Posted tagged ‘Trump’

07.16.17 Not a single patriot

July 16, 2017

I belong to a Facebook group for the summer camp I went to 47 years ago. (Damn, I’m old!) On July 4, this year, someone posted a request for people to share their Independence Day memories from back then. What I recalled (proudly) was the campers raising the flag upside down and backwards to protest the Vietnam War – it was either 1970 or -71. And I remember the camp owner giving us a harsh lecture on patriotism. “Love it or leave it,” was the mantra of the day.

I remember being called a commie for walking down the street with long hair in my teens. Worse epithets were used against those who opposed the Reagan’s defense buildup in the ‘80s. And the militarists went ape shit, as usual, when people who were neither brainwashed nor morons stood up against the Iraq War. (That was when Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich [R – of course] spent taxpayer dollars to infiltrate community peace groups who were such a threat to. . . what exactly?)

It was the right – and increasingly the Republican Party – that declared, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” and accused us of being traitors.

Notwithstanding my belief that the US has more often than not been a hypocrite in touting democracy, I am a democratic patriot. Democracy is not merely about holding elections, but rather making them free and fair, inclusive, and backed by a robust civil society and a judiciary that acts for justice (imagine that!). This is the only system of government that fosters individual dignity and the rights of all to influence outcomes, at least in its ideals.

Come the year 2017, democracy has been under assault for a decade around the world. In the past two years, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey (among others) have more or less given up on it, adopting ever-more authoritarian practices.

The US Republican Party has never seemed to care much for democracy.* Prime example: voter suppression. To a certain extent, it is inherent in conservatism to oppose a full franchise, because the idea is to preserve the power of those who already have it. But the Trump regime has raised contempt for democracy to a whole new level. Not only does Trump praise authoritarians around the globe (including in the aforementioned countries), but his rhetoric and policies have put our own (albeit flawed) democracy in grave danger, not the least by ceding power to Russia, America’s most dangerous adversary.

At least since the infamous “pussy tape” last summer, predictions that the GOP would imminently abandon Trump have been a mainstay of every new crisis. It has never happened. With the revelations of the past week, it still has not happened.

To be fair, the conservative intelligentsia and pundit-class have turned on Trump en masse. Columnists from David Brooks to Charles Krauthammer have been pummeling Trump, as well as calling out their party for its utter lack of principle.

But, even given a clear and present danger to national security, GOP members of Congress cannot step away from their one true cause: enriching the wealthy. Oh yeah, there are the usual two or three GOP stewards who mumble a few words of gentle criticism, but they intend no action and their colleagues go on fiddling while Rome burns. (John McCain is a particularly heinous example, because he knows better: It’s not enough to sound smart by saying you know there will be “more shoes to drop,” Sen. McCain. Do something about it!)

It is clear now that Trump could indeed shoot someone on 5th Avenue (as he said last summer) without losing his base. It won’t matter if he is caught fucking a little boy in the Oval Office or is on video handing the nuclear codes to Moscow: racist voters won’t abandon him; neither will Fox News or Breitbart. As for GOP elected officials, the only hope of peeling some away will be indictments against Trump henchmen. Even then, only those who perceive an immediate threat to reelection will turn.

No outrage is too much for the GOP: the same people who have used patriotism as a bludgeon for decades. With push having come to shove, they don’t give a shit about their country or anything but themselves and their monied pals.

I can only hope that a sufficient number of Americans note and remember for years to come this GOP-led assault on our fundamental institutions and ideals. I’m not holding my breath.

*I encourage readers to re-read this piece: 11.07.16 The GOP’s existential threat to democracy.

©2017 Keith Berner

07.02.17 Purity or victory: What’s a progressive to wish for?

July 2, 2017

So much hand wringing in the Democratic Party, ever since Trump unexpectedly beat Hillary Clinton! The intensity of the anguish only increased after Democrat Jon Ossoff failed to beat Karen Handel in Newt Gingrich’s former Georgia district in June. This put the Dems’ record at 0 for 4 in special elections this year. The sky must be falling more rapidly than ever.

After last November, many argued that Democrats failed to capture the White House because they hadn’t run on a clear economically populist message. This view continues to hold sway despite subsequent polling showing that Clinton lost not on economics*, but on her own failures and how culturally alienated (not economically alienated) Trump voters were. (You can read “culturally alienated” here as racist; though other cultural memes such as guns and religion certainly played a part.)

Some commentators have jumped on this latter bandwagon, lecturing Dems that it’s time to give up on “identity politics” (the right wing’s term for giving a shit about minorities and women) and abortion rights. That is, if only Dems would sell their souls, they’d start winning: Without the Neanderthals on your side, you’re toast!

Leftier Democrats (including most Bernie Sanders supporters) buy the economic argument lock, stock, and barrel. The solution, in their view, is to go whole hog for single payer, more regulation, and higher taxes on the rich. Your blogger fits well within this policy camp, but, as we shall see, not wholly with the proposition that this approach is a panacea for electoral woes.

The first thing required of Democrats at this point is some perspective:

  • The Democrats didn’t lose the presidential election. Our candidate won the popular vote by over three million votes. She lost the electoral college by only 70,000 votes in three states. And, of course, she was a terrible candidate and a certain foreign power put a thumb on the scale against her.
  • Compared to previous results in the districts the Dems have lost this year, their totals have improved dramatically. All four special elections thus far have taken place in deep-red places. We should be encouraged by the results, rather than discouraged.

So, my proposition is that Democrats do not need to renounce social and racial justice, or even economic centrism, to win at the presidential level. I don’t believe, in fact, that die-hard racists – those who would rather give up their own health care before seeing any of “those people” get any – can be won over in any case.

Nonetheless, Democrats were wiped off the map across most of the country at the local and state level during the Obama years. As admirable as the former president is in many ways, he was a terrible politician – he paid no attention to the fate of the party and the party, for its part, utterly lacked integrity and competence. This has been and remains an unmitigated disaster for at least three reasons:

  • State office holders (legislatures and governors) create electoral districts. In our horribly flawed democracy, when the GOP controls those levers, it assures that Democrats can’t win at any level.
  • Local and state offices are the bench from which candidates for Congress (and the presidency) emerge. If you have few Democrats holding these offices, you’ll have fewer ready to run for Congress.
  • Losing begets losing: Local voters who only see Democrats as losers or as incompetent or as out of touch with their issues become accustomed to rejecting them.

A progressive neighbor of mine (almost all my neighbors are progressive) asked me to comment about abortion rights, in this context. This question gets to a struggle in most political parties: which is more important, purity or victory? The GOP has certainly struggled with this question and has answered it by booting all the moderates out of their party. This has not hurt them – yet – because our system is tilted in their favor (the built-in advantage for less-populated areas), because they already control most of the levels of power, and because of Democrat incompetence.

So, should Democrats accept anti-choice politicians (or gun nuts) as the price of winning?

Recently, Democrats who were never particularly comfortable with Bernie Sanders to start with, along with many progressive women (for obvious reasons), excoriated Sanders for assisting the mayoral campaign of an anti-choicer in Oklahoma City. This particular struggle has also played out in venues like January’s Women’s March, where anti-choice women’s groups were made personae non gratae.

Abortion rights, gay rights, immigration rights, and the importance of black lives are litmus test issues for me. But I’m here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I will never be faced with a dilemma in choosing a Democrat over a Republican.

How about in Oklahoma City? Or the suburbs of Atlanta?

There is a moral dilemma. If we insist that our party be pure, we may be hurting a Democratic candidate who could win and do a lot of good for people who need it. Think that if a somewhat distasteful Democrat wins over an evil Republican: they may help lift more black folks out of poverty and devote more resources to the needs of single moms and their infants and the schools those kids will go to. Is it moral to, in effect, facilitate the victory of a Republican, who will help only the wealthy and, most likely, be even worse on social issues than the flawed Democrat?

I also think purity is bad strategy. Progressives cannot win the school board seats, the city halls, and the state legislatures everywhere with an identical message or set of priorities. And, we have to understand that the only thing that matters in January of a new Congress is the numbers of Ds (and Is aligned with them) vs. Rs. It’s the votes for Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader that determine everything that follows. There must be more Ds than Rs, even if I don’t love every single D.

We also have to be practical in our thinking: how much difference is the mayor of Oklahoma City going to make on reproductive freedom? He (it is a man) doesn’t have any authority on that issue and lives in a state where even a solid pro-choicer would have zero influence.

Another example worth considering is Joe Manchin, the Democratic – but rather right-wing – senator from West Virginia. He only votes with other Democrats about 60% of the time. He is wrong on guns and coal and numerous other issues. But, the key question is: if we “primary” him and beat him with a reliable progressive, can that progressive win in November?! Remember, Manchin is standing with Dems right now in opposing Trumpcare. And he will vote for a Democrat to lead the Senate in 2019.

(I’m not declaring absolute opposition to a race against Manchin. I am saying that this is not the no-brainer purist lefties may proclaim.)

Democrats in blue states and counties have a responsibility to move the party left. There should be no room in Montgomery County for Democrats who favor powerful, wealthy development interests. There should be no room in Maryland for Democratic state legislators (or governors) who support the bail bond or gambling industries or downplay racial injustice.

But, if we are to stop the GOP agenda and the party’s racist and xenophobic acolytes across the country, we have to beat them at the ballot box! Maybe if Dems were politically dominant right now, I would be fine with kicking out every Wall Streeter and abortion opponent. But protest marches and candlelight vigils are not going to take our country back. The only thing that can do that is winning elections. Towards that end, we need to temper the virulence of our internecine battles and tolerate some politicians we’d rather not. The Democratic Party must be a big tent.

So, to answer the neighbor who asked me to address this question: I can live with a mayor in Oklahoma City whom I disagree with completely on abortion. And I can live with a Joe Manchin in one of the most racist, Trump-friendly states in America. I feel this at the same time I feel it is past time to kick the right wing Dems out of Montgomery County and Maryland.

As a college football coach famously put it in 1950: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” That needs to be progressives’ and Democrats’ mantra for at least the next few years.

*It was apparent that within days of the election that Trump voters, on average, were more wealthy than the rest of the country.

(c)2017 Keith Berner

07.01.17 “Get off Facebook,” she said.  (In which I get lectured on FB’s sole purpose.)

July 1, 2017

Facebook is a free-speech zone, for better or worse.

I got under the skin of a bunch of people earlier this week, when I posted this on Facebook:

I hereby declare: with occasional exceptions, I will no longer like profile picture updates or pics of themselves people post. (I have unfollowed a couple of people already due to selfie pollution.)

I received more comments on this little expression of exasperation than I usually do. When a couple of people asked me why I felt the need to post this, I replied that I was making a point about self-absorption. Some then accused me of being self-absorbed for expressing my view.

So far, fair ‘nuff. If I’m going to post (or blog, for that matter), I have to accept that not everyone is going to like what I have to say and cherish their right and duty to call me out.

A bit more background. My FB friends consist of a nice (in my view) mix of old friends, recent friends, and many fellow political activists from my neck of the woods. I don’t tend to post much that is personal – the majority of my content has to do with politics and social issues. I expect that some of my personal friends probably hid my feed long ago, because they are uninterested in these topics or disagree with my views about them.

By the same token, I have hidden some of my friends over time, because I am not that interested in their family vacations, their hobbies, or because 85.3%* of their posts are their own picture.

Yeah, I am turned off by people who are too passionate about themselves. Some of you won’t blame me in this era of the Narcissist in Chief. Others will find me to be harshly and unfairly judgmental. (I own being judgmental and said so in response a comment I got).

But, my post was not an attack on any individual. Neither did I declare self-promotion to be illegal for anyone who engages in it or their audiences who can’t get enough.

Then, this this popped up in the comments:

I think its BS and judgmental to make that statement. Facebook was not actually intended as a method for you to scream your political opinions at everybody. It was intended as a way to help friends stay connected and keep updated about each others lives. Unfriend people if your not close enough to them to want to look at their pictures. But I think it’s incredibly self absorbed to pass judgment on people using facebook for its intended purpose. I really truly do not care if you don’t want to like my photos. If all you want is politics stick to a blog and get off facebook. [emphasis added; grammatical errors in original]

Wow.

This came from the daughter of an old friend, a young woman I was once close to. Let’s call her “Jane” – no need to drag her real name through the mud.

I just have to laugh at Jane’s declaration of Facebook’s “intended purpose.” I wonder: does she have a direct line to Mark Zuckerberg? As I seem to recall, Zuckerberg created FB as a way for college students to find potential dates.

Further, FB now claims two billion members. Might there not be room among the billions to use the platform for a variety of purposes like getting dates, sharing selfies, political organizing, news dissemination, coordinating relief to disaster zones, seeking advice, or whatever?

And that’s what I found most stunning in Jane’s complaint: she is a trying to control others’ right to free speech, declaring what is acceptable not only for herself, but for all the rest of us. Sorry all you two billion people: henceforth you may use FB only under Jane’s guidance and approval. Right.

Here’s my harsh judgmentalism, again: I am offended by anybody who would argue not only to suppress free speech, but also – specifically –  to clamp down on sharing information and opinions about the most important issues affecting billions of human beings across the globe.

(My FB posts this week have been about transgender rights, Germany’s approval of same-sex marriage, a powerful Washington Post editorial on Trump, the quality of CNN news coverage, plastic in the oceans, my respect for Canada, and an analysis of communism/socialism/social democracy. Yeah, you’re right: your selfies are far more important – and legitimate – than my “scream[ing]” about politics.)

It’s interesting to note that Jane had never hidden me or unfriended me. She still hadn’t by the time I came upon her screed the next day, so I did the honor.

I got the last word in that comments string: “Isn’t it beautiful that we all get to be irritated by different things on FB?” Ahhh, the joy of a free world.

*Exact figure courtesy of Fox News.

PS. Dear Readers: you may have missed me in recent months. I have found it hard to write in blog-length form about anything, while being in a state of rage about everything. Maybe this post will unblock my muse and I’ll resume blogging more frequently. Otherwise, I encourage you to follow me on FB. All my posts there are public, meaning that we do not have to be mutual friends for you to see what I have to say. To find me on FB, know that I am the Keith Berner in Takoma Park, MD. (Sadly, I’m not the only Keith Berner on FB – another one is a race car driver in Ohio.) Or you can try this link (I’m not sure if links to FB content work).

©2017 Keith Berner

 

03.01.17 An awful day

March 1, 2017

My stomach for reading the news has been getting queasier by the day over the past week. I already assumed — before Trump’s big speech last night — that I would have to avoid my daily diet of the New York Times and Washington Post today. I assumed that the daily horror would be some new policy announcement. No such luck.

Today was the day when NYT and WaPo, along with much of the rest of the media (I assume — I can’t bear to read it) decided to normalize the Trump regime. “How presidential!” they declared. “What a respectable tone,” they pointed out.

Yes, February seemed bad. But there was a certain amount of Schadenfreude during the month, as we witnessed the regime’s utter incompetence. There was hope — as day after day of temper tantrums and mismanagement played out — that the GOP might eventually tire of the antics and decide that enriching the 1% might work out better under President Pence.

But, with the cheerleading of our supposed newspapers of record today, we know that this regime is in it for the long haul, with full, enthusiastic GOP support from now ’til kingdom come.

Normalization of bigotry, incompetence, and corruption was the shoe left to drop. It has now fallen. I may never be able to read a newspaper again.

©2017 Keith Berner

02.01.17 Trump/Bannon or Pence?

February 1, 2017

For the first few days of this regime, I was rather celebrating the utter insanity (meant literally) and incompetence in the White House. I saw a ray of hope in its great potential for immobilizing dysfuntionality, not to mention the potential to alienate even the GOP Forces of Evil in Congress (who have thus far thrown aside their own stated policies in deference to the new Führer).

(See this outstanding piece by David Brooks in yesterday’s New York Times: The Republican Fausts. I often disagree with Brooks and don’t agree with everything in this piece, it is a powerful read and he is mostly, alarmingly spot on.)

Mike Pence as an alternative seemed worse. A competent, not crazy certified Thirteenth-Century Theocrat with strong ties to GOP elites would certainly get more done and hurt our society and culture even worse, right?

The news that Trump had elevated Steve Bannon to the National Security Council — over the Joint Chiefs of Staff — turned my outrage to terror. Brooks is not the only one in recent days to observe that Bannon is quickly consolidating control over all levers of power and government. His virulent racism, coupled with Trump’s nonstop temper tantrums are making me rethink a Pence presidency. Yes, Pence would gut necessary government spending, work tirelessly to enrich the wealthy, destroy the environment, and outlaw reproductive freedom (wherever he can). But so will Trump/Bannon!

What Pence seems unlikely to do would be to actively undermine world stability, start trade or military wars, empower foreign autocrats (Putin!), and actively undermine the US Constitution (further than the GOP already does through voter suppression, etc).

My mind is just about made up in favor of a 25th-Amendment (or impeachment) solution to this global crisis. My remaining hesitation is mostly about expecting a greater aggressiveness by Pence against LBGT rights than Trump and the idea that Trump/Bannon’s explicit racism is easer to counter than the GOP’s pervasive, implicit racism.

Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Section 4

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

What do you think, Dear Readers?

PS. I will no longer refer to well-known autocrats with their first names; hence, “Trump” (without Donald) and “Putin” (without Vladimir). These are monsters, not human beings and should not be personalized in any way.

©2017

01.29.17 Watch your words

January 29, 2017

What we call things makes a difference (note the Tea Party use of “Death Panels” — this was no accident). Here are two vocabulary changes I am now adopting:

  • I will not refer to the cabal that temporarily rules our country as an “administration” or “government.” Rather it will always be “Trump regime,” “GOP regime,” and (when I think even that is too gentle), “fascist regime.” Regime conveys the illegitimacy of the racist authoritarians in power and their contempt for the norms of democracy and rule of law.
  • I will make few, if any, further references to Great Britain or the United Kingdom. It is the racists of England who produced Brexit, just as the racists of the United States brought us our regime. The other nations that make up the UK had nothing to do with it. And as England carries this noxious policy through (led by PM Theresa May, who has appointed herself Trump’s lapdog, making even the ever- docile Tony Blair’s relationship with W look well adjusted), Scotland will certainly leave. So, “Little England” will be left (perhaps with its own lapdog, Wales, and perhaps with Northern Ireland in order to keep the Troubles from erupting again). Little England is a contemptuous moniker for a once-great nation that will deserve the international isolation it ends up with.

I maintain a “boycott list”: countries I will never set foot in because their people have chosen a path of racism, authoritarianism, and/or aggression. I am hereby adding Little England to that list, which now includes Austria, Hungary, Israel, Poland, and Russia. (Elections in Russia are hardly free and fair, but with Putin’s astronomical approval ratings, we know where the Russian people stand.) If I weren’t a US citizen, this country would certainly be on my boycott list, at least until the current regime were replaced.

©2017 Keith Berner

01.29.17 To Chris Van Hollen: You voted for Ben Carson?!

January 29, 2017

This is what I just sent to our supposedly progressive senator:

Dear Chris:

I’m outraged to discover that you voted for Ben Carson to serve as HUD secretary. I don’t care if you think he is less bad than other potential nominees (the excuse Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown have given). Every single time a Democrat votes for a Trump appointee, the Democratic Party takes partial ownership for resulting policy. (I’m also disappointed by your votes for Sec. Def. and UN ambassador.) If the people of Maryland cannot trust you to do the right thing, whom can we trust? And if you will not stand firm against all GOP appointments and legislation, we have no hope of taking back our country.

—Keith

I note that even the more moderate Benjamin Cardin did not vote for Carson.

©2017 Keith Berner