It Won’t Matter

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There’s an old saying that generals prepare to fight the last war, not the next one. And like most old sayings, there’s a kernel of truth packed in with the cliche. Case in point? The Democratic Party is preparing to fight the 2020 presidential campaign with the tools and assumptions of a now-dead American political past. Trump, together with constant support from the Murdoch media empire, has changed the way politics is done in this country.

Democrats seem incapable of understanding that basic truth. They seem to believe if only they disclose the right information to the public, Trump will resign, like Nixon did, or Republican elected officials will turn against him, like they did against Nixon during Watergate, or that he will be roundly turned out of office come next election.

Breaking news: There will be no silver bullet. Richard Nixon is no longer the president. Trump seems to have no dedication to civic principles, no personal sense of shame and doesn’t behave like Nixon would have done. Our electorate, media and political institutions don’t behave the way they did 50 years ago either.

Evidence? The Mueller Report changed nothing. Evidence of Trump’s long-lasting and deep corruption changed nothing. His dog-whistle calls of ‘nationalism’ and racism changed nothing. His ignorance of world events, macroeconomics and even basic governance have changed nothing. His demonstrated inability to articulate ideas has changed nothing. His overwhelming narcissism, sexism, bigotry changed nothing. His anti-democratic predispositions have changed nothing. His self-evidently staged inch-deep patriotism? Nothing.

Other than ulcers and teeth grinding among those already predisposed to vote against Trump, there’s only been marginal electoral movement. Yet, Democrats behave as though continuing to point out more of these now well-established truths will somehow make Trump’s unsuitability for the presidency obvious to either him, in which case he’ll resign, or to other Republicans, in which case he’ll lose support in the legislature, or to the electorate, in which case he’ll automatically lose in 2020.

Spoiler alert: It won’t.

We’re not in 1972 anymore. We’re not dealing with civic-minded, well educated, rational members of Congress. Today, we’re dealing with a religiously-fueled personality cult. Trump could literally shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any support. And by literally, I mean literally.

It’s just a little over a year until our next presidential election and if I had to set odds right now on a Trump re-election, I’d put it at 50-50, or better. Time to wise up, Democrats.

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Stop It, For the Love of God and Humanity

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An open letter to the GOP

Dear Republicans,

Sorry, but I have to give you a little tough love right now. Please take your collective head out of your ass; I sincerely beg you.

Now, please read on.

I grew up in a very political family, in a particularly politically-charged era. Politics was what we talked about at the dinner table the way some other families might have talked about school, sports, movies, or the weather. When my grandmother died, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors adjourned – out of respect for her and the family.

My brother still deeply lives and breathes his style of politics. My father and I both held appointive office in our hometown. And I’ve been a professional speechwriter off and on since the late 1980s and have been involved in many political campaigns.

Politics, in short, runs deep in my blood and is bred in the bone.

Here’s something I believe to my core: there are both Republicans and Democrats that have served our country and the public’s interest well. In my lifetime, Republicans have tended to be the reasonable, rational party of Main Street business values, fiscal responsibility, honest and hard-earned patriotism, shared sacrifice, political moderation.

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Even though I live in a very blue city, I know a great many Republicans; I like them, understand them, respect them. I have cocktails with them regularly. I’ve even worked for them.

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All that said, I do not understand and cannot accept the currently prevailing direction of the Republican Party.

What I believe the current Republican agenda to be:

  1. Stop any and every initiative of President Obama.
  2. Use one particular (and, to my personal thinking, peculiar) interpretation of one particular religious text, the Bible, as a guide to policymaking, exclusive of all other texts and interpretations.
  3. Forestall, if not completely prevent, the dilution of white, Christian rule in America by what are certainly inevitable demographic changes. 

All three are, to recall the words of John McCain (R-AZ), fool’s errands.

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Here’s why:

  1. They hurt constituents.
  2. They’re not American.
  3. They’re irrational (And, BTW, they make you look irrational for pursuing them.).

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Here’s what you Republicans really need to understand:

  1. Uncritical reactive opposition to anything is juvenile. Witness Ted Cruz. To 90% of America, Ted Cruz is a mirthless joke. Is that what you want Americans to think of you? It can’t and shouldn’t be.
  2. The Bible is a book. (‘Bible’ is Greek for book, not THE book.) There are good and patriotic American Jews and Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims and Buddhists too. And The Bible is not a book upon which our republic was/is based. Our founders were rational humanists not evangelical Christians. Read some real American history, for fuck’s sake. Nor were our founders radical libertarians/individualists. (You’re confusing real American history with John Ford western movies.) America’s founders were communitarians. By the way, Ayn Rand was an asshole. And people who use her writings as the basis of anything in the real human world are also assholes; only an asshole would try to base something as important as government on her writings. Special message to Paul Ryan, et al.: Grow the fuck up, already.  
  3. Do you not realize the potentially tremendous position you’re in? Sorry, rhetorical question. You obviously don’t. Get your head out of your ass. This could be a Republican century if only you’d realize the potential you have to organize and energize the coming wave of Americans. You can virtually own entrepreneurship and economic opportunity, two critical reasons people come here in the first place, if only you’ll leave abortion rights, guns, Obamacare, marriage and employment equality, equal voting rights, and the rest of the so-called ‘values’ issues alone. They’re not what the majority of Americans believe, not even the majority of your ‘real’ Americans. They’re just the way to quick death. (Besides, see above, they also make you look like irrational, ignorant idiots.)

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Please?

Your Democratic friend,

Brent

 

Luncheon, Civility, and Other Anachronisms

I had a wonderfully restorative lunch today with a good friend. We talked about many things, some quite contentious; we agreed on lot, disagreed on a few, remained civil always.

Part of my enjoyment was due to the fact that there are fewer and fewer opportunities to openly and candidly discuss and civilly disagree about matters of interest and contention with people of shared good will. Our country has been purposefully cleaved by people whose interests are served by a hostile, mistrustful, and radically bifurcated country.

I’m reminded of this by Olympia Snow’s announcement that she will be leaving her seat in the Senate because it had become too shallowly self-serving and too uncivil. (My thoughts about her departure are here.) I’m also thinking about the death of Andrew Breitbart, who brought uncivil personal attack of his enemies, both online and in the flesh, to a high art form. And, to be fair, I also have to mention groups like Code Pink, who think nothing of shouting down and otherwise proudly interrupting people they disagree with, even during sessions of Congress and other civic functions. Or recent political campaigns based on demeaning and vile tactics that make Americans lose faith, not just in particular candidates, but also in our political system, and each other. (Thank you for this legacy, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, et al.)

The result is a society more dysfunctional and less humane, one in which we’re split into tribes, and very mistrustful of the other.

Some years ago, I had a long philosophical conversation with a colleague and friend who happens to be a conservative Republican. Our talk crisscrossed many subjects, as conversations will do, at one point landing on immigration.

Eventually, I talked about the experience of my grandparents, who came to America virtually penniless (My grandfather arrived with $10 in his pocket; not hyperbole, I’ve seen the ship’s manifest at the Ellis Island museum. My post about him is here.), about their belief in America, concept and reality, and our family’s history of progress here.

And I choked up, as I’m wont to do when I think and speak about them.

My friend told me it was the first time he’d ever even considered the possibility that a liberal Democrat (me) might just also be patriotic; still among the saddest sentences I’ve ever heard spoken.