Archive for the ‘stinking piece of shit’ Category

The State of the Union: A Republican comeback?

October 20, 2021

Conventional wisdom says a president’s party loses seats in midterm elections. Republicans, needing few gains to control Congress, will benefit from the census shifting seats to red states, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and other cheating. But modern American politics confounds conventional wisdom. No longer conforming to a rational paradigm. Many pundits even think Trump may regain the White House. Could voters be so crazy — after January 6 — and with Republicans still steeped in that Kool-Aid?

The “stolen election” story is a pathetic joke. As if the out-party could have pulled that off. Trump (the biggest liar ever) simply made it up because his deranged ego couldn’t accept losing. Any fool could see that. But not his cultists, so unhitched from reality the lie is now literally an article of faith. It was Trump himself who tried to steal the election, culminating on January 6, and the insanity continues to warp our whole body politic. Might voter revulsion at this negate the usual midterm dynamic? Or will Republican distraction efforts succeed? (Despite being undermined by Trump’s obsessive histrionics.)

We’re also being told that if President Biden can’t get his ambitious multi-program bill passed, Democrats will look hapless. While if it does pass, Republicans will have a field day crying “socialism!” So Democrats can’t win. But Republicans will shriek “socialism” no matter what. Now needing, as we’ve learned, no nexus with factual reality for any of their shtick. Screaming that Democrats will destroy America — which Republicans themselves nearly did on January 6.

Meantime, what’s actually in Biden’s legislation is mostly stuff most voters like and want: subsidized day care, family leave, college, etc. Another thing we’re told endlessly is how Democrats don’t connect with the working class economic anxieties Trumpism exploits (without actually doing anything about).

Well, Biden’s big “Build Back Better” bill does tackle those bread-and-butter concerns. But for many voters, it’s “my mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” And Republican politics today isn’t about genuine policy issues anyway. Mainly it’s demonizing and hating Democrats. “Owning the libs.”

As a longtime Republican, I have no illusions of Democrat and Biden wonderfulness. I’ve criticized him over Afghanistan, and China policy. His handling of migrants and refugees is disappointing — breaking, I feel, a personal promise. Yet Biden is still a decent, honest, responsible, sane antithesis to Trump who — on top of every other ghastly travesty — tried to overthrow our democracy. And would wreck it forever if, against all reason, returned to power.

I’d like to think it inconceivable. But that’s what I thought in 2016 — before it showed too many U.S. voters gone rogue — against all reason.

Americans are mostly admirable, pragmatic, down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth people. But even before 2016 I warned that our being, in the global/historical scheme of things, a peaceable oasis of democracy and freedom, was not somehow ordained by God. And would not endure without citizens understanding and internalizing the principles undergirding it. Heedless ignorance, flouting those principles, metastasizes. As on January 6. And millions actually believe Trump was “making America great again.” Another pathetic joke.

I fear the power of the strongman syndrome. Bin Laden said, “if people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will prefer the strong horse.” Even if, as with Trump, it’s strength of badness. Those still gaga for him are psychologically attracted by the illusion of strength. Imagining only a tough character can solve tough problems. And voters in many other countries have made that same mistake again and again, falling for the primitivist, misconceived macho allure of a “strongman.” Like moths to a flame.

I love America. Trump’s presidency felt like watching her raped. Re-electing him would be like infidelity.

The Stolen Election of 2024

September 24, 2021

The 2020 election was not stolen. The 2024 election may be.

We’re learning more about January 6 and what led up to it. One aspect was Trump’s mental illness. Narcissism so deranged he couldn’t psychologically accept defeat. Needing to somehow convince himself it didn’t happen. Thus the “stolen election” lie.

Trumpsters long salivated over the Arizona election “audit,” by “Cyber Ninja” clowns. Now it’s actually wound up finding more Biden votes! Will that stop the “stolen election” nonsense? Of course not. Defying reality twice over: first, no evidence, and second, blindness to all the reasons a majority did vote against Trump.

Meantime, there was an attempt to steal the election. By Trump. Details have emerged about how far this went. Vice President Pence was lauded for refusing Trump’s demand to somehow derail electoral vote counting. Actually Pence was fool enough to seriously consider it. He’s still in the lap of the man who sent a mob that nearly killed him on January 6. That was Trump’s last-ditch ploy to overthrow the election (and our democracy).

The Electoral Count Act was enacted to clarify procedures after the 1876 disputed election. But the ECA itself is clear as mud, open to the sort of January 6 shenanigans Trump promoted — with Republican support. Remember that a majority of GOP legislators, even after the mob attack, voted to overturn the election results.

Maybe it’s an excuse that they knew they’d be outvoted. Maybe. And what if they’re not in the minority next time? Will they desist from a repetition?

Republicans no longer believe in democracy (or reality). Rather than trying to convince opposing voters, Republicans make it harder for them to vote. Deeming somehow illegitimate any votes not going their way. We used to have “the divine right of kings” — anointed by God to rule. Many Republicans similarly believe they’re on a holy mission, so little obstacles, like citizens’ votes, can’t be countenanced to thwart them. So unhinged with terror of the other side, they’ll do anything — anything — to prevail. Ends justifying means.

Many Republicans (even Kevin McCarthy) initially denounced the January 6 insurrection, and even Trump’s culpability. But they quickly changed their tune in the cold sober light of morning, instead lashing themselves, like Captain Ahab, to their white whale.

Falsely crying fraud is now a key page of the Republican playbook — nihilistic bomb throwing into the heart of democracy. While they themselves gear up to steal the 2024 election. Not just by blocking Democrats from voting, but also shifting responsibility for vote counting from non-partisan to partisan hands. In 2020, Georgia’s secretary of state refused Trump’s demand to “find” 11,780 more votes. In 2024 that official won’t have that authority. Instead it will be political operatives, empowered to report whatever vote counts they see fit. Regardless of actual votes. Elsewhere, Republican-controlled state legislatures talk about certifying Trump electoral votes even if he loses. Simply falsifying election results is how many autocrat regimes hold power.

Reversing the 2020 outcome would have required flipping at least three states. Never conceivable. And still, look what tumult we went through — the nonsense lies still plaguing us — over that election result. Just an appetizer for 2024. Especially if it’s at all close. Can our democracy survive even worse election-related conflict than in 2020?

Investigating January 6: Republicans compound the crime

July 25, 2021

January 6 was a bloody attack upon the heart of American democracy. Initially the two parties negotiated what seemed to be a very fair deal for a bipartisan Congressional investigation, modeled on the 9/11 Commission. But 9/11 occurred in a different nation. No chance today’s Republican lawmakers would honestly cooperate to investigate even an attack on Congress that threatened their own lives.* And so they duly killed the bipartisan agreement.

House Speaker Pelosi nevertheless went ahead with a Congressional investigating committee — as bipartisan as possible under the circumstances. She actually made a Republican (Liz Cheney) one of her own appointees to the panel. And invited GOP leader McCarthy to name five further members.

Once upon a time we might have imagined his choosing upstanding, judicious people whose reputations would call forth widespread trust. But this is 2021.

So instead McCarthy’s picks included Jim Banks and Jim Jordan. Jordan is a rabid Trump bulldog, his considerable verbal talents perverted to making absurdities sound plausible. David Brooks called both men “stinkbombs,” lobbed by McCarthy to make a farce of the investigation.

Hence Pelosi rejected the pair. Commentator Jonathan Capehart saw this as reflecting true dedication to her constitutional responsibilities. This investigation is extremely serious public business, and she wanted to include Republicans, but was not going to let them make a circus of it.

Now McCarthy indignantly says if Banks and Jordan are excluded, then no Republicans will join the committee at all (apart from Cheney, who he does not control).

What is really going on here? The Republican party has become a deranged bunch of nihilistic bomb throwers with, for all their “patriot” prattling, zero loyalty to America’s democratic fundamentals and institutions. Comprehensively irresponsible. Desperate to avoid all serious probing of January 6, knowing their god-king has its blood all over his hands. And that the continuing threat to our democracy comes from within their own ranks. While some are so divorced from reality they actually blame others, or even deny it happened at all.

Trump himself, interviewed for a recent book, described January 6 as a love fest, with police welcoming folks into the Capitol. He also believes he won the election. And in the tooth fairy.

But here’s something I actually don’t understand. Why this has to be a congressional investigation in the first place. True, the attack targeted Congress. But really our whole constitutional system. The 9/11 Commission included members from outside Congress, as did the Warren Commission, investigating JFK’s assassination. Why can’t an investigation, along similar lines, be organized under the auspices of, say, the Justice Department? Or, better yet, by presidential executive order, convening a bipartisan blue ribbon panel of widely respected personages. Like, for instance, John Roberts and Mitt Romney. Wouldn’t that end-run around Republican insanity** garner far more public credibility?

* Being himself a mass shooting victim didn’t change GOP Congressman Steve Scalise’s opposition to gun sanity.

** Herschel Walker plans to run as a Republican for a Georgia Senate seat despite a history of battling mental illness. His slogan could be, “Probably less nuts than your average Republican.”

Trump gets away with it again

July 5, 2021

Refusal to release his tax returns begged the question: what was he hiding? The Manhattan District Attorney finally got the documents after an arduous court battle. Indicted now is Trump’s top financial honcho, Allen Weisselberg — and the Trump organization — but not Trump himself — for tax fraud. This has nothing to do with Trump’s own returns. Rather, paying Weisselberg and others with benefits, like luxury apartments, in lieu of salaries, to avoid income tax.

In the big picture that seems like small beer. The mountain labored and brought forth a mouse. Trump must be laughing. Crowing vindication again.

Actually, the crimes alleged are quite brazen and serious. But why wasn’t Trump himself charged too? He’s the head of the organization. Signed some of the checks in question.

The New York Times, having previously gotten leaked access to Trump’s own returns, had run some exhaustive articles exposing what clearly looked like huge fraud therein. Trump never paid much tax at all. Claiming business losses year after year. Literally the losingest businessman in America, according to his tax returns. So much for “The Art of the Deal.” But it seemed evident all those “losses” were created by phoney accounting. Cooking the books. Yet no indictment (so far?).

It’s Weisselberg the fall guy headed for jail. Like Trump’s “fixer” Michael Cohen, jailed for his role in illegal payoffs to cover up Trump adulteries. Trump signed checks for that too. It came to light while he was president, and that dumb Justice Department memo said a sitting president can’t be indicted. No basis for that in the Constitution, but never mind now, he’s no longer in office and is certainly subject to indictment. Why is he not being charged for the crime Cohen committed at his direction?*

Why, indeed, does this creep manage to skate through his entire life with no comeuppance for all his countless misdeeds? He did pay $25 million to settle the Trump University fraud case. Chump change for him. But that was just a civil matter. I never understood why it didn’t constitute criminal fraud carrying a prison sentence.

* * *

Trump has also escaped the verdict of historians. Recently C-Span asked 142 of them to rank the presidents, and Trump was not rated worst. In fact, only the fourth worst! What were they smoking?

Their top three turkeys were Pierce, Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson, all Civil War related. In my youth I immersed myself in U.S. political history. Before Trump, I’d rated Johnson (1865-69) worst, a racist blunderer. But Pierce (1853-57) and Buchanan (1857-61) are faulted, basically, for failing to somehow prevent the war. A bum rap — it’s far from clear what if anything they could have done. At that time Congress was the main event, presidents being bystanders with little real authority.

No, Trump runs away with the title of worst president, by a country mile. Off the charts. To begin with, he’s indisputably the most disgusting character ever to hold the office. And his performance certainly reflected that badness. He plunged our whole civic culture into the toilet. A divisive, racist, compulsive liar. An administration stuffed with corrupt lowlife sycophants. Shredding relationships with allies, cozying up to blood-soaked dictators, and blackening America’s moral standing in the world, not least with intentionally cruel inhuman policies separating thousands of children from parents. I could go on. (And have: https://rationaloptimist.wordpress.com/2020/10/25/lest-we-forget-the-full-trump-record/)

But even if none of the above were true, he’d still nail the prize for one supreme dereliction: his thoroughly idiotic handling of the pandemic, bearing personal responsibility for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

And those historians thought Franklin Pierce was worse? I repeat, what were they smoking? Trump’s is a record of infamy unparalleled in our history.

* A familiar legal principle says any applicable statute of limitations would be tolled — that is, the clock would be stopped — while the culprit is unavailable for prosecution.

Republicans’ deranged war on Fauci

June 8, 2021

Just when you thought Republicans could not get more insane . . . .

Now they’re rabidly focused on demonizing, of all people, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of America’s disease control agency since 1984. They hate Fauci for being the pandemic’s antithesis to Trump.

How crazy is it to intentionally spotlight the difference between the two? Trump fumbled for two crucial months while the virus spread; admitted downplaying the danger; his briefings were orgies of self-praise, misinformation, and divisive insults; pushing conspiracy theories, quack cures, and injecting bleach; encouraging resistance against his own shut-down guidelines, masking, and social distancing. All this utter idiocy surely caused most of our 600,000 deaths. While Trump disparaged and tried to sideline scientists like Fauci — a contrasting voice of reason and responsibility.

So what’s their beef against Fauci now? A trove of emails from early in the pandemic they say show he misled the public about its origins, to protect the Chinese government. Of course that’s a ridiculous lie. Of course. Republicans no longer even remember how not to lie.

Scientists, in the pandemic’s early days, scrambled to get information, so naturally their messages evolved as knowledge increased. To concoct from that a case that Fauci lied is itself despicably dishonest.

Central here is the “lab leak” theory for Covid’s origin. Originally dismissed because the virus fit a familiar well-understood pattern of jumping from animals to humans. The “lab leak” theory is lately getting a second look, even while the scientific consensus still deems it highly improbable.

Republicans now accuse Fauci of deliberately downplaying it. Why would he? A Chinese shill? But anyhow the emails actually show the exact opposite of what Republicans claim. In fact, as scientists go, Fauci was unusually open-minded toward the “lab leak” idea, refusing to join others in dismissing it.

Yet undaunted by truth and reality, Republican “stars” like Rand Paul, Josh Hawley, Steve Scalise and Elise Stefanik are thundering for a full-blown investigation of Fauci and his emails. (While opposing a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 violence against the very institution they (supposedly) serve in.)

They seem desperate to find some way to undermine the Biden administration’s credibility and support. The broad American public is comparing Biden’s honesty, decency, competence and leadership against his predecessor’s total shit-storm. Guess which they prefer? No matter how often Republicans screech the word “Socialist!” Yet instead of trying to run away from their shit-storm, they somehow imagine winning the next election by mythologizing it.

Note: this piece practically wrote itself. So clear is the reality. Long accustomed to genuine political debates about genuine issues, I can’t help despairing that so many Americans fail to see what are so obviously lies and nonsense from what are so obviously bad people. Fauci versus Trump on Covid? Are you fucking kidding me?

The Republican party is insane. Supporting (almost) any Republican is insane. Returning them to power would be insane.

The power imbalance between good and evil

May 21, 2021

I literally wrote the book on optimism. Seeing people, and the world, improving over time. But that seems to have gone into reverse.

The power of good is considerable. Most people are better served when good prevails over evil, so work to achieve it. But the power of evil is stronger.

How so? Good is inherently self-limiting, ultimately bound by the golden rule, an iron law for people who do truly strive for goodness. The wicked are not so bound. The good have scruples and restrain themselves; the wicked do not, that’s their wickedness.

Thus the power imbalance between good and evil, recalling Hegel’s concept of thesis and antithesis. Humans, in mass, have indeed grown better, but it’s an ironic consequence that this means more moral restraint, and hence more vulnerability to the depredations of those without restraint.

We see this playing out all over. Some capable of anything to gain their aims, while resistance is handicapped by inhibitions on fighting fire with fire. Erdogan, Putin, Xi, Maduro, Lukashenko, Orban, Ortega, Assad. India’s Modi headed that way. El Salvador’s Bukele newly in the club. Trump tried. Myanmar’s generals willing to slaughter as many as necessary to keep power.

Willingness to kill is the top rung of the ladder that starts with flouting democratic norms, rule of law, and people’s rights. Killing is the ultimate denial of rights.

If any country ever embodied the principles of rule of law, democracy, and human rights, it was America. Don’t start in about our crimes. We’re not perfect — nothing human ever is — but we strove toward living up to those ideals, and progressed.

Until 2016. Then the power imbalance between good and evil hit. A president without restraints, compunctions, or scruples. Good did manage to prevail, but only just barely, and without finality.

America’s crisis has deep antecedents and is continuing. It was brutally exposed when Republicans blocked the Garland Supreme Court nomination, because they could. A classic instance of lack of restraint, defying democratic norms to get their way.

Behind it all lay the Obama-inspired crisis of white identity. Fears of losing demographic dominance were suddenly brought to a boil by a non-white president. Rather than Obama signaling a post-racial America, now many whites felt besieged, and that they had to make a stand. This is the elephant in the room of American political culture.

Successfully blowing through rule of law, democratic norms, and others’ rights requires the support of a critical mass of people willing to junk those principles for the sake of something that feels (to them) bigger. Such ideals once loomed large in the American imagination. But now, for many, they’re trumped by white tribalism. It’s a more primordial impulse. Democracy and rule of law are not instinctual ideas. If it’s a choice between them and white dominance, many pick the latter. They’re a minority, but a big enough one that they don’t need many additional dupes to win. Especially if unhampered by scruples.

Few of them consciously confront the reality. But white revanchism über alles is what today’s Republican party really represents. Making it an existential threat to American democracy. As seen in cultish devotion to a malign monster; propagating his big “stolen election” lie; excusing the January 6 insurrection; voting in Congress to overturn the election; and working everywhere to make voting harder. Far from being chastened by defeat, they’ve since actually gotten worse, more willing to shred democratic principles. All in service to their larger (albeit rancid and usually unspoken) tribalist cause. They’ve passed the ladder’s first rung. And their very lack of restraint confers a power advantage.

Trump finally lost because he was an incompetent fool. We may not be so lucky next time.

GOP online fundraising reveals a dishonest, depraved and dangerous party

April 5, 2021

In 2016 I gave Marco Rubio a small donation. Last year, far more to Democrats. Yet it’s Republican fundraising emails that continue to flood my inbox. On one recent day I counted 99. It’s a window into the party. The messages are hysterical — in both senses of the word.

Trump used them to personally extract huge sums from his suckers with the lie that it would combat the “election steal,” itself a lie. Always promising donation matches up to 900%, yet another lie. AND — we now learn that people who thought they were making one-time campaign donations were automatically enrolled for weekly charges! The opt-outs for this were hidden in fine print on the Trump “Winred” websites. His organization itself smirkingly called this a “money bomb.” Millions of unwitting donors were shocked to find their accounts unexpectedly drained. Many had to battle for refunds. But despite such clawbacks, this massive monstrous scam still added hundreds of millions to Trump’s fraudulent take. Perhaps the Great Con Man’s greatest con.

The fundraising emails continue, ostensibly now from diverse organizations and personages, but actually most originate with the same “Winred” outfit. Those named as senders are the likes of Donald Junior, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes, even Matt Gaetz (sent from Central Casting for the “slimeball” role). A rogues gallery of the Trumpiest trolls. Prominently including the two QAnon congresswomen — Lauren Boebert, who brought a Glock into the House chamber, and quite often Marjorie Taylor Greene. The QAnon conspiracy theory, recall, holds that Trump is secretly battling to save America from a Satanic cabal of pedophile cannibals. Meantime Greene also blamed California wildfires on Jews using space lasers.

This is the face of Republicanism the party itself chooses to showcase!

The messages’ content is likewise extremist. A serious “loyal opposition” might develop some well-considered critiques of the administration. Instead the attacks are ridiculous and demented. Banging on the word “socialism.” Misogynistically demonizing Nancy Pelosi and AOC. Wild lies about President Biden. Often invoking stuff where Trump was the really egregious transgressor — can you believe, slamming Biden’s treatment of underage migrants?

They scream about border wall construction being stopped. Greene demands Biden’s impeachment for this, as supposedly violating Congress’s constitutional “power of the purse.” Forgetting that Congress refused to authorize wall spending in the first place. Thus in fact it was Trump who violated Congressional authority, by raiding the military budget for his wall.

So that rap on Biden is laughable. Likewise the wall itself — a series of disconnected sections with wide gaps anyone can waltz through. A monument to stupidity. Billions wasted (Mexico did not pay).

Republicans fetishize the word “freedom.” I consider myself basically libertarian. But today’s Republicans are highly selective about what freedoms they cherish. Certainly not freedom to have an abortion; gays’ marital freedom; freedom to protest; press freedom; freedom to vote; etc., etc., etc. (In a 2017 poll, on a whole range of issues, Republicans were actually more likely than Democrats to say freedoms had gone too far.) 

Their emails show there are just two freedoms Republicans love. One is the freedom to kill people with military style weapons. Of course they fantasize owning guns to protect against such killers. Reality is the opposite. Compared to other countries, America has way more gun deaths because we have way more guns. Nevertheless, Republican messages aim to scare gullible recipients with the bogeyman of Democrats coming to confiscate their guns. (They’re not. They favor reasonable regulations supported by the vast majority of Americans.)

The other freedom Republicans love is the freedom to contract covid and infect others by flouting public health measures like masks and social distancing. One of their emails heralds a “Million Maskless March” and mask burning planned in (where else?) Florida. They attack any idea of “vaccine passports” as an assault on freedom and some kind of Orwellian control measure akin to implanting brain chips. In many states they’re even pushing legislation to ban vaccine passports. And a rising Republican star is South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, lionized at the recent Conservative Political Action Committee conference for boasting that hers was the only state never mandating lockdowns, social distancing, or masking.

It also, not coincidentally, had one of America’s highest covid death rates. While America itself had one of the world’s highest. Recently Dr. Deborah Birx, Trump’s own covid coordinator, said his conduct was directly culpable for the bulk of our half-million-plus death toll. (He responded, true to form, by sliming her as a “liar.”)

I mentioned freedom to vote. Government accountability to citizens, through the ballot box, is the essence of a free and democratic society. This Republicans work against. With their onslaught to enact wide-ranging voting restrictions, lying that this is to combat election fraud (proven virtually nonexistent). With a majority of GOP lawmakers voting on January 6 to overturn our presidential election. And with devotion to a man who would have made himself king in all but name. All this makes Republicans’ “freedom!” cries ring hollow. They believe in democracy only insofar as it can be manipulated to give them power.

It’s a global phenomenon. After the cold war, it almost looked like democracy was unstoppable. Then bad guys learned how to stop it — or twist it, by manipulating processes and mainly by manipulating voters. Seen in country after country — voters suckered into effectively voting themselves out of power. Blind to a leader’s badness even when it virtually smacks them in the face. We had a close shave in America, and we’re not out of the woods yet. Half a million deaths didn’t dissuade 47% from voting for Trump. 

Philippine voters have similarly fallen for a vile vulgar strongman, Rodrigo Duterte, whose “war on drugs” consists of literally murdering tens of thousands. A recent documentary film profiled journalist Maria Ressa, struggling to hold the regime to account as it crushes press freedom. She herself being targeted with numerous trumped-up criminal charges that have been called “Kafkaesque.” 

At a public forum, Ressa was challenged by an elderly woman, saying she personally felt no threat from the Duterte murder regime. Ressa said she’d respond with a poem. I knew which one:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out —

Because I was not a socialist . . . ” *

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_…

The Republican war on voting rights

March 7, 2021

Republicans are a minority party. Winning the presidential popular vote only once (and then barely) since 1988. Their weakness masked by the electoral college overweighting small rural states; and by a 2010 high water mark showing, which gave them control of many state legislatures, enabling their perpetuating it via gerrymandering in that census/redistricting year. While their voting base, centered upon older rural religious white males, inexorably shrinks. 

You’d think they’d strive to broaden their appeal among other, hostile demographics. An internal party post-mortem after their 2012 loss urged just that. But they went the exact opposite way, doubling down on their pitch to their base to the exclusion of courting others, by nominating Trump. This might have seemed vindicated by his squeaking to victory despite losing the popular vote. But then in 2020 he lost pretty decisively.

So are they retooling their appeal now? No. Instead Republicans are tripling down, going yet more totally Trump, even trying to purge any dissenters. Blind to rational people hating Trump for lies, divisiveness, half a million covid deaths — and the violent attempt to overthrow the government!

So how pray tell do Republicans, waving this rancid flag, envision winning elections? Here’s how: by preventing opposition voters from casting ballots.

Voter suppression has been a central Republican strategy ever since their 2010 state legislative wins enabled it. They figure to do better if fewer people vote. Now they’re on a tear, with literally hundreds of bills introduced across 40 states, to make voting harder.

Their pretense is election integrity and fraud prevention. It’s a total lie. Vote fraud has been proven virtually nonexistent. Trump in 2017 set up a commission to investigate it — galled that he lost the popular vote by three million — but it disbanded after being unable to find even a single improper Clinton ballot.

But now they say the 2020 election raised widespread concerns about vote fraud. This is like the classic illustration of chutzpah, someone murdering his parents and pleading for mercy as an orphan. It’s of course these Republicans themselves who spread Trump’s vote fraud lies. When none of his 60+ lawsuits could prove Biden got even one fraudulent ballot. While responsible authorities attested that the 2020 election was among the most impeccably conducted ever. 

And, if anyone, it was Republicans who cheated in that election — through all their voter suppression.

What does that actually mean? Making it harder to register, eliminating automatic registration. Cancelling registrations of people who don’t vote often enough, or on minor technicalities. Obstructing mail voting, by limiting when it’s allowed, making it more complicated and cumbersome, eliminating drop-off options, etc. Curtailing early voting, closing polling stations, and making them less accessible. Requiring particular forms of ID to vote.

All carefully targeting poor and minority voters, less likely to support Republicans. It’s become common in Black neighborhoods to wait hours on line to vote. Very rare in white areas. Proposed legislation in Georgia would even criminalize giving water or food to anyone waiting to vote!

The Jim Crow South used poll taxes and literacy tests to keep Blacks from voting. They might be asked to explicate an obscure section of the state constitution. If that didn’t work, a beating probably would. Blacks knew enough not to try. So until the 1965 Voting Rights Act outlawed these sorts of things, very few Southern Blacks could vote. Then in 2013 the Republican-majority Supreme Court eviscerated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and Republican-dominated state legislatures rushed to enact new restrictions aimed at impeding Black voting. And those the court has consistently upheld.

Bad enough for America if one party thusly perverts the system to illegitimately hold power. Worse yet: while at one time I saw the two parties as each merely representing differing but sincere visions for the common good, that’s no longer true. Say what you will about Democrats’ policies, they are advocated honestly and sincerely. Not so for today’s Republicans. Bad faith pervades their entire enterprise.

Epitomized by their “stolen election” lie. That’s the huge fraud. They know it, but use it to serve their partisan purposes — notably, their voter suppression onslaught. Which — together with a majority of GOP lawmakers voting on January 6 to overturn the election — proves they just don’t believe in democracy. They are no longer legitimate actors upon the nation’s political stage. 

And what further delegitimizes the GOP is its having become, most fundamentally, the white supremacy party. Their trying to prevent Black voting is thus really a twofer — not only aimed at unfairly winning elections, but furthermore reflecting their deep-down feeling that Blacks shouldn’t be allowed to vote anyway.

This is ghastly for the country. After all we’ve been through. The horror of slavery, and the bloody Civil War over it. Followed by a century of Jim Crow crushing the rights that war had seemingly assured. Then, the great civil rights battle to finally make those rights a reality. To fulfill at last America’s promise as a democratic society with liberty and justice for all. Will we now let all this be set back by a dishonest white supremacist minority?

Voting is sacred. Republicans bleat about “freedom” — especially to own guns (giving us an epidemic of gun violence). They’d never accept gun restrictions equivalent to what they impose on voting. They fantasize guns as a bulwark against tyranny; but the primary bulwark is voting, essential to freedom. For most of human history, ordinary people were powerless. Voting gives us the power to shape our collective destinies. Thank God for Black Americans, who in their millions defied Republican efforts to hinder their voting and thus saved the country in 2020. Public servants should be working to expand opportunities for citizens to exercise their voting rights — not to curtail them, as Republicans strive to do.

To combat that we need a new national voting rights law. A good one’s been passed by the House of Representatives. It cannot pass the Senate with the filibuster rule still in force, enabling Republicans to block it. Democrats must bite that bullet, end the filibuster once and for all, and then enact the voting rights bill, while they still have the capability to do so. Otherwise, Republican voter suppression may well enable them to illegitimately regain power — and make America stink again.

The insane Republican religious cult

March 1, 2021

I’d love to forget Trump ever existed. But Republicans won’t; despite January 6, Trumpier than ever. Kind of circling the wagons around him.

Seventeen GOP lawmakers did break ranks to back impeachment. But state party organizations are voting to censure them! Something quite unprecedented in the annals of American politics. Trying to enforce a slavish conformity no party has ever attempted. It’s a great irony that they continue denouncing “cancel culture.” These censure votes are the GOP’s own cancel culture. Showing it’s no longer a political party so much as a religion, bent on casting out heretics.

Religions have their mythologies; now salient here is “the stolen election.” A trifecta of nonsensicality. It originated with the biggest liar ever. It’s been thoroughly debunked. And third, Trump lost not due to fraud but loathsomeness. Which Republicans also blind themselves to. A divorcement from reality characteristic of religious cults. The “election steal” fits right in with the QAnon fantasy, of some vast Satanic deep state conspiracy of cannibalistic pedophiles, rampant too among Republicans.

Such confabulation of nonsense stories — blaming Trump’s defeat on fraud, January 6 on leftist provocateurs, Texas power outages on the Green New Deal, and on and on — is now pervasively how Republicans engage with the world. Textbook insanity.

But they’re really RINOs — “Republicans in name only.” Everything the party used to represent thrown under the bus in their insane worship of the most destructive individual in U.S. history.

This is what we confront today in place of conventional political debate over ideas, issues, and policies. Not even abortion is to the fore any longer. In this religion, Trump is the messiah, the savior. Their Jerusalem, which they see him as promising, is the preservation of white supremacy, in the most literal sense. To, as they see it, remain culturally dominant, by any means necessary.

This is a fundamental rejection of democracy. A democratic culture means accepting the legitimacy of the role of people different from you, with different ideas. Today’s Republicans do not. I’m reminded of Turkey’s Erdogan saying democracy is like a train — you get off when you reach your chosen destination. To reach theirs, Republicans will stop at nothing. Not lies, not cruelty, not trashing civic decency. All grotesquely contravening the Christianity they supposedly sacralize. In fact, they’re not only RINOs, but CINOs — Christians in name only. Trump having superseded Christ.

They even justify overthrowing the Constitution. That’s what they tried to do on January 6. Many dupes fantasized “protecting democracy” from vote fraud; for others that was just a useful lie. But anyway, it was never actually election integrity that mattered, it was keeping their despicable messiah in office. At least President Biden has never tried to overthrow the government.*

Their failure on January 6 is not the end of it. While Republicans used to claim venerating the Constitution, about half, according to polls, now actually believe force and violence are justified to maintain the white Christian America of their imaginings and defeat their betes noires. No wonder this is now seen as our greatest national security threat. They consider January 6 another 1776. Though in 1776, we got rid of a king; on January 6 they tried to crown one.

This is the party Hawley, Haley, Cruz, Rubio, and others are jockeying to lead. Struggling to square the circle of kissing Trump cultist asses while somehow distancing from their loopiness. Their moral depravity will profit them nought, because the 2024 nominee will be Donald or else Donald Junior. If not a Trump-Trump ticket.

We’re told the party is split, undergoing a civil war, with some Republicans battling for sanity and the party’s soul. But GOP voters harbor great resentment against “elites.” Those still sane are the GOP’s own elite, similarly resented (now being censured), and too few to put up much of a fight. Many (like me) having simply left the party, as irredeemable.

I remember LBJ quoting, “Come, let us reason together.” America was always a place where, while disagreements were real and large, reason helped us work through them. That’s what politics was about. But no longer. There’s no reasoning with a religious cult.

So obviously is this a bad thing for America, one wants to believe it cannot possibly prevail. That we can’t go so far off the deep end. But the fools dancing dementedly around bonfires of reason are so numerous they don’t have to ensnare many additional voters. We’ve already had one bout of catastrophic misrule by their monster messiah, leaving half a million dead. Yet he actually came within 1% of re-election. Can the better angels of our nature keep these demons at bay?

*But Republicans will probably accuse him of it; weirdly inverting all indictnments of Trump. Now calling Biden “anti-science.” A right-wing radio commentator faulted his foreign policy for not sufficiently emphasizing human rights! And so forth.

The Trial

February 12, 2021

In Kafka’s novel The Trial, Josef K is charged with a crime no one ever specifies. It ends with his execution.

Trump’s trial is the inverse. His crime obvious. It ends with his exoneration.

Hearing his lawyers’ arguments almost made my head explode. It was indeed Kafkaesque — set on a planet far, far away, where black is white and up is down.

With table-pounding indignation they denounced the trial as an assault upon democracy. When that’s the very thing their client is guilty of. They decried the trial as divisive. After four years of the most divisive president in history.

They portrayed Democrats as pursuing a vendetta against him. As if a baseless prejudice unconnected to Trump’s behavior. The lawyers even bizarrrely played a recorded medley of numerous Democrats calling for impeachment. As if somehow proving their unjustified malice. When in the real world those impeachment calls highlighted his crimes. But in Trumpworld white is black.

I previously thought Trump mentally incapable of a serious January 6 coup plan. But the trial evidence makes clear he actually did plot out siccing a mob of supporters on Congress, intending for them to overthrow the election and keep him in office. The insurrectionists believed they were following his marching orders. And it wasn’t just his January 6 speech. He’d been working toward this long in advance, stoking them with his lies, preparing the ground.

The lawyers also insisted his freedom of speech is being denied. Well, maybe a president does have a right to lie. But not a constitutional right to violate his oath to protect the constitution; a right to instigate its overthrow. And regardless of whether Trump did incite the insurrection, his refusal throughout those ghastly hours to do anything to stop it was surely the gravest conceivable violation of his presidential oath.

Could it have succeeded? How close did it come? Most of those rampaging fools didn’t really understand what they were doing. But some, we’re learning, did. And brought weapons. It seems almost miraculous now that no elected officials were killed. Pence, Pelosi, and others were targeted and had narrow escapes. (Officer Brian Sicknick less lucky.)

So after four years of Pence’s slavish loyalty, Trump launches a mob to literally hang him. And just when it’s hot after Pence, Trump — instead of sending help — releases a tweet denouncing him again. Trump loyalty goes in only one direction. He’s a black hole that sucks in and destroys anyone venturing too close. Yet still some haven’t learned this.

Like his hapless lawyers in this impeachment trial. Trump reportedly enraged at them for their performance. But enragement is his daily norm; “treated very unfairly” a constant mantra. His psychologist niece’s book defined his underlying pathology — knowing he’s a fraud, he’s terrified of exposure. Thus his constant state of infuriated aggrievement.

How has this guy not had a heart attack or stroke?

A friend on Facebook posted “stolen election” particulars. One jurisdiction where thousands more mail ballots were received than had been sent out. Another where thousands more people voted than were registered. And so forth. As if such things could really happen, let alone without making headlines. But my friend was furious that mainstream news media don’t report these stories. And why don’t they? Because they’re lies. Somebody somewhere on the internet simply made them up. But my friend believes such nameless nobodies rather than NPR or PBS or CNN.

Of course there’s also the (former) president of the United States. Whose veracity record is unmatched. Thirty thousand documented lies.

Even before the election (fearing he’d lose), Trump was preemptively calling it a giant fraud, but without ever actually explaining how so. And if there were any truth to those “facts” my Facebook friend invoked, surely Trump’s 62 lawsuits would have brought them forward. They did not. And all were thrown out — many by judges he appointed — including his three Supreme Court picks.

He’s out of office and out of his mind, but not out of our minds, and we’re not out of the woods. Many millions still worship Trump, marinated in his cesspool of lies, fancying themselves “patriots” battling for righteousness against a corrupt criminal communistic conspiracy. Endorsing violence, even fetishizing it. Seeing us already in a civil war.

This evil abroad in our land will be turbocharged by the Senate acquitting Trump, re-empowering his wickedness. Leaving unpunished the most despicable of assaults upon our democracy. Republican senators so voting are traitors to America and everything it ever stood for.

That’s not too strong a word. Traitors.