Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Chops

A few days ago, I wrote about Elizabeth Warren's decision to release her DNA test.  Since then, Native American activists have weighed in, complaining about how this clouds the idea of what it means to be a tribal member - again, something Warren never claimed - and again, talking past what Warren actually said and tried to do.  Warren's decision to goad Trump into paying (which he won't do) his share of the bet to a fund that protects Native women from violence was a decent play.

However, I'm willing to concede that Warren wasn't taking into consideration how this would play among Native American activists.  It also stresses how difficult politics can be on the Left these days.  Another example is Kristen Gillibrand.  She took a very active role in forcing Al Franken to retire.  I think that was a shrewd move, but there are plenty of Jewish party figures who remain incensed that Franken was forced from the stage over a relatively smaller matter than those that Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump or Roy Moore faced.  Similarly, Kamala Harris is going to get ripped apart for her close work with police as a DA in California.  Finally, Nancy Pelosi has spent her career as a cut-out punching bag for conservative attack media, but now she is taking shots from her own party.  Shots that I don't think are warranted.

Now, if you want to get rid of Chuck Schumer, let me see how I can help you.

It is more than a little interesting that all those examples are women, but of course, Bernie Sanders is a lightning rod for his own positions. Sanders can't pop up anywhere without engendering a massive backlash from people who are still pissed at his lukewarm support for the Democratic Party over the years. 

If there are shining stars in the Democratic firmament right now, they are likely Beto O'Rourke, Andrew Gillum, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and  Stacey Abrams.  While relative youth is a big part of their appeal, they also haven't had to actually govern very much.  They have had smaller roles in state legislatures and city halls.  Once they get into the scrum of national Democratic politics, things will probably go much worse for them. 

The wounds of 2016 are still very raw.  At some point leading up to 2020, Democrats will need to rally around a candidate who can unify the various wings of the party.  Whoever that is will need excellent political chops.  That's what makes O'Rourke so appealing.  He speaks clearly and calmly on issues that unite the party.  He even looks like Bobby Kennedy.

But he's unlikely to win next month (sadly).  Perhaps that allows him to focus on the Presidency, but do we really want a state legislator to jump to the White House?  And who does that leave?

Can Kristin Gillibrand shore up support from those still pissed about Al Franken?  Can Elizabeth Warren show better political skills than she showed this week?  Can Kamala Harris translate her biography into a political message?  Can Chris Murphy be more than "the white guy"?  Aren't Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders too old?

The Democrats have a lot of appealing candidates.  But they represent distinct wings of the party that are still smarting over 2016 and a left wing politics that incessantly cannibalizes itself.

It's going to be a bumpy road.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Rot

If there is anything more symbolic of the rot at the heart of Donald Trump as both President and human being, it is his tendency to see everything through the prism of himself.  A good example of this is how he views the essential nature of guilt.

From a young age, we are taught (hopefully) that wrong doings come with consequences.  (Of course, the Trump family has long evaded their responsibilities and the consequences.)  But "guilty" is what you are when we hold you accountable for your misdeeds.

For Trump, guilt isn't a state of being, it's a tool.  And someone's "guilt" isn't a consequence of their deeds so much as a category of usefulness to Trump. Brett Kavanaugh's innocence or guilt isn't important, it's his use to Trump. Kavanaugh doesn't mean anything to Trump besides feeding his base, getting a "win" and pissing of the libtards.

Now cometh the Saudi scandal.  It seems pretty clear that Saudi Arabia is funneling money to Trump and Kushner.  (If Robert Mueller knows this...now would be a good time to finally spring a leak.)  Saudi Arabia is a bulwark against Iran.  The complexity of that relationship is a mystery to Trump.  The historical accident of allying with Saudi Arabia rather than Iran is not something Trump is capable of analyzing and changing.   Instead, Saudis give him money; Iran is bad.  So, the apparent fact that Saudi security forces kidnapped and murdered an American resident is completely irrelevant to Trump.

What's more, it's completely irrelevant to his Deplorables.  Given the presumption of guilt that Trump imposes on the press at his Volkssturm rallies, why shouldn't the Saudis kill a journalist, as long as they can get away with it?  The moral bankruptcy of Trump's utilitarian calculus means that Hillary Clinton is guilty of...something (Benghazi, email something something, Pizzagate), but Wilbur Ross, Brett Kavanaugh, the Saudis, Scott Pruitt, Greg Gianforte, and so on and so on are all innocent men falsely accused.

He doesn't care about your concepts of guilt or innocence.  He cares if you express loyalty to the Trump Crime Family.  The Saudis did at the Glowing Orb, so they are "innocent."  Who cares if they are innocent as long as they are "innocent."

Thanks, Republicans.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Kiss My Ass

In a move that surprises no one, the GOP - having blown a massive hold in the debt - has decided to call for massive budget cuts in order to keep shoveling money at the wealthiest Americans.

This should be every Democrat's closing argument leading up to the election.  Don't worry about technical niceties, either.

"The GOP wants to slash your Social Security and Medicare in order to pay for tax cuts and more tax cuts for billionaires."  Say it over and over again, and screw whether Glenn Kessler gives you three Pinochios or Pants on Fires or whatever.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Pochahantas

For a few years now, Trump has been deriding Elizabeth Warren as "Pochahantas" because - in Trump's fevered imagination - Warren used a mythical Native American heritage to get into grad school and become a professor. The Boston Globe proved a while ago that Warren did not benefit from whatever claims of Native American ancestry she may or may not have made.  Needless to say, facts never get in Trump's way.

Today, Warren released a DNA test that proves she does have some Native American heritage somewhere back in her timeline.  What was interesting was not the predictable derision from conservatives but the narrow hairsplitting from liberals and leftists.  Typical was a few tweets noting that having Native ancestry does not necessarily make you part of a tribe, and where does she get off blahblahblah. 

Warren, in fact, did note that she was not a tribal member.  She said all the reasonably right things to say.  But it didn't matter.  A certain subset of holier than thou leftists felt the need to "Well, actually..." a perfectly reasonable video from Warren. 

You can make an argument that you shouldn't dignify Trump's attacks with a response.  But a common lament is that Congressional liberals don't fight back. Warren fought back and was criticized for how she did it.

This is why we can't have nice things.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Tearing Down The Guardrails

Jon Chait gets a lot of shit from the Left for his centrist takes on politics, but he's pretty much right when it comes to the current calls to limit the "mob."  Republicans have been much more virulent and violent over the past few decades, and now we have Leftist groups like Antifa rising to meet them.  Typical of this is the violence in NYC a few nights ago where a group of Proud Boys confronted heckling protestors.  Some of the protestors were arrested, then the Proud Boys went around the corner and started beating the living crap out of some people.  It's unclear whether any of the Proud Boys have been arrested yet.  Leftists shouted; Rightists attacked.  Trump and some journalists say that the Left was worse.

Rightists and Fascists need violence.  So far since 1992 most of the worst violence has been by Rightists, including a few mass shootings.  If and when Democrats regain control of the government, we should expect massive amounts of right wing violence.  Aside from the attempted assassinations at the GOP Congressional softball practice by a "lone gunman" the Left has not engaged in direct violence to the same extent as the Alt Right.  But we are one gerrymandered and voter suppression election away from that no longer become true.

It's not 1968 yet.

Yet.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Gospel of Wealth

Paul Krugman makes an excellent point from the Times reporting on how the Trump family has evaded taxes for generations.  While the specifics of the Trump family's illegal tax evasion are damning to the Trump family, they also speak to a dysfunction at the heart of our tax system.  Rich people don't pay taxes.

The very heart of progressive taxation is that people who have more money should pay more money.  Having benefited the most from a country's laws and economy, they should respond by paying more.  They will also have more left over, even after paying a greater absolute dollar amount.

First, we have a political party dedicated to the idea that taxing rich people is wrong.  In fact, the Republican party seems pretty opposed to the 16th Amendment in its entirety.  (I doubt their voters are unhappy with progressive taxation, but you never know.)  So, one of the two major parties is pretty much anti-tax, which suggests that taxes as a whole may be illegitimate.  Then, you create a very complicated tax code - rather than simply collecting taxes and redistributing that money, as other countries do - which allows the very wealthy to illegally hide their money. 

Meanwhile, the country racks up trillions of dollars in debt for the sole purpose of giving more money to the very rich.  Part of the reason Romney lost in 2012 was because he was linked to the culture of plutocracy.  The Scrooge McDuck caricature of the Republican party is real.  It's also unlikely to survive close scrutiny, which is why they distract you with Colin Kaepernick and the War on Christmas.  The Times' Trump Tax story is the most important story this fall, and no one is talking about it.  Some of that is the 24 hour a day clown show at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Part of it is America's unfortunate reflexive worship of wealth as somehow signaling virtue. (Hello, Elon Musk.)

America needs to disenthrall itself from the idea that our richest citizens are our best people.  The best of us are not best because they are rich.  Some are.  There are good people who are rich and good people who are poor.  Wealth in itself is not a signifier of virtue. In fact, given how people apparently acquire their wealth, it could be exactly the opposite.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Of Course This Is A Trump Scandal

We can be pretty sure of the following:
- The Saudis killed dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- The Trump Administration does not care.

The question is what links those two statements.  Trump has said there will be no sanction against Saudi Arabia because they buy a lot of US weapons.  These US weapons are used to commit war crimes against Yemenis, but whatever.  Those large and very profitable companies need to get paid.

The real reason is likely the substantial amount of financial connections between the House of Saud and the House of Trump.  Of course Trump is making money off the Saudis and of course they have leverage over him because they are party to his on-going corruption.  And of course Trump couldn't give two shits about a tortured, murdered and butchered journalist.

Thanks, Republicans.

UPDATE: Yglesias has more.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

War On Democracy

The Republican Party has begun to realize that they cannot win a straight up election in many areas of the country.  They have benefitted from a locked-in gerrymander from 2010 to retain control of the House, despite losing the popular vote for House candidates.

Now, faced with a rising tide of Democratic voters, they are simply eroding democracy.  The Supreme Court (now 11% more rape-ier) ruled that North Dakota can basically disenfranchise thousands of Native Americans.  This pretty much sinks any long shot chances for Heidi Heitkamp to hold her seat.  That's intentional.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate in Georgia is also the Secretary of State, and he's decided to deny voter registrations on technicalities.  If your name is Cortez-Lopez but one of your state IDs says Cortez Lopez, you just lost your right to vote.

If that wasn't enough, we now have a story of a Democratic campaign operative being arrested for being a Democratic campaign operative.

The decline of the Party of Lincoln into the Party of Trump, includes a stop at the Party of McConnell.  Increasingly, we are waking up to the fact that the majority of Americans do not get to determine who governs them.  This is contrary to the founding ideals of the country.  The Republican Party does NOT have the consent of a majority of the governed, yet they control all three branches.  In an effort to preserve their control, they are actively waging war on the ballot.

These are shitty, evil, un-American people who deserve a drubbing in November and in 2020 that will leave a mark for a generation.  But it probably won't happen, because Trump gives WWC voters the feels.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Every Allegation Is A Confession

Hair Furor has been running around the country lying his ass off...like he does.  Recently, he's trying to stoke the base by saying...Jesus, it pisses me off just to type this...that Democrats are a mob and Republicans are <gags> committed to the rule of law.  He prattles on about due process as if he ahs any idea what that really means.

Then his mouthbreathing Volkstrum start chanting "Lock her up."  They are chanting that about Diane Feinstein.

A large swath of America is broken.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Decent People

I've spent some time deriding how awful so many elected Republicans are.  They are just mean, nasty people.

Compare that to Heidi Heitkamp.

And she's probably going to lose to a real shitheel.

Until white women truly and properly abandon the party that thinks assaulting women is good for a punchline or a chance to "pwn the libtards," we are fucked as a country.  (I hold out little hope for men.)

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Long View

I vacillate these days from being a political science teacher and a history teacher.  Not pedagogically, but how I look at the world. 

The political science teacher looks at Trump and the GOP and sees a descent into racial hatred and demagoguery, corruption and authoritarianism.  The GOP enjoys - for the moment - a demographic advantage in the Senate and series of natural and artificial gerrymanders in the House.  This has allowed a minority of Americans to elect a manifestly unsuitable president, a Congress that has no consideration of the opinions of the majority of Americans and a Supreme Court that thinks the 1880s were too liberal.

The history teacher would note that America has always had racist demagogues, the politics of division and a strain of authoritarianism.  I'm a fan of Edmund Morgan's thesis that racism and slavery allowed democracy to take root in America, because white Americans enjoyed a relative equality vis a vis African slaves.  And for much of American history, whites have excluded minorities from political power.  The election of Obama didn't end this, so much as create a virulent rearguard action to preserve white supremacy.  We've done this before, walked this road.  We came out the other side and we should again.

Unless... and I hate to even type these words... if Democrats have been so gerrymandered out of power that election day does not bring at least one House of Congress into Democratic control... As Josh Marshall notes, breaking all the rules worked.  It worked for Trump.  It worked for McConnell.  It has now worked for Kavanaugh.  Every branch of the federal government is under Republican control, because they broke the rules and a minority of Americans is able to force their will upon the majority.

If that doesn't change, then we are headed for a very dark place.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Pulaski Wasn't That Important

I got stuck in Midtown Manhattan because of a parade for Casimir Pulaski.  Two hours to go fifteen blocks.

He wasn't that big a deal.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Where We Are

Yesterday was a punch in the gut for millions of women.  On a political level, it sucked for me and other men, but for women...I saw tears yesterday.  Of course, millions of white women were fine with approving Kavanaugh to "own the libs," and I don't know what to say about that.  It has been a striking fact that for decades, WWC men and women have voted against their economic self-interest, and now we can add basic personal self-interest. 

Josh Marshall makes an important point (as usual).  Kavanaugh was going down to defeat after Blassey Ford's testimony.  He would be replaced by another revanchist judge from the Federalist Society and the Court would lurch further rightwards.  Instead, Kavanaugh embraced the basic tenet of Trumpism: attack, attack, attack.  Then, yesterday, that simpering pile of Jell-o knows as Susan Collins got up and mewled about civility and fairness.  FUCK.  YOU.

Trumpism - that attacking your enemies is more important than serving the public interest - is now the default position of the GOP.  There is no core set of policies positions or ideological takes on limited government.  That is all bullshit.  The GOP serves a set of corporate donors who want to reduce the federal government to the protectors of their property and screw the rest of you.  (Seriously, read Yglesias on the Court).  But aside from that, the great mass of voters basically want to attack and destory the Democrats.  It's difficult to say "the Left" because this isn't ideological, it's partisan. 

Yes, Democrats are furious, especially Democratic women.  But starting with Merrick Garland and then Donald Trump, it is apparent that the GOP will do literally anything to win and hold on to power, despite representing a minority of the population.  Perhaps...please God...Democrats can win back both Houses (or even one House) of Congress and begin to swing the pendulum back in favor of democracy (not just Democrats).  Perhaps Florida will re-enfranchise former felons, giving citizens who have done their time a say in their government (and turning Florida bluer).

And maybe...just maybe...the average citizen and the purer-than-thou leftist will get off their ass and open their eyes and vote as if their life depends on it.  Because it very well might.

Friday, October 5, 2018

It's Never About Race

Excellent piece by Spencer Akerman on how Russia exploited and exploits American racism for political benefit.

I am concerned about how online discourse is reshaping our sense of civil society. It is clear that people are crueler to each other on social media than they are in person.  There is no nuance, no human connection that comes through a tweet or a Facebook post.

Russia exploits that brilliantly, because they (unlike many Americans) understand how racism underpins so much of American society.  By ripping away the language of polite society, they give license to the angry, torch-bearing demons in America's dark heart.

Franken's Monster

If you believe - for one stinking second - that Democrats are targeting Kavanaugh because of opportunism, think about Al Franken.  Also, think about how Trump thinks about Al Franken.

There is a political party that cares about sexual assault to the point where they will jetison a popular Senator, and a party that has backed a pedophile for Alabama Senate, an alleged sexual assailant for the Supreme Court and is all in on a man on tape bragging about sexual assault.