Sunday, December 31, 2017

Political Survivor


-by Tom Sullivan

(Part 1 of 2)

From a post last December:
There is a lot of "old-boyism" in party politics. Mostly because people who have the time and/or resources to pursue party work are older. But older doesn't always mean more skilled; experienced doesn't always mean the right kind.
Political leaders tend to hang onto power and neglect cultivating heirs who have mastered technologies they don't understand. They would rather turn over the reins to trusted chums. Kathy Sinclair was not in the club.

Sinclair had been the driving force in organizing an unofficial John Kerry campaign in western North Carolina in 2004. The newcomer from Chicago attended a meetup at a local tavern, and with no prior experience organized hundreds of volunteers in a region that would not be considered a part of a swing state until 2008.

Dennis Kucinich winning the presidential caucus here in 2004 was a deep embarrassment to seasoned party hands. Didn't "those progressives" know favorite-son John Edwards was supposed to win? A Kucinich convention delegate won a key seat on the county executive board the next year, but bristled at the top-down culture. Party leaders stonewalled her, as she saw it, and she resigned.

The old boys got their club back. It didn't last.

The Democratic committee in Buncombe County, NC began the transition to a more grassroots organization around 2007. It is a transition the DNC has yet to make nationally. Insiders often don't know when it is time to pass the baton. They have forgotten what skilled managers know. Training their replacements is a key responsibility.

The problem here was, as it is nationally, lack of succession planning. Insiders hold power so closely for so long that there is no one to pass the baton to except another of their graying cohort.

When Ellie Richard, the Kucinich delegate, resigned her position as 1st vice chair in 2006, Sinclair, by then party secretary, ran to fill the vacancy. The position would give her responsibility for organizing precincts across the county, a power held closely by what amounted to a shadow party known downtown as the Courthouse Gang.

In North Carolina, when partisan elected officials die or resign their seats, members of their local committee elect a replacement for appointment by the governor. Keeping tight rein on who held those voting positions ensured the Courthouse could control who was in control. For Democrats, the same group votes to fill county committee vacancies.

With her organizing bona fides and name recognition, Sinclair figured the open position was within reach. She gathered names of committee members and began making phone calls to ask for their votes.

The county chairman was coy about Sinclair’s chances. All he would tell me was, “Let’s just say, she'll have competition.”

The Saturday morning of the special election, the party headquarters was filled to bursting. Sinclair’s stunned supporters whispered, “Who are these people?” Precinct officers they had never seen at headquarters appeared for this vote, summoned by the Courthouse.

Party veterans presented one of their own: JoAnn Morgan, a native, a Courthouse employee and former county chair. After a tense relationship with progressive activists, the Courthouse was re-exerting control.

Sinclair lost. The vote wasn't even close. Progressives were blindsided, and the defeat was crushing. Sinclair went home to lick her wounds.

For many activists, that would have been the end. Nevertheless, she persisted.

The fall of 2006 was a “blue moon" election in North Carolina (as 2018 will be). There were no national or statewide races in contention. The 11th District race for Congress was, locally, the marquee race atop the ticket.

Former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler ran against and defeated Rep. Charles Taylor, an eight-term Republican and associate of Russian bankers. Shuler’s was an energetic and well-funded campaign. (Full disclosure: As NCDP’s Get Out The Vote Coordinator for NC-11, I answered to the campaign.)

Progressives outside the South may have a low opinion of Shuler. (The Blue Dog left Congress in 2013 to become a Duke Energy lobbyist for a few years.) Still, sending home "Chainsaw Charlie" was a shot in the arm to local Democrats. Progressive campaign veterans now had a win under their belts and solid organizing chops.

In December 2006, a core team met at a local Greek restaurant to plan taking on the Courthouse in the party committee's 2007 spring elections.

By established practice, the county chair appointed a committee to "nominate" a slate of candidates for the six county executive posts. The list would be presented to the county convention essentially as a fait accompli. Progressives knew anyone named was likely in the pocket of the shadow party. Convention delegates deserved a choice. Sinclair and company planned to give them one.

Ensuring continuity of leadership is the chair’s responsibility, but maintaining control was a Courthouse goal. The last thing old party hands want is democracy breaking out in the Democratic Party. "Division in the party" is the traditional bugaboo veterans invoke to discourage contested races. Contested races here meant the Courthouse might not get its way.

In 2007, it would not.

(conclusion tomorrow)

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

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Does Maine Really Need A Congressman Representing Wall Street?


Frank Schaeffer’s last roadtrip for 2017 took him from Agua Dulce in California’s Santa Clarita Valley to Lewiston, Maine to talk with progressive Democrat Jared Golden. Frank bonded with Jared over the service Jared and Frank’s son both experienced as marines in Afghanistan. If you’re not from a military family, you may find what Frank and Jared had two say about that in the video enlightening. Give it a watch.

Goal ThermometerJared is running on a change ticket in Maine’s second district. His opponent, multimillionaire Republican Bruce Poliquin is a Wall Street shill who serves on the House Financial Services Committee, takes immense legalistic bribes from the banksters and then votes for their agenda. Last cycle, Wall Street poured $936,474 into Poliquin’s campaign war-chest. So far this cycle, they’ve already ponied up another $479,250. They don’t want to see a dedicated and proven tribune of the working and middle class like Golden replacing their boy in Congress. With Democratic monied interests supporting one of their own— a multimillionaire inheritor— Jared is depending on grassroots contributions to fund his own campaign. Please consider contributing at the ActBlue thermometer on the right.

When Jared first declared his candidacy in August, he told us that he plans “to make this race an example of how Democrats can win back districts that have gotten away from the party.” He reminded us that Bill Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama all carried the district but that “something changed recently. Republican Bruce Poliquin won the seat in 2014, and Trump carried the district in 2016. The Democratic Party needs to work to understand how it has lost support in districts like this and pay attention to the basic, kitchen table issues that matter to the people that live in my region. My part of the country has been hit hard. Free trade deals that benefit CEO’s but not workers have led to mill closures and the loss of good paying jobs. The opioid epidemic is growing out of control. The poverty rate among Maine children has grown at eight times the national average in recent years. I’ve seen what happens when our rigged economic system leaves people behind. In the Marines, I was taught to leave no one behind.” He was just getting started.

My district voted for both Bernie Sanders in the primary and Donald Trump in the general to send a message that the political establishment in both parties has let them down. They want action on infrastructure, jobs, and health care-- and they are tired of hearing politicians talk without walking the walk to protect their interests in Washington.

Bruce Poliquin’s vote for the disastrous Republican health-care plan is just the latest example, as it would have taken health insurance away from tens of thousands of Mainers and resulted in the loss of many good paying jobs at rural hospitals.

In the oldest state in the nation, with a struggling economy, real leaders shouldn’t be working to take health-care away from their constituents, they should be fighting to ensure access to health-care for all of them.

I think the Democratic Party has a lot to learn from us up here in Maine. In the State House, my job as Assistant Majority Leader is to serve as the whip, the guy who counts the votes. I’ve counted the votes-- and I can tell you, we can’t get to a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives without figuring out how to win districts like mine.

How are we going to do it? By cutting through the rhetoric and talking plainly and directly to people about issues that impact their lives. We need to have the courage to stand by our progressive values while meeting people where they are to engage with them about how we can work together to make real progress.

My campaign is going to relentlessly focus on economic issues: creating jobs with investments in infrastructure, from transportation and public works to renewable energy; strengthening organized labor because as they’ve declined so have wages; opposing trade deals that benefit our neighbors to the north and south more than they do us; pushing for Medicare coverage for all and a fair tax code that benefits the working class.

In the Maine Legislature I’ve stood strong by our union brothers and sisters. It’s my great honor that the Maine AFL-CIO has awarded me its top honor for legislators, the Edie Beaulieu Award, this year for my work on behalf of working class people and priorities.

In 2017, I’ve sponsored and passed legislation to address wage theft by employers who steal from their employees, to make access to workers’ compensation easier for firefighters and police officers diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress, and to provide state health-care services for veterans experiencing a mental health crisis.

We can win back districts like mine by being strong on behalf of the people that need our help most, unafraid to expose the GOP agenda as disastrous for the people, and by connecting to them on a personal level. To win, we need to be honest about the struggles our communities face, and offer solutions that really improve people’s lives.

That’s been my record in the Maine State House, and it’s what I’ll do in Congress.

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Joe Kennedy III Is Campaigning-- For Elizabeth Warren


“Is Joe Kennedy III a progressive?” is a question I get a lot-- including from some of his colleagues in Congress. He seems to have chosen progressivenessish as his identity, at least for now. As with anything, including the color tie he puts on what he has for dinner, everything is weighed in terms of a likely run-- at some point-- for president. He’s only 37 and hasn’t accomplished much, so he has time. He’s smart enough-- unlike, say Kamala Harris-- to know that too. Several Beltway insiders have told me he's running for president in 2020. Elizabeth Warren, who is also considering running for president, was one of his professors at Harvard Law-- Kennedy and his wife met in her class-- and Warren campaigned for him when he ran for Congress. He probably assumes Warren is going to be on the 2020 ticket-- many people have been buzzing that she and Bernie are running together-- and what he really wants now is her Senate seat. A lot of people don’t like legacy candidates. He has to prove something first, namely that he’s more than just RFK’s grandson and great-nephew (if there’s such a thing) of JFK. It’s easier to accomplish something in the Senate than in the House, especially if you want to do it in less than a decade or two.

This was the e-mail he sent out for her this week:
I had only one goal on my first day of law school: to escape unscathed. But roughly three seconds into my very first class, I got called on.

“Mr. Kennedy. What is the definition of assumpsit?”

My stomach sank. “I don’t know,” I said meekly to my professor.

“Mr. Kennedy,” she said, “You realize assumpsit is the first word of your reading?”

It went on from there, and I didn’t do any better.

I never showed up unprepared for Professor Elizabeth Warren’s contract law class ever again.

Elizabeth was the toughest teacher on campus, but the wait list for her class was a mile long. Professor Warren pushed us hard, because she believed in us. She brought out our very best.

She also believed in the law. Not as an abstraction, but as a real force with deeply human consequences. For Elizabeth, law was the difference between foreclosure and a roof over your head. The space between bankruptcy and second chances. The promise this country makes that no matter your struggles, your circumstances, or your mistakes-- you will be treated fairly. You will be given a shot to regroup, rebuild and rise.

Elizabeth believed in that fiercely American story because she lived it. It's what brought her to the halls of Washington to take on the country’s most entrenched financial interests-- and when she became a United State Senator, Elizabeth showed us how the law can be used to fight for an economy that doesn’t leave anyone behind.

Thanks to the hard work and grassroots support of countless people like you, we got a middle class champion back in the Massachusetts Senate seat in 2012. But powerful special interests have made it clear: they’ll spend unthinkable sums of money trying to silence Elizabeth in 2018.

We’re less than a year away from Election Day, and the attacks in Massachusetts have already started. We need to do all we can to keep Elizabeth Warren in the Senate. I stand with Elizabeth-- will you chip in and show you’re with her too?

Massachusetts families-- and families across the country-- need a champion now more than ever. We're fighting for a health care system that every American can afford. For tax policy that prioritizes workers, not just wealthy CEOs. For a justice system that protects all of us. For a government that respects each of us.

If we're going to do that and do it right, we need Elizabeth-- one of the toughest voices we have in Washington.

There's no question: Donald Trump and the Republican Party are worried. Why wouldn't they be? Elizabeth has built her career defending the working families Trump casts aside. It's no wonder the GOP is already pouring money into Massachusetts in an effort to take her down.

But Elizabeth has never backed away from a fight and she won’t start now-- and that’s why it is so important for us to stand with her today.

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2019 Will Be More Palatable With Alan Grayson In Congress Denouncing Trump's Lies Daily


The polls Morning Consult has been doing for Politico have been relatively benign for Trump. A couple of weeks ago, while almost every other poll showed Trump struggling to keep his job approval from slipping out of the low 30s and into the 20s-- which is widely believed will trigger impeachment hearings--  Morning Consult had him at 45% approval (and 51% disapproval). That’s about the best Trump has had from any legitimate polling firm-- "the best," that is, until you look more closely and realize that most Americans now realize Trump is a liar.

Alan Grayson did a different kind of poll this week, one that he isn’t attempting to pretend is "scientific." He asked his own followers what the biggest political  lie of the last 100 years was. The results were fairly predictable:
Trump: "Trump and Russia is a made-up story" - 55%
Bush: "Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq" - 35%
Nixon: "I am not a crook" - 10%

More than half of us think that Lying Trump's lie about the Russians is bigger than the lying lies of both Lying Nixon AND Lying Bush. Let that sink in for a minute (or for a минут, as Trump might say to his good friend Vladimir).

…Trump beat Nixon in this World Series of Lying.  And even my kids-- none of whom was alive when Nixon was alive-- know that Nixon was a liar’s liar. They know this from Futurama, which featured Richard Nixon’s severed head in 11 different episodes. Here is my favorite Futurama Nixon line:

Bailiff: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

Nixon’s Head: Um... am I under oath when I take the oath?

And Bush?  Bush suffered a momentary spasm of honesty when he gave Karl Rove the nickname “Turd Blossom.”  But that moment passed quickly, like a kidney stone, and then it was back to the uninterrupted BS.

But by our vote, Trump is the capo dei capi (boss of all bosses) of lies.  Trump is the Denier-in-Chief. He is the Barry Bonds of BS.  He is a six-foot-tall colostomy bag of crap. He is the preening, peacock Pinocchio of politics.

And Trump’s biggest lie of all? The lie that he was legitimately elected.
I think Grayson is going to run for Congress again. There are 3 dead-weight, utterly useless conservative Democratic congresmembers representing the Orlando area-- Blue Dog Stephanie Murphy and New Dems Darren Soto and Val Demings. Three wasted seats in Congress. I wish Grayson could run for all three simultaneously and have three votes and three times as much floor time. He'd certainly use it more effectively than Murphy, Soto and Demings do-- combined.

By the way, Grayson hasn’t declared he’s running for a congressional district yet but he seems to have an informal campaign. “Team Grayson” sent out a fund-raising letter today:
"Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est," said Julius Caesar.  And, similarly, Congress is divided in three parts:
1 The glad-handers.
2 The empty suits.
3 The sacks of hooey.
Help establish a fourth category: (4) LEADER.  Support Alan Grayson’s campaign for Congress, right here and right now.

The glad-handers are the ones with that permanent smile affixed to their faces. They are the survivors of the Joker’s laughing-gas attack. They seem to be listening to some elevator music that no one else can hear. Sometimes, they hum quietly to themselves. Whenever they see you, they look you in the eye, offer a firm handshake, and compliment you on your excellent appearance. They’re the ones who suggest that you look like you’ve lost some weight, even though you know that your belt is buckled on the last hole. And every time they open their mouths, it’s to thank some distinguished gentlemen or esteemed lady with whom it has been an honor to serve. They are very fond of each and every large donor.

Alan Grayson is not a glad-hander.

The empty suits are the ones who originally ran for office because they could obtain no other form of gainful employment. First the city council, then the county commission, then the tax assessor, then state senator, then Member of Congress. They have mastered the art of falling upward. They always have a confused look in their eyes, and they don’t even feign competence. They end each week with a sign of relief-- nothing bad has happened. They live in fear that some enterprising reporter will ask about their greatest accomplishments. On the other hand, they have no fear that anyone will ever identify them on the street. They come, they go, and it’s as if they were never there.

Alan Grayson is not an empty suit.

The sacks of hooey ask the same question, all day long: “what’s in it for me?” They’re the ones who enjoy the surf-and-turf with lobbyists, night after night. They’re the ones who treat every vote series as an imposition. If it’s your amendment, they’ll turn to you and complain, “I was right in the middle of lunch!” They lease a new Lexus each year, at taxpayer expense. They schedule campaign fundraisers in California and Florida during Winter Break, and they bring the whole family. They insist on an assignment on one of the “money committees” (that’s what they’re actually called-- money committees) in order to pad their campaign accounts. For $20,000, they’ll be your BFF. Some of them will even tell you that.

Alan Grayson is not a sack of hooey.

In his last two congressional races, Alan Grayson was the ONLY Member of Congress who raised most of his campaign funds from small donors like you. PLEASE make it happen again-- sign up to give $20.18 each month. Because Congress does NOT need another glad-hander, empty suit or sack of hooey. Congress needs Alan Grayson, just as WE DO.
I’m happy to get this confirmation Grayson is going to run. Hopefully, he’ll feel that there are a number-- not a great number-- of congressmembers already taking leadership roles in pushing the agenda he stands for as well-- men and women like Ted Lieu (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and other I know Grayson admires like Jose Serrano (D-NY), Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and John Lewis (D-GA). Not to mention all the candidates who will be coming into Congress in 2019. Long before people had ever heard of “IronStache,” outside of Wisconsin, Grayson was the first (former) congressman to endorse Randy Bryce for Paul Ryan’s seat. A few weeks Grayson asked his own supporters to contribute money to Illinois progressive David Gill. Grayson as parti of a team is what I’d love to see playing a dominating role in Congress starting in 2019-- a team that includes some of Grayson’s old friends and some of the new generation of candidates he’s going to love, especially the idea-machines like Kaniela Ing (HI), Austin Frerick (IA), Jess King (PA), Derrick Crowe (TX), Lillian Salerno (TX) and Dan Canon (IN).

And by the way, for all of Trump’s absurd bragging about accomplishing more than any other president in history, this is the list of what he has actually accomplished in his first miserable year in office (courtesy of presidential scholar Dan Molina):
Most days vacationing*
Most games of golf played
Least amount of bills signed
Lowest approval ratings
Most provable lies
Most cabinet firings
Most criminal indictments

* Trumpanzee delusional fantasy world built on lies: "I would rarely leave the White House because there's so much work to be done. I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off." In reality Trump has spent more time on vacation in his first year than Obama, Clinton, Reagan and Carter combined.

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2017 In Review: A Hell Bound Train Of A Year (Part 5)


-by Noah

When it comes to what people want, I’ve always said that American corporations are just like our Congress; they are the last to know. I started thinking that back during the gas shortages of the 1970s. People wanted smaller, more gas-efficient cars, yet Detroit kept building gas-guzzling cars the size of aircraft carriers. By 1980 or so, with lowering sales dawning on them, Detroit started to notice that Americans might, just might, prefer Japanese cars, even if the suits in the corner offices couldn’t quite figure out why. Along the way, GM and the other major car manufacturers managed to not only get rid of their customers but to fire their few executives that had dared to point out the obvious. Detroit has never recovered. "What’s good for GM is good for the U.S.A.” became “As GM goes, so goes the country."

In late 1976, I began working at what was arguably the biggest and coolest record store anywhere. I measure that on the volume of records sold and the taste of the store’s very knowledgeable customers, regardless of the genres they purchased. The store was part of a larger department store. The store sat in Harvard Square, smack dab in the middle of the highest density college student population in the country. One year later, I was the rock and pop buyer for the main store and its two smaller outlets, one on the campus of M.I.T. and one in Boston itself.

Not long after that promotion, the brilliant and perceptive man who ran the day to day operation of the stores was forced out. Some said he was too old.

The new man was a very corporate type who came from a corporate chain store background. As serendipity would have it, the first night he walked into the record store, I was on duty. He looked around, not at all thoroughly, and asked to speak to the person in charge. “You’re lookin’ at him,” I said. I already knew who he was. You could smell him. Nice crisp, white shirt. Nice tie. I was there in my usual jeans, black t-shirt, and sneakers. You can forget that saying about “opposites attract.”

So, as he stood in what was the usual early evening maelstrom of teens and twenty-something students; he said, “I have one question: where’s the Perry Como section?” He was dead serious, as dead as his 80 IQ eyes.

This clown had an agenda. He just knew we didn’t have a Perry Como section. Ah, but we did! One of the many important things he didn’t know about the record store he was now overseer of was that we prided ourselves in having at least one copy of everything in print, whether it was rock, jazz, classical, country, or 30 years out of date pop. It was a big place. We were also the go-to place for lesbian singer songwriters, avant-garde artists of every stripe, the complete Folkways catalog, Charlie Manson’s one album, and even a group named Country Porn (strictly behind the counter).

With all that in mind, I walked this rolling duffus over to the Perry Come section. He didn’t know whether to be happy or disappointed. I managed to show him the price tags on the Perry Como albums. The store had not sold a Perry Como album in 11 years, but, we had ‘em. Ya never know!

My meeting with the new guy was not the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We each despised what the other stood for but, thanks to the customers, and my attitude, my side prevailed, for a while. Once I was gone, it didn’t take too long for him to destroy the record store, but I had a life to live, as did my fellow employees who all also left one by one as a once great place became stiff, stale and corporate.

What was once a trend-setter, and a major source of income for both the owners and every record label in existence was rendered culturally and financially meaningless. That’s the corporate mindset for you.


I wrote the above to provide context. It was my introduction to the corporate world. I went on to a reasonably meaningful and successful career in the music business. In that time, I worked for four corporations, none of which, when it came down to it, had any more vision or foresight than the Perry Como fan or General Motors did in the 1970s. In my career, I had a ton of contact with people who worked for other corporations in other businesses. In nearly every case, they all had stories to tell that amounted to this basic truth: All corporations are fucked. They’re just fucked differently. The differences, however, are all just permutations of the same things; things like shortsightedness, a distrust of innovation or the new, insecurity, a CYA mentality, arrogance, and, sometimes, drug-induced paranoia.

I also learned that the problems don’t just lie with American corporations. After all, in this day and age, most corporations have, to greater or lesser extent gone multi-national. In my time, in no particular order, I worked for a corporation that started out as American (with alleged deep mob connections) and became, briefly Japanese, briefly Canadian, and finally French. Two other corporations were English controlled. The remaining one started out as American but ended up being owned by a Japanese corporation being run by the Brits, after a temporary partnership with some Germans. I have feelings about all four. Some of those feelings are even good, but, like I said, they’re all fucked, basically by choice, too.

Let me just say about the last one that if, in 1941, the Japanese had hired the British to plan Pearl Harbor, the Pacific War would never have happened. You see, the way I see it, based on my personal experience, the bombers would have taken off from the Japanese aircraft carriers in the wrong direction, ended up flying around in circles and spiraling into the sea, lost and out of gas, before ever reaching Pearl Harbor. Yeah, I know, that outlines one of those silly alternate history scenarios. But, here’s the punch line. What causes wars? Corporate greed and corporate arrogance. The belief that everything you do is genius. The shear lunacy and lust for money and power. People just don’t matter. More often than not, corporations are like that scene in the great movie The Hospital, where the doctor, played by George C. Scott, says of a patient, “Let’s get him out of here before we kill him!” He also, at one point, asks the chief of all the nurses if she trains her nurses at Dachau, such is their incompetence.

Enter United Airlines. They win the prize for corporate lunacy and arrogance in 2017. On April 9th, at Chicago’s O’Hara Airport, United Airlines decided that a ticket, a paid for ticket, to board an airplane and fly the friendly skies, is not a ticket. United claimed that the flight was oversold but they had seated the passenger on the plane. Oversold? Who’s fault was that? It even turned out that United wasn’t really oversold. They just wanted the passenger’s paid for seat for a free flight for, you guessed it, a corporate employee. In fact, United wanted four seats for four employees. Three passengers were not in a hurry to get where they wanted to go, so, they gave up their seats and accepted a voucher. But, the fourth one was in a hurry. How dare he be.

So, what would any airline do? They called the police and had the randomly selected passenger knocked around, bloodied, and removed. No one goes against the corporation! No. One! People don’t matter. It’s all very Ayn Rand/Paul Ryan-esq.

Horrified passengers filmed United’s idea of darkly novel on-board entertainment and the videos went viral. The public, how dare they, was outraged. In a Class A example of corporate arrogance the next morning United still didn’t get it. “Why is everybody so upset?” They reacted to the negative news coverage by trotting out United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, a bozo-matic assclown if there ever was one, who, taking a page from the Donald Trump-Sarah Huckabee Sanders school of utter bullshit, tried to justify his company’s gross actions by commending the crew’s actions for “following established procedures” and referring to United’s brutal action as, get this, “re-accommodating the customers.” You know, sort of like we re-accommodate suspected terrorists to GITMO. Munoz even tried to portray his company as “the victim,” just like poor, abused Señor Trumpanzee is doing now.

This is the corporate mindset. It’s rife within our American society. “Re-accommodating.” Kind of like Congress just “re-accommodated” our tax obligations and now wants to “re-accommodate” Obamacare, “re-accommodate” our Social Security, and “re-accommodate” our Medicare. This corporate mindset goes all the way to the top, whether the top is the politicians or the corporate masters that own them. If they think you might vote against them, they’ll even “re-accommodate” your voting rights.

Just like Washington, the tone-deafness of United Airlines is so far beyond the pale that it breaks the bounds of sanity. No apology. Just justification. The Chicago police statement reeked of things we expect from a totalitarian state. Welcome to Trump’s Amerika. It’s not surprising that people like Trump and other Repugs want to do away with regulations and the Consumer Protection Agency; all the better to “re-accommodate you, my dear.”

At the time of the incident, I compiled a list of new advertising slogans for United; slogans that more accurately fit the company’s attitude towards it customers. Here they are


1) United Airlines: We treat you like a King, Rodney King!
2) United Airlines: First Class, Business Class, No Class.
3) United Airlines: Board as a doctor. Leave as a patient.
4) United Airlines: We put the hospital in hospitality!
5) United Airlines: Red Eye and Black Eye flights Available!
6) United Airlines: Now offering window seat with concussion.
7) United Airlines: Neck pillow, or, neck brace with every ticket!

Suppose airlines now just open an emergency door and push you out on the tarmac, tossing your bags after you as the plane pulls away. It doesn’t take much to imagine that now. You’ll be assessed a bag removal charge by the way. The removal of you is free. It’ll be considered a perk by those who run United. You already don’t get food on most flights. You already have to pay extra for the privilege of having a reasonable amount of baggage. What’s next? “In accordance with our policy, passengers are now required to wear these electrodes. The Perma-Taze™ will enable an enjoyable fight for all of those back in the board room.” How about no more bathrooms on the plane? “All passengers will submit to catheterization. If it’s it’s good for astronauts, it’s good for you!”

To be fair, it isn’t just United. It could have been any airline. United just got caught. The passenger had been checked in, given a boarding pass, gone through the multiple layers of security, and seated. Only then, did United decide to attack its customer. Recently, I heard from an acquaintance that paid $200 to upgrade to first class on another airline. He was seated, and then was booted back to coach. When he asked for his $200, he was told he would have to apply for it. This was one week before Christmas. It’s just an airline’s special way of saying “Merry Christmas.”

Like I said, to corporations, people don’t matter. What United did was just a symptom of the corporate mind disease. Remember this the next time some asshole company like Duke Energy deliberately dumps poisonous coal ash into your local fishing stream, you can expect them to say “we are re-accommodating” the fish. Lead in your drinking water? Not a problem! “We are re-accommodating your kid’s learning abilities!” This is pure Trump-speak, 2017.

United CEO Oscar Munoz even won a “PR-Communicator of the year” award from PR Week, a publication that serves as a mouth piece for the corporate mind. The award came a month before Munoz’s corporation bloodied up their customer. Buy your ticket. Actual trip optional.

A week after the United Airlines incident, Adidas commemorated their sponsorship of The Boston Marathon by sending out an email to its email list that was headlined:

“Congrats, you survived The Boston Marathon."

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Midnight Meme, Special Edition: The 12 Days Of Christimemes #5


-by Noah

The Thanksgiving Day Parade is a big thing in New York every year. Each year tens of thousands of people line Broadway to watch the parade. It's even broadcast live on local TV. One of the biggest points of interest in the parade is the speculation on what the new giant balloons will be. This year did not disappoint.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Pence Of Darkness


Many Republicans who had already seen the existential threat Trump was to their party saw May 3’s Indiana primary as the last place to stop him. Cruz hoped to force a contested convention by winning Indiana. The state’s unpopular governor, Mike Pence, who looked hard-pressed to win a second term, announced he was voting for Cruz. Trump beat him 587,710 (53.3%) to 404,332 (36.7%) and Cruz hoisted the white flag and withdrew from the battle for the nomination. Of Indiana’s 92 counties, Trump won 87. Cruz won Adams, Allen, Elkhart, Wells and Whitley counties, clustered in the northeast corner of the state. Pence’s endorsement did him no good. Trump swept Pence’s old congressional district.

Less than two months later Trump, the presumptive nominee, was in Indianapolis for a campaign swing. Manafort had him told that his plane had broken down on the runway and that he had to spend the night there. Manafort— who we now know was a highly paid Putin operative— had arranged for Pence to invite Trump for dinner and Trump, with nothing else to do, fell into Manafort’s trap and went to dinner at Pence and Mother’s. [Mother find Trump “reprehensible— just totally vile.” Trump regards the Pence’s as “low class yokels.”]

In his fascinating new report on Pence for The Atlantic, God’s Plan For Mike Pence, McKay Coppins wrote that “according to two former Trump aides, there was no problem with the plane. Paul Manafort, who was then serving as the campaign’s chairman, had made up the story to keep the candidate in town an extra day and allow him to be wooed by Pence. The gambit worked: Three days later, Trump announced Pence as his running mate” although he “had formed an opinion of the Indiana governor as prudish, stiff, and embarrassingly poor.”

I can assure you, this was not God’s plan anymore than it was Satan’s. But why did Manafort do it? Or,perhaps, why did Putin want Pence on the ticket? It certainly wasn’t for the good of America, of that we can be certain. “No man,” offers Coppins, “can serve two masters, the Bible teaches, but Mike Pence is giving it his all.” In front of friendly crowds— evangelicals and movement conservatives it’s almost as though there are subtle signs that “Pence is sending a message to those with ears to hear— that he recognizes the absurdity of his situation; that he knows just what sort of man he’s working for; that while things may look bad now, there is a grand purpose at work here, a plan that will manifest itself in due time. Let not your hearts be troubled, he seems to be saying. I’ve got this.”
It’s easy to see how Pence could put so much faith in the possibilities of divine intervention. The very fact that he is standing behind a lectern bearing the vice-presidential seal is, one could argue, a loaves-and-fishes-level miracle. Just a year earlier, he was an embattled small-state governor with underwater approval ratings, dismal reelection prospects, and a national reputation in tatters. In many ways, Pence was on the same doomed trajectory as the conservative-Christian movement he’d long championed— once a political force to be reckoned with, now a battered relic of the culture wars.

Because God works in mysterious ways (or, at the very least, has a postmodern sense of humor), it was Donald J. Trump— gracer of Playboy covers, delighter of shock jocks, collector of mistresses— who descended from the mountaintop in the summer of 2016, GOP presidential nomination in hand, offering salvation to both Pence and the religious right. The question of whether they should wed themselves to such a man was not without its theological considerations. But after eight years of Barack Obama and a string of disorienting political defeats, conservative Christians were in retreat and out of options. So they placed their faith in Trump— and then, incredibly, he won.

In Pence, Trump has found an obedient deputy whose willingness to suffer indignity and humiliation at the pleasure of the president appears boundless. When Trump comes under fire for describing white nationalists as “very fine people,” Pence is there to assure the world that he is actually a man of great decency. When Trump needs someone to fly across the country to an NFL game so he can walk out in protest of national-anthem kneelers, Pence heads for Air Force Two.

Meanwhile, Pence’s presence in the White House has been a boon for the religious right. Evangelical leaders across the country point to his record on abortion and religious freedom and liken him to a prophet restoring conservative Christianity to its rightful place at the center of American life. “Mike Pence is the 24-karat-gold model of what we want in an evangelical politician,” Richard Land, the president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary and one of Trump’s faith advisers, told me. “I don’t know anyone who’s more consistent in bringing his evangelical-Christian worldview to public policy.”

But what does Pence make of his own improbable rise to the vice presidency, and how does he reconcile his faith with serving a man like Trump? Over the past several months, I’ve spoken with dozens of people who have known the vice president throughout his life— from college fraternity brothers and longtime friends to trusted advisers and political foes. (Pence himself declined my requests for an interview.) While many of them expressed surprise and even bewilderment at the heights of power Pence had attained, those who know him best said he sees no mystery in why he’s in the White House. “If you’re Mike Pence, and you believe what he believes, you know God had a plan,” says Ralph Reed, an evangelical power broker and a friend of the vice president’s.

Pence has so far showed absolute deference to the president— and as a result he has become one of the most influential figures in the White House, with a broad portfolio of responsibilities and an unprecedented level of autonomy. But for all his aw-shucks modesty, Pence is a man who believes heaven and Earth have conspired to place him a heartbeat— or an impeachment vote— away from the presidency. At some crucial juncture in the not-too-distant future, that could make him a threat to Trump.

…In 1988, at age 29, Pence launched his first bid for Congress. He garnered attention by riding a single-speed bicycle around his district in sneakers and short shorts, dodging aggravated motorists and drumming up conversations with prospective voters on the sidewalk. It was a perfectly Pencian gimmick— earnest, almost unbearably cheesy— and it helped him win the Republican nomination. But he was unable to defeat the Democratic incumbent, Phil Sharp.

Pence tried again two years later, this time ditching the bike in favor of vicious attack ads. The race is remembered as one of the nastiest in Indiana history. In one notorious Pence campaign spot, an actor dressed as a cartoonish Arab sheikh thanked Sharp for advancing the interests of foreign oil. The tone of the campaign was jarring coming from a candidate who had nurtured such a wholesome image, a contrast memorably captured in an Indianapolis Star headline: “Pence Urges Clean Campaign, Calls Opponent a Liar.” He ended up losing by 19 points after it was revealed that he was using campaign funds to pay his mortgage and grocery bills (a practice that was then legal but has since been outlawed).

Afterward, a humbled Pence attempted public repentance by personal essay. His article, “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” ran in newspapers across the state. “Christ Jesus came to save sinners,” the essay began, quoting 1 Timothy, “among whom I am foremost of all.”

With two failed congressional bids behind him, Pence decided to change tack. In 1992, he debuted a conservative talk-radio show that he described as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.” The quaint joke belied the meticulousness with which Pence went about building his local media empire. “He knew exactly what he wanted his brand to be and who his audience was,” says Ed Feigenbaum, the publisher of a state-politics tip sheet, whom Pence often consulted. Most of his listeners were “retirees and conservative housewives,” Feigenbaum says, and Pence carefully catered to them. Over the next eight years, he expanded his radio show to 18 markets, started hosting a talk show on a local TV station, launched a proto-blog, and published a newsletter, The Pence Report, which locals remember primarily for its frequent typos and Pence’s lovingly drawn political cartoons.

“His Mikeness,” as he became known on the air, began each radio show with a signature opening line—“Greetings across the amber waves of grain”—and filled the hours with a mix of interviews, listener calls, and medium-hot takes. Pence’s commentary from this period is a near-perfect time capsule of ’90s culture-war trivia. He railed against assisted suicide (“Kevorkian is a monster”) and fretted about the insufficient punishment given to a female Air Force pilot who had engaged in an extramarital affair (“Is adultery no longer a big deal in Indiana and in America?”). He mounted a rousing defense of Big Tobacco (“Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill”) and lamented parents’ growing reliance on day care (pop culture “has sold the big lie that ‘Mom doesn’t matter’”).

Pence also demonstrated a knack for seizing on more-creative wedge issues. For instance, a 1995 initiative to reintroduce otters into Indiana’s wildlife population became, in Pence’s able hands, a frightening example of Big Government run amok. “State-sanctioned, sanitized otters today,” he warned, ominously. “Buffaloes tomorrow?”

Despite Pence’s on-air culture-warring, he rarely came off as disagreeable. He liked to describe himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” and he was careful to show respect for opposing viewpoints. “Nobody ever left an interview not liking Mike,” says Scott Uecker, the radio executive who oversaw Pence’s show.

By the time a congressional seat opened up ahead of the 2000 election, Pence was a minor Indiana celebrity and state Republicans were urging him to run. In the summer of 1999, as he was mulling the decision, he took his family on a trip to Colorado. One day while horseback riding in the mountains, he and Karen looked heavenward and saw two red-tailed hawks soaring over them. They took it as a sign, Karen recalled years later: Pence would run again, but this time there would be “no flapping.” He would glide to victory.

To his colleagues on Capitol Hill— an overwhelmingly secular place where even many Republicans privately sneer at people of faith— everything about the Indiana congressman screamed “Bible thumper.” He was known to pray with his staffers, and often cited scripture to explain his votes. In a 2002 interview with Congressional Quarterly, for example, he explained, “My support for Israel stems largely from my personal faith. In the Bible, God promises Abraham, ‘Those who bless you I will bless, and those who curse you I will curse.’” He became a champion of the fight to restrict abortion and defund Planned Parenthood.

Pence didn’t have a reputation for legislative acumen (“I would not call Mike a policy wonk,” one former staffer told the Indianapolis Monthly), and some of his colleagues called him a nickname behind his back: “Mike Dense.” But he did have sharp political instincts. Before long, he was climbing the leadership ranks and making connections with key figures in the conservative-Christian establishment. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer has documented Pence’s close ties to the Koch brothers and other GOP mega-donors, but his roots in the religious right are even deeper. In 2011, as he began plotting a presidential run in the upcoming election cycle, Pence met with Ralph Reed, the evangelical power broker, to seek his advice.

Reed told Pence he should return home and get elected governor of Indiana first, then use the statehouse as a launching pad for a presidential bid. He said a few years in the governor’s mansion— combined with his deep support on the Christian right— would make him a top-tier candidate in the 2016 primaries.

Pence took Reed’s advice, and in 2012 launched a gubernatorial bid. Casting himself as the heir to the popular outgoing governor, Mitch Daniels, he avoided social issues and ran on a pragmatic, business-friendly platform. He used Ronald Reagan as a political style guru and told his ad makers that he wanted his campaign commercials to have “that ‘Morning in America’ feel.” He meticulously fine-tuned early cuts of the ads, asking his consultants to edit this or reframe that or zoom in here instead of there.

But he wasn’t willing to win at all costs. When the race tightened in the homestretch, Pence faced immense pressure from consultants to go negative. A former adviser recalls heated conference calls in which campaign brass urged him to green-light an attack ad on his Democratic opponent, John Gregg. Pence refused. “He didn’t want to be a hypocrite,” the former adviser says.

Pence won the race anyway, and set about cutting taxes and taking on local unions— burnishing a résumé that would impress Republican donors and Iowa caucus-goers. The governor’s stock began to rise in Washington, where he was widely viewed as a contender for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Then, in early 2015, Pence stumbled into a culture-war debacle that would come to define his governorship. At the urging of conservative-Christian leaders in Indiana, the GOP-controlled state legislature passed a bill that would have allowed religious business owners to deny services to gay customers in certain circumstances. Pence signed it into law in a closed-press ceremony at the statehouse, surrounded by nuns, monks, and right-wing lobbyists. A photo of the signing was released, and all hell broke loose. Corporate leaders threatened to stop adding jobs in Indiana, and national organizations began pulling scheduled conventions from the state. The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, put out a statement suggesting that the law might imperil “future events.” The Indianapolis Star ran a rare front-page editorial under an all-caps headline: “FIX THIS NOW.”

Caught off guard by the controversy, Pence accepted an invitation to appear on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, where he intended to make the case that the law wasn’t anti-gay but rather pro–religious liberty. What took place instead was an excruciating 12-minute interview in which Pence awkwardly danced around the same straightforward question: Does this law allow a Christian florist to refuse service for a same-sex wedding? “George, look,” Pence said at one point, sounding frustrated, “the issue here is, you know, is tolerance a two-way street or not?”

For Pence— and the conservative-Christian movement he represented— this was more than just a talking point. In recent years, the religious right had been abruptly forced to pivot from offense to defense in the culture wars— abandoning the “family values” crusades and talk of “remoralizing America,” and focusing its energies on self-preservation. Conservative Christians had lost the battles over school prayer, sex education, and pornography censorship, and the Supreme Court was poised to legalize same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, a widespread decline in churchgoing and religious affiliation had contributed to a growing anxiety among conservative believers. By 2017, white evangelicals would tell pollsters that Christians faced more discrimination in America than Muslims did.

To many Christians, the backlash against Indiana’s “religious freedom” bill was a frightening sign of the secular left’s triumphalism. Liberals were no longer working toward tolerance, it seemed— they were out for conquest. “Many evangelicals were experiencing the sense of an almost existential threat,” Russell Moore, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, told me. It was only a matter of time, he said, before cultural elites’ scornful attitudes would help drive Christians into the arms of a strongman like Trump. “I think there needs to be a deep reflection on the left about how they helped make this happen.”

After seven chaotic days, Pence caved and signed a revised version of the religious-freedom bill— but by then it was too late. His approval ratings were in free fall, Democrats were raising money to defeat him in the next gubernatorial election, and the political obituaries were being written. Things looked grimmer for Pence, and the religious right, than they ever had before.
Then along came Trump offering to make him “the most consequential vice president ever,” presumably the same offer Kasich had already turned down— to be in charge of domestic policy and foreign policy while Trump just spent all his time trying to “Make America Great Again.” In return Pence gushed to the press about what a great golfer Trump is. Fellow loudmouth Chris Christie was Trump’s first choice— until Manafort pulled his little stunt at the Indianapolis airport.
Campaign operatives discovered that anytime Trump did something outrageous or embarrassing, they could count on Pence to clean it up. “He was our top surrogate by far,” said one former senior adviser to Trump. “He was this mild-mannered, uber-Christian guy with a Midwestern accent telling voters, ‘Trump is a good man; I know what’s in his heart.’ It was very convincing— you wanted to trust him. You’d be sitting there listening to him and thinking, Yeah, maybe Trump is a good man!

Even some of Trump’s most devoted loyalists marveled at what Pence was willing to say. There was no talking point too preposterous, no fixed reality too plain to deny— if they needed Pence to defend the boss, he was in. When, during the vice-presidential debate, in early October, he was confronted with a barrage of damning quotes and questionable positions held by his running mate, Pence responded with unnerving message discipline, dismissing documented facts as “nonsense” and smears.

…Another close friend of Pence’s explained it to me this way: “His faith teaches that you’re under authority at all times. Christ is under God’s authority, man is under Christ’s authority, children are under the parents’ authority, employees are under the employer’s authority.”

“Mike,” he added, “always knows who’s in charge.”

On Friday, October 7, the Washington Post published the Access Hollywood tape that showed Trump gloating about his penchant for grabbing women “by the pussy,” and instantly upended the campaign. Republicans across the country withdrew their endorsements, and conservative editorial boards called on Trump to drop out of the race. Most alarming to the aides and operatives inside Trump Tower, Mike Pence suddenly seemed at risk of going rogue.

Trump’s phone calls to his running mate reportedly went unreturned, and anonymous quotes began appearing in news stories describing Pence as “beside himself” over the revelation. One campaign staffer told me that when she was asked on TV the day after the tape came out whether Pence would remain on the ticket, she ad-libbed that, yes, he was 100 percent committed to Trump. She remembers walking away from the set and thinking, “I have no idea if what I just said is true.”

It’s been reported that Pence sent Trump a letter saying he needed time to decide whether he could stay with the campaign. But in fact, according to several Republicans familiar with the situation, he wasn’t just thinking about dropping out— he was contemplating a coup. Within hours of The Post’s bombshell, Pence made it clear to the Republican National Committee that he was ready to take Trump’s place as the party’s nominee. Such a move just four weeks before Election Day would have been unprecedented— but the situation seemed dire enough to call for radical action.

Already, Reince Priebus’s office was being flooded with panicked calls from GOP officials and donors urging the RNC chairman to get rid of Trump by whatever means necessary. One Republican senator called on the party to engage emergency protocols to nominate a new candidate. RNC lawyers huddled to explore an obscure legal mechanism by which they might force Trump off the ticket. Meanwhile, a small group of billionaires was trying to put together money for a “buyout”— even going so far as to ask a Trump associate how much money the candidate would require to walk away from the race. According to someone with knowledge of the talks, they were given an answer of $800 million. (It’s unclear whether Trump was aware of this discussion or whether the offer was actually made.) Republican donors and party leaders began buzzing about making Pence the nominee and drafting Condoleezza Rice as his running mate.

Amid the chaos, Trump convened a meeting of his top advisers in his Manhattan penthouse. He went around the room and asked each person for his damage assessment. Priebus bluntly told Trump he could either drop out immediately or lose in a historic landslide. According to someone who was present, Priebus added that Pence and Rice were “ready to step in.” (An aide to the vice president denied that Pence sent Trump a letter and that he ever talked with the RNC about becoming the nominee. Priebus did not respond to requests for comment.)

…Whatever God had planned for Mike Pence, however, it was not to make him the Republican nominee that weekend. Trump proved defiant in the face of pressure from party leaders. “They thought they were going to be able to get him to drop out before the second debate,” said a former campaign aide. “Little did they know, he has no shame.” Indeed, two days after the tape was released, Trump showed up in St. Louis for the debate with a group of Bill Clinton accusers in tow, ranting about how Hillary’s husband had done things to women that were far worse than his own “locker-room talk.” The whole thing was a circus— and it worked. By the time Trump left St. Louis, he had, in pundit-speak, “stopped the bleeding,” and by the next day, Pence was back on the stump. The campaign stabilized. The race tightened. And on the night of November 8, 2016, Pence found himself standing on a ballroom stage in Midtown Manhattan— silently, obediently, servant-leaderly— while Trump delivered the unlikeliest of victory speeches.

Back in Indiana, Pence’s Trump apologia on the campaign trail surprised those who knew him. In political circles, there had been a widespread, bipartisan recognition that Pence was a decent man with a genuine devotion to his faith. But after watching him in 2016, many told me, they believed Pence had sold out.

…Pence is far from the only conservative Christian to be accused of having sold his soul. Trump’s early evangelical supporters were a motley crew of televangelists and prosperity preachers, and they have been rewarded with outsize influence in the White House. Pastor Ralph Drollinger, for example, caught Trump’s attention in December 2015, when he said in a radio interview, “America’s in such desperate straits— especially economically— that if we don’t have almost a benevolent dictator to turn things around, I just don’t think it’s gonna happen through our governance system.” Now Drollinger runs a weekly Bible study in the West Wing.

But the president has also enjoyed overwhelming support from rank-and-file conservative Christians. He won an astonishing 81 percent of white evangelicals’ votes, more than any Republican presidential candidate on record. And while his national approval rating hovers below 40 percent, poll after poll finds his approval rating among white evangelicals in the high 60s. The fact that such an ungodly president could retain a firm grip on the religious right has been the source of much soul-searching— and theological debate— within the movement.

On one side, there are those who argue that good Christians are obligated to support any leader, no matter how personally wicked he may be, who stands up for religious freedom and fights sinful practices such as abortion. Richard Land told me that those who withhold their support from Trump because they’re uncomfortable with his moral failings will “become morally accountable for letting the greater evil prevail.”

On the other side of the debate is a smaller group that believes the Christians allying themselves with Trump are putting the entire evangelical movement at risk. Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention, has made this case forcefully. In a New York Times op-ed in September 2015, Moore wrote that for evangelicals to embrace Trump “would mean that we’ve decided to join the other side of the culture war, that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist ‘winning’ trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society.”

Moore and others worry that conservative Christians’ support for Trump has already begun to warp their ideals. Consider just one data point: In 2011, a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that only 30 percent of white evangelicals believed “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” By 2016, that number had risen to 72 percent. “This is really a sea change in evangelical ethics,” Robert P. Jones, the head of the institute and the author of The End of White Christian America, told me. “They have moved to an ends-justifies-the means style of politics that would have been unimaginable before this last campaign.”

But even as the debate rages on, there is one thing virtually all conservative Christians seem to agree on: Mike Pence. “He’s an incredibly popular figure,” Moore told me. “Evangelicals who disagree about all sorts of things still respect Mike Pence. Regardless of how they voted or what they think about Trump, they feel a sense of identification with him, and trust in him.”

Some prominent evangelicals have gone even further to describe Pence’s role— reverently invoking biblical heroes who aligned themselves with flawed worldly leaders to do God’s will. One pastor compared Pence to Mordechai, who ascended to the right hand of a Persian king known for throwing lavish parties and discarding his wife after she refused to appear naked in front of his friends. Pence has also drawn comparisons to Daniel— who served a procession of godless rulers— and to Joseph of Egypt, the valiant servant of God who won the favor of an impetuous pharaoh known for throwing servants in prison when they offended him.

…The religious right began reaping the rewards of Trump’s victory almost immediately, when the president-elect put Pence in charge of the transition. Given wide latitude on staffing decisions, Pence promptly set about filling the federal government with like-minded allies. Of the 15 Cabinet secretaries Trump picked at the start of his presidency, eight were evangelicals. It was, gushed Ted Cruz, “the most conservative Cabinet in decades.” Pence also reportedly played a key role in getting Neil Gorsuch nominated to the Supreme Court.

Pence understood the price of his influence. To keep Trump’s ear required frequent public performances of loyalty and submission— and Pence made certain his inner circle knew that enduring such indignities was part of the job. Once, while interviewing a prospective adviser during the transition, Pence cleared the room so they could speak privately. “Look, I’m in a difficult position here,” Pence said, according to someone familiar with the meeting. “I’m going to have to 100 percent defend everything the president says. Is that something you’re going to be able to do if you’re on my staff?” (An aide to Pence denied this account.)

Trump does not always reciprocate this respect. Around the White House, he has been known to make fun of Pence for his religiosity. As Mayer reported in the New Yorker, he has greeted guests who recently met with Pence by asking, “Did Mike make you pray?” During a conversation with a legal scholar about gay rights, Trump gestured toward his vice president and joked, “Don’t ask that guy— he wants to hang them all!”

… In an embattled White House, the question of the vice president’s ambition for higher office is radioactive. When the New York Times reported last summer that Pence appeared to be laying the groundwork for a 2020 presidential bid, he denied the “disgraceful and offensive” story with theatrical force. But Pence has shown that his next move is never far from his mind— and he’s hardly the only one weighing the possibilities. One senior GOP Senate aide told me that pundits miss the point when they speculate about what kind of scandal it would take for the president to face a serious defection from lawmakers of his own party. “It’s not a matter of when Republicans are ready to turn on Trump,” the aide said. “It’s about when they decide they’re ready for President Pence.”

What would a Pence presidency look like? To a conservative evangelical, it could mean a glorious return to the Christian values upon which America was founded. To a secular liberal, it might look more like a descent into the dystopia of The Handmaid’s Tale. Already, in some quarters on the left, it has become fashionable to fret that Pence’s fundamentalist faith and comparative political savvy would make him an even more “dangerous” president than Trump. He has been branded a “theocrat” and a “Christian supremacist.”

There is, of course, nothing inherently scary or disqualifying about an elected leader who seeks wisdom in scripture and solace in prayer. What critics should worry about is not that Pence believes in God, but that he seems so certain God believes in him. What happens when manifest destiny replaces humility, and the line between faith and hubris blurs? What unseemly compromises get made? What means become tolerable in pursuit of an end?

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