Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Resistance In The Age Of Trump, A Theme You Can Expect To Read About For 4 Years


Last year, one of the very first candidates Blue America endorsed for Congress was Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state Senator and constitutional law professor at American University. We knew him from his work as a counsel at People for the American Way and as the very skilled and successful majority whip in the state legislature. A decade ago he made news when he told his fellow senators that "People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution; they don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible." This year, his primary opponents were a bunch of self-funders, lobbyists and ambitious careerists' Jamie won the hard-fought election convincingly.

Like Ted Lieu, Jamie has been speaking out about resistance to Trumpism. This weekend he told an enthusiastic crowd in Maryland that progressives aren't going away. "They can put Goldman Sachs back in charge of the Treasury Department, but we are still here. They can try to dismantle the EPA, but we are still here. They can put a fox in charge of every hen house. They can put The Joker, The Riddler and The Penguin in charge of Gotham City but we are still here-- and we're not going anywhere! They can subordinate the foreign policy values and interests of the American people to the profit motives of 144 different Trump corporations operating in 25 different companies from the Philippines to Russia to Turkey to Saudi Arabia but we're still here in the USA and we're not going anywhere... [W]e're not letting any Harvard Business School neo-Nazi strategize us into becoming Germany 1933 and we will not let a Cabinet of robber barons & white nationalists destroy what the civilizing movements of the last century created for us. We're not letting go of those legacies and those victories."

In a conversation with Steve Innskeep at NPR over the weekend, President Obama talked about a "scrambled political landscape" of voters who backed him twice and still support him and still voted for Donald Trump. His party, he said, did so badly because they didn't reach out and campaign in hard hit areas of the country. "You’ve got a situation where they’re not only entire states but also big chunks of states where, if we’re not showing up, if we’re not in there making an argument, then we’re going to lose. And we can lose badly, and that’s what happened in this election... There are clearly failures on our part to give people in rural areas or in exurban areas a sense day-to-day that we’re fighting for them or connected to them. Part of the reason it’s important to show up…is because it then builds trust and it gives you a better sense of how should you talk about issues in a way that feel salient and feel meaningful to people."

So it wasn't Comey or Putin? It was the Democrat's establishment, status quo candidates' failures-- not just Hillary, but even worse local candidates forced on Democratic voters by the DSCC and DCCC from garbage Senate candidates like Katie McGinty (PA), Patrick Murphy (FL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Patty Judge (IA) and Ted Strickland (OH) to garbage House candidates like Joe Garcia (FL), LuAnn Bennett (VA), Pete Gallego (TX), Lon Johnson (MI), Monica Vernon (IA), Colleen Deacon (NY), and Kim Myers )NY), Randy Perkins (FL)... not to mention the dozens of winnable seats the DCCC refused to contest at all.

We've got to do better in 2018. Taking back the House is the only hope to slow down Trumpism-- and I'm optimistic that it can be done. The Democrats need to pick up a net of 24 Republican seats. If Trump and Ryan do as much damage as they're promising, not even the inevitable DCCC failures, incompetence and criminal recruiting will prevent the Republicans from losing. Monday morning Wasserman Schultz antagonist (2016 and, hopefully 2018), Tim Canova emphasized that "Dems must look in the mirror. We need bold leadership now more than ever." Unfortunately, not all Democrats see it the same way.

Monday morning, one of the Democrats who pushed the weak foil to Trump's fascist candidacy forward, Paul Krugman, was pontificating in his NY Times column about how "it takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare" and about the parallels between the rise of Trumpism and the fall of the Roman Republic. Yeah, thanks, Paul. Many of us mentioned that-- the Nazi part at least-- while you were denigrating Bernie's approach to heading it off.

Krugman's point was that when the Roman Republic was toppled it was because republican institutions didn’t protect against tyranny when powerful people started defying political norms. "And tyranny," he warned, "when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade."
Roman politics involved fierce competition among ambitious men. But for centuries that competition was constrained by some seemingly unbreakable rules. Here’s what Adrian Goldsworthy’s In the Name of Rome says: “However important it was for an individual to win fame and add to his and his family’s reputation, this should always be subordinated to the good of the Republic … no disappointed Roman politician sought the aid of a foreign power.”

America used to be like that, with prominent senators declaring that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.” But now we have a president-elect who openly asked Russia to help smear his opponent, and all indications are that the bulk of his party was and is just fine with that. (A new poll shows that Republican approval of Vladimir Putin has surged even though-- or, more likely, precisely because-- it has become clear that Russian intervention played an important role in the U.S. election.) Winning domestic political struggles is all that matters, the good of the republic be damned.

And what happens to the republic as a result? Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route-- although are we even sure of that?-- but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

Consider what just happened in North Carolina. The voters made a clear choice, electing a Democratic governor. The Republican legislature didn’t openly overturn the result-- not this time, anyway-- but it effectively stripped the governor’s office of power, ensuring that the will of the voters wouldn’t actually matter.

Combine this sort of thing with continuing efforts to disenfranchise or at least discourage voting by minority groups, and you have the potential making of a de facto one-party state: one that maintains the fiction of democracy, but has rigged the game so that the other side can never win.

Why is this happening? I’m not asking why white working-class voters support politicians whose policies will hurt them-- I’ll be coming back to that issue in future columns. My question, instead, is why one party’s politicians and officials no longer seem to care about what we used to think were essential American values. And let’s be clear: This is a Republican story, not a case of “both sides do it.”

So what’s driving this story? I don’t think it’s truly ideological. Supposedly free-market politicians are already discovering that crony capitalism is fine as long as it involves the right cronies. It does have to do with class warfare-- redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy is a consistent theme of all modern Republican policies. But what directly drives the attack on democracy, I’d argue, is simple careerism on the part of people who are apparatchiks within a system insulated from outside pressures by gerrymandered districts, unshakable partisan loyalty, and lots and lots of plutocratic financial support.

For such people, toeing the party line and defending the party’s rule are all that matters. And if they sometimes seem consumed with rage at anyone who challenges their actions, well, that’s how hacks always respond when called on their hackery.

One thing all of this makes clear is that the sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.

But if there is any hope of redemption, it will have to begin with a clear recognition of how bad things are. American democracy is very much on the edge.

Regardless of what the real reasons were for the toppling of the Roman Republic-- endemic slavery might have played a role-- this weekend we had John Kerry praising Putin crony and oil oligarch Rex Tillerson as Trump's nominee to replace him at the State Department, within hours of the latest report, this one in The Guardian, of Tillerson's utter unsuitability for the job. Leaked documents show that he was "the long-time director of a US-Russian oil firm based in the tax haven of the Bahamas." In any case, Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone report on Goldman speaks more directly to Krugman's point than Krugman: The Vampire Squid Occupies Trump's White House.

Reminding his readers about a Trump speech in Myrtle Beach last February, Taibbi quotes the now victorious buffoon: "I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over [Cruz]. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton."
Trump demonized the bank enough that it almost seemed like genuine animosity existed between candidate and squid. When Goldman announced in September that it was banning employees from donating to Trump's campaign, it seemed official.

In October, Trump was even more specific in pointing the finger at Goldman. Referencing speeches Clinton gave to Goldman, Trump said that "Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors."

Trump's tales sounded like classic Rothschild/Bilderberg conspiracy lore. They would have been absurd, were it not for the fact that so much of the innuendo around Goldman Sachs often turns out to be true.

The bank has an extraordinary history of placing its executives in high-ranking governmental and quasi-governmental positions, from treasury secretaries to senators to the heads of the World and European Central Banks. Goldman has been implicated in the trafficking of toxic mortgages, a sprawling state corruption case in Malaysia, the manipulation of world commodity prices and a heinous episode involving Greece in which the bank helped to mask the country's ballooning debt while simultaneously working with JPMorgan Chase to create an index for betting against Greece's economy.

Nonetheless, Trump's insinuations about a Goldman-Hillary secret conspiracy were so pointed that CEO Lloyd Blankfein was forced to respond.

"If there's some secret international cabal, I've been left out of the party again," he quipped.

In his final pitch to voters in the days before the election, Trump used the image of Blankfein in a TV ad to argue that insiders had ruined the lives of ordinary Americans to enrich themselves. Here is the narration you heard when Blankfein's face came on screen:
"It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities."
One surprise election result and a mountain of jubilant #draintheswamp hashtags later, Donald Trump has filled his White House with, you guessed it, Goldman veterans.
Trump's recent appointments from Goldman, concludes Taibbi "are absolute proof that his 'populist' message was a crock all along." Can anyone doubt it? Sure... More than half the country is living in a state of reality denial. That's really how Trump got elected. The pain headed their way is likely to wake them up... quickly.

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At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kind of think that all that "resistance" is going to be illusory rather than real.

Americans are morons. Delusional to the point of being religious in their unquestioning belief in what they are told. Look at the electoral map. The red states are where the delusional religious belief in the SANCTITY of the hate, fear and greed of the R sect of the money party is caliphate-like. For them, it won't matter that their guy is a total fraud and that their lives will continue to degrade under the continued rule of the money.
Any possible organized and relentless "resistance" will be considered acts of war by those fucktards, making the balkanization even more pronounced.

And in the blue states where more people actually still think, there has been NO HISTORY of any such ability (to resist) except in a few enclaves. Maybe that will now change... maybe not. But it won't much matter:

"...we will not let a Cabinet of robber barons & white nationalists destroy what the civilizing movements of the last century created for us."

Probably won't be for them to control. After all, when we're dragged into a world war over Tiawan or the new white-supremacist junta starts a race or religious war or the absolute certain upcoming war against the sick/indigent/aged start killing people by the millions... or whatever, everything is out of our control.
Even if jeff fucking sessions decides to march his storm troopers into the legal-weed states to set them straight, THAT war will be out of our control.

When circumstances (as in Germany in '32) or the mind-blowing stupidity of voters (as in us/US) puts these people in power, pretty soon EVERYTHING is out of everyone's control... except the money who owns the structures of power.

Some well-meaning person can SAY "we won't let them...", but when the majority WANTS them...??? It'll happen.

At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never read Krugman anymore. Lost all respect for him. The constant Bernie bashing turned my stomach from someone who called himself a liberal.

He was also a big proponent of "Free Trade". That worked out well Dr. Krugman. The empirical evidence is in. He was flat out wrong, as the voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin know all too well.

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous wjbill said...

The next 4 years may see the suspension of the rule of law in some aspects of our society and on a larger scale than in the last 20 years. I often wonder if you, Howie and Digby and John talk about being targeted or shut down or being put on the slow walk list? The so called opposition part is weak and easily manipulated and the so called mainstream republicans are really not mainstream at all (plus they are afraid of their shadows like the dem's). The only change would come from large public movements, larger than ever before and I am not sure citizens of the USofA are ... hey wait did you see the latest about Kim and Kanye?


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