He’s Simply Perfect

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Now, finally, several months into this dystopian circus, media pundits and Republican Party officials are wringing their bony hands, wondering how it happened. How, they ask in their pathetic and whiny columns and commentaries, could a person like Donald Trump be on the verge of gaining the presidential nomination of a major American political party?

As if they didn’t know a single thing about the real America.

In point of fact, Donald Trump is the absolutely perfect man to represent today’s America to the world. He is a more accurate mirror of our country’s character than any major candidate for the presidency.

  1. He is vulgar.
  2. He is impressed with all the external trappings of money. He is all surface and shuns substance at every opportunity.
  3. He is racist, sexist and bigoted.
  4. He embraces greed.
  5. He practices a faux Christianity, without any grounding in or awareness of the foundation of the real religious tradition behind it.
  6. He is full of phony man-bluster, a classic limp-dick, chickenshit bully. Never engaging in any actual fighting but consistently threatening something big and severe.
  7. He doesn’t read, doesn’t know history, doesn’t understand government, or how things work. He is proud to demonstrate his ignorance, as Sarah Palin did on the campaign trail before him. Her endorsement spoke volumes about his suitability for the presidency, his suitability to represent us.

He is, in short, the perfect man for the job of representing America.

 

PNI Trump speech
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Phoenix Convention Center Saturday, July 11, 2015. (Cheryl Evans/The Arizona Republic via AP)

A Last Gasp

At one time, frenzied throngs of them filled the streets and frightened the establishment, although they always seemed more circus than menace to me.

They waved signs with nonsensically and humorously over-inflamed rhetoric (I mean, really, who can take the threat of domestic Communism seriously these days?) and carried a rag-bag mix of symbols from a wildly inacurate Disney-fied version of our historical past. Tri-corner hats and powdered wigs. The famous “Dont Tread on Me” Gadsden flag. Historical re-creation (and more modern) firearms carried in plain sight at public events. Unintentionally hilarious Biblical misquotes and anachronistic appeals to “traditional family” values.

“We want our country back!”

They stacked and thuggishly hijacked public meetings. They prevented the business of government from happening. They shouted down elected officials. They browbeat and coerced shaky-legged politicians with unsubstantiated accusations and seemingly limitless vitriol. They would not be talked down, placated or reasoned with.

The major political party with which they affiliated bowed to their will because they could turn out the votes like nobody’s business and, well, there was also all the money. Freakishly radical candidates were selected in primaries that came to resemble the stilted surrealism of a Dali painting mixed with the broad caricatures and pre-scripted inevitability of Kabuki theater.

“Restore America!”

Their anger had been purposefully fed, of course, by a centralized, well-financed and coordinated effort of white multi-billionaires who did not want their cozy-happy era of unchecked dominance to pass.

However, after all the red-faced screaming (not to mention the expenditure of untold billions), the sound and fury has, indeed, come to signify nothing. Our country’s demographics are, in fact, our destiny. The Christian church in America is shrinking and the electorate will not be majority white for long. Those are the dead-certain facts.

Even the scale of money used in this past campaign can only buy so much, it turns out. With this election, we may have finally seen its concrete limits.

The Tea Party, and the vision of America it represents, is in its final death spasms. And there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Good riddance.

Leak!

I was amused no end by the latest news about Michele Bachmann; she has, apparently, held dual American-Swiss citizenship since her marriage in 1978. For anti-intellectual Tea Partiers (i.e., Bachmann’s political base), a presidential candidate with dual citizenship, even Swiss citizenship, was anathema. It meant divided loyalties. And the disclosure was blood in the water.

It’s funny enough, of course, that self-conceived uber-patriot Bachmann, who is a singularly hilarious combination of willful ignorance and inspired lunacy, found herself coming under the same right-wing fire she had lately trained on her competitors.

But, for me, the real joy came in understanding why this story came to light at this particular moment.

It’s clear to me that Bachmann was being seriously considered as a vice presidential running mate by the Romney campaign, that the fact of her dual citizenship was uncovered during the process, that someone in the campaign didn’t want her to proceed in the process, and then had to find a reason to dump her that didn’t get the GOP’s right-wing enraged at their presumptive nominee.

Et, voila. So are leaks to the press born.

The real question is whether it is more disturbing that Romney’s campaign was considering Bachmann as his running mate or that there is a well-placed leaker on the inside who might hurt the campaign next time.

Call the plumbers, Mitt.

This Disaster Averted

Thanks to many articles and posts being shot around the online world by rabid supporters, I’ve read a lot lately about the size of Ron Paul rallies, especially in contrast to the size of Mitt Romney rallies. In light of Romney’s primary successes, many postings posit a coordinated and conscious media and political establishment conspiracy to keep Paul away from his due, which is to say the Republican presidential nomination. (Why do we Americans never seem to tire of conspiracies? Frankly, they exhaust me.) Here’s a YouTube video that makes that case; the Michigan crowd looks particularly large and excited.

If rallies were convention delegates, there might be something to talk about. But, of course, they aren’t, so there isn’t. Michigan, the location of that especially stirring rally shown in the video (above), is an interesting case in point: Paul got a little over 11% of the Michigan vote, Romney a little over 41%. Did bigger rallies really matter? Exactly.

Here’s why I think the Paul 2012 campaign has floundered: his policies would be a complete disaster for America and, thank providence, enough Republican voters were able to recognize it.

Throughout American history, we have balanced the competing impulses of individual liberty and collective responsibility more or less within a sustainable range. Paul would push the balance so far in the direction of personal freedom (as he conceives freedom, that is) it would be nearly impossible to keep this society together.

Some examples:

Income tax: In an interview with The New York Times, Paul said: “I want to abolish the income tax, but I don’t want to replace it with anything…We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don’t need to ‘replace’ the income tax at all. I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax.”

First, the personal income tax funds over half of federal government operations. Can more than half of what the federal government spends possibly constitute waste or misapplication? Let’s see, that would be, like, Social Security (21%), Medicare and Medicaid (23%) and interest expense (6%). Take those off the books and we could come out where Paul thinks we should be. Do we really want to do without them? Would we or our fellow citizens be better off? Of course, Paul thinks these programs are unconstitutional anyway; he suggests the federal government has no right to collect income tax, and has violated the Constitution by doing so since 1913. Second, the so-called consumption tax is regressive; it hits the poor hardest because a higher percentage, nearly 100%, of poor budgets go to necessary consumption, like food and shelter.

States Rights: Paul believes the Constitution lays out the full responsibilities of the federal government, literally and comprehensively. If it isn’t specifically written in the Constitution, he believes, the right to set policy reverts to the individual states, not the federal government. Voting rights. Contraception. Marriage. Environmental policy. Disabled accommodation. Paul believes there is no federal right to ensure equal protection for all Americans, that it should be up to each individual state to decide. In other words, we’d be doing something vital, like environmental policy, by crazy-quilt.

Voting Rights: The men who actually wrote the Constitution intended and expected only white men to have the right to vote. Sorry to you, women and people of color. Most believe our definitions of personhood and suffrage have evolved since the Constitution was initially written, but not Paul. Paul called the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1964: “a massive violation of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of a free society,” and said he would have voted against it had he been a member of Congress then.

“Streamlining” Government: Under a Paul administration, the federal government would lose the following agencies and their programs, in favor of allowing “market solutions” to work: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Labor. We’re going to depend on market solutions to address environmental issues, education inequities, health challenges, workplace inspection and safety? Seriously? To believe it, one must be dangerously unaware of the true character of modern American life, and/or want to create a radically different society.

Hands Off? Sometimes.: For all his libertarian talk, there are some absolute limits of libertarianism for Paul. While he does advocate legalization of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other harmful and addictive drugs, and the abolition of the FBI, the CIA and the IRS (Individual states fighting terrorism?), Paul is much less hands-off when it comes to women’s bodies. As a member of Congress, he introduced legislation that defined life as beginning at conception and granted legal rights to “people” from that moment onward, including the right to be free from harm (a euphemism for abortion, plain and simple). Paul signed the “Personhood Pledge” published by PersonhoodUSA. This pledge says in part: “I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting ‘the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,’ and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I ‘support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.” When it comes to women making decisions about their own bodies, Paul believes the government should have a very substantial and active interest indeed.

Yesterday morning, just down the street from my son’s school, I saw the pitch-perfect totem for Paul’s campaign; it was an $78,000 Range Rover with a Ron Paul bumpersticker. Federal government hands off my gas-guzzler!

Goodbye, Rick

I’m a dad myself, and I’m deeply sorry Rick Santorum is wrestling with all that comes with having a sick child. I sincerely wish his daughter a speedy and complete recovery. And I wish him well in his life.

That said, I hope he now goes to a dark and private place. I hope he is never offered a television soap box of the type given to Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and all of their ilk.  I hope American political life is never again required to deal with Santorum. He was a divisive candidate, deliberately so, because it served his personal political interests. He expressed the desire to run our country on the basis of his particular and peculiar interpretation of the Holy Bible, which I find to be both frightening and profoundly un-American.

He was both smart and capable enough to inflame his slice of the Republican electorate and unethical enough to actually do it. He made the venerable Republican Party teeter on the edge of a terminal abyss, from which it may yet never recover.

So, I’m sorry for the personal challenge your family is dealing with, Rick. Now, please do our country a favor and just disappear.

But I Don’t Love Him

Republican voters in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia gave majorities to Mitt Romney today in their primaries. He is now more than halfway to gaining a majority of convention delegates, the number necessary to secure the party’s presidential nomination.

Each state’s results tell a story I’ve written about before; namely, the Republican party, as well as the country as a whole, is deeply divided. Urban and suburban dwellers tend to favor a candidate like Romney, who is fiscally conservative, corporate, almost painfully mainstream. Rural and exurban Republican voters care much more about “values” issues articulated by Rick Santorum and others: same-sex marriage, abortion, creeping “socialism.”

With victories today in these three primaries, the other remaining candidates have fewer realistic opportunities to prevent Romney from winning the nomination outright at the convention – although, they’ll keep trying. There is certainly a Republican constituency that will keep after them to keep trying. The “values” wing of the GOP has never warmed to Romney, thinking him a rich fake, not truly committed to their causes. These voters want the convention deadlocked, all the better to force a back room coup or a compromise candidate who might share their positions on the issues that interest them most (Ready in the wings, Governor Palin?).

Romney may win his party’s nomination but it’s become clear he will never win its complete love.

What Kinda Country Is This, Anyway?

The results from this week’s Illinois GOP primary tell a story. The one major candidate who has campaigned primarily on economic and policy issues, Mitt Romney, won majorities in areas of high and dense population. The other, Rick Santorum, who campaigns primarily on his Christian fundamentalism and social conservatism, won in areas of less dense and lower population.

In other words, Romney won cities and suburbs and Santorum won farms and exurbs. Here’s the map; it’s especially illuminating if you know Illinois but even if you don’t, the pattern is pretty obvious.

As much attention as so-called ‘values-voters’ are getting in the media these days, demographics and history indicate they will continue to recede in electoral importance. Over 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas now, and the percentage continues to grow.

The GOP’s Illinois primary is a story of the entire country, writ small.  All the campaign talk about self-reliance, and ‘taking our country back,’ and fighting socialism, and same-sex marriage, and banning abortion, and basing national policy on literal interpretations of the Bible are salient to a smaller and smaller proportion of our citizens.

Where the American people live in increasing proportion, how our neighbors choose to live their lives is something of very little relative electoral concern.

What’s Important

Reflecting the GOP’s current plunge from major political force to laughingstock, there are essentially now only two ‘serious’ active candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. They are, at this moment, shooting at each other in baldly personal ways, trying to capture for themselves the position of most-high arch-conservative national overseer of faith, while simultaneously plotting for the increasing likelihood of a party convention that finds itself unable to select a presidential nominee in the usual fashion.

The prospect of a brokered Republican Party convention is something that should cause paralyzing fear in the hearts of all good Americans. What as-yet-unspoken attacks might be unleashed? Who might emerge as the compromise candidate to break an electoral stalemate? What promises might be made to whom in order to secure enough votes to win? How low can these people go in their pursuit of our nation’s highest office?

You don’t want to know.

Or maybe you’ve seen HBO’s ‘Game Change‘ and you already do.

‘Game Change’ is the story of Sarah Palin’s selection as John McCain’s running mate and her preparation for and participation in the campaign. A couple of things become obvious fairly early in the film. First, McCain was headed to certain defeat without a dramatic choice of running mate; he had become almost irrelevant to the presidential election. Second, Palin was a completely irresponsible choice for Vice President (Only one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency, one wag says in the film.); she was totally unprepared for the job and jaw-droppingly ignorant of governance, diplomacy, finance, or really anything about the nation she sought to govern. Furthermore, Palin was both proudly and willfully ignorant; she was deliberately deaf to experts who were brought in to help her prepare.

All this is, of course, old news. What’s most striking about the film is the fact that McCain’s campaign people knew Palin was a bad choice on so many levels, but kept working to elect her anyway because, hey, that’s the job. John McCain’s presidential campaign communications director, Steve Schmidt, said in a recent interview about the film, “When you have to do things necessary to win…” shit happens, or words to that effect.

So Schmidt and the rest of McCain’s campaign team would have put Sarah Palin in the next chair from the president despite the fact that they knew she would have been a complete disaster for our country. They even had the nerve to wrap their work in the star spangled banner of patriotism, much as today’s generation of Republican candidates continue to do.

Why should we fear backroom deals at the GOP convention? Here’s one reason: Schmidt et al. are still around and still pursuing their ‘profession.’

Now What, GOP?

Let’s lay some things on the table to start. I’m not a registered Republican. I’m not professionally involved in any political campaigns. I don’t expect to be offered a job come November, no matter who is elected. I have no skin in the game, except as an American.

I know a great many Republicans; I’ve worked for some, others are close friends, former classmates, neighbors, colleagues, and so on. Most of these are from what is called now the corporate wing, as opposed to the social conservative wing, of the party.

I value the Republican Party, its contributions, its historic leaders. Further, I believe, and I’m not afraid to say it out loud, that our country is better off with healthy political parties of diverse philosophical stripes.

Now, let me say, I am concerned for the Republican Party.

What’s become clear to me is a growing, unhealthy and emotional division in the party between (1) the good-government, main street and corporate, power elite, fiscal conservative party establishment, and (2) the evangelical, social-conservative, grass roots party rank-and-file. And this division is not only unhealthy for the Republican Party, but also unhealthy for the country.

Super Tuesday results show that it is increasingly unlikely there will be a first-ballot selection of a presidential nominee at the convention. This opens the door for all sorts of bad outcomes: back-room deals, drafting another candidate (e.g., Sarah Palin anyone?), swinging the party platform even farther to the right – especially on social issues.

There’s irony here: yesterday’s exit polls, cited in The Hill, showed that voters are most concerned with economic issues. In other words, by staying with what has been the successfully established Republican identity, the party could conduct a campaign with a reasonable probability of connecting with the issues that matter most to Americans. This could be an absolutely winnable election for Republicans.

Instead, Republicans are allowing their primaries to be swallowed up by inherently divisive candidates and the social issues they crow about, like the New Testament foundations of American government, contraception, same-sex marriage, etc.

Who benefits from any of that? Neither Republicans nor our republic.

A March to Nowhere

Last night, Mitt Romney won the GOP’s Nevada Caucus. Someone else finished second. A completely different person finished third.

On February 7, Colorado and Minnesota will hold their caucuses and Missouri will hold its non-binding primary.

On February 28, both Arizona and Michigan will hold primaries.

On March 6, primaries or caucuses will be held in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, and a whole bunch of other places.

Later in the year, there will be other primaries in different states that will mean about as much as the color of the housecoat my 86 year-old mother will wear today to clean up her kitchen.

Let’s be honest. The other candidates may cobble together enough resources to continue (or not) but the race for the Republican presidential nomination is over. We know who will win it. Why, then, are we all behaving as if any of this Kabuki theater had any relevance to anything? Why all the breathless TV punditry? Why the handwringing over misstatements and their effects on polls?

These questions are rhetorical, of course, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t answers. The problem isn’t that we don’t know the answers but rather that we can’t face them.

In American politics today, money wins – not just for candidates and officeholders (obvious – look at the data), but also for the politics industry (campaign managers, pollsters, advance people, speechwriters, lawyers) and for the political media (pundits, columnists, networks, advertising). And all these stakeholders, whose livelihood depends on the continuation of and interest in campaigns, will do everything they can to make sure this essentially meaningless march not only continues but does so in a way that is as entertaining as possible. Their incomes depend on the fact that you’ll continue to watch.

So, send out the memo:

  • Cue today’s gaffes…
  • Show new polls…
  • Make mountains out of molehills…
  • New hairstyle on the spouse…
  • Wicked-cool 3-D graphics…
  • Find scandal…must find scandal.

End of the day? Means nothing.

Money has already won. End of story.