Idle Thoughts, Small Actions

As we get further away from that horrific night in November, most of us are probably thinking less about why the Electoral College went the way it did (go to hell, Comey!). We’re also thinking less about the way things might have been. Instead, we’re freaking out about what’s happening now and what’s coming our way.

I haven’t been to any marches or demonstrations yet, but like many of us, I’ve contacted my members of Congress more than ever before. Today I called one of our Senators, although he’s a Democrat, to thank him for delaying a committee hearing on one of T__’s dangerous cabinet selections and to encourage him to do whatever he can to stop the appointment of a racist ideologue as Attorney General (that’s the jerk even Republicans thought was unqualified to be a Federal judge).

People are saying that Congress is being inundated with complaints about the monster(s) in the White House, so it was reassuring that getting through to one of my Senator’s offices wasn’t easy. The line was busy at his office near me, so I called his office in Washington. I was about to leave a message when a recording said his voicemail was full and couldn’t take any more messages. So then I called his remaining office, which is in a less populated part of our state. A nice young woman immediately answered the phone. She assured me that she’d transmit my message to Washington.

Some activities are less immediately practical than contacting Congress. Fantasizing, for example. I’ve entertained the usual fantasies, of course, such as T___ suffering a debilitating stroke or a fatal fall down some White House stairs; a benign military coup leads to a do-over election; and my favorite, that very smart, very kind beings from outer space take control and put us on a more reasonable path, one that includes single-payer health insurance and a fix for global warming. I’ve had a few other fantasies too.

One is that Rupert Murdoch, the evil billionaire who will be 86 next month, finally kicks the bucket and a more reasonable mogul or two purchase The News Corporation and 21st Century Fox. That would inevitably lead to entities like Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post becoming reputable organizations again, cutting off the stream of Murdoch-owned right-wing propaganda that has poisoned our democracy in recent years.

Another is that the CEO of Twitter,  Jack Dorsey, known to Twitter-ites as “@Jack” and who has contributed to Democratic politicians, admits that allowing T___ to have an official Twitter account presents a clear and present danger to the rest of us. It would be fine to let Donnie tweet as much as any other deranged right-winger, but he shouldn’t have a verified account that identifies him as “@realDonaldT___” or “@POTUS” (the President). That way, whenever Donnie transmitted his latest lie or insult, it wouldn’t have any effect on anyone but a small circle of nitwits. Nobody could possibly believe it came from the actual President of the United States.

Yet another of my fantasies involves the U.S. Senate. There are now 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats or Independents in what used to be a relatively reputable legislative body. If three of those Republicans were to declare themselves Independents and vote with the Democrats, the Republicans would be the minority again. They’d only have the House of Representatives to play with. Of course, controlling the Senate wouldn’t allow the Democrats to get much done (that’s in the official rules), but they could make sure T___ and his allies did less damage.

Finally, now speaking of other people’s fantasies, I recently took a tiny step toward correcting the fantastic beliefs of the sorry individuals who inhabit the Fox News and Breitbart websites (Breitbart is the far-right, white nationalist outfit that tells T___ what to do). It’s extremely unpleasant to visit those two sites, so I don’t recommend this to everyone. But I now leave the occasional comment, just to let some of them know there’s a real world out here. It’s rather like descending into Plato’s cave and removing the chains from poor souls who have never seen the sun or the sky. It’s a very dirty job, but we’re living in times that require direct action.

Calling These Senators Could Make a Difference

Someone who knows somebody shared this message somewhere. And now it’s here, slightly edited:

For those worried about ACA (“Obamacare”) coverage for themselves and their families:

After hearing about the midnight repeal of the pre-existing conditions clause, I called Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office. The woman I spoke to said they are being flooded with calls, as are the offices of Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Senator Warren’s staff member told me what would help the most would be to call the five Republican senators who have broken away from their leadership to demand a slowdown of the repeal. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts to stop the train wreck and maybe share your story.

Senator Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) – (202) 224-5824

Senator Susan Collins (Maine) – (202) 224-2523

Senator Bob Corker (Tennessee) – (202) 224-3344

Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) – (202) 224-6665

Senator Rob Portman (Ohio) – (202) 224-3353

There is additional contact information for U.S. senators available here. People say ringing telephones and overloaded phone systems are the best way to impress politicians (they’re even more impressive than offering cash bribes or sexual favors).

Republican Senators Stand Between Us and the Deluge

As any Mafia Don(ald) would, T—p is looking at his most loyal supporters to fill key positions in his administration. (I haven’t given up hope that the Electoral College will dump him, but nobody of note is pushing the idea, at least not in public. Remember: fewer than 40 Republican electors could temporarily and maybe permanently stop the monster’s ascent.)

Imagine Sarah Palin as Secretary of the Interior and Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General. Imagine the rogues gallery posing for pictures at their first cabinet meeting. That’s the very bad news.

How about the good news? There isn’t much, but an article at Vox by Matthew Yglesias says “We have 100 days to stop Donald Trump from systematically corrupting our institutions”. Its subtitle is “the transition period is our last best chance to save the republic”.

Of course, a T—p administration might not destroy the republic, but Mr. Yglesias makes a strong argument. He begins by citing the distinction between “venal” corruption and “systematic” corruption. The venal kind is the usual criminality we worry about. Powerful interests make shady deals with politicians who give them special favors. Campaign contributions cross the line into bribery. 

Systematic corruption is more serious. It’s the kind of corruption found in Putin’s Russia. The politicians do whatever they can to help the favored few and make things hard for everyone else. Government contracts are steered to businesses that support the ruler and away from their competition. Regulations are tailored to help media companies favorable to the regime and destroy the ones that aren’t. Government agencies are staffed with cronies and incompetents. It all becomes a self-reinforcing web of tight relationships that don’t yield power easily. Free elections aren’t so free anymore.

Such a system, once in place, is extremely difficult to dislodge precisely because, unlike a fascist or communist regime, it is glued together by no ideology beyond basic human greed, insecurity, and love of family.

All is not lost, but the situation is genuinely quite grave. As attention focuses on transition gossip and congressional machinations, it’s important not to let our eyes off the ball. It is entirely possible that eight years from now we’ll be looking at an entrenched kleptocracy preparing to install a chosen successor whose only real mission is to preserve the web of parasitical oligarchy that has replaced the federal government as we know it…And while the impulse to “wait and see” what really happens is understandable, the cold, hard reality is that the most crucial decisions will be the early ones.

So what’s the good news? Yglesias points out that there will be 48 Democrats in the Senate and roughly 12 Republicans who didn’t support T—-p. 

More remarkably, one of the senators who did vote for Trump publicly called him a “con man.” Another called him a “pathological liar.” One assumes there are a few more out there who swallowed private doubts in the interest of beating Hillary Clinton.

Whatever the precise details, the point is that a critical mass of Republican senators has given us reason to believe that they understand Trump appointees need to be held to an unusually high bar for qualification and integrity — not an unusually low one.

Of course, it takes a major leap of faith to believe that Republican politicians will show some courage and good sense and thereby limit the damage in Washington. But a couple of them are calling for an investigation into Russia’s interference in our election. That’s something. Plus, senators tend to think of themselves as demigods who know what’s best for America. It’s possible they might reject T—-p’s worst nominees, even though doing so will make them enemies of a vengeful President who values loyalty above all else and lacks all sense of shame.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan revels in the possibility of gutting Medicaid and privatizing Medicare and Social Security. A deluded minority of Americans have spoken, so gridlock may be the best we can hope for in Washington.