Thus Endeth This Cycle

 So the mid-term elections are over. We hear all of the pundits now either crowing about their prescience on their absolute knowledge of the coming lack of a red wave, or bemoaning the fact that the electorate did not wish to continue the trek towards authoritarianism represented by the MAGA wing of the Republican party.

Some trends continued. In North Carolina, which voted 50% Republican to 49% Democrat in the 2020 election for state legislators, but had a 69-51 margin in legislative seats, continued their trend of unrepresentative selections. Republicans won 71 seats in the North Carolina house in this election, although the actual votes for the two parties is not yet available. In my state of West Virginia, almost a complete wipeout of Democratic legislators occurred. 16 of the 17 Senate seats in this state went to Republicans.

But for those of us who like to live in a democratic republic, the national election results did provide some hope. We saw what happened when a drop of Trumpism was placed in a peach tree dish, causing the Republicans in the dish to flee. All Secretary of State candidates who pledged to overturn election results if they were not to their liking, ended up on the scrap heap of electoral losers. We shall see if the Democratic lead holds up for Arizona, where Katie Hobbs is holding on to a razor-thin margin over everyone’s favorite Trump toady, Kari Lake.

In the US House, Kevin McCarthy (or whoever takes the speakership) will find out how difficult it is to herd cats. The House under Democratic control was a messy place, but the Progressive Caucus at least found it possible to hold their noses and vote for policies which they disagreed with. Somehow, the Freedom Caucus does not seem inclined to follow the lead of the Progressives, and have pledged always and every time to put ideology over governing. Good luck on holding a majority together. Expect to see one or two changes in party over the next several months as it becomes evident how difficult it is to govern the rowdy crowd of Republican legislators.

It was in the US Senate where the most interesting results were recorded. Not only did the Republicans fail to take over control, they actually have the potential to lose one seat due to the “quality” of their candidates. It certainly appears that the only ability Herschel Walker possesses is his ability to hit the hole. We will find out in early December whether the Republican denunciation of intellect and ability will overcome the erudition of Rafael Warnock. I’ve had just about enough of the Republican’s overt campaign against people on the right hand of the intelligence bell curve. Republicans do believe in affirmative action. They gather as many as possible who lack mental capabilities. Witness Ron Johnson, Tommy Tuberville, Marjorie Taylor Green, and Matt Gaetz as poster children for needing affirmative action. It is only due to fortune that they will not have to share the stage with Louie Gohmert, and Madison Cawthorn.

So we will end up with nearly the status quo on the national level. Yes, the Republicans will likely have the ability to stuff the House agenda full of nonsense legislation and pointless investigations, but the flame of Trumpism does seem like it is flickering, threatening extinguishment. Just remember. The embers will stay hot for a long while, and it is very possible for flames to reignite from the remains.

Quiet Time In West Virginia

There are times when it is good to live in West Virginia. We are only subjected to the fringes of political advertising, mainly because there are no large-scale political contests within the state. The closest we have come to a political kerfuffle is the argument between two wings of a single political party over who we give power to in order to reduce our taxes. It is hard to believe the changes in legislative representation within the past 40 years. My wife worked for the Senate Republicans when there were exactly 3 members of the WV Senate who were of that party. Now, it is a super-majority of Republicans who have control of the Legislative agenda.

So we’ve been spared of the endless procession of political advertisements on television. We can still worry about the side effects (excuse me, contraindications) for the endless procession of pharmaceutical products we are supposed to pester our physicians into prescribing for us. I’m glad we don’t have to obsess over obvious falsehoods in the political ad landscape.

It is amazing how one party has rid itself of shame in lying about matters political. One party seems determined to spread as many falsehoods as possible, while distancing itself from all semblance of morality. Once upon a time, there was a serious discussion about whether the electorate could ever accept a divorcee as its choice for the Presidency. Now, we rhapsodize over a thrice married cad who found it necessary to pay hundreds of thousands in hush money in order to cover up yet another dalliance while his newest wife recovered from childbirth. Or, at least the followers of one party wax rhapsodic over this pitiful snowflake.

Anyway, in West Virginia, we’ve avoided all of these petty squabbles. We only have to determine whether we give the Legislature power over all matters scholastic, all matters judicial, and all matters concerning revenues for local services. Somehow, there is also a question about incorporation of churches on the ballot, but it has received no discussion. The only commercials this season has spawned concern the tax issue (follow the money). We’ve somehow avoided the culture wars over book availability, we’ve already cast out those who would change their gender in order to gain advantage in high school athletics, and our Attorney General has already been successful in telling the evil EPA to limit itself. So our airwaves remain relatively unpolluted, unlike our waterways which will continue to receive effluent from untreated industrial sources.

Next election cycle, we will reenter the noise of the election cycle. No, not from the elections for the two representatives for the US House, where our illustrious representatives will undoubtedly continue their content-free reign as our anointed choices. No, we will be subjected to a US Senate race, a Governor’s race, and our Attorney General and Secretary of State offices. Maybe we can do as well as Arizona is now, with armed “patriots” guarding all of our early voting locations, in order to prevent multiple ballots per person. Having voted in the dense urban environment of South Charleston for 30 years, where I at least recognize the poll workers as the same ones who have been there forever, I somehow doubt that we are capable of election fraud. However, that doesn’t seem to matter to one party, they are more than happy to make claims about election fraud even when their side wins by 30%. I can’t wait till then.

It Is Happening Here

Original gerrymander

I will admit I am more than a bit puzzled over the direction politics have taken in this country. Not just since 2015 when Trump rode the escalator down to begin his campaign, but beginning back after Barack Obama was elected. I saw the Rick Santelli rant live in early 2009 that began the tea party movement, and realized at that time how prescient and how divisive his words were. They were prescient since they acknowledged this country was not of one mind, but had become a bimodal distribution, where one group had grabbed all of the growth in the economy, and one group had lagged behind, suffering competitive disadvantage as the world’s manufacturing was reconfigured to arbitrage labor and regulatory costs. The words were divisive since a sub-group of Republicans used the energy released from Rick’s rant to grab onto elective power, leading to such eminent personalities as Marjorie Taylor Greene.

We now have one of the two political parties in this country who have completely adopted a nihilist philosophy. This party believes our federal government is totally broken, and violence is justified in breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces, leading to its dissolution. That is why so many folks do not recognize 1/6/21 as an insurrection. To true believers of this philosophy, they internalize what Barry Goldwater claimed nearly 60 years ago.  “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” were the words Barry said in his acceptance speech for his presidential nomination in 1964. It has taken nearly 60 years, but that is now the mantra shared by far too many of the followers of Donald Trump.

What is worse, this philosophy has been successful at the state level far too many times. While Democrats were congratulating themselves over their success at a national level, the real power was slipping between their fingers at the state level. Indeed, we are about to see the fruits of two rounds of redistricting solidify control of Red legislators at the state level. You now have states like North Carolina, which had a 50% (Republican) to 49% (Democratic) result in voting for state legislative seats. Due to just one round of gerrymandering, this resulted in a 69 (Republican) to 51 (Democratic) margin in the North Carolina house. What will happen this year after a second round of gerrymandering? It will probably increase the margin of Republican legislators despite what the voters of the state really want as reflected by their votes.

So the Republican Nihilists are not yet resting on their laurels. They have discovered another tier of government they can eat away at like termites chowing down on a stack of 2×4’s. The down ballot races at the state level, like Attorney General, and Secretary of State, are actively being devoured by deniers. Soon these false prophets will have us writing out our choices for any office in cursive, and woe be to those whose script is deemed illegible. These luddites do not accept that machines have an error rate orders of magnitude less than humans. They realize they only need one cycle of elections to break the habit of citizens to vote. So much of our democracy rests on the premise that our votes count, even if candidates we support are unsuccessful. If an election cycle goes through where it becomes obvious that inconvenient votes do not count, millions who are only tangentially connected to the voting process will make the decision to skip any future elections.

That is when the Republican Nihilists will have truly won. What travesties they will attempt to institute when there is no one to provide a counterbalance, one can only guess. All I keep thinking about is the question I heard growing up – how could the Germans have supported a system that led to Hitler taking power? In future years, after I am gone, I can only hope we do not have future generations asking how we in the United States could have gone so wrong. It can indeed happen here.

Washed in the Bodily Fluids of The Man

Let me introduce myself. I am the newly anointed nominee for Senator in this state. Why, the big man has approved me because I was willing to lick his boots in exchange for his endorsement. And once I’ve gotten the endorsement for the nomination from The Man himself, I’ve been forgiven of all of my sins in the past.

What sins, you may ask? Well, let me go and summarize just a few of them. But it is important to note that all of my sins are now washed away in the blood of the lamb, or whatever bodily fluid happens to emanate from The Man.

There was the time I may have paid for one of my many admirers to have an abortion. It is important to note that now I am totally against any abortion at any time, no matter the circumstance. But in my past, my sinful past, I had many admirers, and one of them seduced me in a moment of weakness. Wouldn’t you know it? The condom broke, and this admirer found herself in a state of pregnancy. Well, I couldn’t allow that to happen, could I? A good family man like myself carrying on like a teenager? I was much older than that, and I knew better. And I knew there was a way out of this dilemma. I took it, and I’m not proud of it. But you already knew about my sinful past, now that I’ve been totally forgiven for all my earlier transgressions.

Oh, and about the school set up in my name, that seems to have been totally a scam? I can’t believe I could convince so many people to grab another mortgage on their house just to hear my words and learn my tricks. Of course, talking a foreign bank into taking yet another flyer on me and my wonderfulness for a high-rise development is so different from convincing a local bank to allow you to leverage yourself further in order to buy another rental home. But the rubes just kept coming. I couldn’t believe it when the state required me to desist and broke up my school. I even had to refund a portion of the fees! Imagine that. I was held responsible for my actions! Never happened before, never will again. Remember I’ve been forgiven of all of my previous transgressions.

Then there was the time when I used my own weapon to put down some of those rioters way back in 2020. See, I was only trying to protect the law-abiding property owners from the potential harm from the sea of protestors marching down the street. What else was I to do when some of them actually tried to pry my gun from my twitching fingers. Yeah, I’m sorry that two of them were killed, but all of that was in my before times. All of that has now been forgiven.

Look, I know some of the lamestream press went off when they saw those pictures of me in a confederate uniform. For God’s sake, I was at a battle reenactment and you needed some of those taking part to be on the losing side, even though their cause was just. And the uniform fit so well, I just had to wear it for Halloween, and that fancy costume party I went to. And can you imagine someone took pictures of me, and tried to show I had a pattern of only wearing the greys?  Just because I made some posts during the early days of social media wishing wistfully for the return of the previous era, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been totally redeemed and forgiven. I’m a changed man now.

As far as my beliefs go, I will admit that I dabbled in Q-anon, but all of that is now behind me. Just because I have called for my state to reverse its actions in the election two years ago, it does not mean I really believe a group of Democrats are kidnapping tens of thousands of babies, and draining their blood in satanic rituals in order to extract the youth-restoring compounds. Who in their right mind would believe that? And after all, this all occurred in my before times, before I found forgiveness. My past does not matter.

I will admit I had to grovel in front of The Man and proclaim him the rightful winner of the last election. Of course, that means the person in the White House is a usurper, and any actions taken to remove a usurper are perfectly in line with the moral compass of the universe. I do believe we will be able to reinstate The Man to his rightful role, and ignore that stupid clause in the Constitution limiting the terms in office. Why, I see no reason ever to limit the length that The Man can serve in office. And as healthy as he is, he should be able to drive that golf cart down the fairway of life for a long time. Not like that relic usurper, pretending that bike riding is morally and physically better than golfing. You won’t find me doing useless exercise. I don’t want ever to take away from my lifespan by breaking a sweat.

Well, there you have it. I hope you now know much more about me, and you will certainly want to vote for me instead of that Nobel Laureate I am running against. What do those folks on the Nobel committee ever do? Just keep rattling on about contributions to humanity. Well, I have so much more to offer than one of those fakers the Nobel committee chooses to honor. I don’t see that my opponent has ever been forgiven by The Man. That is the highest honor in the world to me.

It Was A Perfect Raid

So, it is possible that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were correct back in 2016. Donald, for his infamous claim about being able to shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any followers. And Hillary, for her astute observation about the nature of many Trump followers – that they were truly deplorable people. Of course, being as that statement came from the enemy, it was adopted as a badge of honor. I still remember middle-aged women wearing Adorable Deplorable t-shirts to announce their affiliation. In the end, it was a statement that undoubtedly contributed to her defeat. It doesn’t detract from the veracity of the observation.

If nothing else, the events of this past month show that Donald truly does not care about anything but himself. No one else would take the issues about secret files and weave them into a conspiracy blanket of victimhood for himself. As Maya Angelou said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Donald Trump has shown himself to a national audience since the 1970’s. The prime example of someone who has failed upwards, he never has had to face consequences for his actions. His multitude of business failures occurred upon piles of borrowed money, so once the debt was restructured, Donald ended up in a nominally better position than when he started. That the epitome of his success is a private club in a soon-to-be submarine barrier island is fitting. He doesn’t even realize his peril in the future. Of course, for him the future is irrelevant.

What we see in his frenzied communications is a refusal to accept responsibility for any problem he faces. In fact, he seems bound and determined to deny he has transgressed at all. And his quislings are more than happy to provide ever more fantastic justifications for his actions. No, there is no problem with storing top secret information next to a country club ballroom. What could go wrong? And in legal filings, we see that we should consider the entire matter as nothing more serious as overdue library books. Gaah!

Of course, the world view of the cult leader and his followers is totally consistent. When you look back at the pitched battle to gain access to the Capitol Building on January 6 as normal political discourse, then seeing top secret information stored at a country club is nothing more than an overdue book. At least he is consistent, although many view him as a self-caricature He thinks he is an alpha male, and his strutting and preening emphasizes his manliness to his fallen admirers. They are the ones with the Rambo images, that head affixed to an assault-weapon wielding savior of the race.

All of these admirers are so far beyond the pale that they perceive any criticism as “divisive”. As if his words and actions brought people together. No, these people not only do not accept criticism, they have convinced themselves that criticism is blasphemy. How do you reason with people who share no elements of rationality with you? You can’t, that’s how. The only way this cult will go away is through repeated repudiation at the ballot box, though the stage has been set for the cult members to reject any such repudiation as just another stolen election.

Indictment is coming. Like it or not, the event that can draw his followers into forming an army of brown shirts with MAGA lettering is just ahead. We know what actions his deluded followers will take, they’ve announced their intentions on all media forums where they hold sway. Those in charge at a Federal or State level must hold firm to their convictions so that we can finally get a conviction for the egregious behavior we’ve seen over the past 7 years. His true followers? They are so far gone it may take a generation for the damage wrought by the orange one to disappear. After all, we have a world full of real problems to face as a nation.  We’ve lost far too much time worrying about the actions of the unhinged. It is time to move on.

So Many People To Screw Over

I feel really, really sorry for Republicans these days. So many priorities, so much to do. Is it time to soak the poor by reducing tax rates for higher incomes and making the poor make up for the lost revenue by increasing consumption taxes? Or is it time to reverse social trends by enslaving women and forcing them to be considered only as vessels for the unborn? Or is it time to embrace all of the autocrats across the world, waiting with bated breath for their turn to implement such a structure in the American federal government?

I remember the origins of the first part of this turn towards Ayn Randian selfishness. Trickle-down economics were supposed to unleash huge benefits when they gained ascendancy in the Reagan administration. And boy, did they deliver. They delivered for the ruling class, enabling the concentration of wealth in the far right-hand segment of the income distribution bell curve. What is amazing is how ingrained this belief system is within our political classes. A gospel that must not be questioned.  So this mantra even shows up as one of President Trump’s singular legislative achievements – a massive reduction in corporate and partnership tax rates. Enacted with the assurance that such a gift to the capitalist class would supercharge the economy through new investments in capacity and raising wages. So much for predictions. Most of the benefits from the reduced tax rates showed up in dividend increases and stock buybacks, which is what a corporation does when its main interest is increasing its stock price. Indeed, the stock markets engaged in a frenzy of price appreciation after this legislation went into effect. Only in the recent past when inflation in consumer prices became evident, and fears were raised about slowing in consumer spending, did the markets take a pause. Personal note: due to saving my entire working life, and my fortune at working at a company where the vestiges of paternalism still existed, I have been enabled to benefit from the continuing asset price increases. So in essence I am arguing against my own interest.

Of course, when you cannot tout the economic benefits of your priorities, you must engage the suckers voters via another means. For Republicans this means revving up the culture war engine, and nowhere is that more evident than the events surrounding the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Finally, the Republicans were able to grab this shiny object, and deal with women as objects who are unfortunately necessary in creating the next generation. Now it is apparent the legislators do not care whether the products of pregnancy show signs of inbreeding (no exception for incest) or act as reminders of violent crimes (no exceptions for rape), or force children to bear children (no exception for minors). No, what is obvious is that only the power to implement a single religious viewpoint will suffice to sate the appetites of male legislators. After all, it was a mistake to give women the vote originally, right? This is another example of constitutional rights that were not evident in the original document at the founding of the nation.

Oh, you say the right for women to vote was included in an amendment to the Constitution? Well, have we an answer to that. Let’s call forth a brand new constitutional convention where we can clear up that little indiscretion, along with a lot of other things we don’t need. Social Security? That’s socialism by another name. Medicare and Medicaid? Socialized medicine at its worst. We ought to live back in the days when a day in the hospital cost only a few dollars. We were a better country then. And we don’t need government-sponsored death panels, insurance company death panels are much more compatible with the intent of the founders of this nation.

Don’t get me started on the deliberate misinterpretation of the 2nd Amendment. For a document whose intent was clear when this nation faced enemies who objected to the taking of their lands, we now have interpreted this amendment to mean an inalienable right for all residents of this nation to own and use whatever product of killing technology is available for sale. And woe to anyone who dares to put up any sort of barrier to this God-given right! Such imposition of barriers is the clearest evidence ever of government overreach.

Now we see the true objective come out in the Republican agenda. Install an autocratic regime modeled after any number of countries serving as examples for us to emulate. And of course, we must rail against anyone standing up against these autocratic regimes. Ukraine dares to fight against the mighty Russian forces. Therefore, Ukraine must be evil, and corrupt, and in the hands of the globalists. Russia? Pure as the driven snow in the Urals downwind of Chernobyl.  We see the hand of the autocrats with every bill in the state legislatures enabling said legislators to ignore election results and declare whomever they wish as winners. We see the hand of the autocrats in the announced plans to strip many thousands of federal employees of Civil Service protection, only to backfill the positions with Trump loyalists. Who needs a voter mandate when no one counts less than a voter.

No, I pity the poor Republicans. So many targets they have now, now that they’ve convinced enough people that they are the protectors of individual rights. If their victims supporters could only see their elected legislators laughing at them. Well, maybe it wouldn’t matter. Certainly the example of Donald Trump as President should have been eye-opening to the cult members. But that’s just it. We have a full-blown cult constituting the bulk of the Republican party. And it is doubtful the Democrats can mount an effective offense against the offensive policies the Republicans seem intent on foisting off on the rest of this country. Combine all of their wonderful traits together, and it seems the country is near the end of its experiment in self-governance. No, what we seem primed to accept is a dictatorship ready to tell us all of the things we can’t do anymore, since they have taken power.

Yosemite Sam? Meet Slimey!

I was slumped over sitting on one of the benches overlooking the Tidal Basin. Work recently had taken quite a toll on me, being as I had finally been forced into appearing in person in my office. For too much time during the pandemic, I silently was grateful for being able to sleep until just before my scheduled work hours, and commute into the spare bedroom where my desktop was stationed. Having to physically go down to an office in dress attire took far too much out of me, considering how reasonable that request really was.

Anyway, I was lost in thought as I sat on the bench, letting the occasional tourist pass by me as they surveyed the murk of the true Washington swamp. As I allowed myself to be distracted, I suddenly was aware of the approach of my old friend, Slimey. Now Slimey is one of the most unforgettable creatures you will ever see. Eight foot plus, a reptile with razor sharp claws but who managed to walk on his rear legs, he kind of grabbed your attention and never let it go. Since I was so familiar with him, my eyes were drawn towards his new belt, with dual AR-15’s stuck in his holsters. I can’t imagine who the leather worker was who created this for Slimey, nor could I imagine what the source of the leather was, knowing Slimey’s propensity for taking out anything within reach of his claws. But I had to know why he felt it necessary to open carry such weaponry.

“Slimey, it’s been too long since I’ve seen you,” I greeted him as he approached.

“My friend, it has been a long time. Good to see you.” Slimey sidled up alongside me, then suddenly turned and tilted one of his long guns, pointing it at seemingly no one. Fortunately, he didn’t fire, but his sudden move alarmed me.

I thought long about how to broach this subject, since I did not want to become the object he decided was a threat. “Slimey, why is it you find it necessary to carry such a wondrous arsenal?” I finally said. I figured a bit of flattery might disarm my friend, so to speak.

“My friend, you just cannot count on anyone in this town. So many people want to stab you in the back, I finally found it necessary to go armed.” Slimey reached down to caress his left rifle, while giving his right rifle an affirming pat. “Now I feel naked if I go out without my trusty friends.” And he swung around, scaring a tourist couple who were strolling along the basin. He withdrew his clawed hands, and the rifles swung back to their neutral position.

“You’ll have to excuse my friend” I said to the still shell-shocked couple. “He’s still getting used to open carry.” They turned around and walked rapidly away.

“Slimey, I would never have thought you would need to carry heat. You’ve always seemed like someone capable of defending yourself.” I was really wondering what caused my reptilian friend to change so suddenly.

He reverted to the low growl I had heard before. I engaged my own senses, knowing his lightning fast reflexes could overwhelm me before I even knew what hit me. And now he had two weapons to extend his reach! Things were definitely not looking good for me.

The moment seemed to pass for Slimey, and he actually lowered his girth onto the other end of the bench. I was glad for the sturdy construction, and I relaxed just a bit.

Slimey inclined his head towards me. “You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve already had to use these things.” Here he patted his side arms. “Of course, so far I haven’t had to hit anything, people tend to take off as soon as I fire off a clip.” He gave off a low rumble I recognized as his laughter. “I’ve even seen their rear ends turn brown as they try to get away.”

Only Slimey could laugh about human defecation. Probably since his kind did that always in the water, where it was not normally visible. But I let his joke pass.

Slimey still seemed agitated. I had to ask. “Has someone threatened you? Why did you suddenly decide you needed protection?”

Slimey stood up, and I understood our interaction was near its end. “It’s just everywhere in this town. It’s gotten so much worse since the last President left. I knew he had a soft spot in his heart for me. But now, I’m not so sure.”

I knew I was not going to get much more out of him. I’d had enough interactions with Slimey to know he was a reptile of few words. And armed as he was, I didn’t want to see any more of his actions. As he prepared to leave, I said, “Don’t be a stranger. You know where I live.” It was only after I said that, I realized it might not have been the wisest thing to say to an 8’ reptile armed with dual AR-15’s. But it was already too late, and Slimey was already striding down the path, heading towards the Memorial, ready to take on the next interloper on his path.

Instant Justice – Just Add Justices

Should we now admit defeat? The country has to be turned over to the troglodytes who wish to institute a theocracy? It certainly appears that way with the current composition of the Supreme Court. For as long as I can remember, conservatives have wailed about legislating from the bench, in courts as long ago as the Warren court. The Miranda decision was supposed to be just one of the rulings leading to the unraveling of our national fabric. And the decision to remove prayer from school was undoubtedly the worst thing since sliced bread ruined the nation’s palate. Never mind the original sin of the courts, which was to desegregate our nation’s schools. Who’d have thought the constitution meant what it said, in all instances.

Now we have a group on the court who appear to be willing to be led by a pair of unrepentant ideologues who insist if a phrase is not explicitly in the Constitution, it must be eliminated from the nation’s list of options. Privacy is an easy target. This was something known back in the colonial days, and since it was left off of the list of enumerated rights, our founders did not consider it important. Gone! And all of the other rights that follow from a right to privacy? Just waiting now for the right Texas court case to come around to take up those nasty topics of sodomy, birth control, and miscegenation.  I can’t wait to see Justice Thomas take up the case of an anti-miscegenation law an eager southern state attempts to implement as a way of overturning Loving v. Virginia. We’ll see if he really is a consistent conservative, or if he is an opportunistic hypocrite. Let me say he epitomizes the old saying of opening his mouth and confirming his stupidity. He was much better when he was the silent member of the Supreme Court. Of course, there were many of us who saw through him when his confirmation hearings showed his inability to function in a truly integrated workplace without revealing his overt misogyny. Would that we could have turned Thomas into another Bork. But no, and now thirty years after his promotion to the bench, he is spreading his poison to generations yet to be born.

We now are held hostage by a Supreme Court majority whose legitimacy is questionable. From Trump’s first appointment, who is only on the court due to a feckless Senate majority leader’s refusal to accept Obama’s nominee, to Cavanaugh, shown to be a shallow thinker who is also a liar, to Amy Cony Barrett whose nomination and confirmation were rushed through even before her predecessor was fully in her grave, these three now form the core of an unbeatable majority willing to follow whatever their predecessors on the court wish to attack. Just think, these three justices will likely be on the court long after my lifetime, and they will continue to spew their anti-democratic venom and call it judicial rectification for poor decisions of the past.

If we now must accept that even 50 years does not represent a long enough time for a decision to be fully integrated into our nation’s culture, what else can we look forward to? Certainly we’ve had segregated education for longer than we’ve had integrated education, so of course Brown must be reversed. And we must accept the principle of police infallibility (much like papal infallibility) so the last vestiges of Miranda must be erased. Of course, our founders could not consider modern communications, so we must obliterate our rights to use technology in our daily lives. That too must go! Only allowable modes of transportation were those which existed back in the late 1700’s. There’s probably some writer in the distant past who equated flying on broomsticks with true evil, so all forms of motorized transport going faster than a horse has to be made illegal. In fact, I can think of many of elements of our modern life which must be banished in favor of our constitution.

I have in the past advocated for a new national compact, which would be ratified through formation of a revised constitution. The need for such a compact, representing the social contract between individuals and the state, has never been clearer. Unfortunately, the deck is stacked against any type of modernity coming out from such an effort, due to the requirement of individual state ratification. As we now see, the number of states who wish to remain back in some ill-defined period of time when America was great, overwhelms the wishes of the majority of the population. Because of this, any product coming out from a constitutional convention will likely continue the backwards trend we’ve seen and experienced.  

There are those who are rejoicing at the decision of the court, and in their mind, a great evil is being expunged from this nation. As we have seen on the discussion on guns and school shootings, the solutions being suggested from the conservatives would lead to turning schools into armed camps, and convert teachers to becoming executioners. Similarly, the solutions regarding abortion will lead to converting medical providers to becoming the eyes and ears of the prosecutors, so we can live under the fear that a simple miscarriage can be converted into a miscarriage of justice. Any solution that calls for spending real money to deal with the problems will be shelved as either being unrealistic, or viewed as an expansion of government which all can see is unjustified.

Let me speak to the unrepentant Republicans now. This nation, and indeed, the world, will not return to the quaint image of the evangelical Christians, where women and minorities knew their place, and where the sins of adultery were enabled for those in charge of their flocks. We now live in a world knitted together through commerce and through culture. Instead of retreating into the past, it is our moral duty to shape the future so it becomes more just, and true American values can be held up as examples of good for the world to emulate. As it stands right now, the rest of the world is not laughing with us. It is laughing at us.

Only 7 Years Ago? Seems Like Yesterday

Trump tower escalator. Photo credit by AP Images

It is hard to imagine, but it has been 7 years since a fateful trip down an escalator brought Trumpism into our national vocabulary. Now we will see if this political era was an aberration, or whether there will be an ongoing phenomena of selfish nationalism as a defining political belief. So many things have changed in the intervening years. For one thing, money was nearly free for much of the Trump era as interest rates hovered near zero. This nation and the world suffered from the most extensive viral infection we have seen in a century – though many people still do not think there was any unusual disease around them.

In many ways, the response to COVID provides an answer that Trumpism is not an aberration. If Trumpism is defined as a distrust of all forms governmental, along with a belief that our nation is better off going it alone and forgoing all international alliances, then no, Trumpism is not an aberration. An entire wing of the Republicans has always stood for isolationism, and a propensity toward conspiracy theories. As I grew up, it seemed those beliefs got segregated within self-contained enclaves, like the John Birch Society. We were able to laugh at those who believed in the imminent threat water fluoridation posed. But the Republicans writ large were able to subjugate this tendency since the existential threat of international communism seemed to be the primary motivation for foreign policy.

Once the communist threat imploded, the glue holding the Republican coalition loosened. Combined with downward economic mobility afflicting much of the nation’s interior, we emerged into a world where a significant portion of the population became convinced nothing good would ever come to them if the elites remained in charge. The wisdom of Donald Trump (gad – it hurts to write that phrase) was to reach out, if only in a superficial way, to that segment of the population and toss them a life preserver. That so many reached out for that life preserver, even when it was revealed to be covered with the slime of self-interest, carried Donald Trump to an improbable victory.

Once in office, he tried ineffectually to turn the levers of power to his advantage. Much to his chagrin, he found it was not possible to turn the ship of state, even in a single four-year term. He mistook this resistance to change to an entity he called the deep state. But he was able to establish his mark upon many of the governmental organizations, especially those with a conservative bent. Still, he found it impossible to totally restructure those portions of government with a liberal bias, and thus minimal change occurred in the groups who used science to govern their actions. Fortunately for us, the corruption and incompetence of Donald Trump enabled the deep state to survive a single term.

But if you view Donald Trump as someone who rode the currents to victory in spite of himself, the second generation of Trumpism offers hope to those who believe in the ultimate objectives of Trump. They come with the experience of running large organizations, and have survived the skirmishes politics throw up. Governors of Texas and Florida are well-positioned to ride the waves of anti-government sentiment still crashing on our shores. They are backed by legions of followers who self-segregate into media pools where only their own perspective is allowed. Nowhere was that more evident than in the decision of Fox News to not only ignore the prime time January 6 hearing, but in the secondary decision that organization made to forego any commercial revenue in the hopes of keeping fingers from switching inputs to other channels, where the hearing was playing.

So where we stand is at a precipice. It is still possible to convince a portion of this nation of the evil represented in the Republican position, while at the same time it is possible to evoke emotional support for those same positions in another segment of the population. But that is a key point. Only 20 million people watched the first January 6 hearing, and while those involved in television believed this was a huge crowd (it rivaled the audience for Sunday Night Football!), I myself was underwhelmed by an audience of 6% of the population of this nation who had enough interest to tune in for two hours. You must realize it will be the 94% who didn’t watch this coverage who will determine the outcome.

Those who will decide the course of this nation are not the people invested in politics. The ones who will decide are those who cannot see beyond their current economic conditions and view their vote as the only tool they have to right the wrongs they see in their own lives. You can try to convince them to vote in favor of principles, but high and mighty thoughts will be swallowed by the economic waves battering the shore. Many folks cannot see beyond those waves, and to persuade them of the impending death of democracy should they choose the party of autocrats is hopeless. What we must do is figure out a way to make more noise than the opposition. I am convinced it is necessary to yell, since it seems only cacophony can be heard over the drone of the trumpets. There’s a reason Twitter has such a small character limit to its posts – the national attention span can’t handle longer thoughts.

What this nation needs is not a better COVID vaccine. We need a vaccine against the idiocy and idolatry of Trumpism.

A Nation’s Selective Hearing

AP Photo -John Minchillo

We are at the dawning of the January 6 Committee public hearings. As one who lived through the Watergate hearings, I offer a little perspective. First, the hearings will reveal all of the ways in which our ex-President was complicit in attempting to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, which was a fair election and one he lost significantly in the popular vote. Second, it will lay to rest all of the pseudo claims about “legitimate political discourse” being an explanation for the storming of the Bastille which we saw the Trump supporters attempt.

Third, it will reveal we can believe our eyes, which for the most part were transfixed on the television as we watched the mob battle play out on that afternoon. It was not only as bad as we thought, it was worse. Plans were laid out weeks and even months in advance hoping for some way to circumvent the results of the election.

And fourth, our segregated media habits will result in no change in our contradictory beliefs, where a significant fraction of our population steadfastly refuses to accept the evidence of their eyes and ears. Instead, they will rely upon the soothing words of the Fox pundits as they decry the hearings as an attempt to cast aspersions on the perfect behavior of the last President.

Let me be perfectly clear here. The most recent President was someone who never accepted that he was the guardian of our constitutional system of government. Instead, he viewed the whole process as a way of enriching himself, his family, and his assorted cronies. Those around Trump either benefited financially (see Jared Kushner with his new wealth fund and its $2 billion “investment” from the Saudi’s), or politically, via the opportunity to serve as Senatorial nominees even though their terms in the administration were riddled with corruption and self-dealing. I remember the Cone of Silence that Mel Brooks Scott Pruitt had built to keep his discussions private. Now he nears admission to the Senate from the poor excuse for a state in Oklahoma.

The ex-President lost because many, many people rejected his attempt at instituting a dynastic regency. He did pick up more votes than his 2016 surprise success, but the opposition picked up millions and millions more. It was intended to be a personal repudiation of Donald Trump. Except, of course, he refused to acknowledge his failure. Here is a man (and I use that term advisedly) who managed to fail upwards in all of his endeavors. He mistook family money for self-worth, and he epitomized failure in American business, instead of the immense success his PR toadies insisted he represented.

Nowhere is there a clearer demarcation of the American populace than in the feelings surrounding our last President. Those who believe the gold-plated fantasy of Trump as business kingpin, still insist he performed admirably in office. Those who saw through the charlatan realize how fortunate we have been to emerge from the four years of incompetence and grifting this nation was subjected to.  

Now we still are under the man’s domination, as one of the two electoral parties of this nation cannot shake his influence. What is really scary is the rise of those who evoke Trumpism as their modus operandi, but with more competence. I remember Ron Desantis’s introduction to the nation, as his political advertisement ran showing him teaching his toddler how to build the Mexican wall with blocks. Unfortunately, since his election as Florida governor, he has shown how granting him power has unleashed his inner tyrant, with evil intent oozing out of every executive order he issues. At least with Trump we knew his staff did not understand how to wield the levers of power effectively. With Desantis, that is not the case. He is truly scary and a threat to all who revere the style of government we have inherited.

The worst part of the past administration is the complete lack of shamelessness, and lack of a sense of humor. It is impossible to get any member of the past administration to show shame, or a sense that they are subject to the rules governing all citizens. Witness Peter Navarro’s reaction to his arrest. And these idiots never seem to recognize that a substantial portion of the nation is laughing at them, not laughing with them. How you can come up with so many people who failed at basic humanity is beyond me. But that is the legacy of the prior administration, and we can only hope the upcoming hearings reveal the criminal faults with enough clarity that it at least possible to embolden those in charge of the justice systems, so we may finally see the Donald subject to a foreign concept – accountability.