight-year reserve obligation running out in 1967.

    But being trained as an artillery FORWARD OBSERVER has been a lesson that’s been invaluable in my fighting the sub-surface, oligarchy led, domestic, political, battles here in the U.S. since 1961, when I was my father’s strategist in breaking the color barrier in college football in the Deep South, in the Gator Bowl New Year’s Day game here in Jacksonville. Penn State had one African-American player named Dave Robinson who went on to be a top NFL player.

  31. Sheila —
    No matter how it shakes out, we will NOT know on November 4th. who won this election. Trump will continue to scream “rigged”, FAKE News, fraud, etc. He’s been setting us up for months. It will take weeks to count all of the mail-in ballots and even then, if he loses, he won’t go quietly. This is not over until Jan. 20, when either Biden takes office and has to remove him forcibly, OR he continues to huff and puff and they will have to establish the Speaker of the House as president. If he wins fair & square — we ARE doomed. But we won’t know that on November 4.

  32. Sheila submits that Trump supporters are either”willfully blind or disastrously uninformed”. I think its way, way worse than that, and that’s what keeps me from sleeping. They know and not only don’t give a sh*t, they love it. He’s getting in licks against the things they fear–like educated women and minorities, plus those brown people from south of the border–licks they couldn’t get in.

    They know he lies. but they don’t care—it gets “the Left, the Dems and the libs” stirred up. When it’s really outrageous lying, they claim he did it to bait all of his enemies, and laugh it off as a “gotcha”. They know he’s a racist, but so are they, so condemning him is like condemning themselves. They see the misogyny, and their main thought is: “I wish I could grab women I find attractive by the puxxy and get away with it.” The female supporters wish he wanted to grab theirs. They see his arrogance, but instead of finding it repulsive, they think: “well, he’s pissing off those uppity women and blacks, plus the Deep State and lame stream media”, so good for him, plus he’s our hero. They tune in to Fox, starry-eyed, to have Hannity, Tucker and Laura explain to them how “the Left, the Dems, and lame stream media” are really more guilty of the same things, and that they are lying when they report adverse things about Trump.

    The most-recent flap is his insults to military, especially those who were killed and/or maimed. Trump denies calling them “suckers” and “losers”, and so Fox turns tables against the media who report it–“they’re so afraid of Trump winning, that they’d stoop to lie about his love and respect for the military.” Of course, they overlook the fact that that he’s a draft-dodger, that he openly insulted John McCain and George H.W. Bush for getting shot down, and he insulted the Gold Star Khan family. It is truly a deity-disciple relationship, and Fox personalities are the preachers.

    You might think these observations are over the top, but they aren’t. That is his appeal, and why no matter what he does, they’ll support him, and that’s really scary.

  33. I’m pooped out worrying about the fate of the USA.
    Like our daughter and son, we’ve done what we can, and now the polity is on its own.
    Good luck fledglings…fly or crash.

  34. One of my political mentors often reminded me that his experience was that people would, as he put it, “would rather be king of their own dungheap than share power in paradise”. Seems to be playing out.

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