Friday, December 31, 2021

What Happens When a Member of Congress Threatens Treason?

Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene has been threatening a "national divorce" between red and blue states over "irreconcilable differences."

Her threat turned into a Twitter trend on Wednesday when she took the whole idea a step further.

Basically what she's saying is that, under a national divorce scenario, red states could decide that anyone who moved there from a blue state would be barred from voting during a "cooling off period."

I have one question for Rep. Greene: Would your home state of Georgia be one of those red states? In the 2020 election, 49.47% of Georgians voted for Joe Biden, 51% chose Raphael Warnock, and 49% voted for a Democrat in congressional races. 

I realize that Greene isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I don't think she's thought this one through. She could very well find herself living in "blue America" if her national divorce scenario actually came to pass.

On a more serious note, what we have is a member of Congress threatening secession, which is treason. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has stayed silent as members of his caucus posted videos of killing their political opponents or called them terrorists. But even more damning is the fact that, at this point, he hasn't said a word about one of them threatening treason. That is how far down the rabbit hole the GOP has gone.

What the rest of us are left to contemplate is whether Greene represents the fringe right or the Republican base. Sen. Chris Murphy - who has never been known to be alarmist - weighed in on that question.

In addressing the same question, the always level-headed Steve Benen wrote that "the line between the GOP mainstream and the GOP fringe has grown awfully blurry." When a member of Congress threatens treason and the leadership of her party stays silent, that might be the most optimistic take on where things stand.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

In the Midst of the Biden Boom, Right Wingers Are Politicizing the Economy

On Wednesday, President Biden tweeted this:

That sent right wingers over the edge. Here's just one example:

Fox News brought on Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) to suggest that the president is living in a bubble and fails to see the only thing that matters to right wingers these days: inflation.

The analyst Biden referred to is Matthew Winkler of Bloomberg News, whose most recent article is titled, "Biden's Economic Performance Has Proved Unbeatable." The subtitle says it all: "No first-year president going back to Carter comes close to matching the current White House occupant’s No. 1 or No. 2 ranking in each of 10 key measures." 

America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden's first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years notwithstanding the contrary media narrative contributing to dour public opinion.

Winkler goes on to document how Biden comes in either first or second on things like GDP, stock market performance, consumer credit, non-farm payroll, and manufacturing jobs. While Winkler acknowledges the problem of inflation, he notes that the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note is fluctuating well below the rate of inflation and ends with this:

The clear message from the market that tells all other markets what to do is that the people with the most at stake are betting on the Biden economy.

With all of that, let's review what's happening here. As Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) said a few months ago, Republicans have been counting on chaos as their strategy to prevail in 2022. Spreading disinformation about Covid and vaccines has worked for them in prolonging the pandemic. But they've also put a lot of effort into suggesting that the economy would be chaotic over the holidays, as Dana Milbank summarized.

For months, the GOP-Fox News axis forecast the bluest of Christmases.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy joined 159 House Republicans in a letter to President Biden saying his policies “will certainly ensure that this Christmas will not be merry” because of a “supply chain crisis” and inflation.

Chairman Jim Banks of the House Republican Study Committee, citing the same reasons, wrote to colleagues: “Our job as Republicans is to explain to the American people what the grinches at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave did to ruin Christmas.”

Fox News told viewers that “Christmas presents for your kids may not arrive on time or even at all” (Sean Hannity), that the president is “the Biden Who Stole Christmas” (Laura Ingraham) and that Biden is “facing a nightmare come Christmastime,” when “gifts are going to cost a fortune, and that’s even if you’re lucky enough to snag anything” (Jesse Watters).

Let's be clear about one thing: all of those people were wrong. The so-called "Christmas crisis" never materialized. Supply chain issues weren't a problem, holiday retail sales jumped 8.5 percent from last year (nearly 11 percent from pre-pandemic 2019), and gas prices were 14 cents a gallon lower than in November.

All of that, added to Winklers analysis, explains why the only thing right wingers want to talk about right now is inflation. It's working. As Philip Bump noted, most people used to assume that unemployment rates were the best measure of the health of the economy. That changed this past year, with three-quarters of Republicans now saying that prices are the key indicator of economic health.

All of this reminds me of the famous adage from James Carville during the 1992 election: "It's the economy, stupid." According to political scientists, he had a point.

Several studies have found that the economy is a major factor that affects how people vote — more specifically, that voters reward the incumbent party when they feel that economic times...are good, and voters are more likely to boot the incumbent out of the White House when they feel economic times are bad.

Republicans desperately need the Biden economy to fail. If they can't make that happen, they'll simply use their propaganda network to convince as many people as possible that things are really bad. 

So...based on what news source you pay attention to, this country is either in the midst of a "Biden boom" or is headed for 1970s style stagflation. Nevermind that only one option is backed up by facts. Right wingers have managed to politicize everything else. Why not the economy?

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Right Wingers Pounce on the Speck in Bette Midler's Eye While Ignoring the Beam in Their Own

Recently Bette Midler, who actively shares her political views on Twitter, said something that she shouldn't have. In railing about Sen. Joe Manchin's refusal to support the Build Back Better Act, she referred to West Virginians as "poor, illiterate and strung out." She has since apologized.

Of course, the MAGA crowd is having a field day suggesting that this is yet another example of liberal elitism. But they fail to notice the facts: West Virginia ranks as the second poorest state in the country (behind only Mississippi), ranks number one for the least educated, and has the highest death rate in the country from opioid overdoses. Midler was pointing out that Manchin was standing in the way of legislation that would address those issues.

What is most interesting about the reaction from the right to Midler's tweet is that they are actually projecting their own judgementalism into what she said. Samantha Mendoza chronicled some of the most outrageous things GOP politicians have said about people who are living in poverty.

You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they'll be right back up there," [Ben] Carson said in an interview. "And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you could give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back down to the bottom." He went on to say that people living in poverty have "the wrong mindset."...

"We have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work; and so there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with," [Paul] Ryan said...

“Just like Jesus said, 'The poor will always be with us,' there is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves," [Kansas Republican Roger] Marshall said in March. "I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don’t want health care. The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially that’s where they are."

Mendoza provided a few more examples. But how about this one from Mike Huckabee:

“It’s basically just a transfer of money from the taxpayer to the government, from the government to people who become beneficiaries of the government, because that way the government can own these people,” Huckabee said on “Fox and Friends.” “It is a trap, and it is like the roach motel. Once you get in, but you never get out.”

I'd also like to add one from Rick Santorum that I find the most egregious. Here's what he said when running for president in 2012:

During a town hall meeting in Ottumwa, Iowa Friday afternoon, Rick Santorum argued that Americans receive too many government benefits and ought to “suffer” in the Christian tradition. If “you’re lower income, you can qualify for Medicaid, you can qualify for food stamps, you can qualify for housing assistance,” Santorum complained, before adding, “suffering is part of life and it’s not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life.”

Then, of course, there is the Democratic Senator from West Virginia that Republicans are courting to join their party. 

In recent months, Manchin has told several of his fellow Democrats that he thought parents would waste monthly child tax credit payments on drugs instead of providing for their children, according to two sources familiar with the senator’s comments.

How much more elitist can you be than assuming poor people have the wrong mindset, don't value the culture of work, don't take care of themselves physically, are like roaches, use the child tax credit to buy drugs, and - ultimately - deserve to suffer? That is the kind of thing Republicans say all the time!

For the party that wants to claim the mantle of Christianity, I would simply remind them of a couple of things that Jesus said. First of all...there's this:

Then the king will say to those good people on his right, 'Come. My Father has given you great blessings. Come and get the kingdom God promised you. That kingdom has been prepared for you since the world was made. You can have this kingdom, because I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your home. I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me.' "Then the good people will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you alone and away from home and invite you into our home? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?' "Then the king will answer, 'I tell you the truth. Anything you did for one of the least of these my brethren, you also did for me.'

To get there, they'll have to grapple with this:

Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

ABC's The View Demonstrates the Absurdity of Bothsiderism

According to a report in Politico, ABC's show The View, is having trouble finding a conservative host.

Sources close to the show said that the search has stalled as executives struggle to find a conservative cast-member who checks all the right boxes. They will not consider a Republican who is a denier of the 2020 election results, embraced the January 6 riots, or is seen as flirting too heavily with fringe conspiracy theories or the MAGA wing of the GOP. But at the same time, the host must have credibility with mainstream Republicans, many of whom still support Donald Trump.

To be honest, I don't watch the show myself. But I've seen enough of it to know that the point of their political segment has always been to include hosts that argue from both the left and the right. That is an example of bothsiderism that is presenting the executives with a tough call in this era of asymmetrical polarization

In their search for a host, the executives at The View are looking for a conservative who rejects Trump's big lie about the 2020 election, the January 6 riots, fringe conspiracy theories, and the MAGA wing of the party. On the other hand, they want someone who has credibility with "mainstream Republicans," the majority of whom embrace all of those things.

Not only do about 60% of Republicans believe the big lie, they also say that doing so is "an important part of their own partisan identity." Almost 40% of Republicans think that violent action by citizens might be necessary to protect America. More than half of Republicans (56%) believe the conspiracy theories of QAnon are mostly or partly true. For Republicans, those aren't fringe beliefs these days. The MAGA folks aren't a wing of the GOP. They ARE the GOP. 

While the executives at The View want a host that doesn't spout the same fascist themes we hear from someone like Tucker Carlson, they also want a conservative who has credibility with what amounts to the Fox News crowd. No wonder they're having trouble finding someone to fill that bill. 

All you need as proof that a person like that doesn't exist is to take a look at what happened to Rep. Liz Cheney. She called Trump out for his attempt to overthrow the election. For doing so, she's been ousted from the Wyoming GOP and stripped of her leadership position in the House. 

I'm sure that the executives at The View want to maintain the viewership  of any conservatives who watch the show. But finding a rational person who can appeal to an irrational audience is just not going to happen. Bothsiderism is not an option for anyone who lives in the reality-based world.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Hardest Lesson Desmond Tutu Tried to Teach Us

The world lost a great man with the passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. There are volumes that could be written about the wisdom he shared, but I'd like to zero in on something that we fail to grapple with at our peril.

Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 - six years before Nelson Mandela was released from prison. During his speech at the awards ceremony, he talked extensively about the horrors of apartheid in South Africa. But in the end, he said this (emphasis mine):

When will we learn, when will the people of the world get up and say, Enough is enough. God created us for fellowship. God created us so that we should form the human family, existing together because we were made for one another. We are not made for an exclusive self-sufficiency but for interdependence, and we break the law of our being at our peril...

Unless we work assiduously so that all of God’s children, our brothers and sisters, members of our one human family, all will enjoy basic human rights, the right to a fulfilled life, the right of movement, of work, the freedom to be fully human, with a humanity measured by nothing less than the humanity of Jesus Christ Himself, then we are on the road inexorably to self-destruction, we are not far from global suicide; and yet it could be so different.

When will we learn that human beings are of infinite value because they have been created in the image of God, and that it is a blasphemy to treat them as if they were less than this and to do so ultimately recoils on those who do this? In dehumanizing others, they are themselves dehumanized. Perhaps oppression dehumanizes the oppressor as much as, if not more than, the oppressed. They need each other to become truly free, to become human. We can be human only in fellowship, in community, in koinonia, in peace.

Tutu didn't minimize that pain and suffering that had been inflicted on the oppressed. He spent his life fighting against it. But he also recognized that being the oppressor was dehumanizing to oneself because, as former President Obama once said, it destroys something inside.


As Obama said during his speech at Nelson Mandela's funeral, there is a South African word that captures that truth.

Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa- Ubuntu – that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us...He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within themselves. It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well...

Mandela's jailors lived in a prison of their own making. By persecuting others, they were dehumanizing themselves because there is a oneness to humanity.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied this truth as well. In his letter from a Birmingham jail, he wrote that "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

These are hard truths for us to grapple with, and these days, we are paying the price for our failure to do so. In the end, white supremacists can wreak havoc on people of color. But in doing so, they are destroying something inside themselves. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

"Let Me Tell You Something About the Jesus That I Know"

In the early 1980s, I attended Fuller Theological Seminary to obtain a Master's Degree in Theology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Counseling. It was there that I had the profound experience of being mentored by Dr. Ray S. Anderson. 

After taking a couple of his courses, I knew that I was in the midst of transforming my view of what it meant to be a Christian. But even as that was happening, I couldn't put into words what was going on. So I arranged for a meeting with Dr. Anderson and asked him if there were books I could read or courses I could take that would help me be able to articulate the transformation I was feeling inside. His response was, "Nancy, what you need is formation, not information, and that comes through relationship and dialogue." He then offered to meet with me regularly. 

In writing about Dr. Anderson after his death in 2009, Christian Kettler described what happened for many of us.

As a seminarian at the time, I remember vividly the excitement of Anderson’s terse yet provocative prose, bursting with genuine theological and ministerial potential. Not easy to digest for some, but for many, Anderson’s continuing “nervous, restless quality” was the stimulation to believe in the continued healing power of a trinitarian-incarnational theology. Many a Fuller Seminary student can attest to practically stumbling into a Ray Anderson class week upon week, beaten up by life’s events, desperately seeking the grace of God … and finding it in Ray’s provocative and faithful witness to Jesus Christ.

I could write volumes about the formation I experienced in relationship with Dr. Anderson. But the foundation of it all was that the "healing power" he extended to me was to trust me unconditionally. In doing so, he invited me to trust myself. As an example, a friend of mine also met with him privately, telling him that, theologically, she felt like she was about to jump off a cliff. His response: "Can I go with you?"

At one point, that ability to trust myself was terrifying. I could no longer simply rely on what others told me to do, but would have to think and feel for myself. Years later I realized that David Whyte had captured that in a poem titled: "Revelation Must Be Terrible."

Revelation must be
terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

Imagine that moment
staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

Being far from home is hard, but you know,
at least we are exiled together.
When you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own for
the first time. No one is
even interested in saving you now

and the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.

As if you were meant to be exactly
where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck
of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be.

As if your place in the world mattered
and the world could
neither speak nor hear the fullness of

its own bitter and beautiful cry
without the deep well
of your body resonating in the echo.

Knowing that it takes only
that one, terrible
word to make the circle complete,

revelation must be terrible
knowing you can
never hide your voice again.

The revelation that I could trust myself began a journey of healing that gave me a peace I couldn't have imagined and changed the course of my life. As you can see with this blog, one of the things it meant was that I no longer had to hide my voice. 

During this holiday season, I've been thinking about some of the other things I learned from Dr. Anderson. One in particular stands out today. He once said that too many Christians today focus on the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus - ignoring the life that he lived. That is why, for years now, I've made it a tradition on Christmas Eve to quote something a blogger named Kid Oakland wrote back in 2004. 
Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know.

He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father.

But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power.

He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them.

Their company, their stories, their lives, their environs, their plight and their faith.

And they loved him. Because he touched them. He looked them in the eye and believed in them. Because, at the end of the day, when they looked to him they saw that his commitment to them was a commitment unsullied by qualifier or clause. It was a commitment to love them, even upon pain of death. And they saw in him, a love that promised to love them as they were, who they were...fully, without judgement or flinching glance, or hypocritical accomodation.

This man, Jesus, was surrounded by friends and disciples whom he mentored....not by carping or enforcing rules...but by example and teaching. By the force of his actions. By his resolute commitment to the least, the smallest, the most in need.

I am aware that Dr. Anderson was no saint. But, having dedicated his life to what is sometimes referred to as "theological praxis" - or, how the gospel of Jesus is to be lived in the world - he offered the healing power of a commitment to love unsullied by qualifier or clause. That is, by far, the greatest gift anyone has ever given to me. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The "Lost Cause" Redux

As we speak, Republicans are engaging in a massive attempt to "cancel culture." They are trying to re-write the history of this country by banning both books and words. For example, this is what is happening in Texas:

Matt Krause, a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives, has gone hunting in public-school libraries for any books that might generate “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of [a student’s] race or sex.” In October, he distributed a watch list of 850 books...What we’re witnessing is plainly a shakedown. And this week, a San Antonio school district pulled 414 books from its libraries in response to the ongoing pressure from Texas lawmakers and a vocal segment of angry parents to limit what children can choose to read.

On a party-line vote, Republicans in Wisconsin voted to ban a long list of words from use in classrooms.

In testimony before an Assembly committee last month, Wichgers said the bill would ban the teaching of concepts including “Social Emotional Learning,” “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” culturally responsive teaching, anti-racism, conscious and unconscious bias, culturally responsive practices, diversity training, equity, microaggressions, multiculturalism, patriarchy, restorative justice, social justice, systemic racism, white privilege, white supremacy and “woke,” among others.

That's just a sampling of what is happening all over the country where Republicans are in control of state governments. 

In case you're wondering where this is all headed, Helen Andrews gave us some indication with a piece published in The American Conservative titled, "Reconstruction Revisionism." 

The wholesale reinterpretation of history around a left-wing narrative about race, which the 1619 Project is trying to accomplish for the rest of the American story, was first trialed on the history of Reconstruction. For most of the 20th century, Reconstruction was seen as a squalid and shameful coda to the Civil War when Northern Radicals and carpetbaggers enacted their wildest fantasies of humiliation and spoliation on a prostrate South. Starting in the 1960s, a group of revisionist historians began arguing that Reconstruction had actually been a noble experiment in interracial democracy, too quickly abandoned.

The point of Andrews' piece is that we should return to the view of Reconstruction that prevailed for most of the 20th century when the era was "seen as a squalid and shameful coda to the Civil War." She particularly goes after W.E.B. Du Bois for revising that view with his publication of "Black Reconstruction" in 1935. 

There is no point beating around the bush: The version of Reconstruction history that Du Bois presents is based on motivated reasoning and tendentious distortions of the evidence.

Shortly before his death, Rev. Martin Luther King spoke at an event honoring Du Bois. Here's how he described the book:

To understand why his study of the Reconstruction was a monumental achievement it is necessary to see it in context. White historians had for a century crudely distorted the Negro’s role in the Reconstruction years. It was a conscious and deliberate manipulation of history and the stakes were high. The Reconstruction was a period in which black men had a small measure of freedom of action. If, as white historians tell it, Negroes wallowed in corruption, opportunism, displayed spectacular stupidity, were wanton, evil, and ignorant, their case was made. They would have proved that freedom was dangerous in the hands of inferior beings. One generation after another of Americans were assiduously taught these falsehoods and the collective mind of America became poisoned with racism and stunted with myths.

Dr Du Bois confronted this powerful structure of historical distortion and dismantled it. He virtually, before anyone else and more than anyone else, demolished the lies about Negroes in their most important and creative period of history. The truths he revealed are not yet the property of all Americans but they have been recorded and arm us for our contemporary battles.

Andrews is clearly advocating for a return to the propaganda that was spread by Confederates to end Reconstruction. Here is how Black legislators that were elected during Reconstruction were portrayed in the film, "The Birth of a Nation" in order to make the point that "freedom was dangerous in the hands of inferior beings:"

 

It is a bit hard to believe that we are revisiting battles that most of us thought were won decades ago. But as Charles Blow wrote, "The Lost Cause Is Back."

This is not a debate about facts, this is a debate about narratives. This is a “Lost Cause” redux. When the South lost the Civil War, revisionists there invented the propaganda narrative of the “Lost Cause,” positing that the fight had been honorable and righteous and not about maintaining slavery but maintaining a superior way of life. In this narrative, slavery had been good and the enslaved treated relatively well, with many of the enslaved happy workers.

As Ty Seidule, a professor emeritus of history at West Point and the Chamberlain fellow and a professor of history at Hamilton College, wrote in “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause,” “The Lost Cause created a flawed memory of the Civil War, a lie that formed the ideological foundation for white supremacy and Jim Crow laws, which used violent terror and de jure segregation to enforce racial control.”

The whole Lost Cause movement was a way for Confederates to deal with the fact that they lost the Civil War. But it was also part of a huge backlash to the gains made by African Americans in the South during Reconstruction. In noting that the Lost Cause built Jim Crow, Henry Louis Gates documented what made Southern Democrats so nervous.

In our post-Great Migration America, it’s easy to forget that 90 percent of all African-American people lived in the South as late as 1910, and their presence represented a formidable threat to the former Confederates. This was especially so in South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana, which had majority-black populations, as well as in nearby Florida, Alabama and Georgia...Overall, more than 2,000 black officeholders would be elected during Reconstruction throughout the South, including, by 1901, a total of 20 black congressmen and two United States senators, both from Mississippi.

Via terror campaigns and threats, that era came to a halt after 1901.

The year 1901 denoted a mournful milestone in black history. By that year, Southern efforts to disenfranchise black men had been brutally effective, and no African-American would represent a Southern state in Congress again for more than 70 years.

Blow's point is that "we are in the midst of another Lost Cause moment." As our history suggests, it comes as a backlash to African American empowerment. The two most important moments that highlight the current threat to white supremacy are the election of this country's first African American President and the events that followed the murder of George Floyd. No one captured the impact of the former better than Johnathan Chait in his review of the film "12 Years a Slave" (emphasis mine)

Notably, the most horrific torture depicted in 12 Years a Slave is set in motion when the protagonist, Solomon Northup, offers up to his master engineering knowledge he acquired as a free man, thereby showing up his enraged white overseer. It was precisely Northup’s calm, dignified competence in the scene that so enraged his oppressor. The social system embedded within slavery as depicted in the film is one that survived long past the Emancipation Proclamation – the one that resulted in the murder of Emmett Till a century after Northup published his autobiography. It’s a system in which the most unforgivable crime was for an African-American to presume himself an equal to — or, heaven forbid, better than — a white person.

We all watched as Obama's "calm, dignified competence" sent white supremacists into fits of rage. 

The murder of George Floyd came on the heels of outrage over police killing unarmed Black men and boys without even a modicum of accountability. Captured on video tape for the whole world to witness, it sparked protests all over the country - and spread across the globe. Right wing revisionist history paints all of those protests as violent. They want us to forget that 93% of them were peaceful...like this one in Washington, D.C.


The protests were so powerful that even a cynic like Ta-Nehisi Coates talked about being hopeful. Perhaps that should have been a clue that a backlash was coming. By early September, Chris Rufo made an appearance on Tucker Carlson's show to light everyone's hair on fire about Critical Race Theory - something most of us had never heard of before. The former president joined the bandwagon with an executive order banning CRT from use by federal contractors and soon we were off to the races with a re-writing of American history that is basically a resurgence of the Lost Cause.

As we witnessed with the end of Reconstruction, there is power in the ability to write the story of history. In the summer of 2020, a lot of Americans seemed willing to, as Blow writes, "adjust the narrative about the country. But to many, that was the greatest of threats."

We are now engaged in a battle over who gets to write the history of both our past and present. The stakes couldn't be higher.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

It's Time to Jettison the Idea that Democrats Are Elitists Who Don't Care About Working Class Americans

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of hearing that Democrats don't understand or care about working class voters. It is a refrain we've been hearing constantly - usually couched with claims that the party is either (1) beholden to their corporate donors, or (2) consumed with identity politics.

As things heat up over the Build Back Better bill, those claims are obviously nonsense. The legislation includes:

  • universal and free pre-school for all 3-4 year olds,
  • the largest investment in child care in the country's history,
  • continuation of the child tax credit,
  • investment in high quality care for older Americans and people with disabilities,
  • a reduction in the cost of prescription drugs,
  • increased subsidies for ACA insurance plans, and
  • comprehensive investment in affordable housing.

All of those would provide a huge financial boost for working class Americans. In addition, they would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy and big corporations. The same can be said for the infrastructure bill passed in November.
A $2 trillion jobs plan (of which $1.5 trillion will go to infrastructure) from the Biden-Harris administration would be good medicine to nurse the economic wounds inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The infrastructure plan would create or save 15 million jobs over 10 years and would increase the share of infrastructure jobs from 11% to 14% of all jobs in this country, temporarily reviving the blue-collar economy.

In other words, Democrats are going all-in on programs that close the gap on income inequality and Republicans are fighting them every step of the way. 

The one exception to that description is Senator Joe Manchin, who is currently siding with Republicans on taking a position against the BBB bill. Does anyone doubt that his opposition is welcomed by people like Mitch McConnell? If so, take a look at how the minority leader reacted.

Ironically, my wrap-up press conference at the end of the session last Thursday, I said the single greatest favor Joe Manchin could give the country is to kill this bill. That’s what the country needs, to see this bill killed. It is absolutely inappropriate and unnecessary at a time when we’re fighting inflation," McConnell said.

"It was an exciting thing to hear," he added. "It was a great shot in the arm for the country. I think it’s exactly what the country needed at this particular time."...

He remarked that Manchin’s status as a moderate has put him at odds with his own party and added that he would "certainly welcome" Manchin to join the Republicans.

"He doesn’t fit well over there, but that is a decision ultimately that he has to make. We certainly welcome him to join us if he was so inclined," McConnell said.

It isn't just Manchin's position on BBB that McConnell would welcome into the Republican Party. It is also his rationale that would fit right in.

In recent months, Manchin has told several of his fellow Democrats that he thought parents would waste monthly child tax credit payments on drugs instead of providing for their children, according to two sources familiar with the senator’s comments...

Manchin has also told colleagues he believes that Americans would fraudulently use the proposed paid sick leave policy, specifically saying people would feign being sick and go on hunting trips, a source familiar with his comments told HuffPost.

That tells you all you need to know about what Manchin thinks about his constituents. Is there anything more condescending a politician could say about Americans who are struggling financially? Keep in mind that those comments come from someone with a net worth of between four and thirteen million dollars, according to his Senate disclosures. That would qualify Manchin as one of those "elitists" who get criticized so often for being dismissive of working class Americans.

The fact is that the so-called "blue dog coalition" in the Democratic Party, which often catered to the interests of the donor class - even as they claimed to represent working class voters - has dwindled down to almost nothing. Joe Manchin is one of the last standing when it comes to that group. Representatives from so-called "swing districts," like Lauren Underwood, Sharice Davids, and Colin Allred, are all on board with the Democratic agenda in support of working class Americans.

It is true that Democrats are also the party of things like voting rights, immigration reform, and women's reproductive freedom. To the extent that those are opposed by some working class voters, the rift will remain. Most of the women and people of color who would benefit from those positions are working class too. I am reminded of something Ruth Bader Ginsburg said shortly before her death.

"There will never be a time when women of means will lack choice," Ginsburg told an audience at Georgetown University Law Center in 2015, because they could travel across state lines to obtain the procedure. 

What concerned Ginsburg was the fate of women without means living in states hostile to Roe. "The women who won't have that choice are poor women," Ginsburg said. "That doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

So can we please stop with this kind of analysis:

Working-class people with less than a college degree have an outlook that differs from that of the educated professionals whose outlook has come to dominate the Democratic Party.

Our how about this one:

The Democrats, in Westwood’s view, must return to being a party of the people and not woke-chasing elites who don’t understand that canceling comedians does not help struggling Americans feed their children...Democrats need to stop wasting their time on cancel culture or they risk canceling themselves to those who live in the heart of this country.

I'd like to know who those "educated professionals" are who have "come to dominate the Democratic Party." They're certainly not the people fighting for BBB or the infrastructure bill. Also, when is the last time you heard a Democratic politician talk about canceling comedians? I suspect that those quotes come from elites who interact with the elites they're criticizing. Out here in the hinterlands, we have more important things to talk about - like passing the Build Back Better Bill.

Gingrich Adds to the Overflowing Vault of Republican Projection

Prior to Donald Trump's entry into politics, the two Republicans that concerned me the most were Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich. That wasn't simply based on the kind of havoc they created while in office. As a recovering therapist, it seemed clear to me that both men were sociopaths - the most dangerous mental health issue for anyone with power. I would now add Tom Cotton to the list. But that's a story for another day.

Of course, Trump raised the stakes on what Republicans were willing to tolerate when it comes to mental health issues. More recently, it has been interesting to watch as Liz Cheney (certainly her father's daughter) broke ranks and is calling Trump out on his attempted coup. But Gingrich has becomes a total Trump enabler. 

During an appearance on Fox News Monday night, Gingrich once again ramped up the rhetoric when he called Biden the most dangerous president since James Buchanan - who set the stage for the Civil War. Incendiary enough for ya? He went on to say this about "the left:"

You have to start with the notion that these are people who need therapy. Their level of anger -- I am serious. We try to deal with this as though it's a political problem. It's not a political problem. It's a mental health problem. These people are crazy.

OK. So Gingrich wants to talk about people with mental health problems. I'm here to oblige.

Back in August of 2010, Esquire published a long expose on Gingrich that mostly featured interviews with Marianne Gingrich, his second wife of 16 years. At the end of the article, Marianne talks about the weekend Newt told her he was having an affair (with his current wife). Here's the story she tells.
He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.

He'd just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he'd given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, "How do you give that speech and do what you're doing?"

"It doesn't matter what I do," he answered. "People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."

Those remarks from Gingrich represent classic sociopathy - assuming you are so exceptional that the rules don't apply.

Then in 2011, when Gingrich was preparing to run for president, he was confronted with the facts about his infidelity. Here's what he said:

There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.

First, he blames his moral failings on his patriotism. Unbelievable! But then, notice the passive voice of "things happened in my life." He literally couldn't say that he - Newt Gingrich - did things that weren't appropriate. The inability to own personal responsibility is yet another hallmark of sociopathy. 

There was, of course, this moment in 1995 when Gingrich turned a personal pique into a national crisis:


So excuse me if I reject any notion that Newt Gingrich is one to talk about people with mental health issues. Instead, his claims will be added to the overflowing vault of Republican projection.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Democrats Are Done Playing Manchin's Games

Senator Joe Manchin rocked the political world this weekend by announcing - on Fox News - that he definitely wouldn't support the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. This time, the White House let him know that they're done with his games.

Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances. Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced. Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework “in good faith.”

On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted—to the President, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities. While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all. Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground. If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.

It's probably useless to speculate why Manchin would go from proposing an outline for BBB to completely pulling the rug out from under the whole thing. Perhaps he knew that he and Biden were getting close to moving forward on something he was never prepared to support. But that's just a guess. 

At any rate, it is clear that Manchin has been playing games. That is demonstrated by how he handled this announcement.

After Democrats worked with Manchin in good faith for several months, he didn't just kneecap them yesterday, he did so without class. Instead of picking up the phone and letting Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer know about his decision, Manchin waited until yesterday morning — less than an hour before his on-air appearance — to have an aide let party leaders know.

He then announced his opposition to the bill on Fox News — a network closely affiliated with Republican politics — after reportedly turning down a phone call from the White House.

It wasn't just the White House that called Manchin out. Majority Leader Schumer issued a "Dear Colleagues" letter to Senate Democrats.

These are just some of the major issues the Build Back Better Act would immediately address. We were elected to address these many needs and we will not stop fighting until we do. Therefore, Senators should be aware that the Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television. We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act — and we will keep voting on it until we get something done.

Schumer is saying that Manchin will have to go on record with a vote to "make his position known on the Senate floor." The "not just on television" remark took direct aim and how the Senator from West Virginia handled himself over the weekend.

But the Majority Leader took things a step further, saying that the Senate will consider a rules change in order to pass voting rights.

Additionally, please be advised that shortly after the 117th Congress resumes in January, the Senate will consider voting rights legislation, as early as the first week back...

I believe our constituents deserve to know which Senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and abused rules and which Senators prefer to restore Senate floor procedures to better align with the Founders' intentions. As Former Senator Robert C. Byrd said in 1979, Senate rules that seemed appropriate in the past 'must be changed to reflect changed circumstances.

The pointed reference to one of Manchin's heroes, Sen. Robert Byrd, wasn't lost on anyone. 

Schumer ended the letter by promising Manchin that he'll face a long night of pushback on Tuesday.

To further discuss these issues, we will hold a virtual special caucus on the evening of Tuesday, December 21, the longest night of the year. 

One of the members Manchin will be hearing from on Tuesday night is sure to be Senator Raphael Warnock. He recently took to the Senate floor to challenge Manchin's notion that any voting rights bill must be bipartisan.

Warnock pointed out that slavery was bipartisan - as was Jim Crow. The refusal of women's suffrage was bipartisan, along with the denial of basic dignity for members of the LGBTQ community. He went on to say that "the 3/5 compromise was the creation of a putative national unity at the expense of Black people's basic humanity." That is the basis on which he posed the question: "Who is being asked to foot the bill for this bipartisanship?" I can imagine Warnock putting that question to Manchin directly on Tuesday night.

None of this is to suggest that Manchin will change his mind and vote for either BBB or voting rights. But it's clear that, after his performance over the weekend, Democrats are done playing Manchin's games. It's time to put up or shut up.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

How Biden Is Addressing One of the Ways That Republicans Are Undermining Democracy

When tallying Biden's accomplishments in 2021, this one should rank up there with things like passing the CARES Act and the infrastructure bill: 

The significance of this accomplishment goes beyond just the numbers. 

To date, President Biden has nominated a total of 73 federal judges. Here's what those numbers look like:

The President's selections have included 53 women, making up 73% of all judicial nominees, as well as 20 African Americans, 15 Hispanics and 13 Asian American Pacific Islander picks.

They also include 21 public defenders, 16 civil rights lawyers and five labor lawyers, as the administration has sought to elevate nominees with more diverse professional backgrounds.

That last part is significant in that most federal judges have professional backgrounds in prosecution and/or corporate law.  

For some perspective, there are currently 870 authorized Article III judgeships: nine on the Supreme Court, 179 on the courts of appeals, 673 for the district courts and nine on the Court of International Trade. Here is how Pew Research summarized the impact of recent presidents on the courts.

In terms of active judges, here is how things stack up:


As we all know by now, Mitch McConnell's main goal during Trump's presidency was to stack the courts with extremist judges. Starting back in 2009, his strategy of total obstruction effectively neutered the Senate. Even with the majority, McConnell made it clear that he wasn't interested in legislating - other than to pass tax cuts for the wealthy. Perhaps you'll recall how he embraced the title of being the "Grim Reaper" when it came to taking up bills passed by the House. 

McConnell knows that the GOP is slipping into minority status. As Zachary Roth outlined in his book, The Great Suppression, he calculated that being outnumbered doesn't have to mean losing. After years of Republican attacks on Democrats for "judicial activism," that is exactly what McConnell aims to achieve for his party. They've simply changed the name and call it "judicial engagement."
Judicial engagement turns the whole concept of judicial restraint (something we used to hear a lot about from conservatives) on its head. It suggests that, rather than giving the benefit of the doubt to the elected branches of government, judges should strike down laws that they think violate the Constitution. We saw that most notably with their attempts to eliminate Obamacare.

As Republican obstruction brings legislating to a halt, presidents have been turning to executive orders to get things done. Those are immediately challenged in court. Of course, as we're seeing with reproductive rights, an extremist Supreme Court also has the power to overturn judicial precedents. 

There has been a lot of attention paid to the way that Republicans are seeking to undermine democracy with things like voter suppression and gerrymandering. But it is important to keep in mind that "judicial engagement" is part of that process as well. Judges are appointed for a lifetime and cannot be held accountable by voters. 

All of that is to explain why Biden's record on federal judges is one of his most significant accomplishments. There's still a long way to go to turn things around, but he's off to a great start.


Friday, December 17, 2021

If You're Waiting for a Smoking Gun to Bring Trumpism Down, Get Over It!

Merriam Webster defines smoking gun as "something that serves as conclusive evidence or proof (as of a crime or scientific theory)." In politics, it has often been used to describe evidence that sways even members of the party of the person under investigation. 

Most notably, "smoking gun" was used to describe the release of tapes from Nixon's Oval Office conversations immediately following the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Office Building. In particular was one that captured a discussion between Nixon and his chief of staff H.R. Halderman. The two discussed asking the head of the CIA to put pressure on the FBI director to halt the bureau's investigation into the Watergate break-in because it was a national security matter. On August 4, 1974, the tape of that discussion was made public.

At that point, Nixon’s remaining political support on Capitol Hill all but disappeared. The 10 Republican members of the Judiciary Committee who had voted against impeachment in committee announced that they would now vote for impeachment once the matter reached the House floor.

Nixon lacked support in the Senate as well. Sens. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) and Hugh Scott (R-Pa.), the minority leader, told Nixon that no more than 15 senators were willing to even consider an acquittal.

But that was 47 years ago. Things have changed. If you're waiting for a smoking gun to bring down Trump and his enablers, it is beyond time to recognize that it isn't going to happen. That's not because there is  a lack of conclusive evidence that the former president and his allies repeatedly obstructed justice, abused power, incited a riot at the Capitol, and attempted a coup to overturn an election. Instead, it is because no amount of evidence is going to shake Republican support. 

As just one example, both during and immediately after the January 6 insurrection, Trump's enablers in Congress and right wing media knew that he had incited the riot and that he might be the only one who could end it. That is what the texts to Mark Meadows indicated as they practically begged the chief of staff to convince Trump to stop it. 

On January 13, Kevin McCarthy said, "The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters." Similarly, Mitch McConnell made it clear that "There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day." Even so, neither of these Republican leaders have done anything to hold the former president accountable. Instead, they've done everything in their power to protect him from the consequences of his actions.

I suspect that most Republican politicians know the danger Trumpism poses to our country. But they also know that, with the grip the former president has on the GOP, taking him down would mean that the entire party goes with him. That's not something they're willing to risk. As Jamie Raskin pointed out, "fascism is not an ideology; it’s just a strategy for taking power and maintaining it.”

The one thing the fascists have today that Nixon didn't is the epistemic closure created by an entire network of right wing news outlets. They create a path for the fascists to take, while providing cover for criminality. As long as Republican voters buy into that distorted reality, their leaders won't challenge it. In other words, there is a self-reinforcing feedback loop between right wing media, Republican voters, and GOP leaders. Anyone who dares to step out of that loop (ie, Liz Cheney) is vilified and excommunicated from the cult. 

All of that is why there will never be a smoking gun that brings the whole thing down. I am reminded of the fact that, prior to the 2016 election, we all heard audio tape of Trump bragging about being able to "grab p***y." That didn't stop almost 63 million Americans from voting for him. The one time he told the truth was when he said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue in broad daylight and his supporters wouldn't abandon him...even as he held the smoking gun. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Coup Caucus

Information recently released from the House January 6 Committee demonstrates that Mark Meadows was at the center of Trump's attempted coup. 

The trove of documents, delivered to the select committee in recent weeks, reveals that Meadows played a pivotal role in the planning of the failed effort by some Trump supporters to overturn the results of President Biden’s election victory, either through Congress or other means...

“As the White House chief of staff, he was communicating with members of Congress, with members of the press, with the president’s family directly on the 6th; he was communicating with the organizers,” said a congressional source familiar with the Jan. 6 probe.

A report in the New York Times documents how Meadows worked with six Republican members of Congress to overturn the election: Jim Jordan, Scott Perry, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks, and Louie Gohmert.

The men were not alone in their efforts — most Republican lawmakers fell in line behind Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraud, at least rhetorically — but this circle moved well beyond words and into action. They bombarded the Justice Department with dubious claims of voting irregularities. They pressured members of state legislatures to conduct audits that would cast doubt on the election results. They plotted to disrupt the certification on Jan. 6 of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

Those six Republican members of Congress are also part of the 11 whose phone and social media records have been requested by the committee. 

In addition to their work on overthrowing the results of the 2020 presidential election, those Republican members have one other thing in common: they are all members of the House Freedom Caucus. When Mark Meadows was representing North Carolina's 11th district in Congress, he was also a member - serving as chair of the caucus from 2017-2019.

I'm not going to recount all of the ways this "lunatic caucus" has disrupted our democratic processes, but it is clear that, with their embrace of chaos, they signed on as Trump enablers very early. As former member Mick Mulvaney once said, "Trump wants to turn Washington upside down — that was his first message and his winning message. We want the exact same thing." After being ousted as House Speaker by the Freedom Caucus, here is how John Boehner described them:

They can’t tell you what they’re for. They can tell you everything they’re against. They’re anarchists. They want total chaos. Tear it all down and start over. That’s where their mindset is.

Boehner went on to describe Mark Meadows as "an idiot" and he called Jim Jordan "a legislative terrorist."

Apparently, when the group initially formed, they had trouble coming up with a name.

One of the working titles for the group was the Reasonable Nutjob Caucus. “We had twenty names, and all of them were terrible,” Mulvaney said. “None of us liked the Freedom Caucus, either, but it was so generic and so universally awful that we had no reason to be against it.”

It's really too bad that they didn't go with "Reasonable Nutjob Caucus." Just like my name for them - the Lunatic Caucus - it would have been a better fit. But now we can call them by their real name: the Coup Caucus. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

How Close Did We Come to a Military Coup?

It is important to remember that the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol was just the last, desperate attempt by Trump implement a coup by overturning the results of an election. Of course, it all started prior to November 3 with the former president's claim that mail-in ballots during a pandemic were inherently fraudulent. But once Biden was declared the winner on November 7, things heated up. 

Amidst all of the revelations coming from the January 6 Committee recently, perhaps the most troubling came in the form of an email sent on January 5 from Mark Meadows saying that the National Guard would be present on January 6 to “protect pro Trump people.” We don't know the context of that email, but it was released among numerous emails and text exchanges Meadows had with members of Congress. 

Was Trump's chief of staff attempting to assuage concerns among Republican members of Congress who had participated in planning the insurrection that they would be protected? Or was he simply saying that the insurrectionists would be protected? We don't know. Either way, it is clear the Meadows knew the insurrection would turn violent and that pro-Trump people would require protection.

Suggesting that role for the National Guard came in the midst of concerns over whether Trump would actually use the military to launch a more traditional coup. One of the people who shared that concern was Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As Trump ceaselessly pushed false claims about the 2020 presidential election, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, grew more and more nervous, telling aides he feared that the president and his acolytes might attempt to use the military to stay in office, Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker report in “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year.”

Milley described “a stomach-churning” feeling as he listened to Trump’s untrue complaints of election fraud, drawing a comparison to the 1933 attack on Germany’s parliament building that Hitler used as a pretext to establish a Nazi dictatorship.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper was also worried. He expected Trump to fire him after the election, "but was hoping to hold on if he could, at least for a few days after the election. He was worried about what Trump might try to do with the military if he were not at the helm." Esper was hoping for an indisputably clear election because he "feared that anything less might give Trump some shred of a reason to call out troops."

Esper was right in assuming that Trump would fire him after the election. The ax came on November 9. The new acting Defense Secretary would be Christopher Miller, who told associates he had three goals for the final weeks of the Trump administration: #1: No major war. #2: No military coup. #3: No troops fighting citizens on the streets. Why would the man in charge of the Defense Department even contemplate the possibility of a military coup? Perhaps there were whispers - or maybe even plans being floated around the White House.

As Aaron Blake summarized:

We now have two men who led the Defense Department and the nation’s highest-ranking military officer all suggesting [a military coup] was indeed something that concerned them — to the point where one of them was comparing it to Nazi Germany and another sought to hold onto his job for just a few more days so he could make sure he prevented such a drastic scenario.

Just prior to the November election, I found this interview with Bob Bauer, a Biden campaign advisor, reassuring. 


Hellerman and Bauer specifically address the question of whether the White House would use federal marshals to confiscate ballots. But ultimately this is the message Bauer sent:
Frankly, I'll tell you that there are agencies that [Trump] imagines under his command whose members understand they have legal liability if they follow illegal orders - and they won't do it...I can promise you that if [Trump] were to attempt to disrupt or undermine the election, he will fail.

At the time I remember thinking that at least part of Bauer's job at the time had been to consult with military leaders about how they would respond if Trump issued an illegal order to launch a coup. Bauer's confidence stemmed from the fact that he knew what their response would be. 

I won't pretend to know how seriously Donald Trump contemplated the idea of a military coup. But keep in mind that this is the guy who floated ideas about shooting migrants and building a moat with alligators on our southern border. We also know that, as is typical of bullies, he likes to threaten but rarely follows through. 

What we do know is that the leaders of our military were prepared to say a definitive "no" if the demand for a coup ever came. Grasping that reality, Trump incited his own followers to storm the Capitol on January 6. That, too, failed. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Why Trump Wouldn't Listen to Republicans, Fox News Hosts, and His Own Son

I would urge everyone to watch Chris Hayes provide a step-by-step breakdown of how Donald Trump attempted a coup - highlighting the former president's action is the state of Georgia. 

When all else failed, Trump summoned his supporters to Washington on January 6 and sent them to the Capitol to stage an insurrection. 

We now know that, as the violence was unfolding and members of Congress feared for their lives, Trump did nothing for three hours. According to evidence released by the January 6 committee on Monday, his inaction came as Republicans, Fox News hosts, and his own son texted Mark Meadows pleading with him to get Trump to stop the attack. 

Most of the commentary so far has focused on the duplicity of the people, like Laura Ingraham, who went on to be dismissive of the violence. But it is also important to understand why the former president didn't heed their call and remained intransigent - leading Rep. Liz Cheney to accuse him of "extreme dereliction of duty."

I was reminded of how Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of "Art of the Deal," described Trump.

Early on, I recognized that Trump’s sense of self-worth is forever at risk. When he feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others...

To survive, I concluded from our conversations, Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him: You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear, or you succumbed to it...

In countless conversations, he made clear to me that he treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent of obliteration.

What Schwartz described is the basis of most of the 30,000 lies Trump told while in office. His narcissistic ego is compelled to create a delusional reality in which he wins, even when he loses, because the admission of a loss is the "equivalent of obliteration." Any appeal to compassion in order to challenge the delusion will certainly fall on deaf ears. But the same is true for rational arguments. 

Of course, the major battle in this zero-sum game was the 2020 election. Trump literally couldn't contemplate the reality that he lost. So he created the Big Lie and led a coup to overturn the election. First and foremost, it was a lie designed to assuage his own ego. He needed to fool himself into believing that he didn't lose. Anyone who challenged the lie must be repudiated and demonized (at best) - which is why the former president said that it was "common sense" for the January 6 insurrectionists to want to hang Mike Pence.

I don't write this to in any way excuse Trump for his actions. But it's clear that he he exhibits the traits of a narcissistic sociopath (a combination of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder). Even so, he must be held accountable for his actions. 

But there are two other things to keep in mind. With an assist from most Republicans and right wing news, a large block of the voting public has bought into the delusions Trump created. They are prepared to jettison our democracy in order to maintain those delusions.  

It is also clear that Donald Trump is setting things up to run again in 2024. That is why we have to take Bart Gellman's warnings seriously.

Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.

As Chris Hayes pointed out in the segment I referred to above, it was the former president's incompetence that played a large role in ensuring that the coup was unsuccessful. Will practice improve those odds? Or will we once again see that malfeasance gives way to incompetence? None of us know for sure. We can't take the risk to find out.

How the Radical Right's Embrace of the Great Replacement Theory Is Tied to Overturning Roe v. Wade

There is a lot of important news coming at us pretty fast these days. But David Roberts nailed it ! It is so wild to me that they're h...