Category: election

3/25/17 – How did this happen?

As the stories come tumbling out now about Russian interference in our election process, we’re all experiencing the simultaneous relief and horror of knowing it was not our imagination. Yes, something truly terrible happened to our country in November 2016.
It can’t be said enough: We need to understand how this came to pass, so we can learn from our mistakes and make sure it can never happen again. We have to untangle this ugly snarl and backtrack this trail of treason to its source, wherever it goes. Many factors worked together to put this dangerous man in the White House; we have to understand each and every one.

How did he get elected?

I continue to struggle with the emotional backlash of shock. For several months after the election, I suffered from a kind of mental anguish I’d never experienced before. It was a confused numbness, a kind of dazed disbelief. Overnight, I was disconnected from the reality I’ve always taken for granted. As a nation, it seemed to me, we had collectively gone mad. It seemed so unreal. I could only conclude I was completely out of step with America. Or maybe America was not what I thought it was. I suddenly felt like a stranger in my own country.

The ugliest truth of this election, for me, was the fact that so many Americans voted for this despicable man. Who are these people? Why were they so vulnerable to Trump’s brand of snake oil? I’ve tried to understand. I’ve read about how the lower middle-class Americans resented the Wall Street bailouts, how they felt left out of Obama’s efforts to pull America together after the financial meltdown of 2008. I know they object to social programs that help the poor and they’re angry about the disappearance of good jobs. I understand that they saw Clinton as more of the same. OK. But surely that wasn’t it, was it?

Even now, as we are discovering the extent to which Russia manipulated our election, these people continue to support him, gathering at his Nuremberg rallies to wave around their red hats together. How can they continue to defend him, knowing what we are learning now?

I remember the moment I read that Clinton had won by a sizable majority. I was washed with relief, tears of gratitude in my eyes. Thank dog. Not everyone in my country had gone completely nuts.

But it wasn’t just the Trump voters who did this to us. It took the participation of millions of other voters to put Trump in the White House, the ones who didn’t vote for Clinton. They were suckered into helping Trump get elected, the same as the ones who voted for him.

This is my take on it. In those last weeks before the election, I wasn’t really worried. I had faith that the majority of Americans would vote responsibly. I dismissed the possibility of a Trump win. Surely, I felt, we aren’t that stupid! As the pundits and pollsters showed Clinton with a respectable lead, everybody relaxed a little. I confess I was one of them. (Put a big asterisk next to the name of every commentator who predicted Clinton’s win at the time. We need to come back to them.)

But a good-sized chunk of ambivalent voters faced a decision. Sure, they thought Trump was a joke, but they didn’t love Clinton either. Some of these people had even voted for Obama. So they decided to make a statement with their vote — and either stayed home or voted for someone like Jill Stein. They did this not because they wanted Trump for president but because they believed Trump could not win. (Who told them that? Asterisk.)

Then we got the infamous last-minute FBI announcement of possible issues with Clinton’s email. That non-fact was enough to push another chunk of voters to stay home on election day or vote for a third-party candidate. (Put another big asterisk next to James Comey’s name. We need to come back to him too.)

That was enough to put Trump comfortably over the top, thanks to our electoral college system (which has got to go! Asterisk!).

So. It only took 26% of eligible voters to put a president in the White House. That’s all it takes. Stop and think about that for a moment. That is terrifying, and we should never forget it, ever again.

It’s a sad statement that a quarter of eligible American voters are so credulous or desperate or vulnerable to a flim-flam man. But I guess a democracy will always have a bottom of the barrel.

On the flip side of that coin, it also means 74% did NOT vote for Trump. Either they voted for Clinton, stayed home, or voted for somebody else.

So. Three-quarters of eligible voters did not vote for Trump. That sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? Three-quarters of us are not nuts. WHEW.

Yet we ended up with this sociopathic narcissist in charge of the most powerful country on earth. Paired up with the Republican wins in Congress, it seemed like the set-up for a bad dystopian sci-fi movie.

Now after he’s had several months in office, he has confirmed everybody’s worst fears. Many Trump fans now regret voting for him. Once you pare away those people, I feel sure the remaining Trump supporters comprise only a very small percentage of Americans. I’m going to say between 15-20%.

That really doesn’t bother me, the idea that 15% of Americans are either deeply racist and misogynistic or are just not very bright. It’s sad but it’s not really a surprise. A democracy is going to have a bottom of the barrel.

So now we confront something we’ve never experienced before. We’ve had to step in and save our country from ruin. Every protest march, rally, and angry town hall meeting has energized me, reinforcing my sense that most Americans know the difference between right and wrong. I’m in love with the EPA scientists busily saving climate data. My new heroes are the rogue park service guys. The journalists facing down the daily onslaught of bald-faced lies. The governors and mayors across the country who are standing up for what’s right. The judges and attorneys who are putting the brakes on the orange maniac. The Democrats in Congress who won’t back down or shut up.

For a while I lost faith in us, but no more. Now, every day I see valiant people fighting back. My faith is restored. No, I am not a stranger in my own country.

Sure, lots of other factors contributed to this disastrous election, not the least of which is Trump’s role model Putin, who has his enemies poisoned, shot, or thrown out of windows. It wasn’t just Flynn and Manafort; I’m sure we’re only now seeing the tip of the Russian iceberg. It took a village to put Trump in the White House: an army of Macedonian teenagers who littered the Internet with outrageous anti-Clinton stories, the readers gullible enough to believe them, Fox News, the Koch Brothers and their ilk, the tea party, advocates of voter suppression and gerrymandering, the NRA gun nuts, all the stubborn racists unmasked during Obama’s presidency. If we’re going to see things clearly, we need to tell it like it is: a Trump supporter is Putin’s accomplice.

But the point is this: that sense of unreality many of us experienced after the election was not baseless. Something indeed was “off” during that campaign. We were being played. Our country was attacked, the same as if bombs had exploded or missiles launched, except this time the attack was political.

So no, I am not out of step with my country. Neither are you. And we are not alone. That is becoming clear.

Big picture-wise, this is what I think we went wrong. Things have been pretty good in America for a while, by and large. So the good people, the smart people, and the reasonable and rational people have all been busy focusing on our private lives, and while we weren’t looking, a lot of bad people got into politics. They seemed to do OK most of the time, so we were content to let them do the job. But now it’s plain to see these people can’t be trusted with the authority we give them.

It stands to reason: If you are a lazy, arrogant, egotistical bullshit artist, you will be strongly attracted to a career in politics. In fact, you could probably predict this, just like you’ll find pedophiles attracted to jobs working with children.

And besides, who else would want to do that job? Administrative drudgery and ego massaging. Ugh! Yes, there are some good people working hard for the common good in Washington, but I think we all know most of the people who go into politics these days expect to benefit from it. I mean benefit with a dollar sign.

This is a problem, and in the future, if we survive this catastrophe, we need to find ways to address this and all the asterisk people named above.

In the meantime, the good people, the smart people, the rational people need to take back the running of the country from the professional hypocrites and bullshit artists there today. We need to supervise them as closely as a contractor you hire to fix your leaky basement. That might mean calling your senator weekly or it might mean running for office. Or maybe it means we have to take steps now to remove people from office who are not doing their job, and not wait for the midterm elections. Many of these people are not special. They aren’t even leaders. They can be replaced.

This is a time when everyone has to choose a side, and not just politicians and bureaucrats — everybody. History will record. If you are not against Trump, then you are for him. If you are not against Trump, you are for Putin. You will spend the rest of your life wearing that label, like a scarlet letter. Nobody gets to be a bystander when there is so much at stake.

I look forward to the day when we can map out how things must change going forward to protect our country from this happening again. Keep notes. Meanwhile, don’t let the bastards get you down.

##

2/19/17 — The Damned

I keep thinking of this movie I saw a few years ago called “The Damned.” It was made in 1969, directed by Luchino Visconti. The story takes place in Germany in 1934 and concerns a powerful industrialist family in crisis. Chancellor Hitler is aggressively expanding his powers and needs weapons. The Von Essenbecks, who reign over a huge manufacturing empire, can jump on Hitler’s bandwagon and make a fortune by retooling to manufacture arms. Or they can play it safe and keep things status quo.

They sense what is happening to their country; nobody has any illusions about Hitler. But their dilemma is more complicated than simply pro- or anti-Hitler. They each must silently confront the question: Is this going to happen regardless of what we do? And if so, what’s the point of staying on the sidelines, really? Opportunity knocks.

What’s infinitely more important to them are their private motives, their personal stake in what happens next. Each is locked into an epic battle within the family, where all the ugliest wounds that so often fester in powerful families thrive: envy, greed, old grudges, even pure hatred.

There’s a slimy Aryan snake in their midst, a highly placed Nazi who knows exactly how to exploit the family’s weaknesses to set them against one another. He skillfully manages to put the good ones out of the way while manipulating the bad ones. In the end, all the dominoes fall perfectly, Hitler gets the guns he needs for the Night of the Long Knives, and Hitler has now consolidated power neatly and tidily.

Along the way we have the full gamut of perversions, just in case we missed the part about the moral vacuum: incest, murder, suicides, pedophilia, orgies, everything from soup to nuts.

The movie is not great cinema, as such; some parts are way over-the-top and it badly needed re-editing, but taken as a whole, it’s a fascinating and chilling glimpse into the situation we face now. Although we know these people are not good role models (to put it mildly), we also see how your own personal situation can back you into a corner where you feel you don’t have the luxury of ethics. You have to take any advantage you can get. Many Trump voters no doubt felt the same.

Those in positions of power, wealth, and influence in this country have to decide now. Trump is opening the door for the rich to get catastrophically richer. I’m waiting for a company or individual to stand up and say, “We’re not going to pollute the water, even though we could.” Imagine if the stockholders for the oil pipeline companies pressured the company to re-route around Native American land? Imagine if a major pharmaceutical company slashed the price of a life-saving drug because it was the right thing to do? Imagine if the Secretary of Education stepped down voluntarily, realizing she was not the best person for the job?

Why is this so unthinkable? When did civic duty become a joke? When did we start glamorizing tax cheats? What will it take for us to quit worshiping selfishness?

BTW, this movie is based on a real family and their company, still operating today.

 

2/7/17 – OK, now what?

I was feeling pretty good one night a week ago, and decided this blog should focus on helpful strategies for preserving mental health in the time of Trump. It’s not my intention to exclude other topics; I still need to vent. But we all need to resist the impulse to wallow in despair. I continually find myself thinking back to past generations and the resolute courage they had to have to live through the Depression and WWII. OK, maybe my grandfather locked himself in the bathroom and bawled his head off twice a day, but he made it through and so can we.

Friday night I went to a rather intimate protest/rally downtown. We were lucky to get to sit under an awning to keep out of rain. The wet sidewalks reflected the colorful lights around us as one by one, colorful people stood in front of a microphone and spoke from their hearts. The first guy was a homeless man who talked about how humans have drifted so far away from their true nature. A software programmer from Iran. A middle-aged guy originally from India who talked about Gandhi. A young man dressed in a flamboyant red, white, and blue ensemble who relates very strongly to a fictional superhero. I was a little afraid he was a neo-Nazi by his boots, but he gave a very passionate speech using the words of Captain America and it was beautiful. A German woman rushed up and said, “I grew up in Germany and what happened there will never happen here because of YOU!” Tiny high-schoolers with colorful hair talked about LGBT rights. Towards the end, the Indian guy returned to tell a dirty joke, which nobody got. It was awesome.  I loved those people so much. I wanted to give each one of them a hug. I clapped and hooted for every single one, even the ones I didn’t agree with.

I am so proud that it was my state that stood up to this reckless, arbitrary, cruel and bigoted order within a matter of days. For me this was another turning point. It has taken us some time, but the rational people in America are pulling themselves together and getting the resistance moving forward. I think most people were not prepared for such an immediate assault from Trump. It has taken us a few weeks to see that our worst fears are indeed coming true: He is a loose cannon, he is doing everything possible to undermine our system of government, merely to help the ultra-rich get richer. Anybody still defending Trump at this point is morally corrupt, stupid, or willfully blind. I feel strongly that we should ignore those people. Arguing with them is a waste of time. They are not rational. Like other extremist groups in the US, we have to put up with them, but we certainly don’t have to pay attention to them either.

For the last week, I have been sifting through information available online trying to devise a strategy for engagement for the next four years. I think most Americans are like me in this: “What can I do??” I’ve tried to narrow it down to a handful of groups that look rational and action-oriented (rather than just complaining). I did actually call my Senators last week to urge them to do anything in their power about the immigration ban.

The two sides are taking shape: on our side are the governors and mayors, a few Democract members of Congress, the responsible press, many federal employees, and at least some of the judiciary. Given enough time, Trump and his cronies will have time to replace many of those people, so we have to move fast. It is an epic battle. As with so many things these days, if there wasn’t so much at stake, it would be entertaining. Unfortunately, it’s all a matter (literally) of life and death.

 

 

1/31/17 – Like Jim Jones

It’s like they’re all hypnotized. Like mind control. You speak to them about facts, and their eyes are glazed over, continuing to mouth the words: “But Killary… jail… emails… Bengazi… Obama… fake news…He never said that…”

Like Jim Jones. He has redefined reality for them.

I read an article the other day about how the more you identify with a particular belief, the less likely you are to believe evidence that refutes it. In fact, you won’t.

People are not rational about Trump. They love him. They love him like it’s a love affair. They are emotionally entangled with him. Their egos are attached to him. He symbolizes something desperately important to them, something they feel they’ve lacked all their lives, something that would fill an empty spot inside them, make them feel complete.

So when you attack Trump, you attack them. He’s family to them.

So it’s really a waste of time and energy trying to persuade these people to change their minds about him. We need to just write them off.

Luckily they are only a modest sliver of America’s population, and if the rest of us get off our butts and take back the reins of public discourse, their whiny voices can be drowned out. Yes, they make a lot of noise, but that is only because the real majority has allowed them to take center stage. Between Fox News and the Tea Party, this modest sliver of America moved into the empty space left when the rest of us were off focusing on our personal lives. The rational among them have already jumped ship: 11 days of Trump has been enough for them to see the light. So all that’s left are the irrational Trumpites, for whom he can do no wrong. They have willingly forfeited rationality and should just be treated as imbeciles and mental incompetents.

A few years ago, I saw a movie about the handful of people who survived the mass suicide of Jim Jones’ people in Guyana, the ones who bolted into the jungle when the suicide was 0rdered and hid until the authorities showed up. They talked about how the brainwashing worked, the many ways Jim Jones used to control people and make them dependent, to make them into slaves. They all had one thing in common: the desire to follow him blindly. That euphemism about drinking the Kool-Aid has lost its potency through overuse, but it’s 100% relevant to this situation right now.

1/30/17 – Protest is an American right

I keep hearing people bellyaching about the protesters. Some people think they’re pretty smart when they comment: “Get a job!” Here is my response.

Dear geniuses:

Let me explain. The women’s march was on a Saturday, when a lot of people have a day off. Many of the people I know planned ahead to either take a vacation day or find someone to fill in for them at their jobs. People do it all the time. The ones with kids brought their kids along or arranged child care.

The ones that traveled to Washington are people who have enough money where they can afford the airfare.

The local protests here have taken place largely in the evenings when many people are done working for the day. They take mass transit to the events. It’s cold as hell, but they put on their heavy coats and go anyway. They are exercising their right to peaceful protest, like good Americans. This is how America is supposed to work. I’m proud of every single protester. 

1/29/17 – This is where it changes for me

I commented to a friend yesterday:

“I was so ashamed for us earlier today, ashamed of us… such a cruel, arbitrary, cowardly move — appalling how casually he blows off the values America was built on… But then tonight, with the protests in the airports, I am SO proud. There are a lot of good people who won’t stand for it. We’re the majority. We have to start acting like it.”

Something turned a corner for me Friday night, when I read this:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/politics/trump-christian-refugees/index.html

This in particular struck me:

“If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair — everybody was persecuted, in all fairness — but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.”

The more I looked at that article, the more it sunk in:

Week One of our new presidency. Here is our new president, who has displayed open contempt for all forms of news media, giving one of his first face-to-face interviews as president. With whom? The Christian Broadcasting Network.

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK

This is not a news network. This is a religious network. If Trump wants to go talk to church people, fine, I guess, but why are you talking to church people about politics?

This is such a vivid illustration of the blurring of the line between church and state that we’re all so worried about. No — not blurring. Trump is erasing the line.

And this sudden reverence for the church, donning the cloak of godliness now as it suits his needs. He has the GALL to do this, but even worse: some poor schmucks somewhere actually BELIEVE it. It’s all a big act! It’s part of the whole schtick of his, this obscene soft-shoe, this ham-fisted sleight of hand. He is a mediocre vaudevillian, but if you suck up to the TV Christians, it’s all good.

And there he is blathering nonsense about how the US deliberately excludes Christians seeking asylum here. I don’t even know what he’s talking about. It’s some fairy tale world. No, Virginia: the US does not require a Muslim secret handshake to get into the country.

And then there’s the random chopping off of heads comment. Who is chopping off Christians’ heads? Has someone’s head been chopped off recently, for which this action is retaliation? Or was this just a general head-chopping observation? He just threw that in for dramatic effect, I guess.

So here we are, one week into the new term, and it’s one fiasco after another, as we witness the unfurling madness of Trump’s reign of terror. In one fell stroke of his Sharpie, he throws the lives of countless people into turmoil, for no reason other than his ego. Or idle curiosity, to see what people will do.

When someone pushes back the next day, he relents, or equivocates, or dithers. Someone says we misunderstood. It was meant to be more a general statement of policy or some such bullshit. We are being emotionally manipulated every day, as he tugs us around like fucking puppets. Trump is the maniacal madman behind the curtain, snickering like an evil supervillian.

And so, he announces, we will be giving preference to Christians seeking asylum in America.

He can say this and keep a straight face because he’s too stupid to know what he’s saying. The man listening to him is struck dumb with shock. Or maybe his brain lights up like a 100-watt light bulb, imagining what kind of money they could make with breaking news like that, important policy statements from the new president. Or maybe he’s thinking about that Twilight Zone episode where young Will Robinson mercilessly bullied his family after acquiring the power to make things happen. “You’re a VERY bad man!”

Peeling back the layers of wrongness here, at its core, fascism defined. All of us American, we all abide by laws, we observe conventions, we follow the rules. We all live by these rules.

So when someone travels abroad, we have rules and laws about it. Every single one of the people they detained or turned back had followed all the rules and the laws. They were entering the country lawfully. They have legal green cards, many of them. They have the required visas. They met all the conditions.

Trump’s action leapfrogs over the laws and rights that uphold all our transactions, not just in international travel but in so many other terms as well. For example, there is the money involved. These people had paid good money for their tickets. Do they get refunds on their flights? Who’s paying for them to be flown back to the country they came from? Who’s paying for their hotel bills? Who’s feeding them while they’re in detention? Who’s paying the guards who are handcuffing innocent people for no reason?

What about the reasons? There literally is no danger to American citizens from these people. None. Trump exploits the groundless fears of the people brainwashed by Fox News and the Insane Clown Posse known as the Tea Party with imaginary terrorists. In actual reality, the terrorists in America are white Christians.

I feel very strongly about this for a reason. I’ve traveled internationally a lot. I’ve crossed borders, utterly comfortable that I had my ducks in a row, confident that my status as an American would protect my rights. I’ve worked all my life with people from other countries. They enrich our country enormously.

On the genocide ladder, the first step is lists. When your official papers force you to state a religion, then somebody can keep a list of names. Everything comes after that: questioning, surveillance, detaining, deporting, relocating, and possibly worse.

I’ve read quite a lot about Rwanda. One of the things that made the genocide so easy was the fact that everybody had to state their tribe on their identity papers. So when the killing started, they didn’t have to wonder who to target. They had lists.

In America, we don’t have to state our religion, ever, to anybody. Until now. According to Trump.

1/23/17 – It was all a big joke

I’m still trying to figure out how the Clown in the White House got elected. If Hillary got so many more votes. Even allowing for the weirdnesses of the electoral college, you still have a ton of voters who showed up to vote for this guy.

I’m starting to think that a sizable percentage voted for him because they never believed he would win. The same way they did in the primaries. It was their way of registering disgust with the other candidates (a valid complaint!) and an unwillingness to embrace the status quo, which is what Hillary represented to them. It was a little bit like, “Let’s vote for the lunatic, wouldn’t that be funny, since politics is such a circus anyhow.”

Yes, I know there are devoted Trump fans who really believe he has the right vision for America’s future. But I suspect that represents a much smaller fraction than we know.

How? The reason so many former Obama voters stayed home is the same reason these Trump jokers went to the voting booth — we had been told by the pollsters and pundits that Hillary was going to win. So why bother to vote? Or why not use your vote to give Washington the middle finger?

This is why nobody should ever not vote, and nobody should ever use their vote to make a statement when they’re not dead serious about living with the consequences.