Tag Archives: GOP

While We Are Distracted….

For years, I believed that most politically-active people were working for policies consistent with their conception of the good society. We were all well-meaning; we just had different points of view, different visions of what the good society should look like, and we obviously differed on how to get there.

The past few years have disabused me of that belief. Incredible as I still find it, the evidence is too clear to ignore: the political establishment of today’s GOP is not composed of people who are well-meaning but deluded. These are people–mostly but not exclusively male–who truly do value their own wealth and power above the lives of others.

The evidence is simply too copious to dismiss, and the moral rot isn’t limited to a few appallingly bad actors like Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump and William Barr.

Think about it.

When Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor wanted to delay his state’s primary election so that voters wouldn’t need to choose between risking their health and exercising their right to cast ballots, the Republicans in the state legislature appealed to the Republican majority on the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the election must proceed. When Democrats appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, the five judges appointed by Republicans obediently voted their politics over their humanity.

In the end, the judge the Wisconsin GOP was trying to re-elect still lost–bigly— because voters risked contagion to exercise their franchise. But the risk was real. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal now reports that

Officials have identified seven people who appear to have contracted COVID-19 through activities related to the April 7 election, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said Monday.

Six of the cases are in voters and one is a poll worker, Kowalik said.

Lest you conclude that this was a “one-off” or limited to the State of Wisconsin, allow me to remind you of the sorts of things this administration has been doing while the GOP’s head clown has been keeping us distracted.

A recent New York Times headline asks “Why Is Trump Gutting Regulations That Save Lives?”

Since Jan. 30, 2017, the Trump administration’s approach to federal regulation has been defined by a simple requirement: “one in, two out.” The basic idea, set out in one of President Trump’s first executive orders, is that whenever a federal agency issues one regulation, it has to take at least two regulations away — and produce an incremental cost, on the private sector, of zero.

The idea was absurd from the very start.

It was profoundly demoralizing to experts in federal agencies, who know a lot about science and who have plenty of good ideas about how to protect public health and safety. But its absurdity has been put in a whole new light by the Covid-19 pandemic, which demonstrates that the regulatory state is no enemy of the people — and that smart safeguards, designed by specialists, save lives.

If there are regulations on the books that are outmoded, or have proved to be more onerous than necessary, they should be eliminated. If existing regulations are demonstrably protecting people–worker safety regulations that prevent illnesses and death,  air pollution regulations that protect public health, restrictions on the use of chemicals that have proved dangerous or cancer-producing–arbitrarily removing them to keep the number of rules down is insane.

Unless, of course, protecting the pocketbooks of your donors is more important than protecting the lives and health of your constituents.

Trump’s behavior during the pandemic has been perfectly compatible with GOP priorities–lifesaving equipment stolen from (Democratic) states that desperately need it and doled out to “friendlier” Governors. “Briefings” that are ill-disguised, nauseating political rallies. A complete absence of expressions of empathy for those suffering and dying.

As numerous political scientists have pointed out, as repulsive as Trump is–as morally and intellectually defective–he is simply the visible product of what the Republican Party has become.

For those of us who served a former iteration of that party–a very different iteration–what it has become is heartbreaking.

 

 

 

The South Isn’t Rising Again, And May Be Down For The Count

A set of maps published by the New York Times, showing the Coronavirus effort lagging most in America’s southern states triggered a Daily Kos post highlighting the failures of southern–mostly Republican–Goverrnors.

The list was hair-raising: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp didn’t issue a stay-at-home order for weeks, because–I am not making this up, I checked it– Kemp claimed that he had “just learned” that people with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, a fact that has been clear and widely publicized since January. (Most recently–despite his belated “education,” Kemp reopened Georgia’s beaches.)

Texas has long supplied the rest of the country with official stupidity, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has again lowered the bar; he has yet to provide any statewide guidance, and has left all such decisions to cities and counties.

In Alabama, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey pointed out that her state is “not California” (we’ve noticed) and declared that she’s not ready to take any action that might hurt the economy. (I guess lots of people dying doesn’t hurt the economy…)

In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has been unwilling to do more than issue “recommendations” without any force of law.

And Arkansas now enjoys a position that may be unique in the nation: Not only has Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to set any level of suppression across the state, but there are also no city or county stay-at-home orders. Arkansas is open for business. And virus transmission.

And don’t even mention the idiot Governor of Florida….

Federalism clearly has its downsides.

The maps issued by the New York Times showed the degree to which compliance with social distancing had reduced travel times– reductions that have been greater in urban areas than in rural parts of the country. As Daily Kos pointed out, this disparity is at least partly because rural residents taking necessary trips–to the grocery, for example–require longer distances to get there. (One reason rural trips to the grocery require going a long distance, of course, is Walmart. In rural areas, big box retailers like Walmart long ago bankrupted and displaced local grocers.) In some rural counties, the distances recorded may reflect farming–  people moving around their own properties.

But the second map in the Times set paints a blood-red swatch across the South, not in terms of their vote, but in terms of how far people are traveling on a raw miles basis. In much of the nation, even in the most rural portions of the North and West, the average distance traveled is less than two miles a day. In other counties, the distance traveled has fallen below two miles as social distancing has been implemented. But in most of the South—and not just the rural South—the average distance traveled is still above two miles. Americans in the South are getting out, getting in their cars, and traveling miles. Every day….

And that’s just the start of it. As The Atlantic makes clear, COVID-19 may have so far caused the greatest damage in the Northeast, but it’s unlikely to stay that way. Already, about a tenth of all deaths have come from the Gulf Coast states, and those states are still racing up the ramp of infection, even as states that have been under strict social distancing for days or weeks are beginning to bend the curve on local cases. The South, both cities and rural areas, looks set to be the next epicenter of the outbreak in America.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study suggests that the reason Southern states are–and are likely to remain–outliers is that more of their residents have the underlying conditions, such as diabetes and heart issues, that increase risk. Kaiser says the outbreaks currently expanding in the American South are unique— mainly because of how many younger people in their working prime are dying. They have poorer health to begin with thanks to  less access to healthcare, less access to fresh produce, and higher consumption of fast foods. As the study also reports,

These differences are not innate to southerners; they are the result of policy. Health disparities tend to track both race and poverty, and the states in the old domain of Jim Crow have pursued policies that ensure those disparities endure.

The cited articles predict that much of the American South will experience “a disaster beyond imagining, and it’s one that won’t be neatly limited to those who partied on the beach or those who nod along when Rush Limbaugh calls COVID-19 ordinary flu.”

What you don’t know can definitely hurt you. What you refuse to know or admit (yes, Southern lawmakers, I’m looking at you) will hurt even worse.

 

Well–For Once, He’s Been Honest, Even If Accidentally

As if being confined to our homes–or worse, going to essential jobs and worrying whether we were inevitably going to contract the Coronavirus–wasn’t stressful enough, those of us who follow such things watch in frustration as the Trump Administration reverses environmental protections and amasses powers the Constitution previously denied to the Executive branch.

Not to mention increasing worries about the upcoming election.

It is beginning to look as if  mandatory social distancing will extend right through what should be campaign season, and disrupt the ability of millions of Americans to vote in November. Republicans may have demonstrated their utter inability to govern in the public interest, but political observers are well aware of their consummate skills in vote suppression–their ability to use any disruption, any excuse, to keep people from the polls.

The one bright spot is the jaw-dropping idiocy of Trump himself. (As a friend frequently reminds me, just think how much more harm he could do if he had an IQ or was even minimally competent.) As the Guardian recently reported, 

Donald Trump admitted on Monday that making it easier to vote in America would hurt the Republican party.

The president made the comments as he dismissed a Democratic-led push for reforms such as vote-by-mail, same-day registration and early voting as states seek to safely run elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Democrats had proposed the measures as part of the coronavirus stimulus. They ultimately were not included in the $2.2tn final package, which included only $400m to states to help them run elections.

“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said during an appearance on Fox & Friends.

Talking Points Memo also commented on the admission.

You’re not supposed to say the quiet parts out loud, Mr. President!

On Monday morning, President Donald Trump told the co-hosts of “Fox and Friends” that House Democrats had tried to include “crazy” proposals in the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package that passed last week, including measures aimed at easing the voting process for Americans during the coronavirus outbreak.

It isn’t that We the People have been unaware that the country has millions more Democrats than Republicans. The Electoral College is fiercely defended by GOP operatives who know that it gives disproportionate influence to rural Republicans; thanks to GOP gerrymandering, Republicans dominated Congress after the 2016 election despite receiving a million and a half fewer votes than Democrats–in 2018, in order to overcome that advantage and retake control of the House, Democrats had to win by staggering percentages.

This isn’t new. The Guardian  went back to 1980.

“I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, an influential conservative activist, said in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

In the wake of the Depression, Americans demanded changes to governance that shaped the America most of us grew up in. The GOP has fought most of those changes–especially those that strengthened the social safety net–and has relied heavily on voter apathy and the party’s ability to suppress the votes of minorities and poorer Americans to erase them.

There really is no debate about what sorts of policies the majority of Americans want–or about the tactics Republicans intend to employ to ensure that those policies never get implemented. Trump has admitted what every sentient person already knew.

The unanswered question is: will the current pandemic be as much of a wake-up call as the Depression?

 

 

 

The White Grievance Party

The chaos of the Trump Administration–not to mention the willingness of Trump’s GOP to abandon “dog whistles” in favor of straight-up bigotry–has led a few of the remaining old style Republicans to admit what they’d previously been loathe to see: Trump is the inevitable consequence of the path the party has pursued for the past fifty years.

New York Times contributor Thomas Edsell recently reviewed a book written by Stuart Stevens.  Stevens is a Republican media consultant with what Edsell tells us is “an exceptionally high win-loss record,” who served as a lead strategist for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004; in the book’s mea culpa, he admits that a more accurate name for the GOP might be  the “white grievance party.”

Stevens didn’t just work for Bush. The list of his clients is a list of Republican eminences: Mitt Romney, Roger Wicker, Roy Blunt, Chuck Grassley, Rob Portman, Thad Cochran, Dick Lugar, Jon Kyl, Mel Martinez and Dan Coats — along with a handful of current and former governors.

Nonetheless, Stevens’s forthcoming book, “It Was All A Lie,” makes the case that President Trump is the natural outcome of a long chain of events going back to the 1964 election when Barry Goldwater ran for president as an opponent of the Civil Right Act passed earlier that year.

“As much as I’d love to go to bed at night reassuring myself that Donald Trump was some freak product of the system — a ‘black swan,’” Stevens writes, “I can’t do it”:

I can’t keep lying to myself to ward off the depressing reality that I had been lying to myself for decades. There is nothing strange or unexpected about Donald Trump. He is the logical conclusion of what the Republican Party became over the last fifty or so years, a natural product of the seeds of race, self-deception, and anger that became the essence of the Republican Party. Trump isn’t an aberration of the Republican Party; he is the Republican Party in a purified form.

“I have no one to blame but myself,” he declares on the first page. “What I missed was one simple reality: it was all a lie.”

The Republican Party promoted itself as defender of a core set of values: the importance of character and personal responsibility, opposition to Russia, fiscal responsibility and control of the national debt, recognition that immigration made America great, and the fiction that the GOP was a “big-tent party.”

The truth was that none of these principles mattered, then or now. The  Republican Party is “just a white grievance party.”

Stevens asserts that a race-based strategy was the foundation of many of the Republican Party’s biggest victories, from Nixon to Trump.

With Trump, the Party has grown comfortable as a white grievance party. Is that racist? Yes, I think it is. Are 63 million plus people who supported Trump racist? No, absolutely not. But to support Trump is to make peace with white grievance and hate.

As the remainder of Edsell’s column demonstrates, definitions of racism vary widely. Some people equate it with genuine hatred, others with unthinking acceptance of social attitudes that attribute certain traits to specific groups. Still others would apply the word to social structures that continue to disadvantage historically marginalized groups.

Whatever your definition, it doesn’t take a genius (very stable or otherwise) to see that racial resentment is pretty much the only genuine “value” embraced by today’s GOP. Stevens says not all Republicans are racists, and I’m sure that’s true. But everyone who casts a vote for a Republican candidate is telling the world that she (or more often, he) doesn’t consider racism to be a disqualification for public office.Is that really so distant?

As one of the scholars quoted in the column put it,

We have focused attention on bigots and white nationalists and not held ordinary citizens accountable for beliefs that achieve the same ends.

And so here we are……

How To Choose A Candidate

There’s a reason I keep repeating “vote blue no matter who,” even though the presidential candidates the Democrats are fielding all have their flaws–and it isn’t simply because Trump represents the worst of the worst.

Several years ago, someone asked me how I would choose between two unpalatable candidates for office, and I shared my simple formula for making such choices: I vote for the candidate who is pandering to the least dangerous people.

We all know that Trump is deeply corrupt, as well as monumentally ignorant. We also know that his egomania, racism and narcissism outweigh any actual policy preferences–that in order to feed his massive ego, he will adopt whatever positions he thinks will be rewarded with attention, power and the adoration of the misfits who attend his rallies.

Trump, who has been both a Republican and a Democrat, found success pandering to the people with whom he feels most comfortable–white nationalists and corrupt businesspeople– constituencies that dominate today’s GOP.

We can concede that today’s Democratic Party is hardly a monolithic organization of angels and still recognize the superiority of its core beliefs: climate change is real; women are people entitled to control of their own bodies; background checks are not inconsistent with the Second Amendment; African-Americans and LGBTQ citizens are entitled to equality; immigrant families should not be separated; our water should be drinkable and our air breathable; vote suppression is anti-democratic…and much more.

Any Democrat running for political office, from President to County Clerk, needs the approval of the people who have organized around those positions and beliefs. Those are the people to whom all Democratic candidates must pander if they are to have any chance at victory.

I know this sounds cynical, but I am much less concerned with the sincerity of a candidate’s embrace of the Democrats’ core positions than with the fact that he/she must publicly affirm and work for them in order to get elected or re-elected.

Trump is not a bright man, but even he can read the writing on the wall; the Senators who essentially voted to let him ignore the Constitution and the rule of law were elected by pandering to the same bigots who support him. Whether in their “heart of hearts” they recognize and reject the evils they are empowering is irrelevant–so long as they believe they must pander to evil, they are evil.

During the presidential primary contests, people of good will–Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans alike–will have different perspectives on candidate electability. But once a candidate has been chosen, no matter how disappointed we may be in that choice or in the process–we will confront a very simple decision, and not just for president.

We can vote for people running on the Republican ticket–those endorsed by the party whose candidates have no choice but to pander to bigotry and corruption–or we can vote for Democratic candidates who have no choice but to pander to people who overwhelmingly believe in science, reason and civic equality.

This isn’t a contest between individuals. Trump didn’t emerge from a void. There’s a reason  that during the past couple of decades Americans have “sorted” ourselves into two wildly different parties–it is because we hold profoundly opposed understandings of what American “greatness” is based upon. We will continue to be polarized until one of those diametrically-opposed visions of America prevails.

“Vote blue no matter who” recognizes that the 2020 election isn’t about the candidates–it’s about which of those visions triumphs.