It Won’t Matter

maxresdefault

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.

trump-1024x1024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.

Energy is Serious Business

As far as energy use, we Americans have had a pretty appalling record during the modern era. We use more energy per capita than any nation on earth; we are coming very very late to the conservation, renewables and sustainability party. And Republican candidates for president have lately provided no signs of easing off of their “drill, baby, drill,” use-not-save, red-meat mentality.

A recent survey by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, funded by the Joyce Foundation might show some cause for optimism. The AP reports that:

“…energy, especially in a weak economy, is prominently on people’s minds — and may explain why it’s being talked about in the presidential campaign. Nearly 8 in 10 called energy deeply important to them, trumping concerns about the federal deficit and the environment.”

If true, is this the sign of a positive change in Americans’ consciousness or just a pre-summer, pre-election blip? It’s hard to know, but I’ll remain skeptical as long as I continue to see idiots like this (see below) on the road.

[Thanks to The Bliss Index for posting this photo, as a joke. Hahaha. A truck spewing toxic chemicals into the environment for our kids to breathe. Really funny. Get it?]

Newt or Newt?

[This isn’t a post about substantive policy positions.]

Newt Gingrich, as anyone who might possibly care knows by now, has withdrawn from the race for the Republican presidential nomination or, in current political speak, he has suspended his campaign.

I’ll miss him. Or, to be more accurate, I’ll miss half of him, because Newt Gingrich is really two Newts: there is the grandiose, didactic, more-conservative-than-thou joke who barely made a dent in the campaign, but there was also the old-school politician who visited zoos and shook hands and connected with people in a way his major competitor Mitt Romney can only dream of.

The first Newt acted like he was smarter than everyone else, floated bizarre ideas as if they were normal as walking across the street,  and never fully rose to the challenge of running for president. No one in their right mind would miss that Newt.

I met the second Newt a few years ago and was surprised at how much I liked him. He was friendly and accommodating when he had no self-interested reason to be. He spoke to my son, then 10 years old, about this country and its politics in an engaging way that few adults would have taken the time or energy to do. He was funny in an unstudied and understated way that few people of power and fame are.

As campaigns become more corporate and more directed toward electronic media and mass marketing, I’m sorry to see the old-style, human-scale and humane Newt leave.