Tag Archives: Trump

Bananas

During the past four years, assertions that the U.S. is devolving into a “banana republic” have become almost commonplace.

“Bananas” is also a term used to describe people or behaviors that range from bizarre to insane. Bananas thus describes our everyday political reality in the Time of Trump.

There was the plot to kidnap Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The FBI described the plan as a months-long effort that also saw members of a rightwing militia “consider forgoing the kidnapping and instead executing Whitmer on her doorstep.”

According to the affidavit, plotters twice surveilled the governor’s vacation home and discussed blowing up a bridge leading to the house and using a boat to flee with the captured Whitmer.

The plot continued to gather pace into October, before the FBI arrested Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta in a series of raids on Wednesday night.

“When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard,” Whitmer said on Thursday. “But I’ll be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this.”

In addition to the militia primarily responsible–the “Wolverine Watchmen”–there was evidently a connection to the “boogaloo boys” movement, which is mostly dedicated to eradicating the government and killing law enforcement officers. (Boys will be boys!)

There has been steady growth of these groups of rightwing, anti-government, racist lunatics over the past twelve years. Hysteria over the election of a Black President apparently gave them impetus, and the subsequent election of a psychological fellow-traveler has been seen as permission and encouragement.

More bananas: Trump has always been unhinged, but evidently a combination of impending electoral loss and steroids has magnified his psychoses. As David Von Drehle recently wrote at the Washington Post

President Trump on drugs. Wow. I have to admit that I failed to see this one coming. Trump’s political career has been such a wild ride all by itself, it never occurred to me to wonder what would happen if this grandiose narcissist with the bombastic flair were to be filled to the gills with a powerful steroid. Just as I never looked at Usain Bolt, the great Jamaican sprinter, and mused: What would he be like on a rocket sled?…

Even after the president returned to the White House from the hospital, his docs continued to pump in dexamethasone, a steroid normally given to covid-19 patients struggling for life on a ventilator. Its purpose is to tamp down an overly intense immune reaction known as a cytokine storm but, in this case, it may be ramping up the chaos known as Donald Trump.

And talk about chaos! As Heather Cox Richardson described Trump’s recent behavior,

The major, obvious, in-your-face story of the day is that the president is melting down. He has spent much of the last two days calling in to the Fox News Channel and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and ranting in a manic way that suggests he is having trouble with the steroids he is taking for his illness.

In an interview with Rush Limbaugh today, Trump boasted that “our nuclear is all tippy top now,” and said about Iran, “If you f*** around with us, if you do something bad to us, we’re gonna do things to you that have never been done before.” He tweeted that “Obama, Biden, Crooked Hillary and many others got caught in a Treasonous Act of Spying and Government Overthrow, a Criminal Act. How is Biden now allowed to run for President?” This is pure fiction, of course, but his campaign later put it in a fundraising email.

Trump’s doctors have yet to clear him for interactions with people, but that hasn’t stopped the narcissist-in-chief; he invited 2000 people for a rally on the South Lawn of the White House. (That, as Richardson points out, is yet another violation of the Hatch Act–but in an administration as corrupt as this one, that’s barely worth a footnote.)

Von Drehle cites the Mayo Clinic for an enumeration of side effects of the drug the President is receiving: “agitation,” “anxiety,” “irritability,” “mood changes,” “nervousness” and — perhaps most apt — “trouble thinking.” 

What happens when you give a drug with those side effects to a man who already exhibits those behaviors–and whose level of intellectual development is best displayed by his description of America’s nuclear capability as “tippy top”? 

Friday, my husband and I made another trip to the City-County Building to cast early in-person votes. At 8:15 in the morning, the line was once again incredibly long–and as it moved (briskly, I’m pleased to report), it was steadily replenished. When we drove by yesterday,  the line was nearly twice as long.

I am cautiously optimistic that sane Americans have developed an allergy to bananas.

 

And Now, COVID…

Reactions to yesterday’s announcement that the President and First Lady have both tested positive for COVID-19 have been mixed, to put it mildly. A significant number–noting that the President rarely utters anything related to the truth–suggested it was another attempt at disinformation and/or distraction.

For those who accepted the accuracy of the announcement, most of what I have seen–especially on Facebook–invoked the concept of karma. To say that reactions aren’t overwhelmingly sympathetic might just be the understatement of the century. This is, after all, a President who has shown absolutely no concern for other people, including his own supporters. He has ignored and ridiculed advice offered by medical experts, including those in his own administration, and he has touted unproven and frequently ridiculous “cures” (ingesting bleach, anyone?). All of that is on top of the fact that he is one of the least likable people on the planet.

But quite apart from whatever our personal reactions may be,  the diagnosis raises some thorny legal and political questions, and the answers to those questions are unclear.

With a month to go until the election, Trump will quarantine for two weeks. He probably will not be able to attend the second debate–no loss there, considering the spectacle he made in the first–a consequence that will require the debate commission to decide whether to simply cancel the remaining two, or allow Biden to appear solo (unlikely).

We can already predict that Trump will attribute an election loss to his inability to hold rallies and otherwise campaign for the requisite two weeks.

Those consequences are predictable in the event that he suffers a relatively mild case of the virus. Far less predictable is what happens if this morbidly obese 74-year-old with an unhealthy diet who is known to ingest quantities of “uppers” becomes critically ill or even dies–and if so, when.

Pence has evidently tested negative thus far (“Mother” probably wouldn’t let him get too close to Hope Hicks, who presumably was the source). How sick would Trump have to get before Pence assumed the duties of the Presidency? If Trump were to become critically ill after the election but prior to January 21st, that would be one thing (and arguably not a bad thing–as vacuous and smarmy as Pence is, he’s less flat-out nuts than Trump).

The most chaotic and unpredictable set of events would be triggered by Trump’s death from COVID prior to Election Day. Would Pence automatically become the Republican nominee? Would Republican defectors be more comfortable returning to the fold if that were the case?

In a Presidency characterized by daily distractions, is this the mother of all diversions? Or does the diagnosis bring voters’ attention back to the President’s horrendous incompetence in containing the pandemic, and his obvious lack of concern for the over 200,000 Americans who have already died?

If Trump proves to have only a mild case, does he then use his own good fortune to further minimize the danger and dismiss expert advice?

I am not a praying person, and if I were, I doubt I’d find enough grace in my heart to pray for a psychopath who has done so much harm–a man with absolutely no redeeming human virtues.

I would, however, pray that his spitting and yelling during the “debate” didn’t infect Joe Biden. In fact–just in case I’m wrong and there is a personal God–I may go ahead and offer up that particular prayer. Call it covering my bases.

 

Biden: “The Guy Who Will End The Nightmare”

In the interests of full disclosure, I did not watch Tuesday’s debate between Biden and Trump–a decision grounded in my effort to protect what remains of my mental health. I simply cannot bear the sound of Trump’s voice.

I did, of course, read the reviews and descriptions of what sounded more like a food fight than anything else. If there was unanimity on anything, it was that the event was embarrassing and unedifying–at best–and a shit-show at worst.

Among the most thoughtful coverage I read was a “morning after” rumination by Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo. Marshall had previously described Biden’s campaign “theme” as one of relief and reassurance–he dubbed Biden “The guy who will end the nightmare,” and for those of us who have definitely experienced this presidency as a nightmare, and worried that we might not wake up, that’s a winner. But it was an observation–a comparison, really– in his “morning after” column that really resonated with me.

Beyond all the individual offenses, one of the underrated sub-themes of anti-Trumpism is exhaustion. One of the deepest traumas of living in the home of an abuser stems not from the outbursts of physical violence, verbal abuse or manipulation but the accumulated stress of ambient tension, uncertainty, the reflexive, unshakeable hyper-vigilance. It is exhausting in a profound way. Trump is exhausting – I suspect even for some who share his dark values. This was 90 minutes jam-packed with everything that makes Trump exhausting. Living with an abuser means being trapped in close quarters with the abuse, being unable to run. In a month voters get the chance to walk away.

This analogy hits home, because it is so perceptive, so “on the mark.”

Americans who follow government and politics have been exhausted by the daily offenses, the violence routinely being done to the Constitution, the rule of law, rational policymaking and elementary decency. We have lived with anxiety, fear and mounting anger for four long years. The assaults have been unremitting, and yes, we are tired. Spent. Exhausted. 

But we aren’t too exhausted to vote, and that’s why I’m cautiously optimistic that we are nearing the end of the nightmare.

Election Day may be messy, or in the best case scenario, repudiation of our abuser may be sufficiently overwhelming to nullify his efforts to disqualify the will of the voters. I can’t believe there are enough racists and know-nothings in America to keep him and his GOP enablers in office.

As Marshall noted about Trump’s display of ignorance and vitriol at the debate,

This is who Trump is. It is especially who he is under threat. His campaign is about nudging undecided voters into fears about general social disorder and frighteningly assertive black and brown people. He ended up embracing white nationalist militias and saying they were necessary to crush the left in the streets. He yelled what is supposed to be implicit.

The most important thing remains that Trump had to shift things in his favor and he failed. Since he’s already losing that’s a big loss. I suspect it was even worse for him. Maybe a turning point.

Joe Biden doesn’t excite voters the way Barack Obama did. He’s no orator, and he doesn’t pander to a rabid base, a la Trump. He is–as the leftist purists sneer–an old white guy. Part of “the system.”

He is also a thoroughly decent, competent and honorable public servant. He won’t abuse the office and he won’t abuse us.

He is a sane adult. That alone makes him immensely superior to Trump.

Once we’ve rested, once the nightmare is over, we can start the process of repairing the systems that enabled– facilitated !– the election of the most unfit person ever to hold the office. More on those systems and what it will take to fix them in coming days….

In Case The Racism Wasn’t Clear Enough…

There’s something to be said for clarity.

As the United States barrels toward an election that will determine whether we remain wedded to a set of unrealized but morally-appropriate ideals about equality, the focus of that election has steadily narrowed. November will be about one thing: White Nationalism and the continued privileging and social dominance of white male “Christians.”

Short of producing yard signs with swastikas, the Trump campaign has done everything it can to convey that message–and in Tuesday’s first “debate,” Trump’s refusal to disavow white nationalism made it explicit. (“Debate” is in quotes, because Trump’s rants and bullying prevented anything that could be considered a genuine debate.)

The GOP has disdained issuing a platform, making it clear that obedience to the party’s “Dear Leader” was the only plank that mattered. Then the campaign echoed Trump’s rant against the accurate teaching of American history–especially about slavery– and his insistence that teachers should engage in patriotic indoctrination rather than education.

More recently still, just in case there was a Neo-Nazi somewhere in rural America who missed the message (is there a backwoods area where Fox can’t penetrate?), he ordered an immediate cessation of diversity training in federal agencies, and followed that with a similar edict covering federal contractors. As Talking Points Memo reports:

President Donald Trump increased the scope of his assault against the government’s anti-racism workplace trainings on white privilege on Tuesday night with an executive order banning government contractors from holding the trainings.

In the order, Trump claimed that trainings that discuss the disproportionate amount of power afforded to white men “perpetuates racial stereotypes and division and can use subtle coercive pressure to ensure conformity of viewpoint.”

“Such activities also promote division and inefficiency when carried out by Federal contractors,” the order said.

The contractors thus “will not be permitted to inculcate such views in their employees,” according to the order.

Trump touted the ban on Twitter on Tuesday.

These sessions–common in corporate and business environments–are intended to improve communication and understanding among employees who bring different cultures and life experiences to the workplace. (Well done, they improve both employee morale and productivity–outcomes of absolutely no interest to Trump, since they don’t line his pockets or advance his egocentric agenda.)

It is unlikely that this most recent “edict” is legally enforceable. Absent corruption (which in this administration cannot be taken for granted) government contracts are awarded to companies that respond to RFPs–Requests for Proposals. Those RFPs set out the qualifications required by the contracting agency, and it’s a fair bet that none of the RFPs to which current contractors responded contained a provision that the contractor could not offer diversity training to its employees.

But enforceability and legality are beside the point here.

In much the same way that Trump’s issuance of meaningless “Executive Orders” aren’t legally effective, the bans on diversity training are a type of “performance art.” The Executive Orders are intended to convince his largely civically ignorant base that he is keeping his various promises–to build a wall, protect pre-existing conditions, forbid Muslims from entering the country, etc. The ban on anti-racist training and the attack on teaching accurate history are intended to reassure his largely racist base that he is with them.

It’s a very dangerous game.

Law enforcement agencies–including the FBI– have warned that alt-right organizations are actively trying to foment a race war. 

A report by the Brookings Institution explains a right-wing effort called “accelerationism.”

Accelerationism is the idea that white supremacists should try to increase civil disorder — accelerate it — in order to foster polarization that will tear apart the current political order. The System (usually capitalized), they believe, has only a finite number of collaborators and lackeys to prop it up. Accelerationists hope to set off a series of chain reactions, with violence fomenting violence, and in the ensuing cycle more and more people join the fray. When confronted with extremes, so the theory goes, those in the middle will be forced off the fence and go to the side of the white supremacists.

Obviously, not every Trump voter is a conscious part of that White Supremacy movement–but every Trump vote will support it.

 

 

Encouraging Signs

As we count down to Election Day, I am looking for signs of sanity. One of those signs is the number of Republicans coming out publicly against Trump.

It isn’t just  the Lincoln Group or Vote Vets or Republicans Against Trump. It goes way beyond Cindy McCain, or the letter signed by 500+ former national security officials whose number included numerous Republicans.

Political science research tells us that some people affiliate with a political party because  they agree with the party’s basic approach to the issues, but others join because they identify with the people in that party. To an extent, that’s understandable; humans are hard-wired to be tribal, to prefer to associate with those they see as their “own kind” rather than those who register as “other.”

When you think about it, America’s entire history–our struggle for civic equality– might be characterized as an effort to develop a more inclusive understanding of who we are talking about when we use the word “we”–an effort to enlarge our definition of who qualifies as a member of the “tribe” we call American.

Admittedly, we have a long way to go.

Our current political tribalism, abetted by media bubbles and geographic sorting, is extreme. Political scientist Lilliana Mason argues that “A single vote can now indicate a person’s partisan preferences as well as his or her religion, race, ethnicity, gender, neighborhood and favorite grocery store.” Democrat and Republican have become our new mega-identities.

Because American tribalism is so pronounced, this election presents the remaining thoughtful members of the Republican “tribe” with a wrenching dilemma: do they ignore the multiple dangers posed by a lawless and corrupt President of their own party, and elevate partisan loyalty over all else, or do they place the good of the country above partisan advantage?

In last week’s Indianapolis Business Journal (behind a paywall) two notable local Republicans–John Mutz and Scott Newman—opted for country over party, endorsing Joe Biden and arguing that Trump should be defeated.

Mutz and Newman joined an unprecedented number of “defectors” nationally–including Indiana’s Dan Coats, who served as Director of National Intelligence and has been quoted as saying he believes Putin “has something” on Trump. (Wikipedia has an impressively long entry titled List of Republicans Who Oppose Trump). For people who have been lifetime Republicans—who have campaigned as Republicans, held office as Republicans, and embraced what used to be Republican ideals—people whose friends and families remain devoted to the Republican “tribe,” a decision to publicly endorse Joe Biden has to be incredibly difficult.

The behaviors that have prompted all of these defections are too numerous to list. I have previously characterized the Trump administration as a combination of the Mafia and the Keystone Kops—the degree of self-dealing and shamelessly criminal behavior has been matched only by the daily displays of incompetence. (One of my favorite FB memes is “I’ve seen better cabinets at IKEA”)

Most of the Republicans who have publicly “defected” are pundits or previous office-holders whose partisan allegiance was rooted in political ideology: preference for free markets, fiscal restraint, limited but effective governance. That today’s GOP no longer embraces any of those principles became too obvious to ignore this year, when the party didn’t even bother to produce a platform.

The Republican Party I belonged to for 35 years no longer exists, and a chilling White Nationalism too obvious to ignore characterizes what remains.

If the survey research and polling are correct, a majority of Americans agree with Mutz and Newman and strongly disapprove of Trump. Assuming a free and fair election—something we cannot, unfortunately, take for granted—the task for Republican defectors will be to rebuild their party into an adult, sane, non-racist GOP. America desperately needs two responsible, thoughtful parties with contending, evidence-based ideas about what constitutes workable public policy.

What we don’t need are tribes fighting for the dominance of male “Christian” Americans with white skin.