Sunday, May 27, 2018

Escaping Trump, Escaping Trumpism... Is It Possible?


Ted's right-- both on this tragic and shameful, heart-breaking specific and in a more general way. Everything in Trumpworld is sheer bullshit. Friday, Masha Gessen, writing for the New Yorker asserted, rather than questioned, that In the Trump Era, we are losing the ability to distinguish reality from vacuum. Never mind his and his odious regime-- does morality even apply to his supporters? Author of the award-winning book, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, she asked how is one to maintain sanity, decency, and a measure of moral courage?

Decent members of the Administration-- is that a thing?-- and congressional Republicans have to ask themselves what is "the best way to try to save the country from Donald Trump: by staying close to him, or by walking away... Is the possibility of moderating the damage done by this Administration worth sacrificing one’s moral principles? Should one protect one’s individual integrity by sacrificing the chance to moderate damage done by this Administration? We can’t possibly know." And what about the rets of us?
The overstimulation of the age of Trump, meanwhile, makes us lose track of time and whatever small sense humans normally have of themselves in history. We forget what happened a month ago. If we look away for a day, we miss news that seems momentous to others-- only to be forgotten, too, in a week. Living in a shared reality with our fellow-citizens is an endless triathlon of reading, talking, and panicking. It creates the worst possible frame of mind for answering vexing moral questions, especially ones that require a choice between two desperately unsatisfying options.

Thinking morally about the Trump era requires a different temporal frame. It requires a look at the present through the prism of the future. There will come a time after Trump, and we need to consider how we will enter it. What are we going to take with us into that time-- what kind of politics, language, and culture? How will we recover from years of policy (if you can call it that) being made by tweet? How will we reclaim simple and essential words? Most important, how will we restart a political conversation? Political discourse was in crisis before Trump-- no wonder Americans of all stripes have become accustomed to using the words “politics” and “political” to denote substance-free transactions in the electoral arena. But, under Trump, it is nearing complete destruction.

Consider the last month’s worth of conversation about Trump and North Korea. Forgetting the President’s “little rocket man” remarks and building on months of denial that Trump had brought the world as close to the brink of nuclear annihilation as it has ever been, politicians, bureaucrats, policy wonks, and journalists have been speaking as though Trump were engaged in actual negotiations with Kim Jong Un. Some deliriously joined him in contemplating the prospect of a Nobel Peace Prize. The voices of a few experts who dared say that nothing had been accomplished yet and expressed doubt that the summit would actually occur were quickly drowned out. The ritual of analysis and anticipation that normally accrues to diplomacy was accruing instead to Trump’s flailing gestures, in the same way that the normal rituals of punditry have accrued to Trump’s tweets, harangues, and inconsistencies, all of which are the opposite of politics. On Friday, the Times’ morning podcast, The Daily, offered up a thoughtful analysis of Trump’s summit-cancelling missive, which was written in the language of a sulking, lovelorn seventh grader. But no sooner was the podcast posted than Trump told the media that he might hold the summit after all.

We are losing the habit, and perhaps the capability, of distinguishing reality from vacuum. This is disorienting in the present and disastrous for the future-- it is the one factor that will make post-Trumpian recovery, when it comes, so difficult. We must pose a bigger question than whether Administration members or congressional Republicans should stay or go, for it’s not only Trump’s appointees or fellow party members who are implicated in the daily insults and damage to our perceptions. We should be asking what each one of us can do to assert a fact-based reality at any given time. The great French thinker and activist Simone Weil had a prescription that she wrote down in her journal in 1933: “Never react to an evil in such a way as to augment it.” A few days later, she added, “Refuse to be an accomplice. Don’t lie-- don’t keep your eyes shut.”

Throughout the twentieth century, writers and thinkers who faced reality-destroying regimes kept producing similar recipes. “Live not by lies,” the Russian dissident novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote. The Czech dissident playwright and future President Václav Havel pondered the predicament of living, unquestioningly, “inside the lie”-- and the uncanny power of stepping outside of it. In our case, stepping outside the lie means refusing-- stubbornly, consistently, incrementally-- to lend credence to the opposite of politics, the opposite of diplomacy, and the opposite of sanity. That would require thinking, reading, and speaking critically: not treating an outburst as though it were politics, a tantrum as though it were diplomacy, and a delusion as though it were aspiration. The good news is that this is not an entirely impossible task.
Among the 40 Republicans retiring (or resigning) from Congress since the advent of Señor Trumpanzee, some are attempting to win higher office-- so far most of them have failed-- and others have been caught up in various scandals, but most just want to get away from Trump. CNN sat down and talked to 3 of them-- Ryan Costello (R-PA), Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL) and Jee Flake (R-AZ). Costello probably wouldn't be retiring at age 41 if his district didn't flip from a PVI of R+2 to D+2. He's a moderate and in a non-wave year could probably have win it-- but not in a wave year. Dull establishment Democrat who will add absolutely nothing to Congress, Chrissy Houlahan, is heavily favored to win. Ryan told CNN that he feels "increasingly, that if you're a member of Congress, they assume that you're not good. They assume that you're not telling the truth. No matter what you do, someone's out there locked and loaded to say something disparaging, false, mean, in an attempt to have other people not like you... No matter what I say or do, I feel all I do is answer questions about Donald Trump rather than health insurance or tax policy. I think it's a very challenging political environment, and when you add on top of that just the demands from a work-family balance, I just felt it was best for me to take stock in my life and have eight months to decide what I'm going to do next rather than, potentially, six weeks." Hillary won his district by a couple of points; under the new boundaries it would have been 10 points.

Ros-Lehtinen's Miami district is the bluest in the country held by a Republican. The PVI is R+5 and Hillary demolished Trump, 58.5% to 38.9%, his worst score in a Republican-held district. Regardless of what she wants to tell herself, Debbie Wasserman Schultz could no longer protect her and the writing was on the wall. She's mortified by Trump's boorishness but is reluctant to say so publicly. Her voting record speaks for itself. She votes with Trump 68.6% of the time, far less than any other Republican in the House other than North Carolina's completely independent ex-Democrat Walter Jones (53.8%).

And then there's Arizona hard core conservative senator Republican Jeff Flake who seems to agree with Trump on a lot-- though not all-- of policy and detests him as a person. "Our debt," he told CNN has increased massively; we're no longer the party of free trade. We've become a party of anger and resentment, and that is not the optimistic vision that I cut my teeth on as a Republican listening to Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush or others."

Alan Grayson, who spends a lot more time than many of the candidates and incumbents warning about Trump, mentioned that "We’re roughly at the end of Niemoller’s first couplet":
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
"Real life," he added, "is starting to resemble Radio Free Albemuth," Philip K. Dick's dystopian missive set in a society in which a tyrant has been elected president.

Let's look at Long Island Congressman, Peter King, a conservative in a moderate district who keeps going back and forth on Trump. One day he's saying Trump is "not fit to be president morally or intellectually" and then he's saying he's still supporting him. Peter King may not be as much of a crackpot as the Iowa King-- but he's still a real crackpot. You see this tweet from yesterday?

King's progressive Democratic opponent, Suffolk County legislature chief executive DuWayne Gregory didn't miss the not so subtle racism: "Congressman Peter King is trying so hard to attach himself to Donald Trump that he may need a surgeon to separate himself. To equate silent protestors with Nazis that killed millions of Jews and other Europeans illustrates how out of touch Peter King really is. We desperately need change in Washington when the leaders there do not know the difference between peaceful protesters and mass murderers."

Are we slipping into a dystopian society? Are we there already? Will we make it through to the other side? Will we be OK? Tom Guild is in one of those seats-- in the middle of Oklahoma-- that the DCCC is ignoring. He's probably better off without their interference. He's way too independent-minded and progressive for them. He certainly understands the dystopian society Trump and his enablers are creating in our country. This is what he told me about it yesterday:
Bob Corker is a corporate right wing US Senator from Tennessee, who is in a strong continuous bear hug with the Chamber of Commerce. We disagree on so many things and on so many levels. However, he has had a few moments of clarity commenting on the tragedy of Donald Trump in his role as the POTUS. Corker described the White House as an adult daycare center in a moment of clarity. He then got battered by Trumpists in Tennessee and elsewhere and faded back into the woodwork and rejoined others in the tragic cast of an upcoming book, Profiles in Cowardice. He voted for the Trump anti-working people, anti-middle class, that has blown a huge hole in the deficit and for debt, pro-corporate, and pro-billionaire tax cuts. He has recently resembled more of a rubber stamp for the Donald, instead of a cry in the wilderness expressing anguish regarding 45’s demeanor, dishonesty, and dysfunction.

The GOP establishment is dead. If not deceased, it might as well be dead. They have rolled over for every lie, scheme, policy, attack on American traditions and institutions, and disingenuous dishonest diabolical disaster Trump has rolled out. If they had acted like this in 1974, Richard Nixon (or his progeny) would still be president-for-life and the American Republic would have been dead long ago.

Since the Republicans won’t (with a few exceptions occasionally) stand up for principle or even insist on honesty, that leaves it to the rest of us. There are far too many non-Republicans who are on an ethics-free vacation and not only won’t stand up, but rarely speak out for fear that the Donaldistas will vote them out of office. Or they fear the vicious sleazy presidential tweet that might come their way.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has the guts of a government mule and possesses an amazing work ethic and all the right scruples, but he could be quickly sacked without notice. Without the moral authority of a report from Mueller, taking the Trumpists out will be difficult. It would then have to happen election by election and incrementally. The Needle and the Damage Done by the time that struggle ends could result in permanent scar tissue and a severe weakening of America’s constitutional republic.

We can speak up. We can act reasonably and within our legal and constitutional framework. We can resist the constant dishonesty and destruction visited on our cherished country and our constitutional traditions. As Garth Brooks sings in The Dance, if we knew how it all would end, we’d miss the dance. We may survive the dance. America may survive. I’m an optimist and put the odds of survival and repairing the Needle and the Damage Done at 53-47%. Predicting the future is a mighty hazardous occupation. For the sake of all that we cherish and hold dear, I hope the hell I’m right!

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At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two words. Nuremberg trials. No "reconciliation," no "truth commission," no "heal the wounds." and above all, no fucking "Third Way." Nuremberg trials, and swift, sure punishment.

At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We slipped into Dystopia in November of 1963. We stopped pretending we still lived under the New Deal in 1980.

The packing of the courts with the American version of Roland Freisler began at that same time.

The opportunists pretending to be business-friendly Democrats saw the money and silently switched sides, accepting large sums for passing Republican initiatives that wouldn't be enacted otherwise.

We watched -if we noticed at all- while Uncle Scam acted like the world's SWAT military, killing thousands of Panamanians while arresting Manuel Norriega for crimes under American law - just as the Nazis did while committing their war crimes against humanity.

No one said a word when the American government violated Nuremberg Principle VI Sections i and ii when invading Iraq to rescue "our oil" from Saddam Hussein.

Too many chose to remain silent when -at the very least- foreign-based terror attacks were allowed to be unleashed upon the US with no effective countermeasures taking place.

Few cared that our elections became the playtoy of the elites choosing who wins no matter what our votes said.

And we allowed financial criminals to escape justice after almost destroying the global economy with their greed.

There is so much more, but I'm certain that by now I've lost most who started reading my screed. I'll thus stop and let someone else have a say.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK. Let me take up where 10:51 left off.

10:51 uses "we" and this is fundamentally correct. You see, trumpism *IS* Americanism. Greed, hate and fear. The presumption that everyone that is not in agreement with that greed, hate and fear SHOULD NOT have rights. Adding to those, women, kids, minorities, LGBTQ/trans, the poor, sick and infirm ALL should not have rights -- because of the cost. Treating them all as though they have no rights is perfectly acceptable and proper, no matter what some piece of paper says. If your clergy says god hates (list of subhumans), then you need to hate them.

It's Americanism clearly because americans have been electing those who affirm such attitudes without exception for decades. In some places, it's been since *we* chased off the natives to steal it from them.

So, no, we won't escape it. Once again, to quote Pogo, 'we have met the enemy and he is us'.

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and the other common thread is stupidity. Americans never fail to prove that *we* are, collectively, the dumbest fucktards on earth.

It was dean Wermer who said: "fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son." But this is America. Fat, drunk and stupid puts you in the top quartile in this shithole.


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