Processing Trump

So how are allegedly rational citizens supposed to process Trump’s political language?  I mean aside from responding with disgust, alarm, and grave concern for the nation and just about everyone in it?

I do think it’s fair, especially after the last couple of weeks, to question his sanity because attributing his speech and behavior to cynicism, creating a persona, appealing to the base, etc., seems insufficient.  Within this news-cycle, he has suggested that President Obama is literally working with what Trumps calls “Islamists [ISIS],” revoked the Washington Post‘s credentials, wondered why the U.S. can’t block ISIS’s use of radios, and called again for a ban on immigration of people who are Muslim.

We may have reached the limits of analysis, so that everyone who is not part of the Trump cult should, although keeping eyes and ears tuned to the campaign, simply concentrate on making sure he is not elected.  That is, why analyze when there’s crucial work to be done?  Of course, we don’t necessarily have to choose between the two.

Would it profit us to approach Trump as the filthy, disturbing outcome of GOP speech, behavior, legislation, and foreign policy?  I don’t know.  He displays the xenophobia, fear-mongering, and willingness to wipe out due process that characterized Joseph McCarthy. He displays the vile racism of George Wallace, not to mention the slightly less subtle racist strategies and tactics of countless other Republicans–Reagan, Atwater, Rove, both Bushes, governors, senators, and representatives. He exudes the religious bigotry of Ted Cruz. He obviously has a disturbed view of women and a reactionary view of most issues affecting them–again, not all that different from other members of the GOP.  Power seems to have warped him badly, as it did Dick Cheney. Like Nixon, he’s obsessed with the press.

But we could also go in a different direction and assert that Trump is different from these GOP predecessors because he knows almost no limits to repellent political language, outrageous policy-suggestions, infantile insults to other politicians, and ghastly mockery of a disabled man. He also encourages violence at his rallies.

At the moment, I’m stuck somewhere between the two approaches.  Since Dixiecrat days, the GOP has been a party of racism and race-baiting, and its economic and foreign policies have been disastrous. That said, I do recall relatively decent GOP lawmakers who reached across the aisle to forge adequate if not excellent legislation, and at least Reagan and Bush I had some decorum. It would be easier to give the GOP a break if current GOP leaders would denounce him, and that might even be not just the proper thing to do, not just the best thing to do for the country, but also the smart political move.

What would Orwell do?  Probably he would attack Trump with his writing and view him as a fascist, and Orwell knew a thing or two about fascists. In the process, he might continue to parse Trump’s political language. But for whom should we parse the language?  I doubt if Orwell or anyone could, by analyzing Trump’s speech,  convince Trumpsters not to support the man.  I plan to spend a lot more time trying to make sure Trump doesn’t become president (writing that part of the sentence makes me a little sick: “Trump . . . president”) than thinking about the phenomenon or studying the language.

George Will and the “Logic” That Put the GOP in A Fix

“Fix” in this case means a broken state, one that begs to be fixed.

On FOX’s Sunday chat-show hosted by Chris Wallace, George Will opined that “fear” and “incredulity” prevented the GOP higher-ups from confronting and trying to stop Donald Trump’s climb to the nomination.  Whatever!

Will then climbed aboard the old Reaganesque hobby-nag, asserting that citizens who voted for Democratic candidates consisted chiefly of people who worked for “the government,” AFSCME union-members (federal, state, county, and municipal workers), teachers, and others who belonged to “a dependent class.”  Message: “gubment” (Reagan’s folksy pronunciation) is bad, the people who work in one of its capacities are lesser than those who don’t, one should recoil from them and gubment, and people who vote GOP are, one infers, “independent.”  Second message: But enough about the sociopath Trump: what about those bad citizens who don’t prefer him?

And now Will and other GOP geezers fear or deny the rise of a fatuous, hateful lard-ass who has been catapulted over the political wall, like the cow in Mony Python and the Holy Grail, by hateful, blind “anti-government” enthusiasm. Here is your Reaganism.  Here is your Reaganism on the Trump-drug.

Note that in the world of this logic, teachers, fire-fighters, food-inspectors, soldiers, spies, garbage-workers, the police, and so on are to be sniffed at imperiously as horseman Will passes by, insensible to the city-worker who will sweep up the horse-shit.  Whereas someone who works for the defense industry or FOX News is just flat-out better.  How? Well, they just are.

In Will’s dream-sequence, most of the better people are White, of course–hence his career-long dismissal of Blacks’ problems in the U.S. as their fault and hence Trump’s nihilistic comfort with KKK sentiments.

Shall we point out the obvious? The Constitution, created by all those sagacious  White founders, many of whom went on to join the dependent class, established a (wait for it) government. —So that by the time Reagan’s con to continue to seduce White folks, especially in the Dixiecrat South, mutates into Trumpery, it is, like a terrible virus, a form of reckless, accidental anarchy, anarchy not springing from some considered ideology or wise distrust of authority, but anarchy infatuated with authoritarianism. So that mere McConnell is loosed upon the Senate, refusing to allow the hateful government (of which he is a part, oops) to do, at least, what the Constitution says: review a SCOTUS nomination.

In his pretentious prose and pose, for the better part of four decades, George Will helped to create Donald Trump’s rise, even though the Rovian Tea Party is the more recent puff of meth that riled and roiled the racist, anti-knowledge mob.  Thank you, George. Thanks so much. I do fear the consequences of a  Trump presidency, as I appear to be somewhat sentient this morning.  I do not find Trump’s rise incredible (in the old sense of the word), however.  It looks more like inevitable.

 

Squalid Scalia

An online definition of squalid goes as follows:

(of a place) Extremely dirty and unpleasant, esp. as a result of poverty or neglect.
Showing a contemptible lack of moral standards.

I apply it to Justice (ha!) Antonin Scalia, in general but with regard to today’s arguments concerning same-sex marriage.

Reportedly, Scalia asked Ted Olson, a conservative arguing in favor of supporting the overturning of Prop. 8 in California (thus arguing in favor, more broadly, of same-sex marriage), “When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit gay marriage?” (This is a paraphrase.) Then he offered a couple of dates when this might have (not) occurred. Olson’s answer was a question, “When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit mixed race marriages?” Scalia’s answer was to tell Olson not to answer questions with a question. Ah, the highest court in the land. High on what, who knows?

Scalia positions himself as an “originalist.” He likes to go back to the original text of the C. itself, and to founders’ intent. Grudgingly, he agrees to look at amendments. By the way, wouldn’t founders’ intent require cloning? Yeah, sure, there are letters and the Federalist Papers, but still, those are incomplete. We’d have to have live cranial video of what the founders were thinking when they signed the C. Even cloning wouldn’t cut it because, for the sake of argument, let’s assume we could bring a Founder back to life. First question: How’s it going? Second question (for Jefferson): “What gives you the right to own slaves?” Third question:”What was your intent when you …?” So, Big Tom gives us an answer: “My intent was to . . .”. Why would we believe his account?

But of course one good rhetorical answer to Scalia’s question is not the question Olson asked but an imperative: “Show me when and where the Constitution explicitly prohibited same sex marriage.” Scalia would then have to talk about, well, obviously, back then, gay people didn’t get married, yadda, yadda. Yeah, fine, but show me where that gets us into the text of the Constitution, Moe. (He reminds of Moe in the Three Stooges.)

This is all a rhetorical (in the negative sense) exercise on my part because, in part, Scalia’s mind is squalid, not to mention made-up. It is dirty and unpleasant as a result of neglecting reason in favor of politics. He’s just a GOP hack. He shows a contemptible lack of moral standards. It is immoral to go on hunting trips with Cheney (also unwise) and then claim there is no conflict of interest when you hear (but not listen to) a case involving Cheney. Etc.

Please know I don’t think much of the rest of the Court, either. With the exception of Ginsburg, they all seem like robed clowns too much taken with themselves. And poor Justice Thomas has become a smoldering boulder of self-loathing. Breyer is a gasbag. So is Kagan. Kennedy sits his ass on the fence, guaranteeing no one respects him.

Still, Scalia is a cut below–especially with his lame “originalist” posturing.

Rhetoric Takes Another Beating in the Gun-Control Debate

The murders in Newtown, CT, seem to have correlated to a shift in attitudes toward attempts to “control” guns. They also seem to have hardened views to the extent reasoning has taken a beating.

By “controlling” guns, we can limit gun-violence; that is the implicit logic of those wanting new laws and wanting old laws enforced. It’s hard to imagine enough evidence to support this implicit logic, but at the same time, most of the gun-control advocates admit that they are trying to do “something” in the wake of the murders. Try a lot of things and see what, if anything, works: that position seems reasonable, even if people don’t agree with it.

The gun-control purists seem to make the following mistakes in reasoning:

1. Any limitations on how guns are purchased, which guns are purchased, and how ammunition is purchased translates into a confiscation of all guns. Gun control = gun-ban. In reality, all the measures proposed don’t threaten the possession of hand-guns or shot-guns for self-defense or the possession of rifles and shot-guns for hunting.

2. Any support for any new laws is un-Constitutional. Even Ed Meese jumped into this mess by saying “it” (any executive order related to guns) would be un-Constitutional. He’s a fortune-teller!

3. The Constitution guarantees the right to own fire-arms. This view ignores the phrase “a well-regulated militia. It also ignores all the advances in technology regarding “arms.” Let’s start here: should adults have the right to own hand-held rocket-launchers? How about we say, “No”? Okay, then from that point, let’s walk back toward hand-guns and shotguns. Bazooka? No. Soon, of course, we’ll walk back to assault-rifles. Should we have the right to possess them? I think it’s a reasonable question to ask. Purists think it translates into banning guns altogether.

4. A proliferation of guns and of people (in public places) with guns will cut down on violence. For example, teachers should pack heat in the classroom. Regarding the specific example, I’m thinking “No” because I think of all that could go wrong. Regarding the larger remedy: It seems every bit as shaky, if not more so, than the assumption that new gun-laws will reduce gun-violence.

The only thing I know for sure about the current debate is that it won’t be a debate, per se. It will be a campaign of slogans and fallacies, rather like every other important national “debate” we now have. One effect of global warming seems to be the flooding of middle-ground.

How to Freak Out Politicians: Agree

Imagine, citizens, if there were a vast bi-wing and head-to-tail conspiracy among us to agree on a few things that politicians hope and pray we never agree on. To induce us to watch them, give them money, and vote for them, politicians need there to be at least the appearance of difference.

True, some politicians go out of their way(s) to convince us, that, all right, you really are different, Pal, and more is the pity: Akin in Missouri. Paul Rand Ryan. Roseanne Barr (she ran for governor).

Nonetheless, please allow me to forge on in this fantasy-of-agreement by listing some things on which we could agree if we just shifted our angles of perception slightly.

1. “Gay marriage,” so called. Let’s assume you oppose two gay persons’ being able to marry. You do so for religious reasons. Let us then assume that two gay persons get married and live in some part of your city. You will never see them, or, if you do, you won’t know they’re married. At the same time, they will have no effect on your religious beliefs, nor will the State, which may not, according to the Constitution, interfere with your place of worship. They will have no effect on your marriage, if you are married. You don’t have to approve of gay marriage, and you may oppose it in your church. You’ll never have to attend a gay marriage, nor will a married gay couple ever visit your church or come to your home. Now imagine that you regularly drive on a section of Interstate highway that is in terrible shape. Wouldn’t you rather that your representative(s) get that thing fixed than touching your “gay-marriage” nerve so they can get money out of you?

2. The deficit. I don’t know anyone in our wing-to-wing conspiracy who doesn’t want this thing fixed. The GOP will have you believe that President Obama is a profligate liberal, and the DEMS will have you believe that the GOP wants to push old women off cliffs. All of that is pure distraction. Obama is prudent to the point of being an Eisenhower Republican, and most of the GOP wants to fix the thing. What if we all agreed that we wanted some prudent cuts in federal spending, some mild increases in revenue (from the upper-brackets), and some practical, non-ideological adjustments to Social Security and Medicare? I’m talking about the kind of pragmatic approach to a budget that you and I have to practice every day in our lives. And what if we all “said” to our representatives: get it done.

3. Global warming. I suggest that if we accept scientific conclusions on other settled matters (smoking increases the likelihood of getting lung cancer), that we should accept the conclusions about global warming and humans’ contribution to it. If you can’t go so far as the latter (humans’ role it in), you can still probably agree that certain steps need to be taken. If you live in farm country, you need the government to help deal with a greater likelihood of droughts and flash-bloods. If you live in the path of hurricanes, you’re going to need more infrastructure, an efficient and effective FEMA, and so on. People are now building machines to suck the carbon out of the air. It doesn’t matter what their politics are. Also, we know we’re running of of oil, so it’s in all our interests to cultivate others sources. Again, our message should be, across the board, get it done.

Maybe you can think of additional and/or better examples of these. Meeting places. Common ground. Issues we can work out, problems we can define differently.

But mainly, just think of the extent to which the politicians would freak out, and just think how much they have it coming.

Is It Time To Shift the Paradigm?

Cynics like me have often opined that the two-party system is more or less a one-party system. For example, aside from health-care reform, to what extent has President Obama differed from President Bush? You get the picture.

Now, however, it may be time for cynics and others to assert their preference for the the Repub licans’ to (I shall keep it basic) get their shit together. The usual caveat obtains: the Dems are no bargain. Nonetheless, the GOP seems to oppose the following:

1. Ordinary, fair voting. You know it’s true. They seek to suppress the vote, at least. Or: they can’t imagine themselves winning without cheating.
2. Abortion–even for women who are raped.
3. The fact–established fact–of human-influenced global warming.
4. Modest but necessary taxes on the upper-income brackets. I get weary of asking people simply to look at the tax-rates under Reagan, Carter, Nixon, LBJ, Kennedy, and (not a socialist!) Eisenhower. Seriously, look at them. I also get weary of suggesting that incoming revenue might be a valid piece of the deficit-puzzle. Ya think?
5. Advice and consent. Instead of considering and then voting upon President Obama’s nominees for the courts (etc.), Mitch McConnell has decided to filibuster and never to go into recess. To go to Washington to stop the process of government? Is this what the founding dudes had in mind? Five words: Bring it to a vote.
6. Any discussion of arms control. Remember when arms control was kind of a foreign policy issue? Now we have to assume that anybody has the right to bear any arm. A magazine of 50 rounds? You bet! Shoulder-mounted missiles? Jefferson wanted one! An A-Bomb in the basement? What would George Washington do? The alleged defense of the Second Amendment is not the issue. The issue is the maturity involved in allowing a rational discussion of limits. But, oh no, the GOP would rather behave like middle-schoolers newly acquainted with Meth. Dude, let’s party with automatic weapons!
7. Anything not White. The GOP opposes Blacks, browns, Asians, Indians, and so on and so forth. Oh, yes, they will cite distracting examples of the contrary. But seriously: they’re not even up to the task of opposing President Obama on political or policy issues.l Instead they have to go for race, religion, origin, and all the other horse shit.

The Democrats are no bargain; or, at least that used to be the case. But now the world isn’t even safe for cynics. Republicans have made Democrats seems almost okay.

Do political scientists grapple with this new reality? Or do they simply play the metronome game? This side says this, and this side says that.

Is It Fascism Yet?

By “it” I mean the U.S. government, and let me be among the first to answer, albeit tentatively, “No.”

I posed the question to an historian, who answered, “No–look at places [countries] where it’s [fascism] real.” Of course, I’d already done that, but at the same time, I still wondered about certain fascist characteristics.

Definition? What a good idea. Let’s go semi-pro (wikipedia): Fascism “is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology.”

“Radical” means “extreme” in this case, I assume.

And then there are Lawrence Britt’s 14 “markers” of fascism that are easily found online.

But back to our basic definition and its application, if any, to the U.S.: As to the authoritarian part: In the U.S., if you’re poor, Black, an immigrant, someone perceived to be an immigrant, perceived to be an enemy combatant, can’t a variety of governmental agencies do whatever they want with you in more cases than not? For example, the Executive Branch now has a “kill list,” apparently, on which may appear U.S. citizens. So if you’re a U.S. citizen perceived to be associated with terrorists, the President may order you killed and there will be few if any consequences for him or her.

As to the nationalist part: the U.S. seems as jingoistic as I’ve experienced it in several decades. The idea of “American exceptionalism” has become a parody: we have an exceptionally large military complex (spending more than the rest of the world combined on “defense”); we suck up more energy per capita than any other nation; one of our major political parties denies a human role in global warming and associates any kind of comprehensive health-care reform as “socialist.”

As I understand fascism, corporate power more or less runs the government, with the military. To quote Senator Bernie Sanders, “Wall Street regulates Congress,” and I don’t think this is news. True, it’s not the same as Mussolini’s appointing corporate leaders to a legislature, but corporate power seems virtually unchecked these days.

The U.S. invades countries at will, and I think there’s a good argument to be made that Bush II’s invasion of Iraq was illegal. It was certainly unprovoked.

Language, I think, plays a significant role in what may be a slide toward fascism. Consider how many people sincerely believe President Obama is not a “real” American. Consider how “national security” and “for national security reasons” have excused the burial of information, spying on citizens, holding people indefinitely in prison, and so on. Consider “the war on terror,” which is by definition unending. Consider “enemy combatant,” which has been applied to persons who in fact were not in combat and not enemies of the U.S.–but were just hanging around. Consider the awful euphemism, “rendition.”

It is difficult to argue that the U.S. is a fascist state, but it’s also difficult to see what would stop it from becoming one at this point. Whether the nation indeed is moving in that direction I leave to you.

What amazes me (it shouldn’t) is how sanguine most people seem to be about kill-lists, warrantless wire-tapping, Guantanamo, rendition, the national incarceration-rate, the rate of incarceration for Black Americans, the let-me-see-your-papers laws, the unaudited Pentagon, the super-secret NSA, and so on. “There’s a man with a gun over there . . .”.

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