Trump then, Tump now.

Back in the hallucinatory Republican primary season Donald Trump appeared indestructible. Nothing he said damaged his standing with a mob of angry, ill-informed, anti-institutional voters. He won over some regular folks, too, people who thought it might be a good idea to run the country like a business, or who just liked him on The Apprentice. But it was a small, core group of haters who armored him. He pandered to their nihilism and their prejudices. And they embraced a candidate who eschewed political correctness while giving voice to the racist sentiments that always simmer just below the surface of American public discourse.

Nobody else in the Republican Party had to stand by what he trumpsaid then, and few, if any, did. Now they do. Except, of course, when they don’t…as is the case with Trump’s hysterical denunciation of a federal judge named Gonzalo P. Curiel, a midwesterner who is overseeing a lawsuit against the shuttered scam that was Trump U. Trump says Curiel is a “Mexican” and therefore biased because Trump plans to “build a wall.” Expanding on this thesis, Trump has also said that he probably could not get a fair trial with a Muslim judge either. Presumably women judges fall into the same category, unless they are unusually attractive and thus exempt from Mr. Trump’s general disdain for women.

Republican office holders and party regulars have rushed to the TV cameras to denounce Trump’s position. Awkward. Even Newt Gingrich, a rumored running mate, has blasted Trump and suggested that he shut up about Curiel. Meanwhile, Republicans have been mum about the fact that they’re blocking President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court so their guy can make the pick after the election. Word from “their guy” is that minorities and women need not apply.

The Curiel fiasco shows how ambivalent Republicans are about their nominee. It also hints at how deeply he might hurt down-ballot Republicans this fall if they stay with his candidacy and it flames out in bigotry and ignorance. They’re hoping he’ll change. He won’t. They’re hoping he’ll “pivot” now that the primary is done. He won’t. They’re hoping he’ll somehow see that running for President is about something more important than his own ego. He won’t. They’re counting on him to surround himself with wise, temperate advisers who will keep him (and the country) on the rails. He hasn’t yet. And, most of all, they’re hoping he’ll stop saying stupid, offensive things.

Good luck with that.

Former Congressman and longtime GOP consultant Vin Weber has invoked the parable of the scorpion and the frog, in which the scorpion delivers a sting after promising not to because it’s “in his nature.” Weber says Trump is what Trump is, period. What we see is what is in his nature. Not a pretty picture.

What surely gives the Republicans the most heartburn over the Curiel flap is that Trump, when cornered in some outrage, invariably responds by launching a new outrage as a way of changing the subject. His candidacy lurches from one controversy to the next. And now each instance will require Republicans who want to cling to office (and maybe to a few shreds of dignity) to disavow what he says.

Well, they can do that. They just can’t do it with straight faces. And they can’t hide the disconnect from voters. How do you “endorse” a candidate you have to distance yourself from every other day? Donald Trump entered the race as a joke. He stands a good chance of going out the same way.

 

 

 

Gene and Bernie

Bernie Sanders, meet Eugene McCarthy. In my head. And in my heart.

A public-television show about McCarthy was called “I’m Sorry I Was Right.” And Bernie, you’re right, but it’s time to fold your tent.

In 1968 Gene McCarthy stole the hearts and stoked the dreams of young people across the country. The world was falling apart and up stood this poet from Minnesota whose earlier campaign pamphlet for his senate seat, I recall, carried this quote from Gene: “I like a man with a good woodpile; it shows he’s at peace with the world.”

The guy couldn’t win. He had no chance against LBJ, who’d won in 1964 in the definition of a landslide. The Vietnam war wouldn’t end, and what could this diffident senator do about it? He could stand up and holler, in I.F. Stone’s immortal exhortation to the young. And he did.

And Gene was right. About most things, including the war. And Bernie is right. About the economy and the tax code and Congress being rigged for the rich. About not enough having been done yet to keep the speculators from ruining the country — again. And Bernie is right about Hillary. She’s compromised. Her ethics are moth-eaten. She’s as inspiring as a box of raisin bran. And her judgment, in taking contributions to her foundation from foreign countries while secretary of state — really? And her two-hundred-grand speeches to fat cat bankers — come on. Mark Twain said “Tell me where a man gets his corn pone and I’ll tell you where he gets his opinions.” (Corn pone, a staple, like flour, for those of you who didn’t grow up in the 19th Century in the Ozarks like I did.) She’s secretive and calculating and … oh I wish she were Elizabeth Warren.

But Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, I love ya man. But you gotta get out of the way. I jumped on my phone during the first debate and sent you money. I voted for you in the Florida primary. Other than on guns, I haven’t heard a syllable from you I disagree with. But you gotta let Hillary take it to Trump.

Clinton is such a flawed candidate that only the fact that Trump is such a baby whiner egomaniac gives her a chance to save us all from him. Bernie, maybe, could do better against him. Maybe could give him the embarrassing unmasking he deserves. But Bern, you don’t got the votes, you don’t got the numbers. And even though you’re right, continuing to hammer at Hillary only increases the I-hope-scant chance that the world might end in November, with Austin weeping.

Howard Dean said tonight on MSNBC that there are meetings going on between Sanders’s and Clinton’s campaigns about how to land this plane. I hope so. California could end it or drag it out. Bernie, you’re right, and you’ve had a huge impact, you’ve moved Clinton and the party to the left, you’ve hollered yourself hoarse, and you’ve stirred up a wonderful mass of young people, including my niece/daughter Ally, and we all love you for it.

It’s time to stop pushing at Hillary and stand beside her. And keep hollering.

— Bruce BenidtIMG_4556

Reaping the Trumpian Harvest

It’s early days in terms of calculating the damage Donald J. Trump has already done to America but there are already many signs that he has emboldened racists, misogynists and other species of political fungi that have been mostly consigned in the shadows of American politics.

Let’s not even get started on how many of our allies are already rethinking their relationship with a country that may end up led by a man who thinks it’s a good thing that they’re “rattled” by his candidacy. Here, too, the damage he’s already done is considerable.

In fact, Mr. Trump could drop out of the race tomorrow and we’d still be years recoMatthew Ericksonvering.

Or maybe his candidacy is the kind of damage a democracy like ours is ill-equipped to recover from. Take a few minutes to watch the announcement speech of one Matthew Erickson, the Republicans’ latest candidate to succeed Congressman John Kline in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District. Mr. Trump likes to boast about his success in bringing new people into the political process. If this is a representative example, he’s done us no favors by creating a new class of candidates and activists who think his example is worthy of following. We may never wring this stain out of our national fabric.

I weep for our country.

– Austin

 

The Long Hot Summer

Our lesson for today:

1. demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than through rational argument

2. fascist: a political leader who believes in authoritarian nationalism

3. moron: a person who is okay with either or both of the above, which, according to recent polling, includes nearly half the American population

4. conventional wisdom: a banal, soul-crushing substitute for actually knowing something

5. pundit: idiot (Not to be confused with moron, as pundits do not care about what the government does, only who will get to be in it.)

6. eternity: the time remaining between now and November 8

 

American Exceptionalism Defined

The PeripheralLast summer I read an extraordinary book – The Peripheral by William Gibson (@greatdismal) – that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to look 20 – and 100 – years into the future. It’s such a good book, in fact, that I’ve re-read it (something I almost never do). Twice.

At one point in the book, the primary character is explaining why she refuses to do something terrible to people who are actively trying to hurt her and her family even though her refusal put her and her loved ones in danger. In three simple sentences, she explained American exceptionalism in words even Donald Trump can understand:

“They’re assholes. We’re not. But we’re only not assholes if we won’t do shit like that.”

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, appears to believe that American exceptionalism means we have to one-up the assholes. If you’ve ever caught one of his rallies, he loves to tell the (apparently pants-on-fire false) story of how Gen. John Pershing “took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood,” and shot 49 Muslim rebels. “The 50th person, he said, ‘You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem.”

In Mr. Trump’s worldview, ISIS’ burning captives to death or conducting mass drownings isn’t a sign of its illegitimacy, it’s the nation-state equivalent of a “your momma” diss that has to be outdone.

Sad!

– Austin

 

 

And…We’re Back Live From the Site of the Apocalypse

Guess who’s back, back again…Shady’s back, tell a friend…

– Eminem

Goddammit.

At the end of our last episode, things seemed to be on an even keel. We figured it was safe for us to slip off into the sunset, that you guys could take it from here. If it wasn’t a silver-bullet-Who-was-that-masked-man-Hi-ho-Silver exit, it was at least Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little riding off in a limo at the Warner Brothers backlot.

And look what happened. You – we…because I bear a share of the responsibility – let Donald Trump happen.

I’m not mad. Just…disappointed. It’s (y)our democracy, after all, so what you(we) do with it is up to you(us), but I can’t help but think you(we) were raised better than this. 240 years of struggle to perfect the union just so we can watch the most unqualified candidate for president in modern history be this close to the Oval Office.

That’s no hyperbole or partisan perspective…it’s verifiable fact. If you trace the start of the modern age to the 1944 election – the election that most closely corresponds to the start of the nuclear age – there have been 18 presidential elections, 12 victorious candidates and 19 losers (I’m including the three third-party candidates who earned any meaningful number of electoral votes – Strom Thurmond, Harry Byrd, George Wallace – and excluding cranks like Ross Perot and Ralph Nader got 0). Any one of those 31 people was better qualified to be president than Donald J. Trump. Even the three guys who ran on the segregationist platforms had more credentials.

Here’s an interesting thought experiment: go to the Wikipedia entry on U.S. presidential elections and post your top five candidates and your bottom five. Not just in terms of qualifications, but in terms of who was/would have been a good president. I bet the top five are pretty easy and will reflect most people’s partisan biases. The bottom five, though, pose some interesting questions: Would Donald Trump make a worse president than George Wallace would have been? Than Strom Thurmond?

Honest to God, I’m not sure.

I can say for sure that I would have chosen any of the major party candidate – including Nixon, Goldwater and George W. Bush – over Donald Trump. Yes, even George W. Bush – who led us into the single stupidest foreign policy mistake since Vietnam, since the Treaty of Versailles, since…ever maybe – I would be ecstatic to have him back for a third term.

Another thought experiment: Which option would you pick?

Option #1: We call off the election right now and Obama is succeeded by the WORST major party presidential candidate since 1944. Hillary doesn’t get elected but neither does Trump.

Option #2: We let the election play out and hope that Hillary beats Trump.

I consider Trump such a threat to the country that it’s not a tough call for me. Thomas Dewey, Richard Nixon, George McGovern, Barry Goldwater, Jimmy Carter, George W…each of these men would have been or were deeply flawed presidents IMHO and any of them would be a better president in 2016 than Donald J. Trump.

So, this means I can’t just bitch about this. I have to do stuff. I have to donate money to Hillary (more than I’d planned to), I have to volunteer for campaign activities (hadn’t planned to), I have to advocate for Hillary – and against Trump – wherever possible. It means I have to reactivate The Crowd if for no other reason than to give me an outlet for my near-panic about all this.

Now this looks like a job for me so everybody just follow me…‘Cause we need a little controversy…’Cause it feels so empty without me.

Welcome back, Crowdies.

– Austin

 

 

 

Deep Breathing Exercises

I keep repeating the following:

  • Twenty-six percent of voters identify as Republican
  • Thirty-two percent of Republicans support Donald Trump for President
  • That means only 8.3 percent of the electorate has lost its mind

Whew.

My question to the CDC is simply this: Have you begun an investigation into what is clearly a pressing public health issue? If 18 million of our friends and neighbors had been infected with some other form of infection that affected their judgement and rationality, we’d be hell-bent on finding the source of the bacteria.

C’mon guys, you took on ebola; surely your field teams can figure out Trump.

  • Austin