Sunday, October 16, 2016

One Good Side Effect Of Trumpism: Knowledge Of Paul Ryan's Toxicity Is Spreading To Millions More Voters


I didn't know NY Times reporter reporter Josh Barro was a Republican who has only this week registered as a Democrat. He explained his metamorphosis earlier today. "The most important thing we have learned this year," he wrote, is that, when the Republican Party was hijacked by a dangerous fascist who threatens to destroy the institutions that make America great and free, most Republicans up and down the organizational chart stood behind him and insisted he ought to be president." He pointed out that "some did this because they are fools who do not understand why Trump is dangerous" and that "some did it because they were naïve enough to believe he could be controlled and manipulated into implementing a normal Republican agenda." But the ones that really pissed him off were the cowards and scoundrels-- "Republican politicians who understand exactly how dangerous Donald Trump is, but who have chosen to support him anyway for reasons of strategy, careerism, or cowardice." He singled out Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and "most of all" Paul Ryan, "a man whose pained, blue eyes suggest he desperately wants to cry for help. He's a man who runs around the country pathetically trying to pretend that Trump does not exist and that the key issue is his congressional caucus' #Better Way agenda. And he's a man who, of his own free will, seeks to help Donald Trump become president. These men are not fools like Ben Carson. To borrow a phrase from Rubio, they know exactly what they are doing: They are taking an action that risks the destruction of the American republic to advance their personal interests. They know what Meg Whitman knows about the risks Trump poses to America. Rubio himself warned specifically of the risk of Trump starting a nuclear war! But they do not care. I can only conclude from the available evidence that they love their careers more than they love America. And they are why I quit the Republican Party this week."

One of the remarkable subplots of the 2016 presidential race is the unravelling of the very substantial threat Paul Ryan has posed to the hard-fought strides America has made since the 1930's. Ryan's own outlandish presidential ambitions, based on a slick-but-utterly-superficial repackaging of classic 1920's neo-liberal dogma, appear to be on life-support, if not already moribund. His toxicity among normal people-- based on a budget framework meant to destroy Social Security and Medicare and his time as Romney's running mate-- has now spread to Trump's intolerables. They see him as their enemy now, as Matt Taibbi pointed out in Rolling Stone this weekend.

Saturday, early October, at a fairground 40 minutes southwest of Milwaukee. The very name of this place, Elkhorn, conjures images of past massacres on now-silent fields across our blood-soaked history. Nobody will die here; this is not Wounded Knee, but it is the end of an era. The modern Republican Party will perish on this stretch of grass.

Trump had been scheduled to come here today, to kiss defenseless babies and pose next to pumpkins and haystacks at Wisconsin congressman and House Speaker Paul Ryan's annual "GOP Fall Fest."

Instead, the two men declared war on each other. The last straw was the release of a tape capturing Donald Trump uttering five words-- "Grab them by the pussy"-- during an off-camera discussion with former Access Hollywood host Billy Bush about what you can do to women when you're a star.

Keeping up with Trump revelations is exhausting. By late October, he'll be caught whacking it outside a nunnery. There are not many places left for this thing to go that don't involve kids or cannibalism. We wait, miserably, for the dong shot.

Ryan, recoiling from Trump's remarks, issued a denunciation ("Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified"), disinviting Trump from his Elkhorn celebration, which was to be the first joint campaign appearance by the country's two highest-ranking Republicans.

As a result, the hundreds of Republican faithful who came spoiling for Trumpian invective, dressed in T-shirts reading things like DEPLORABLE LIVES MATTER and BOMB THE SHIT OUT OF ISIS, and even FUCK OFF, WE'RE FULL (a message for immigrants), ended up herded out here, as if by ruse, to get a big dose of the very thing they'd rebelled against.

They sat through a succession of freedom-and-God speeches by Wisconsin Republicans like Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Sen. Ron Johnson, Gov. Scott Walker and Ryan, who collectively represented the party establishment closing ranks and joining the rest of the country in denouncing the free-falling Trump. Once an unstoppable phenomenon who had the media eating out of his controversial-size hands, Trump, in the space of a few hours, had become the mother of all pop-culture villains, a globally despised cross of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Charlie Sheen and Satan.

To the self-proclaimed "Deplorables" who came out to see Trump anyway, Ryan's decision was treason, the latest evidence that no matter what their party affiliation, Washington politicians have more in common with one another than with regular people.

"Small-ball Ryan," groused Trump supporter Mike Goril, shaking his head, adding to this election cycle's unsurpassable all-time record for testicular innuendo.

Speaker after speaker ascended the stage to urge Republican voters to vote. But with the exception of Attorney General Brad Schimel, who got a round of applause when he grudgingly asked the audience to back Trump for the sake of the Supreme Court, every last one of them tiptoed past the party nominee's name. One by one, they talked around Trump, like an unmentionable uncle carted off on a kiddie-porn rap just before Thanksgiving dinner.

Metaphorically anyway, Trump supporters like Goril were right. Not one of these career politicians had the gumption to be frank with this crowd about what had happened to their party. Instead, the strategy seemed to be to pretend none of it had happened, and to hide behind piles of the same worn clichés that had driven these voters to rebel in the first place.

The party schism burst open in the middle of a speech by Wisconsin's speaker of the State Assembly, Robin Vos. Vos is the Billy Mays of state budget hawks. He's a mean-spirited little ball of energy who leaped onto the stage reminding the crowd that he wanted to eliminate the office of the treasurer to SAVE YOU MONEY!

Vos went on to brag about having wiped out tenure for University of Wisconsin professors, before dismounting with yet another superawkward Trumpless call for Republicans to turn out to vote.

"I have no doubt that with all of you standing behind us," he shouted, "and with the fantastic record of achievement that we have, we're going to go on to an even bigger and better victory than before!"

There was scattered applause, then someone from the crowd called out:

"You uninvited Donald Trump!"

Boos and catcalls, both for and against Vos and the Republicans. Most in the crowd were Trump supporters, but others were angry with Trump for perhaps saddling them with four years of Hillary Clinton. These camps now battled it out across the field. A competing chant of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" started on the opposite end of the stands, only to be met by chants from the pro-Trumpers.

"We want Trump! We want Trump!" "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Ryan, the last speaker, tried to cut the tension with a leaden joke about the "elephant in the room." But he still refused to speak Trump's name, or do more than refer the crowd to a written statement. He just smiled like it was all OK, and talked about what a beautiful day it was.

Ryan's cowardly play was reflective of the party as a whole, which has yet to own its role in the Trump story. Republican ineptitude and corruption represented the first crack in the facade of a crumbling political system that made Trump's rise possible. As toxic as Trump was, many outside observers were slow to pick up on the threat because they were so focused on how much Republicans like Ryan deserved him.

Trump's early rampage through the Republican field made literary sense. It was classic farce. He was the lewd, unwelcome guest who horrified priggish, decent society, a theme that has mesmerized audiences for centuries, from Vanity Fair to The Government Inspector to (closer to home) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. When you let a hands-y, drunken slob loose at an aristocrats' ball, the satirical power of the story comes from the aristocrats deserving what comes next. And nothing has ever deserved a comeuppance quite like the American presidential electoral process, which had become as exclusive and cut off from the people as a tsarist shooting party.

The first symptom of a degraded aristocracy is a lack of capable candidates for the throne. After years of indulgence, ruling families become frail, inbred and isolated, with no one but mystics, impotents and children to put forward as kings. Think of Nikolai Romanov reading fortunes as his troops starved at the front. Weak princes lead to popular uprisings. Which brings us to this year's Republican field.

There wasn't one capable or inspiring person in the infamous "Clown Car" lineup. All 16 of the non-Trump entrants were dunces, religious zealots, wimps or tyrants, all equally out of touch with voters. Scott Walker was a lipless sadist who in centuries past would have worn a leather jerkin and thrown dogs off the castle walls for recreation. Marco Rubio was the young rake with debts. Jeb Bush was the last offering in a fast-diminishing hereditary line. Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer. And so on.

The party spent 50 years preaching rich people bromides like "trickle-down economics" and "picking yourself up by your bootstraps" as solutions to the growing alienation and financial privation of the ordinary voter. In place of jobs, exported overseas by the millions by their financial backers, Republicans glibly offered the flag, Jesus and Willie Horton.

In recent years it all went stale. They started to run out of lines to sell the public. Things got so desperate that during the Tea Party phase, some GOP candidates began dabbling in the truth. They told voters that all Washington politicians, including their own leaders, had abandoned them and become whores for special interests. It was a slapstick routine: Throw us bums out!

Republican voters ate it up and spent the whole of last primary season howling for blood as Trump shredded one party-approved hack after another. By the time the other 16 candidates finished their mass-suicide-squad routine, a tail-chasing, sewer-mouthed septuagenarian New Yorker was accepting the nomination of the Family Values Party.

Now, months later, as Trump was imploding, Ryan was retreating to ancient supply-side clichés about how cutting taxes will bring the jobs back. "We've got to scrap this tax code and start over," he said.

As Ryan droned on, well back behind the stands, two heavyset middle-aged women in Trump/Pence T-shirts shook their heads in boredom. One elbowed the other.

"Wanna grab my crotch?"

This is Wisconsin, after all. You can tell immigrants to fuck off, but you can't say the p-word the day before church, or a Packers game.

The other woman chuckled, then reached down to her own, as if to say, "Grab this!"

Both women busted out laughing. When the event was done, as the crowd of other seething Deplorables filed past them, they and a few others remained in their chairs, staring fatalistically at the empty stage.

The scene couldn't have been more poignant. Duped for a generation by a party that kowtowed to the wealthy while offering scraps to voters, then egged on to a doomed rebellion by a third-rate con man who wilted under pressure and was finally incinerated in a fireball of his own stupidity, people like this found themselves, in the end, represented by literally no one.

Not many people are shedding tears for the Republican voter these days, perhaps rightly so. But the sudden crash-ending of the Trump campaign only made official what these voters have suspected for years: They've been represented by an empty stage all along. Why not sit there and stare at it for a little longer?

...The most generous conceivable explanation is that the anger stems from a sense of abandonment and betrayal by the political class. This doesn't explain the likes of Giuliani and Trump, but if you squint really hard, it maybe explains some of what's going on with his supporters.

Although a lot of Clinton backers believe she's being unfairly weighed down by negative reports about the Clinton Foundation and her e-mails, her most serious obstacles this year were less her faults than her virtues. The best argument for a Clinton presidency is that she's virtually guaranteed to be a capable steward of the status quo, at a time of relative stability and safety. There are criticisms to make of Hillary Clinton, but the grid isn't going to collapse while she's in office, something no one can say with even mild confidence about Donald Trump.

But nearly two-thirds of the population was unhappy with the direction of the country entering the general-election season, and nothing has been more associated with the political inside than the Clinton name.

...Left out of the discussion over the years have been people like Trump's voters, who coincidentally took the first hit along the way in the form of lowered middle-class wages and benefits. They were also never told that things they cared about, like their national identity as Americans, were to have diluted meaning in the more borderless future.

This is why the "basket of deplorables" comment rankled so badly. It's not like it was anywhere near as demeaning or vicious as any of 10,000 Trump insults. But it spoke to a factual disconnnect.

It isn't just that the likely next president feels alienated from people in places like Wilkes-Barre, so close to her ancestral home. It's that, plus the fact that she feels comfortable admitting this to the likes of Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein, to whom she complained about the "bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives."

All of which is interesting, and maybe a problem we Americans can have a sober discussion about once we finish bayoneting each other over "pussy" or Miss Universe's weight or the Central Park Five (only Trump could go back in time and revictimize the survivors of one of the most infamous law-enforcement mistakes of all time), or whatever other lunacies we'll be culture-warring over in the last weeks of this mercifully soon-to-end campaign.

It is true that if you talk to enough Trump supporters, you will eventually find an ex-Democrat or two who'll cop to being disillusioned by the party's turn away from the middle class. "My parents were FDR Democrats," says Tim Kallas of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. "I was born and raised to believe that Democrats were for the workingman." A self-described "child of the MTV generation" who has plenty of liberal friends and rocks a long silver ponytail, Kallas says he became disenchanted with the Democrats sometime during Bill Clinton's second term. He was troubled by the Wiki speeches, and says he never signed up for the globalist program. "If you look at what's going on in Europe with the Brexit vote, it's the same conclusion that voters in England came to," he says. "Why are the problems in Greece, or whatever, my problem?"

This sounds sensible enough, but it stops computing when you get to the part where the solution to the vast and complex dilemmas facing humanity is Donald Trump, a man who stays up at night tweeting about whether or not Robert Pattinson should take back Kristen Stewart. (He shouldn't, says Trump: "She cheated on him like a dog and will do it again-- just watch. He can do much better!") This is a man who can't remember what he did 10 seconds ago, much less decide the fate of the nation-state.

Whatever the original source of disaffection among these Republican voters, the battle has morphed into something else, as Trump himself proved the morning after Wilkes-Barre. He went on one of his trademark Twitter rampages, this time directed at Ryan.

The House speaker had held a conference call with elected Republicans, telling them they were free to yank support from Trump if they thought it would help them win in November. This sounds like a good decision, until you consider that it's one he should have made the moment Trump sealed the nomination. As always, the Republicans acted far too late in disavowing vicious and disgusting behavior in their ranks. Then again, it's hard to keep the loons out when you're scraping to find people willing to sell rich-friendly policies to a broke population. The reaction among hard-line legislators was predictable: You're telling us now we can't be pigs?

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks told Ryan that Clinton reaching the White House would result in fetuses being torn "limb to limb," while Southern California's cretinous boob Dana Rohrabacher called Ryan "cowardly," and said Trump's "pussy" comment was just a "60-[year-old] expressing sexual attitude to a younger man."

Trump, meanwhile, unleashed an inevitable string of self-destructive tweets.

9:05 a.m.: "Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty."

10 a.m.: "It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to."

Shackled! Only in America can a man martyr himself on a cross of pussy.

Ryan is as much the Wall Street Journal's candidate as Hillary is the NY Times'. And, sure enough, yesterday, the Journal editors endorsed him for president. "As Donald J. Trump runs for President on a platform of Donald J. Trump," they wrote, "perhaps you haven’t heard that the rest of the Republican Party-- 54 Senators, 247 Congressmen, 31 Governors, the tens of hundreds of state reps who control 68 of 98 legislative chambers, the millions of rank-and-file conservatives-- have ambitions too. Paul Ryan gave a speech on Friday afternoon detailing some of these ideas, which deserve more attention."

They then lauded Ryan for acknowledging the GOP's "very dark turns" in a speech at the University of Wisconsin Friday before going on to his-- and their-- sunny antidote: gutting the social safety net and collapsing the progress America has made since the Republican policy agenda brought on the Great Depression in the late 1920s. Something Ryan's Madison Avenue consultants have dubbed a #BetterWay, though more appropriately described as a #BitterWay. The Journal editors have wet dreams thinking about it at night. "The 'Better Way' is also an appeal to voters to return a Republican House and Senate to Washington in 2017," they salivated. "The plan translates principles into tangible solutions to meet the problems of the era, but the principles will also serve as a check for whatever Mrs. Clinton is preparing in her pre-presidential boiler room. On the basis of the 'Better Way,' voters can trust Republicans will be more principled than their nominee. Let's double down in making sure they never happens and that our grandparents don't wind up eating cat food while the editors of the Wall Street Journal toast Paul Ryan.
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At 3:09 PM, Anonymous AntiSpin said...

"Small-ball" is not "testicular innuendo." (Where's your mind?) It's a term from baseball.


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