In No Uncertain Terms

What kind of language does the current moment deserve? Some prefer measured, unemotional words. Others prefer something more. 

Steve Schmidt is a conservative political strategist who is severely critical of today’s Republican Party. He was John McCain’s senior strategist in the senator’s losing presidential campaign (should we blame Schmidt for the rise of Sarah Palin?). He was one of the founders of the Lincoln Project and is active on Twitter. Here’s some of what he had to say this weekend:

Please watch this and share. I am absolutely fucking outraged and enraged by the nihilistic vandalism of our country for the sake of sustaining T____s’ ONGOING campaign to hold political power at the price of burning it all down. (Twitter)

The immorality of it all is beyond grotesque. It is depraved. It is cowardly. It is shameful and despicable conduct at an epic level. There is a rot, a deep rot within our politics that can only be fixed by purging people like @marcorubio from public life by rebuking them in an election and then silencing them with shame.

No healthy country can have @GOPLeader @marcorubio @mattgaetz @tedcruz @laurenboebert @RepMTG and too many more to conceivably mention in positions of public trust. The cynicism, lying, extremism, weakness, insanity and cowardice combines to create a putrid stench that simply beggars belief. It’s despicable fucking conduct that’s so breathtaking there is no word that comes to mind. The depraved indifference and utter, shocking disregard for the lives of the American people is an act of corruption unequaled in American history.

There are hundreds of Thousands of dead Americans who would be alive but for the stupefying incompetence, carelessness and stupidity of T____, his government, his cabinet secretaries, aides, propagandists, financiers and congressional accomplices. 620.000 Americans are dead yet, the assault on sanity continues unabated. It never ever fucking never ever EVER takes a day off, ever.

Here we are today, the Delta variant raging, the pandemic reignited by an unvaccinated population that has been lied to, deceived by, disoriented by and confused by the deliberate, purposeful premeditated lying of Murdoch, Fox News, Carlson, and hundreds of lesser demagogues and liars. More will die because of this nihilism. Evil.

The country will be consumed by Covid again so that T____, @GOPLeader and all the rest of his nest of nationalists, autocrats, extremists, Racists, fascists and conspiracy loons can blame it all on Biden. They are happy to burn everything down around them for power, including us. Every normal person in this country should be deeply frightened by this. Deeply. I know I am. We have to fight back against the lies and malice that have become virtues to our elected political arsonists. They call themselves Republicans, but that is a disguise for what they have become.

The snarling white faces frozen in photos, screaming in rage and spitting on black children trying to walk into a schoolhouse would no doubt be awestruck at the capacity of technology to allow their children and grandchildren to virtually spit on the greatest champion in the history of her sport, all the way to Tokyo. They would be slack jawed at the progress we have made in America. Their kids and grandkids don’t even have to call black Americans the N word anymore. They just say CRT [Critical Race Theory].

The next chapter of the story, a tragic and deadly farce will be the Blame it all on Biden part. The arsonists will be gleeful in their attacks on the firefighters who are fighting to save lives and extinguish the conflagration. We have to bury this in the next two elections. If we don’t , we lose the country. We will lose it to madness, nihilism; cynicism, greed, hate, racial animus. We will lose it to terrible people, the depraved and extreme, the corrupt and sinister. We will lose it to the T____ family and we won’t get it back next time.

Next:

I’ve driven 1000 miles this week . . . and thought about a lot of things. I’m not sure this is a fair criticism as I’m working through the wretchedness of this dishonest moment and the nihilistic craziness of the overwhelming majority of elected Republican leaders (Twitter).

Many news stories and a great deal of present moment journalism cover our political free fall through a lens that captures each appalling moment, often deeply and compellingly. The stories are framed around an event, something that just occurred, rather than as a puzzle piece, which gives context to a larger, fluid story unraveling before our eyes.

Let’s look at two people as examples. Each has spoken out against T____ in the past. They were precise in their worry and condemnation of his exquisite awfulness. Each knew exactly who T____ was. The one thing T____ deserves great credit for is his absolute consistency, steadfastness and commitment to the truth of sharing who he really is. They all knew what T____ was because they told us. Then they collaborated and discarded every principle they claimed to hold.

We all know this is true. I know it. You know it. They know it and every journalist who ever interviews them knows it.

They are titanic frauds, elected weasels who share a talent for shamelessness, built on a foundation of cynicism and stone cold belief that their supporters are marks, a type of feeble prey that are either too stupid to notice the contradictions and hypocrisy of literally every spoken word or are too lazy and slug-like to care about being abused by constant gaslighting.

How should this be covered? Lie by lie, or is the story the journey of the liar and their deepening commitment to an autocratic movement. For me that is the story. It is a continuum that is dynamic and continually unfolding. This puts a different frame around the consideration @EliseStefanik should be given when she says really stupid and dishonest things like @SpeakerPelosi was the real 1/6 villain and @Liz_Cheney, the pristinely conservative Republican Congresswoman from Wyoming, is a Pelosi Democrat. Why should anyone pretend that @EliseStefanik is on the level about anything? Even she knows she is lying and she knows exactly why she is doing it.

She is doing it for power and self interest. She’s not an actress. She isn’t playing a part in a make believe story. She is an active participant in a movement that is trying to burn down our democracy in both the name of freedom and D____ T____. She is a leader in a movement that has desecrated the compact between us around how we share political power in America. They have rejected the most fundamental aspect of our system of government. What more evidence is needed around her bad faith?

When these members speak they lie. When they lie there seems to be some weird Washington DC courtesy extended in any given story, where whatever it is they are saying is covered through a prism of good faith, despite the accumulation of past statements and gazillions of hours of interviews that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is all an exercise in bad faith.

In short, the individuals who are most effective at demonstrating the depravity of the moment are the collaborators themselves. They indict themselves for the cowards, cynics and opportunists they are with their own words. Shouldn’t the story focus on the cancer that has consumed their public character? American Puritanism turned the question of public character into a sexual one over the last 35 years. Two results followed.

One, previously unimaginable depths of hypocrisy were achieved by @newtgingrich, Ken Starr and legions of others. Second, the concept of public character became so twisted that the behaviors of @EliseStefanik @marcorubio and @LindseyGrahamSC aren’t viewed through a character lens at all. Selling out the country, with purpose and intent for power and self is a betrayal of duty and a despicable act. It is also a plainly obvious one. Why do we have to pretend that the absurdities they utter aren’t easily refutable by them? By their own words.

When @EliseStefanik speaks shouldn’t all of questions that follow be focused on why she is saying the things she is saying as opposed to what she is saying? What is happening in this country is building. It’s gathering. It’s moving, growing and evolving. The signs are everywhere. Yes, a million loathsome moments are all worthy of scrutiny and study. I just wonder if the focus on those moments is causing us to miss the movement towards the destination ahead that while unseen for now is certainly terrible and likely a hellscape from which there is no return. Perspective matters when it comes to orienting to reality and danger.

Sometimes I worry about missing the autocratic forest for the trees.

Finally:

The 1/6/21 attack on America took the form of an insurrection aimed at destroying the Constitutional process that lawfully bestows power to the winner of a Presidential election in the in the the name of the People of the United States who are sovereign in this land. It was incited by a President of the United States and a legion of liars and cynics that include nearly every Republican leader. Of course, that fact alone defines it as the worst and most dangerous attack since the Civil War, but it gets worse (Twitter).

The 1/6 Insurrection by a T____ mob mixed with organized extremist elements including white supremacists, fascists, and violent paramilitary militia groups is the only attack against the nation in our history that has not rallied the whole of the American people to defend America. Instead, tens of millions are broadly sympathetic to the violence and obvious lies that underpin it all. The whole of the Republican Party has weighed in on the matter by siding with the insurrectionists and the defeated disgrace that incited it.

The measurement scale of gauging the insidiousness of their betrayal and collaboration with this Anti-American movement ranges from incitement and active participation in the attack to a dishonest indifference forged by an alchemy of vices; cowardice, fear, ambition, self interest, cynicism and opportunism have overwhelmed any sense of duty, patriotism and love of country.

No other attack against America in our long story has ever produced that response. No other attack has ever produced such sympathy for the attackers. No other attack has ever produced such a fierce determination to deny it occurred at all by politicians who advance their careers on the singularity of their talent to gaslight and deceive the people they swore an oath to serve by preserving and protecting the Constitution of the United States.

There is a name for the Treacherous lot of elected leaders who have forsaken our country. They call themselves Republicans. They serve a master, not an idea or ideal. They serve their leader, T____. The whole world has seen their perfidy. The whole world has seen their rot and the weakness they are spreading in our country. For sure, the Chinese and Russians have seen it.

What they see is a decaying society brought low by the leaders who were elected to strengthen it. They see a country where the lie and truth can stand equally, just like theirs. They must be rejoicing as idealism is being overrun by a cynicism so powerful that it has caused the greatest crisis of faith and belief in the pillars of our Republic since the Civil War. What a tragic moment. It has left us all with a choice. What side are you on?

There are more of us than them but fanaticism, extremism and commitment are on their side. Apathy to the danger through civic disengagement in the name of political exhaustion is what the autocrats are hoping for. Let’s not give it to them.

In fact, let us fight to create a great awakening and fill it with an unyielding resolve to crush the fever dreams of power for people like T____, @EliseStefanik and @marcorubio who have come to hate with deeds what they profess to love with words. Let’s strike them all down in the ballot box. We cannot let freedom slip away in America.

Voting Is War, Part 2

In their latest ruling, the Supreme Court’s six reactionaries ignored the law in order to help their party’s candidates get elected. Paul Waldman of The Washington Post discusses the latest case in which the Court’s liberals are reduced to writing a “blistering” dissent:

To no one’s surprise, the Supreme Court’s six conservatives [No, radical reactionaries] on Thursday ruled for Republicans in a pair of key voting rights matters, upholding two Arizona voter suppression laws. It’s part of the long-running partnership between Republicans in the states, Republicans in Congress and Republicans on the Supreme Court to make sure that the rules of American elections are twisted and contorted to give the GOP every possible advantage.

At issue was a section of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which was once the crown jewel of U.S. voting law and a foundation of political equality, that has been gutted by a Supreme Court unremittingly hostile to voting rights.

And the justices aren’t done, not by a long shot.

One of Arizona’s laws makes it a crime for most people to deliver someone else’s absentee ballot, a heretofore common practice of particular importance to Native Americans in the state, who find it challenging to vote given their wide geographic dispersion and slow mail service (but also used regularly by organizers in Black and Latino communities). The other law says that if you vote in the wrong precinct, the state will throw out your entire ballot, even the votes for races where the precinct is irrelevant (e.g., president).

The laws were challenged as violating the VRA because they disproportionately affect minority voters. As the plaintiffs pointed out, minority voters in Arizona are about twice as likely to mistakenly vote in the wrong precinct for a variety of reasons.

Did the Republicans who put that law in place understand that? Oh, you bet they did.

Section 2 of the VRA says statutes are invalid if they have the effect of harming people’s ability to vote on the basis of their race, even if you can’t prove that the party that passed it was doing so with racist intent. Whether that section of the VRA has any meaning in the wake of this decision is an open question.

The decision, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., argued that the system in Arizona offers ample opportunity for everyone to vote, even if it seems to fall heavier on some people, and concluded that the state’s interest in preventing voter fraud outweighs whatever overall disparate impact the law has.

The fact that voter fraud is almost entirely fictional did not disturb the justice.

In a blistering dissent [starting on page 45 of this PDF], Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the majority had essentially invented its own reading of the VRA, and accused the majority of pretending not to know that such state laws are occurring in a context where efforts to suppress minority voters continue.

“No one would know this from reading the majority opinion,” Kagan remarked.

Kagan’s disgust is appropriate. This case is part of a long and ignominious campaign by the court’s conservatives to hollow out American democracy in any way they can, so long as doing so helps the Republican Party. For this court, no voting rights provision is too sacrosanct to strike down and no voter suppression law is too discriminatory to uphold. If next week Republican-controlled states brought back poll taxes and literacy tests, the court would probably find a reason to validate them.

In the past few years, this court has again and again taken a hammer to the rules meant to ensure free elections in which all Americans can participate on an equal footing. Let’s remind ourselves:

  • In 2010, the justices said corporations have the right to use their billions to influence elections.
  • In 2011, they struck down a public financing law meant to allow candidates relying on small donations to compete with self-financed millionaires and billionaires.
  • In 2013, they struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, claiming it was no longer necessary because racism is pretty much over.
  • In 2018, they upheld ruthless voter purges that disenfranchise thousands of voters.
  • In 2019, they ruled that partisan gerrymandering, no matter how clearly it disenfranchises people, is beyond the ability of the courts to do anything about.

The partisan commitment of this court is so clear that in oral arguments, the lawyer for the Arizona GOP comfortably declared that the party has standing to support the law throwing out ballots cast at the wrong precinct because counting such votes “puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats.” He knew who he was talking to.

The big picture here is that the court’s conservatives operate according to the “heads we win, tails you lose” approach to voting rights, in which with only the occasional exception, the best predictor of how a voting rights case will turn out is which side the Republican Party is taking.

Pretty much the entire GOP is now committed to the idea that if elections were fair, they’d lose — so elections must not be allowed to be fair. That’s why they’ve been on a tear at the state level, passing dozens of laws making voting more cumbersome, inconvenient and difficult, all aimed directly at populations they believe are more likely to vote for Democrats.

Wherever those laws pass, they’re being challenged in court. But what’s going to happen when those challenges make their way to the Supreme Court, with its 6-to-3 conservative supermajority? The answer is all too clear.

Understanding Our Fellow Voters

I read one of those “understanding Txxxx voters” articles at Salon today (no link provided). If you can find it, you can read every word and won’t find anything concrete. The author says the Democratic Party must “start changing its approach”; “a great number of people in the country . . . simply feel unseen, and in desperation they reach out to anyone who even appears to care about them”; and “people are looking for a sense of belonging, looking to be heard, looking for professional and educational opportunity, looking to feel valued and loved”.

These are his explanations for the president getting 70 million votes. He must think the president “appears to care about” his supporters, that he sees them and loves them. If the president appears to care about them, it’s because they think “he tells it like it is”. He expresses opinions they agree with. He makes them think he’ll protect them from Spanish-speaking immigrants; Islamic terrorists; uppity black people; leftist protesters; feminist writers; Whole Foods customers (but just the liberal ones); people with advanced degrees; and the uncaring Democratic politicians who tell us to wear masks, use acronyms like LGBTQ, worry about pollution, and want to raise taxes on the rich and increase the minimum wage.

Democrats say over and over that we’re all in this together, that everyone should have an opportunity to succeed. Txxxx supporters don’t like the sound of that at all.

Here’s another view. Two professors, Brad Evans and Henry Giroux, have written an article called “American Fascism”. An excerpt:

Fascism is a mutable beast. Like society itself, it is prone to transformation. We cannot underestimate the importance of this. Since so much of our understanding of fascism is informed by history, too often we fixate on the final acts of its destruction. The destruction of life, the destruction of cities, the destruction of politics. Whilst this concern with end state fascism does allow us to emphasise how truly nihilistic and deadly its violence can become; it nevertheless works in an apologetic way insomuch as fascism cannot be named if democracy hasn’t fully been suspended or gas chambers built and people led to certain death. . . We must recognize that fascism is a process, parasitic to everyday fears, anxieties and insecurities. . . . It is adept at seducing the masses, so they desire their oppression as though it were their liberation.

We do not accept the notion that talk of a fascist politics emerging in the United States and in the rise of right-wing populist movements across the globe can and should be dismissed as a naive exaggeration or a misguided historical analogy. In the age of leaders such as Txxxx, Bolsonaro, and Erdogan, such objections feel like reckless efforts to deny the growing relevance of the term and the danger posed by a number of societies staring into the abyss of a menacing authoritarianism.

In fact, the case can be made that rather than harbor an element of truth, such criticism further normalizes the very fascism it critiques, allowing the extraordinary and implausible, if not unthinkable, to become ordinary. Under such circumstances, history is not simply being ignored or distorted, it is being erased. Not only in such cases does one run the risk of repeating the worse elements of the past, but also becoming complicitous with them.

In the current historical moment, a growing fascist politics connects the ravages of [contemporary] capitalism, . . . media perversions of truth, and authoritarian practices with fascist ideals . . . This unprecedented convergence includes: a disdain for human rights, a rampant anti-intellectualism, a populist celebration of white nationalism, the cult of leadership, the protection of corporate power, the elevation of pejorative emotion over critical insight, rampant cronyism, a disdain for dissent and intellectuals, and the “more or less explicit endorsement of violence against political enemies”.

What this new political formation suggests is that fascism and its brutalizing logics are never entirely interred in the past and that the conditions that produce its central assumptions are with us once again, ushering in a period of modern barbarity that appears to be reaching towards homicidal extremes . . . While there is no perfect fit between Txxxx and the fascist societies of Mussolini, Hitler, and Pinochet, the basic tenets of hypernationalism, racism, misogyny, rootlessness, and manipulation of the rule of law, “the essential message is the same”. Fascism is never entirely interred in the past and as Hannah Arendt reminded us in her discussions of totalitarianism, it can crystallize in different forms. It may go into remission, but it never entirely disappears.

So when another commentator says “we need to learn to say ‘yes’ to each other”, we should consider what we’re saying “yes” to.

A woman who identifies herself as a nurse in South Dakota wrote this on Twitter last night:

I have a night off from the hospital. . . I can’t help but think of the Covid patients the last few days. The ones that stick out are those who still don’t believe the virus is real. The ones who scream at you for a magic medicine and that Joe Biden is going to ruin the USA. All while gasping for breath on 100% Vapotherm. They tell you there must be another reason they are sick. They call you names and ask why you have to wear all that “stuff” because they don’t have COVID because it’s not real. Yes. This really happens. And I can’t stop thinking about it. These people really think this isn’t going to happen to them. And then they stop yelling at you when they get intubated. It’s like a fucking horror movie that never ends. 

Just say “yes”?

Changing Course

After talking with someone about the constant stream of bad news assaulting us every day, I decided to do something different with this blog. I’m going to try to post about more positive topics. Given how things are, this will probably mean I’ll have less to say.

The same phenomenon is visible in a political newsletter I get. The section called “Is That Hope?” — which features encouraging news — is always the smallest by far.

My posting less shouldn’t be much of a loss, however, since there is too much to read on the internet anyway (as well as in out of the way places like “books”).

But there’s one qualification: I intend to insert something like the following in every post, as a reminder and because silence might be seen as acquiescence:

The American president is a disaster. He is almost certainly doing something horrendous right now. That’s why we should vote him and every other Republican out of office in November. If you’re willing and able to support Democratic candidates in addition to voting for them, please do.

For example, I might point out that Gary Larson, the cartoonist responsible for The Far Side, has a site now. It features a few of his old cartoons every day (and it’s free). They had one of my favorites yesterday:

Untitled

And by the way, the American president is a disaster. He is almost certainly doing something horrendous right now. That’s why we should vote him and every other Republican out of office in November. If you’re willing and able to support Democratic candidates in addition to voting for them, please do. 

You’ve Been Robbed

From Paul Waldman of The Washington Post on Twitter:

Even if you’re lucky enough not to have lost anyone or gotten sick in the pandemic, you are the victim of a robbery.

Because of Txxxx’s malignant incompetence and the stupidity of his followers, we’ve all been robbed of time we can’t get back – maybe a year or more.

We’ve been robbed of time with loved ones, education for our kids, contact with others, at least a little freedom from this constant anxiety, just the mundane but precious parts of normal life. It is a theft, and it didn’t have to happen this way.

In many countries with competent leadership and a sane populace, the pandemic is under control. Here are new cases yesterday:

Spain: 389
Germany: 361
Canada: 306
Japan: 227
Italy: 191
Netherlands: 64
S. Korea: 53

USA: 50,934

Robbery victims often speak of a sense of violation, one that turns into rage that has nowhere to go. You may be feeling that now. And you should. We all should. We’ve been robbed of so much, even if we’ve escaped the worst.

Maybe you’re not an immigrant or a racial minority or a trans person or someone else Txxxx has attacked directly. Maybe you still have your job and haven’t lost a loved one or gotten sick. But we are all his victims now.

And he should never be forgiven.

[Neither should his accomplices, especially the politicians.

You can use the Search Directory at ActBlue to find Democrats to support.]