Oh, I Understand Plenty

Percent_of_Hispanic_and_Latino_population_by_state_in_2012.svg

I honestly and sincerely swore I wouldn’t write about politics again this election season but conditions impress upon me the need, the obligation, the responsibility to speak.

This year, many commentators are wondering aloud how we could have gotten to the place we today occupy – an ignorant, narcissistic sociopath is a major party’s nominee for the presidency. And, let’s not be coy, I’m talking about the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

In the course of the period of my lifetime, barely one-fourth of the total period of American history, politics have devolved to the level of apes – no, this unfairly devalues ape society. When I was younger, Republicans stood for something understandable and American – main street sensibility, small central government, an ethic of hard work, economic opportunity. I may not have agreed with all of it but I understood and appreciated it as a coherent political philosophy.

What today’s Republican Party stands for isn’t beyond my comprehension exactly, more beneath my contempt. Today’s GOP is proudly bigoted, ignorant, racist, sexist and materialistic. It is anti-American, at least as I understand and use that term.

Let’s get concrete.

A man of color has occupied the White House for almost eight years. Republicans have never accepted him as the legitimate president of the United States. They have done everything possible to thwart his due exercise of office. Indeed, they have tried to de-legitimize him at every opportunity.

How? By supposing out loud that he was born in Africa, that he is a secret Muslim, that he is a sleeper agent of a terrorist cell, that his election and re-election were illegitimate.

He’s been made out to be foreign. We’ve been shown pictures of him with a bull’s eye on his chest, dressed as a witch doctor, as Adolph Hitler, in minstrel-show blackface. The entire media apparatus of News Corp (Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, et al.) was purposefully arrayed against him in vile and personal attacks.

And why?

Simply because of the color of his skin.

The same rough-justice mechanism is now being deployed against the Democratic Party’s next standard bearer for the unpardonable crime of being a woman.

Here is the truth: American demographics are our destiny.

Some years ago, Republicans made a pact with the devil – the Tea Party and other anti-American extremists – in the vain hope of remaining politically and socially relevant. It was a fool’s bargain. Our country is changing, has changed. Any party that caters to white male resentment as its backbone is doomed. The fact is, Republicans are already dead; they just can’t bring themselves to acknowledge it.

And yet, TV pundits feign confusion about what’s going on in the American political landscape. As if they didn’t know.

I beg you, in the deepest way I know how, to say it simply, plainly and out loud: the Republican Party has staked its life on appealing to the basest instincts of a declining portion of the American electorate and it will die as a result. And it will die very soon. And there is nothing the party hierarchy or its craven media whore can do to stop it.

12045576_1628589130741158_6852542633556811806_o

He’s Simply Perfect

donald_trump4.jpg_1718483346

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)

Stop It, For the Love of God and Humanity

Gerald_Ford[1]

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.

Dwight_D._Eisenhower,_official_Presidential_portrait[1]

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.

1101531221_400[1]

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.

ted-cruz-blasts-republicans-for-being-scared-of-an-obamacare-fight[1]

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.).

Michele Bachmann at Rasmussen

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.)

gop_congressman_says_free_birth_control_will_end_the_human_race[1]

Please?

Your Democratic friend,

Brent

 

A Clown; A Very Sad Little Clown

Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida

I’ve heard people ask recently, as the purposefully-engineered fiscal cliff “crisis” has passed and the debt ceiling farce begins, what’s happened to the GOP’s “intellectual budget heavyweight,” Paul Ryan? He should be more visible; he really should. After all, since our Congress has become a circus, we ought to have clowns.

How this little boy, whose intellectual development seems to have stopped sometime soon after high school, became known for his gravity and heft is beyond me. Sometime in his late teens, he was introduced to the writings of Ayn Rand and has since become a true and evangelical believer in Rand’s philosophy. He apparently makes his staff read her novels and often quotes passages he finds particularly inspirational, especially John Galt’s  interminable (and childish) close to Atlas Shrugged. I won’t quote it here (Trust me, I’m doing you a great service.) but it’s precisely the type of big speech an adolescent might become completely taken with but, with luck and real life experience, would soon enough outgrow.

In last year’s vice presidential debate, Joe Biden had the honesty (if, perhaps, bad manners) to laugh out loud at Ryan’s juvenile posturing. In truth, Ryan isn’t the kind of clown you laugh at. He’s the kind you pity, then escort offstage – preferably, as soon as possible, before he does any real harm.

ConsiglioPagliacci[1]

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.

Time For a New One

No human being who ever lived has been held so highly by Republicans as Ronald Reagan; he is often spoken of as one small step below the Divine. Republican candidates fight for the right to be thought of as his philosophical successor. And by that term, they mean the champion of smaller, more decentralized government and lower taxes.

But that’s the Reagan myth, not the Reagan reality.

As the actual historical record clearly shows, they couldn’t be further from the truth. Reagan grew government and raised taxes more than any president who preceded him.

Under the administration of Jimmy Carter, Reagan’s immediate predecessor, the federal government spent 27.9% of GNP. Reagan’s administration spent 28.7%. Over the course of his 8 years in the White House, Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party’s patron saint of limited government, increased federal spending by 60% in nominal dollars.

Candidate Reagan pledged to abolish the Department of Education. Instead, spending by the Department of Education more than doubled during the Reagan administration. Social Security spending increased, as did spending on farm programs, Medicare, and so-called entitlement programs (from $197.1 billion in 1981 to $477 billion in 1987).

Today’s Republicans, it seems, can’t be bothered with such bothersome facts. Reagan himself said: “We’re not attempting to cut either spending or taxing levels below that which we already have.”

The result of Reagan administration spending was unprecedented debt. Reagan tripled the national debt (from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion) during his years in office. He also grew the civilian federal workforce by close to 250,000.

Candidate Reagan promised to cut personal income and business taxes. President Reagan didn’t. Tax increases put into place between 1982 and 1989, equaled $1.5 trillion. Hardly the image today’s Republicans present.

When it comes to the Reagan legacy, Republicans, it seems, would rather cling to the myth than accept the facts.

If Republicans want to continue flogging themselves as the party of smaller government and lower taxes, I’d say it’s time for the Grand Old Party to find itself a new idol.

Energy Independence And Other Fantasies

The people who should know best think it beyond our abilities, American energy independence. Yet, politicians trot out the idea constantly. To the right audience, one that is looking for reasons to further despise the current president, it is red meat.

At the GOP convention, former senator and current political hack, John Sununu, asserted that his party’s candidate, Mitt Romney would, if elected, “…unshackle our assets and lead us to real energy independence.”

Despite the archaic language (“unshackle our assets”?), it played well in the hall but it is complete crap.

The United States will never be energy independent. Never. Not ever. The goal is unrealistic, no matter what national policies are implemented or who occupies the Oval Office. The CEO of one of the world’s largest energy companies has said so. So have most other informed and honest energy analysts and economists.

John Sununu may himself know this. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he does. In that case, he’s posturing for political advantage.

If he doesn’t know America’s true energy reality, he’s just an ignorant fool.

Let’s Grow Up

In a nutshell, here’s the pathetic state of political rhetoric in America. We’re good, others are evil. Obama is the new Hitler. We Democrats are at war with Republicans. I’m the only true believer. I’m the only fair one. Presidents control gasoline prices. The right man in the White House could prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Judging by the emptiness and stupidity of our political speech, candidates and their highly-paid consultants must think the American electorate is made up almost entirely of know-nothings and simpletons.

Some examples, by no means the most egregious, follow.

Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts:

“I believe America is an exceptional and unique nation. President Obama feels that we’re going to be a nation which has multipolar balancing militaries. I believe that American military superiority is the right course. President Obama says that we have people throughout the world with common interests. I just don’t agree with him. I think there are people in the world that want to oppress other people, that are evil.”

Anti-Obama website:

“Barack Obama, the first black president, proved to millions this year that he is either trying his best to lead the nation during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, or he is the modern-day incarnation of Adolph Hitler pushing his Socialistic agenda. One of the two.

In 2010, Barack Obama made a number of political compromises while still trying to pursue many of the reforms laid out during his 2008 campaign. Also, he was a totalitarian monster comparable to the perpetrator of one of the worst genocides in history…Barack is either a president who passed a comprehensive health care measure despite staunch opposition from powerful private interests, or a radical-Islamist sympathizer bent on systematically dismantling American democracy and eradicating all human liberty.”

James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters:

“Everybody here has a vote…If we go back and we keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to America where we belong…We didn’t declare war on them, they declared war on us. We’re fighting back.”

Rick Santorum, GOP presidential candidate and former US Senator representing Pennsylvania:

“It really has to do with what your principles and what your core is. I have a core…. And that’s a sharp contrast with Mitt Romney, who was for RomneyCare…. this is someone who doesn’t have a core. He’s been on both sides of almost every single issue in the past ten years.”

Barack Obama, president

“Lot of the folks who are peddling these same trickle-down theories, including members of Congress and some people who are running for a certain office right now, who shall not be named, they’re doubling down on these old, broken down theories.”

Newt Gingrich, GOP presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House:

“We paid $1.13 on average during the four years that I was speaker. When Barack Obama became president, we paid $1.89 that week…That’s right, President Obama has taken us from $1.89 to the most expensive gasoline on average we have ever had.”

Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts:

“Finally, the president should have built a credible threat of military action and made it very clear that the United States of America is willing, in the final analysis, if necessary, to take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. Look, one thing you can know and that is if we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon…And our current president has made it very clear that he’s not willing to do those things necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly.”

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!