Thursday, October 26, 2017

They're Both Important But There's A Big Difference From Being Anti-Trump And Being Progressive


My congressman, Adam Schiff, was a conservative state legislator who got elected in 2000 because voters wanted revenge for the role the incumbent, James Rogan, played in the Clinton impeachment. Schiff entered Congress, joined the Blue Dogs and started voting like a Republican. After his district shredded some Republican neighborhoods and added some of the bluest areas of L.A. (Silverlake, West Hollywood, Los Feliz, Echo Park and the Hollywood Hills) he slipped out of the increasingly discredited Blue Dog caucus and joined the less well-known but equally odious New Dems. But Schiff saw an opportunity in Trump's unpopularity. He persuaded Pelosi to give him a high profile committee position that got him on national TV so he could make himself a credible spokesman against Trump. Most of the time, he does a decent enough job at it. But that doesn't make him any less conservative and it is a mistake for low-info voters-- most voters are pretty low-info-- to think Schiff is somehow "progressive." He isn't. He's a conservative New Dem who is doing his job in exposing Trump's connections to Russia. Thanks, Adam, we appreciate your service.

And you know what, there have been lots of corporate Democrats and Democrats who more often than not vote with Ryan and McCarthy on crucial issues who have been speaking out against the abnormal behavior of Trump. Excellent-- but, again, don't mix that up with being progressive. In fact, now we have increasing numbers of Republicans speaking out against Trump. But it would be crazy to assume being against Trump is going to make them anything different from what they've been: conservatives. Now they're just conservatives who, for whatever reason, oppose Trump. Tuesday morning Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ) captured the news cycle by denouncing Trump in no uncertain terms. BRAVO! Tuesday evening the 3 of them voted for a bill giving Wall Street an easy path to rip off consumers, just as Trump had asked them to.

Josh Hohmann, writing hopefully for the Washington Post yesterday, noted that Trump should be terrified now because Flake and Corker feel liberated to listen to their consciences and speak their minds. OK, I'll take it, but don't ever expect either to vote with the Democrats against any piece of Trump's agenda. It's hard enough to get more moderate Republicans, like Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, to do that more than once in a blue moon. In an op-ed for The Post Flake explains that he decided not to seek reelection in order “to remove all considerations of what is normally considered to be safe politically.”
“Here's the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I'm not willing to take, and that I can't in good conscience take,” Flake acknowledged in an interview with the Arizona Republic. “It would require me to believe in positions I don't hold on such issues as trade and immigration, and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”

-- As one of the most authentically conservative members of Congress, Flake has a level of moral authority rivaled by few others. He is the rightful ideological heir to Barry Goldwater, whose namesake institute Flake led before being elected to the House in 2000.
That authentically conservative mindset is never going to give Democrats anything they want policy-wise, so let's enjoy his animus towards Trump and Trump's deranged, dysfunctional reactions-- and hope the battle alerts more and more independent voters and even some Republican voters that there is something very, very abnormal going on. As Hohmann pointed out about Flake and Corker, "Both these guys will have as big a megaphone as they want for as long as they want it. They will be the most sought-after guests on the Sunday shows and in prime time cable for the next year... Some in the Washington chattering class are under the mistaken impression that-- because they will never face voters again-- Flake, Corker and McCain are not being that courageous by going public with their fears about Trump."

Before we look at Flake's OpEd, let's consider Jeff Hauser's piece at Rewire urging readers not to confuse words with how he sees Resistance. Hauser-- like many progressives-- thinks the only way to resist Trump is to vote against him agenda. That would be nice... but unrealistic. I hope every teacher in the country asks their students to read or listen to Flake's speech and write an essay about it. It's that important. His voting record won't change. Hauser's point is that "while both senators have now spoken out against Trump’s behavior in no uncertain terms, neither has taken a single notable concrete action to curtail Trump’s power or fight back against his corruption. Unlike some fellow Republican Senators, neither Flake nor Corker have acted to attempt to shield Robert Mueller’s investigation from potential presidential meddling... [T]here is little reason to think a future Flake or Corker speech will recount any acts of actual oversight of the Trump administration. It is crushingly depressing that we are debating Trump’s tax cut plan without Trump having fulfilled his promise to release his tax returns. What are Corker and Flake doing to force Trump’s tax returns to become public? Nothing, though Congress has options to do so forcibly. Likewise, Flake and Corker ought to support efforts to address what seems to be Trump’s attempts to get around the advice and consent obligations within the U.S. Constitution. Should a so-called defender of America’s greatness be upset that the acting comptroller of the currency may hold his job illegally? Or that other corporate cronies are exercising questionable-at-best authority at the EPA and elsewhere across the administration?... [U]nless and until Flake and Corker take anti-corruption actions consistent with their ideology and stated idealism, we should be wholly cynical about their 'sacrifice.' Reward actions, not speeches."

All that duly noted, Flake called his Post OpEd Enough. He starts off my comparing the Trump presidency to the unravelling of McCarthyism. He imagines himself in the Joseph Welch role: "You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" He wrote that "the moral power of Welch’s words ended McCarthy’s rampage on American values, and effectively his career as well." Trump, though has no sense of decency and neither do many (most?) of the voters who elected him. So why does Flake think the two period are analogous?
There is a sickness in our system-- and it is contagious.

How many more disgraceful public feuds with Gold Star families can we witness in silence before we ourselves are disgraced?

How many more times will we see moral ambiguity in the face of shocking bigotry and shrug it off?

How many more childish insults do we need to see hurled at a hostile foreign power before we acknowledge the senseless danger of it?

How much more damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty do we need to witness in silence before we count ourselves as complicit in that damage?

Nine months of this administration is enough for us to stop pretending that this is somehow normal, and that we are on the verge of some sort of pivot to governing, to stability. Nine months is more than enough for us to say, loudly and clearly: Enough.

The outcome of this is in our hands. We can no longer remain silent, merely observing this train wreck, passively, as if waiting for someone else to do something. The longer we wait, the greater the damage, the harsher the judgment of history.

I have been so worried about the state of our disunion that I recently wrote a book called Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle. I meant for the book to be a defense of principle at a time when principle is in a state of collapse. In it, I traced the transformation of my party from a party of ideas to a party in thrall to a charismatic figure peddling empty populist slogans. I tried to make the case for the sometimes excruciating work of arguing and compromise.

This was part of the reason I wanted to go to the Senate-- because its institutional strictures require you to cross the aisle and do what is best for the country. Because what is best for the country is for neither party’s base to fully get what it wants but rather for the factions that make up our parties to be compelled to talk until we have a policy solution to our problems. To listen to the rhetoric of the extremes of both parties, one could be forgiven for believing that we are each other’s enemies, that we are at war with ourselves.

But more is now required of us than to put down our thoughts in writing. As our political culture seems every day to plumb new depths of indecency, we must stand up and speak out. Especially those of us who hold elective office.

To that end, and to remove all considerations of what is normally considered to be safe politically, I have decided that my time in the Senate will end when my term ends in early January 2019. For the next 14 months, relieved of the strictures of politics, I will be guided only by the dictates of conscience.

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At 7:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece comes 35 years too late.

"How much more damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty do we need to witness in silence before we count ourselves as complicit in that damage?"

At this point we're not just silently complicit. Voters have created a CONSISTENT MANDATE for the immolation of democracy and the constitution.

We elected Reagan TWICE. We elected Clinton TWICE. We elected cheney TWICE. And we elected obamanation TWICE. You cannot look at this consistency and infer it is anything but a voter mandate.

A mandate that only about one third of voters consistently affirm. Because only a third are required to elect an admin.

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talk is cheap, and no one is cheaper than a politician. Look at how easily they can be bought!

It is a well-known fact that people will remember ONLY the first headline on any topic. That is why the NRA jumped out after Las Vegas to state that bump stock regulation should be considered only to reverse that position shortly thereafter. They know that when they NRA needs to be defended against their insane and total rejection of firearm regulations the first headline is what the people will remember.

It is thus with any successful politician. That is why they will say anything while doing nothing. They know that their record of (in)action will never be held against them.

At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the retiring Rs are hard-core corrupt elitist fascists.
In their ideal world, everyone (like them) who faithfully supports whatever the money demands, you should be rewarded with re-election and promises of future comforts.

In trump's world, you only enjoy the gravy if you regularly and publicly suck trump's freckle-dick no matter what fat fuck freckle phallus says or does or does not say or does not do.

They all want to kill the poor, elderly and young (especially the brown ones) by denying them all health care. They want their tax cuts. They want nothing and nobody to impede in any way the holy pursuit of everything on earth. They all hate everyone who isn't white, male and Christian. This is all based on how they vote.

But you should be a little subtle about it, lest some of the morons who vote for you have an epiphany... and abandon you forever. If you object to the style (overt hatred, stupidity, treasonous Russian ties, money laundering, race baiting...) you get primaried by the Nazi billionaires and their personal Eichman.

It's just not fair, is it?


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