Day 939 – Trump is Weak

Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar wanted to go to Israel, and the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to let them in–until Trump intervened.  For days the president pressured Israel to block our elected representatives from their visit and Netanyahu’s government went back on its early authorization yesterday and obliged, barring the women from entering.

The outrage from Democrats and some Republicans was swift, bashing Trump for pressuring a Democratic ally to bar our own elected representatives and calling his action a stain on the presidency.  Even AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, blasted Israel and Trump for trying to censor access to Israel.   Retired  Senator Barbara Boxer said, “Trump looks so weak.  What is he afraid of?”  And Eli Lake of Bloomberg wrote, “By reversing its decision…Israel looks weak.”  There are few things Trump hates more than being called weak and yet as the polls continue to go against him and the economy sputters, his desperate tweeting also makes him look weak.  (Some of Trump’s recent rambling, babbling Tweets seem truly insane.)

Gail Collins in the New York Times yesterday suggested that another way to “torture Trump” was to point out the diminishing turnout at his Klan rallies:

Trump can’t bear suggestions that he’s not a crowd megamagnet. Every time he gets on a stage, he seems compelled to claim the audience is of epic proportions. The place is packed! Not to mention the masses waiting outside!

Just last night after his Manchester, New Hampshire, rally Trump bragged to reporters that he had “broke the all-time attendance record” but photos then flooded social media showing plenty of empty seats.  His desperation to be perceived as popular is yet another sign of weakness.

Weakness is the president’s kryptonite.  And it makes sense when you consider his cult of supporters.  One way to encapsulate Trump’s supporters would be:  people who felt powerless but are now made to feel powerful.  As Trump said, “I am your voice.”  But if Trump starts to be perceived as weak, his supporters won’t feel so powerful.

This theory of Trump’s cult harkens back to a superb article in the Texas Observer from October of 2016 by Joe R. Lansdale entitled, “Why My East Texas Neighbors are Voting from Trump” where he writes about guns and fear and Trump supporters:

Guns are a symbol of fear, but they are also a symbol of power, a way for the everyday person to feel important and potent, to be a participant in the great game show of life. Guns have replaced the previous religion of Texas, which was football, and Trump is the high priest. Fear sells, and it stimulates. Trump and his cronies constantly tell us, without actual facts, how bad crime is and how evil all foreigners are — especially if they dress funny — and they repeat over and over the false information that the economy is on the verge of collapse and you better build that bunker and stock up, because if you don’t, all you’ll have for protection from the certain rise of crazed liberals is harsh language.

Link:

https://www.texasobserver.org/east-texas-trump-voters-lansdale/

The minute Trump no longer makes his supporters feel powerful, the minute they feel ridiculous or played or vulnerable, Trump is in trouble.  It may not happen, but it seems like the aura around Trump is beginning to deteriorate.  The stock market is tanking, the China deal is nowhere, our soybean farmers are going bankrupt, and Trump is doing nothing but anger-Tweeting, golfing and ranting at his insane rallies.

So for the time being, let’s focus on how weak Trump is.  Let’s focus on his impotent foreign policy and his destructive trade policy.  Let’s highlight how sad his rally turnout has become.  And let’s point out how desperately weak his Tweets are.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 938 – “Moral Uprising”

Iowa Congressman Steve King continued his long tradition of saying vile, indefensible and inexplicable things yesterday.  During a speech at a conservative club in Urbandale, Iowa, King defended his stance against exceptions for rape and incest in abortions, suggested that humanity might not exist if it weren’t for rape and incest.

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can’t say that I was not a part of a product of that.”

Beyond the statistical fact that humanity would survive and thrive quite well without rape and incest, it’s hard to fathom why King would try to cast rape and incest in any sort of positive light.  But his pretzel-twisting thought process is typical of people who can’t make a credible case for why a zygote or embryo should be treated as a person, relying instead on the profoundly arrogant and self-serving ghost story that “they contain a sacred magic spark that no other form of life in the universe contains.”

King’s comments come a day after a Trump cabinet member suggested that our national ethos, embodied by the Statue of Liberty, was only meant to apply to white Europeans.  And that came a few days after Trump suggested that Jeffrey Epstein was killed by Bill Clinton.  And that came a few days after Trump made openly racist comments.  And so on.

How do we fight against the hatred and malevolence of Trump and Trumpism?  A compelling article appeared recently in, of all unlikely places, Forbes magazine, written by Margie Warrell, entitled “Let’s Face Hard Truths: America Needs a Moral Uprising”.  An excerpt:

“Trump is a moral threat to the country,” wrote David Brooks in the New York Times. “He’s not a policy revolutionary. He’s a cultural revolutionary.”

But just as fear is contagious, so too is courage. And the path of moral courage, particularly in “stormy times”, distinguishes itself from others because it is the only path upon which an individual, organization or nation cannot get lost.

Warrell focuses on the attitude of courage and the virtue of action, giving an optimistic reminder of the force that moral clarity provides.  She goes on:

So what can we each do? We must do the brave work of not only trying to understand those with whom we don’t agree (remember, Lincoln invited his political opponents into his cabinet!) but to face the hard truths we would prefer to ignore. And then, to do what is within our power, getting behind those whose principals bolster their moral fortitude not to surrender self-respect for self-interest.

Link to article:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2019/08/11/lets-face-hard-truths-america-needs-a-moral-uprising/

We also have to remember what NOT to do.  History tells us that we won’t stop injustice with violence.  Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Imelda Marcos, and Lech Walesa all triumphed against far more powerful foes by non-violent means.  Every great protest and social movement has at its core a moral dimension.  When violence is used, it destroys the moral core and legitimacy of any ideology.  The recent mass protests in Hong Kong are at risk of going off the rails because protesters–whose position is on the right side of morality–seem to be veering towards violence, which would be a tragic mistake.  Peaceful resistance is paramount in part because peaceful protest in the face of violence provides such a clear and compelling contrast.  Who can forget images of unarmed civil rights protesters facing police in riot gear and attack dogs? Who can forget the image of a man standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square?  The purpose of protest is to draw attention and generate empathy.  But violence simply cannot create empathy.

When our country is being destroyed from within by a corrupt president and his band of radical white supremacists, it’s easy to get angry and fearful for our future.  And it’s easy and at times cathartic to vent our anger, whether at a protest rally or on social media.  But threats, character assassination and violence should never be a part of that resistance.  Calling Trump a malign, lying, molesting, racist con-man is not character assassination but rather an accurate description of who he is, based on his actions.  And we need to continue to reflect to our neighbors and society exactly who Trump and his circle are, minimizing bitterness while maximizing facts.  The more we can stick to this equation, the more effective our activism will be.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 937 – White Immigrants Only

Trump’s acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Service, Ken Cuccinelli, appeared on television yesterday and tried to re-write the famous and oft-quoted poem by Emma Lazarus affixed to the Statue of Liberty.  When asked by NPR’s Rachel Martin if he agreed with the poem, Cucch responded, “‘Give me your tired and your poor…who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” It was a ridiculous response on many counts.  Generations of immigrants have arrived on America’s shores with barely a dollar in their pocket and have gone on to make their fortunes.  Many of them were helped along by soup kitchens and fraternal organizations and, yes, the government.  And many were able to stand on their own two feet only when they were granted land through the homestead act. If the need for public assistance disqualifies immigrants from a shot at the American dream, why not send all of the millions of (mostly white) Americans who receive government assistance back to the lands of their ancestors, as well?  It was an absurd comment.

But Cucch wasn’t finished.  He later appeared on CNN with Erin Burnett and made things worse for himself by trying to explain his earlier statement, saying that the poem “was of course referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class…”.  This was not only historically false (there were many nations in Europe divided along ethnic and religious lines, and many nations where poverty defined your social class), but it was also a dog-whistle to Trump’s base implying that European immigrants were more deserving, more desirable and less wretched than non-white immigrants.  It was a grotesque but unsurprising position from a member of Trump’s wretched cabinet–an acting Director never confirmed by Congress, no less!

Cucch’s ridiculous and racist episode was a sideshow to the main story of Trump’s proposed change to immigration policy that would only allow immigrants of means to come to the United States legally–which Rachel Maddow pointed out two nights ago was a fundamental shift in who we are as a nation and how we see ourselves, going squarely against 200+ plus years of tradition and principle.  The proposed change will face strong legal challenges, in part because it was ill conceived and didn’t follow established process, but with the Supreme Court now in the hands of radical partisan hacks, it’s hard to predict where these legal challenges could end up.

Once again, if we don’t vote Trump out of office in 2020 the damage could be lasting.

On the local front, it was reported in the Daily Freeman yesterday that Congressman Antonio Delgado has a prospective Republican challenger for 2020.  Retired National Guard General Anthony German plans on filing paperwork today to enter the race.

https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Retired-national-guard-general-plots-14300854.php

The article says that German “believes Delgado has gravitated to the ‘extreme left’ of Congress”, which flies in the face of reality.  In fact, most of the criticism leveled at Delgado by Democratic voters contends that he is not far enough to the left.  For example, he hasn’t come out in support of impeachment and he isn’t for single-payer or Medicare for all.  So let’s hope the GOP is planning to play the “extreme left” card in NY-19 because it will be an easy strategy to oppose and tear apart.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 936 – More Trump Defections

I recently returned from a trip to Europe where it was heartening to see everywhere public images mocking Trump.  Many town squares featured large walls for flyers and posters that included some distorted image of our president raging or caught in a ridiculous pose.  Souvenir shops featured items like Trump toilet paper and the Trump toilet brush.  And cable news shows featured hours of criticism of Trump and his despicable policies.  His most recent outrage–retweeting a conspiracy theory that Bill Clinton had Jeffrey Epstein killed in a faked suicide–had European pundits especially astonished.

Which brings us back to our own media. When a corrupt authoritarian grifter is trying to break our democracy from inside the Oval Office, it’s important to listen to the people who are in or used to be in that president’s party.  And these days, such “never Trump” Republicans are legion.  Over the weekend one of them, former Bush speechwriter David Frum, published a scathing article about Trump in the Atlantic entitled “The Shame And Disgrace Will Linger,” focused on Trump’s response to Epstein’s death. Here’s an excerpt:

Trump’s circle probably expects the world to sputter for a while and then be distracted by some new despicable statement or act. That is how it has gone for nearly three years, and that is how it is likely still to go. Trump is steering the U.S. and the world into a trade war, and perhaps a financial crisis and recession along with it. He is wrecking the structure of U.S. alliances in Asia, and his rhetoric is inciting shooting rampages against minorities. Compared with that, mere slurs and insults perhaps weigh lighter in the crushing Dumpster-load of Trump’s output of unfitness for the office he holds.

But it shouldn’t be forgotten, either, in the onrush of events. The certainty that Trump will descend ever deeper into subbasements of “new lows” after this new low should not numb us to its newness and lowness.

Full link to article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/08/trumps-conspiracy-theory-about-clintons-and-epstein/595915/

While Frum has hated and rejected Trump from the start, another major supporter turned on Trump in recent days.  Wall Street financier Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci was Trump’s communications director for ten days and remained a high-profile defender of the president until the most recent racist Tweets, which the Mooch criticized.  And in typical fashion, Trump turned on the Mooch and made it personal. Years ago I met the Mooch a few times and I’ve known people who worked for him and had good things to say.  He’s a relatively level-headed guy in a business of hot-heads and I’m glad he now sees Trump for the liar and racist we all know him to be.  Perhaps he will motivate more defections.  At some point the defections will start to add up.  But the Mooch’s rejection of Trump is troubling.  Like so many others in Trump’s circle–and in his broader personality cult–nobody turns on Trump until they receive personal ire.  As long as Trump is assassinating someone else’s character, they remain loyal. It’s as if they are unable or unwilling to empathize with others and can only see Trump for the sleazy, insecure, dishonest, self-centered cad he truly is when he attacks them directly.  Why aren’t they able to see the pain, division and destruction he causes to so many others?  And if they can see it, why do they only care when it affects them personally? Are they really that selfish and/or sociopathic?  Troubling.

Every issue we care about as progressive voters, every change we hope to make in the service of our communities and nation, faces one major obstacle: Donald Trump.  He is rewriting the rules of government every day and destroying every protection and internal agency policy we hold dear.  Just yesterday he announced a plan to penalize legal immigrants who are not yet citizens but who require some form of government assistance.  In other words, he is trying to keep poorer people from immigrating here. It’s an unAmerican disgrace. Trump has betrayed and abandoned the statement affixed to the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”.

Senate leader Mitch McConnell is also a major impediment to progress, but McConnell can’t take unilateral action the way Trump can and does.  Trump and his rotten inner circle are the main problem.

The 2020 election will be a major turning point in the direction of our nation and it’s crucial we do everything we can to vote Trump out of office.  Once a presidential nominee is chosen we will need to ramp up our efforts to organize, register new voters, help in other swing districts, and turn out the vote.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 935 – Conservatism Hates Women

Trump’s racist statements and Tweets in the aftermath of the El Paso shooting were an appalling new low for the worst President in modern American history.  At this point it’s no secret that Trump’s cult of followers want revenge for decades of being made to feel guilty for their bigotry and narrowmindedness.  But it’s also becoming increasingly clear that misogyny plays a large part in the Trump phenomenon.  It’s not just racism and homophobia.  The hatred of women is also part of a larger cultural nexus of related pathologies tied to Trumpism.  It’s no coincidence that fundamentalist Christianity, the Proud Boy movement, the Incel community, the anti-abortion extremists, and aging white conservatives share a disdain for women and support Trump.  And it’s also becoming clear that mass shooters share in common a hatred of women.  A fascinating and important article appeared in the New York Times over the weekend that illuminated this correlation.

The motivations of men who commit mass shootings are often muddled, complex or unknown. But one common thread that connects many of them — other than access to powerful firearms — is a history of hating women, assaulting wives, girlfriends and female family members, or sharing misogynistic views online, researchers say.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/10/us/mass-shootings-misogyny-dayton.html

Consider how the conservative hate machine has treated women over the past two decades.  Pick any female in the public sphere and right-wing media has surely painted her as a disgusting harpy–aggressive and unattractive and unwomanly. Hillary Clinton is the most obvious example but the list also includes Geraldine Ferraro, Janet Reno, Susan Rice, Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama.  Liberal men are not generally treated to the same level of sustained rage and character assassination as the women, and this has continued under Trump.  His nastiest venom is reserved for women, starting with Rosie O’Donnell and Maxine Waters and most recently focused on The Squad–Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. And his lifetime record of philandering and skirt-chasing (and molesting and possibly raping) signals the same disregard for women.

The target audience for the public disdain of women is men who, for a variety of reasons, feel that their lives would be better if women behaved differently, whether it’s women no longer competing with men in the workforce or women accepting sexual objectification and advances or women embracing second-class status in worldly affairs.

In other words, conservative misogyny springs from toxic masculinity.  Many men on the right have a warped, antiquated and toxic sense of their own role in life.  They overvalue themselves and undervalue women.  They cling to the paradigm of conquest in an age of cooperation.  They see relationships as leader/follower instead of co-equal.  And they resist any redefinition of their own rigid gender sense.

These are very deep issues–fault lines in American society that have been chafing since the 1960s–but they are very much in the open now.  A disease can’t be cured without a proper diagnosis, and we have to call the conservative movement on its misogyny as well as its racism and homophobia.  Only then will we have a chance for a positive shift.

Meanwhile, keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 921 – GOP Hypocrisy on Veterans

For decades Republicans have claimed to be big supporters of the military.  They certainly support the military industrial complex because they have consistently been the party of big business, carrying water for wealthy defense CEOs and plutocrats.  They even vote to build weapon systems that the military doesn’t need or want just to keep money flowing to defense industry jobs, especially in their states or districts. But do they actually support veterans?  A recent book by Lindsey Cormack of the Stevens Institute of Technology argues that when it comes to veterans, the words and deeds of Republicans are usually opposed to each other.  She backs her conclusion with evidence and data, stating:

“The contours of modern conservative ideology as manifested within the Republican Party are more at odds with how veterans policies are implemented in the US than liberal, democratic ideologies,” Cormack says. “Republicans tend to talk more about veterans in constituent communications, but they are less apt to author legislation in the area.”

Here’s a link to a press release for the book and summary:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-11/siot-t111518.php

We can see this same pattern over the course of Trump’s presidency.  Trump claims to care about veterans but his budget proposals consistently seek to harm veterans.

The Trump administration’s first budget wanted to cut job training programs that would have removed employment services for 340,000 veterans.

The Trump administration’s annual budgets consistently aim to reduce SNAP benefits even though 1.4 million veterans live in households that receive SNAP benefits.

The Trump administration’s annual budgets consistently seek to reduce TANF and child nutrition programs that would hurt many low-income veterans.

Trump’s attacks on the ACA have a huge potential impact on veteran’s health.  The number of uninsured veterans decreased by a whopping 40% under the ACA, mostly through the expansion of Medicare.  If the Trump administration is able to destroy the ACA it will disproportionately harm veterans.

And the Trump administration has suspended its enforcement by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) of the Military Lending Act (MLA) which leaves veterans more vulnerable to predatory lending practices by payday lenders and financial institutions.  Here’s an article in New York Magazine detailing the Trump administration’s attack on veteran’s financial security.  It’s important to keep in mind that veterans are one of the most vulnerable groups in our nation, as the article details:

…veterans are both largely working-class and disproportionately likely to rely on public programs and public-interest regulations for their well-being. Vets get their health care from the single most socialized segment of America’s health-care sector — and most of their advocacy organizations want to keep it that way. Meanwhile, veterans’ acute vulnerability to predatory lenders has abetted the passage of bipartisan legislation strengthening federal regulations on the finance industry. Which is to say that on a number of economic issues, Democrats are the ones holding the “support our troops” card.

Link to the article:

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/08/president-trump-cfpb-military-lending-act-veterans-mulvaney-attack-va.html

Meanwhile, in our district, Congressman Delgado has been fighting for veterans on several fronts.  He co-sponsored a bill entitled the “Service-Disabled Veterans Small Business Continuation Act” that helps the surviving spouses of veterans who run small businesses.  And he voted for the Raise The Wage Act to raise the federal minimum wage over six years to $15, which would greatly help around 1.3 million veterans (roughly 20% of total veterans) who earn an hourly wage–though Republicans predictably don’t support this worker-friendly bill.  Delgado is also endeavoring to help veterans become farmers, especially in the fast-growing organic farming sector, which fits into the vital agricultural component of our NY-19 district.

Veterans deserve our care and support.  Many put their lives on the line in service of our nation.  When a political party claims to support them but consistently votes to hurt them, it’s a sad and shameful betrayal.  We can’t let the Republicans continue to get away with pretending they care about veterans.  Their dismal record of dismantling protections for veterans has to be highlighted and reinforced, especially in the 2020 presidential election.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 918 – Voting Systems Targeted

As we continue to sift through and evaluate the Mueller testimony it’s coming into sharp focus that while the hearing didn’t contain any bombshells and Mueller didn’t shriek and pound his fists like Trump does, Mueller’s answers to the questions were damning.  It’s obvious that Trump engaged in multiple acts of criminal obstruction of justice.  Mueller affirmed that Trump met all of the criteria of criminal acts of obstruction without actually drawing that conclusion–because Mueller clearly feels it’s the job of Congress to draw that conclusion.

It’s also clear that Mueller was particularly concerned about the attacks on our Democracy by Russia and other hostile foreign powers.  That, after all, was the first and central focus of his investigation.  Mueller stated that Russia engaged in a complex and multi-faceted cyber attack on our election, including social media propaganda and accessing voting rolls–attacks that continue to this day.

Even worse, we learned yesterday from a New York Times report that Russia meddled in our election systems in all 50 states, a much more broad attack on our voting infrastructure than had been previously reported.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/us/politics/russian-hacking-elections.html

This report is horrifying and should gravely concern every citizen.  Once our voting infrastructure is compromised–even if it’s only in one or two states–it could alter the course of our democracy in a profound and damaging way.  Given this new report, it’s conceivable that Trump wasn’t elected legitimately in 2016, and it’s possible that until we demand paper ballots that leave an audit trail we will lose confidence in the integrity of our elections, which is a recipe for turmoil and chaos.  If a close election can be swung by a hostile foreign power or a corrupt voting-machine manufacturer, we are all screwed.

Does Mitch McConnell care?  Apparently not.  He has blocked eight bills thus far that aim to bolster our election security.  McConnell claims that the bills are too partisan–even though McConnell is one of the most partisan hacks to hold the position of Leader, as his disgraceful treatment of Merrick Garland proved.  For McConnell to give lip service to bi-partisanship is malevolently absurd.  Yet McConnell is also sitting on more than a hundred other bills that have passed the House but will make the Senate Republicans look bad if they ever have to vote on them, so he won’t let the bills come up for a vote.  His conduct has turned the Senate from a deliberative democratic body into a personal tool of tyranny.  Nothing happens without his consent. It’s profoundly umAmerican and an ongoing national disgrace.

I’m going on vacation today for two weeks and while I’m away will only post one special blog next Monday.  I’ll begin again on August 11th.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”