Sunday, May 21, 2017

Democrats Need To Reintroduce Themselves To Rural America

I reposted a video on Facebook that looks back at the political events of the past week and demonstrates how FOX News distorts, deflects and denies stories critical of Trump and his administration. Regular viewers of FOX News are told over and over again the mainstream media is fake news, journalists are treating Trump unfairly, stories damning to the president have no basis in fact, etc., etc., etc. If your main source of news is FOX, you’re living in a bubble of right-wing fantasies and delusions.

Yet FOX News isn’t the only culprit in the conservative echo chamber. Another factor that on the one hand seems self-evident, yet is vitally important to the future chances of Democratic candidates, is what I call the closed political loop of small-town America.

During my life I have lived in several small rural towns. I found many of the clichés about small town living to be true. Neighbors help neighbors, doors don’t have to be locked at night and there is a real sense of community pride you won’t find in larger cities. In some ways, small towns are like extended families, with all of the good, bad and ugly aspects you would expect. And like many families, political views are generally shared and reinforced within the clan. To no one’s surprise, most rural folks are staunch conservatives, and so are their friends and family. When the men meet at the diner on main street for coffee, they aren’t quoting Marx or praising Elizabeth Warren, they’re parroting FOX News talking points.

I believe this is an important issue for Democratic candidates in all states, but especially red states. The good folks living in small town Arkansas or Georgia or Idaho do not seek out and rarely receive news or opinions contrary to their fixed worldview.  When it does happen on occasion, it is dismissed out of hand. That’s why I believe it is necessary for Democratic candidates to go to the rural towns in their states and meet with people face to face. Democrats have written off rural America for far too long, and the result is a huge swath of the country drowning in a red sea.

Democratic candidates shouldn’t expect a warm welcome in rural areas, but it is absolutely necessary, especially in this era of Mad King Trump, to reintroduce traditional Democratic ideas back into middle America. It is the only hope we have of ever turning red states blue again.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Is Trump Really As Stupid As He Sounds?

One of the fundamental questions reasonably intelligent people ask each other is whether Donald Trump is really as stupid (or mentally ill) as he sounds or is he simply playing a character who recites lines to satisfy his loyal followers. Although not the definitive answer, a blurb from an article in this month’s The New Yorker tilts the needle toward the former.

In a comment on exercise, the article states, “Other than golf, [Trump] considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.”

My first question is, where would anyone even come up with such a bizarre notion? Did it come from the same kooky personal doctor who wrote, “[Trump] will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency?” What universe does Trump live in where he can seriously believe something that is at odds with every bit of research done on the subject of exercise?

Not only is Trump a pathological liar, a severe narcissist and a sociopath, he is also delusional. All conservatives practice inductive reasoning, which is using a specific instance to make generalized conclusions, such as the claim that a black woman once bought vodka with food stamps, hence all food stamp recipients and black people are lazy cheaters with no morals. Trump, however, takes inductive reasoning to new heights, creating an entire personal universe of gross generalizations based on little more than something someone once said.

The level of Trump’s ignorance is not merely shocking, it is also very, very dangerous.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Will Losing Their Health Insurance Help Republican Voters Wake Up?

Seeing video and photos of Trump and congressional Republicans celebrating the passage of the catastrophic Trumpcare legislation turned my stomach in a way that so many other recent images have not. Why? Because the clusterfuck of mostly rich white males guffawing and ass-slapping each other like they’d just gotten free tickets to a Three Stooges film marathon were laughing at you and me. That’s right, good citizen, we were the butt of the joke in Washington, D.C. yesterday, as Republican members of congress and Trump celebrated our utter stupidity, our unassailable ignorance, our inability to distinguish fact from fiction. And by “we,” I mean the millions of Americans who keep voting for Republicans.

To Republican candidates, a large swath of American voters are country hicks in the big city who will stand at the Three-Card Monte table indefinitely, continuously betting that they will win the next hand. And that characterization is highly accurate. Part of this is because the marks get their information and their biases confirmed from a corporatist network media and delusional right-wing cable “news” shows. FOX News has been the most watched cable news show for years. Bolstered with misinformation and appeals to their darkest fears, Jesus-loving whites turn out on election day eager to vote for the Christian con-artist with the shiniest American flag lapel pin.

It is very unlikely that the Trumpcare legislation will pass in the Senate and become law, but that doesn’t mean a slightly less onerous bill couldn’t succeed in the future. As long as Trump is president and both houses are controlled by Republicans, there will be no end of legislation designed to benefit the .01 percent at the expense of the rest of us. Today it’s healthcare, tomorrow it will be taxes and the next day energy and on and on, with the pigs at the trough never getting enough.

Will it take the total annihilation of this country to open the eyes of the American voter? What will it take to break the trance of values voters and get them to see the con-artists for who they truly are? Will losing their health insurance be enough? What will wake these people up?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Angry Town Hall Attendees Need To Look In The Mirror

Across red state America from Idaho to Florida, congressional Republicans are returning to their hometowns to face angry voters. Those conservative reps brave enough to attend Town Hall meetings are being met with large hostile crowds who are demanding answers about their support for Trump and his toxic agenda.

And I don’t get it.

The majority of the people attending these Town Hall meetings are Republicans. They likely voted for the representative they are now booing and probably voted for Trump. Yet here they are criticizing the person who they knew was a conservative, who they knew would support the Republican presidential candidate, and who they knew would follow Donald Trump’s lead. They’re mad at their representative, when they should be mad at themselves for their ill informed, self-defeating choices.

There’s a ton of analysis out there about why people continue to vote against their own best interests, but what does it take to get them to stop? Do they really believe a Democrat would do a worse job then their current congressperson, who they now revile? Red state Americans willingly voted for a president who was an avowed racist (a point in his favor, I guess), a misogynist, a serial liar and a corrupt businessman basically because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton or another Democrat. And then they are disappointed with the results. 

How bad will things have to get before Republican voters realize the leaders of their party have no interest in helping them or making their lives better? And how long will it take for Democrats to wake up and realize that neo-liberal, corporate-sponsored candidates like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry won’t win the hearts and minds of Middle Americans?

I know it can be hard to admit your own mistakes, but when your very survival and the survival of your children is at stake — and with Trump at the helm this isn’t hyperbole  — isn’t it time to reconsider where your loyalty lies?

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Nightmare Realized: Trump Is Taking Us To War

We stand on the brink of a major conflict with Russia. How did we get to this perilous point? What happened to America? Here’s a brief overview of the past year to help understand how things went so horribly wrong.

May 2016 – Ted Cruz and John Kasich, the last Republican candidates for president standing, ended their campaigns, making Donald Trump the presumptive Republican nominee to the shock of almost everyone.

July 2016 – Despite numerous polls showing Bernie Sanders had the best chance of beating Trump in the general election, and with the overt help of the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton received Sanders’ endorsement and became the Democratic nominee for president.

November 16, 2016 – Despite endorsements by every major newspaper in the country, despite being declared the winner of the presidential debates, despite numerous revelations exposing her opponent’s racist and misogynistic background, despite her opponent’s refusal to release his tax returns, despite reports of Russian influence within the Trump campaign, despite spending almost twice as much money during her campaign as Trump, despite the polls and despite winning the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, Hillary Clinton loses the election by 77 Electoral College votes to wealthy TV personality Donald Trump. White Americans in the Mountain, Midwest and Southern states expressed their anger at “the establishment” by voting in a true outsider.

January 20, 2017 – Donald Trump is inaugurated 45th President of the United States.  Trump spends his first few days in office arguing that his inauguration crowd was larger than Obama’s (it wasn’t) and that he would have won the popular vote if it wasn’t for millions of illegal voters (no evidence has been found to support this claim). Using his Twitter account, Trump establishes a pattern of outrageous, insulting and often fabricated comments to communicate his views and reach his constituents.

January 2017 to May 2017 –

Trump nominates scores of uniquely unqualified alt-right ideologues and family members to cabinet posts and positions as advisors. With the help of Mitch McConnell and a lapdog congress, nominations are rammed through the approval process with virtually no vetting. This pattern continued to include the April appointment of rabidly right-wing judge Neil Gorsuch to a seat on the Supreme Court.

Accusations of Russian involvement in the recent U.S. election rise to the surface as it is revealed numerous Trump administration officials met with top Russian politicians and oligarchs before and after the election. Trump’s ties to Russian oligarchs going back years are exposed. Investigations are started, but Congress continues to run interference for Trump and block any serious probe into the accusations.

The Trump administration approaches government spending with a chainsaw, proposing drastic cuts in every area except military spending. Many new appointees as cabinet heads are avowed enemies of the agencies they now oversee and have no problems with slashing their own budgets or eliminating the agency altogether. Threats are made to privatize Social Security and Medicare. Environmental and safety regulations are decimated.

Trump wages war on undocumented citizens, ordering the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to arrest and deport thousands of immigrants, tearing families apart and deporting many people who have been productive, contributing Americans for decades.

Intrigue and internecine warfare escalates within the White House, as various factions fall in and out of favor with Trump. Family members are given positions of enormous influence within the administration and resentment has escalated. Once Trump’s most influential advisor, white nationalist Steve Bannon appears to be on the way out as Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner accumulates more and more power.

April 2017 – As the conflicts within Syria continued to simmer, reports reached the west that chemical weapons were used on citizens of a Syrian village and that men, women and children died horrible deaths as a result. The attack was blamed on Syrian President Assad. Despite the fact that Donald Trump had criticized President Obama for similar actions in Syria on many occasions in the past, Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian airstrip on April 6. Details of the attack have since emerged, and we now know the Trump administration communicated with Russia before the attack and, coincidentally, Syrians at the airport were given a heads-up hours before the attack and were able to evacuate the facility before the bombs fell. The Russians were notified of the attack before congress.

The Syrian attack appears to have angered Russia, and some type of response is expected. Additionally, there have been no reports of whether the bombing destroyed any chemical facilities or accomplished anything substantial. There are suspicions being voiced that the attack was an attempt to divert attention away from the Russian investigations in Washington.

Today – The situation in which American finds itself is frightening. We have an unqualified, unhinged narcissistic president who may be wittingly or unwittingly instigating a war with Russia to take the heat off of his administration’s collusion with Russia to sway our presidential election. We cannot count on the other two branches of government to help us, as congress and the Supreme Court are under the influence of right-wing radicals who have no allegiance to democracy or even what most of us consider reality.

Trump is taking America down a very dark and dangerous path at a rapid pace. The question is, how will we stop him before it is too late?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Russia’s Foreign Policy Strategy Is Bigger Than Trump

As the whole “Russian connection” drama plays out in Washington, D.C., we might want to take a step back and look at the larger picture. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, Russia has adopted a new foreign policy strategy that is far less reliant on military aggression and far more about covert, subversive activities. The new tools of Russian expansionism are computer hackers, powerful, wealthy oligarchs aligned with Putin and alliances with western alt-right media outlets and politicians.

Of course, you can hardly keep track of the Trump administration players whose Russian connections have been exposed, but the Russian strategy is bearing fruit in Europe, as well. Just today, we learned that French far-right leader Marine Le Pen met with Russian diplomats in Moscow just months before the French presidential election. Russian agents and oligarchs are clearly stoking the flames of nationalism and assisting far-right politicians in their quest for power.

And Russia’s tactics aren’t always highly sophisticated. Good old fashioned blackmail still works, and there are hints and leaks that western politicians, including Donald Trump, have been caught in very compromising situations while guests of the Motherland. Little sets Putin’s government apart from an organized crime ring, as evidenced by political critics and Trump enemies experiencing tragic “accidents” before they are able to spill the beans.

Like every organized crime web, the threads all lead to money. Rachel Maddow has done an exemplary job of putting together the pieces of the Trump/Russia money connections that have stretched back years, and Moscow is today funneling money to nationalist candidates and organizations throughout Europe and the U.S. Media organizations like Breitbart and Alex Jones’ Info Wars are being investigated by the FBI for their possible relationships with Russian agents.

What is Russia’s end game in all of this? It doesn’t take a PhD in international affairs to see that helping countries elect leaders sympathetic to Putin is in the best interest of Russia. Having Western politicians in your pocket is like having money in the bank. There are, however, also great risks to this strategy. Trump is a dangerously unhinged character and a destabilizing force in America. Russia managed to get it’s man into the White House, but he is such a loose cannon that the possibility of this presidency crashing and burning have become very real, and this would not be in Putin’s best interests.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

No, Trump Did Not Inherit A Mess. We Have That To Look Forward To.

Since taking office, Trump has said on more than one occasion that he inherited a mess from President Obama. I have run across Trump supporters in comment sections repeating this absurd assertion, once again proving that Turmpland is a fact-free amusement park where you can believe any old thing you want. The earth is 6,000 year’s old? Sure. Dinosaurs and people coexisted? Okay. There’s no such thing as human-influenced climate change? You betcha. Barack Obama left Trump a country in the midst of economic ruin? Why not?

I am not a huge Obama fan, and I believe some of his decisions during his tenure were misguided and not in the best interests of America BUT, for Trump to claim Obama left him a mess simply flies in the face of reality. And let’s also try and be honest about President Obama’s tenure. During his eight years in the White House, the man was faced with a Republican congress that tried, and in many cases succeeded, in thwarting the President’s policy agenda at every turn. The fact that Obama got as much done as he did seems amazing based on his relentless opposition in congress. And the economic mess that George Bush left behind (remember 2008?) put Barack in a hole before he even started.

What Trump actually inherited is a country with an economic expansion that was the third longest on record; an economy that had been adding jobs every month for the past six years; and a federal deficit that had sharply declined from a high of 9.8 percent at the height of the last recession to 3.2 percent last year. In addition, worker wages have been climbing for the past four years and the median household income jumped 5.2 percent in 2014-2015 (the last years records are available).

This isn’t to say everything was rosy when Obama left Washington. Unemployment, income inequality and sluggish growth remained problematic, but has anyone heard from Trump solutions to these issues that don’t involve massive program cuts and tax breaks for the wealthy? No, the mess is currently underway and will only get worse over time. Trump’s plan for the economy will work just as well as Bush’s did, with huge, untenable deficits, declining jobs and wages falling further behind the rising cost of living.

The one who is going to inherit a mess is the president following Trump.