Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

23 September 2018

The GOP’s Fork re Kavanaugh


[For a coda on why it’s become personal now, click here. For a short note on how important Professor Ford’s charges are, click here. For comment on President Obama’s decision to join the political fray, click here. For a possible path to Trump’s impeachment and removal, click here. For comment on Trump’s deal with Mexico, click here. For a brief homage to John McCain, followed by reasons to support Stacey Abrams, click here. For a brief note on vote suppression in Georgia as a reason to support Stacey Abrams, click here. For other good candidates and causes and how to contribute easily, click here.

In chess, a “fork” is a situation in which either of two possible moves is a loser. One might sacrifice your queen, for example, while the other might put you in checkmate. It’s like a fork in the road in which one exit leads to a swamp and the other over a cliff.

That’s precisely the position in which Professor Ford’s charge of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh has put him and the Republicans. One option is to withdraw his nomination or delay the confirmation process. That won’t end the game right there. The GOP will still have a chance to nominate and confirm someone equally reactionary, or even to confirm Kavanaugh himself, after the midterms.

Believe it or not, that’s the queen’s sacrifice or the swamp, not the checkmate or the cliff. For the GOP, the alternative is even worse. Here’s why.

The first thing to note is the nature of Professor Ford’s charges. She alleges that Kavanuagh physically assaulted her, threw her down, landed on top of her, groped her and tried to remove her clothes. She got away, she says, only when Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, landed on top of both of them. That looks a lot like attempted rape—a felony in most jurisdictions.

It’s a slam-dunk for garden-variety criminal assault, namely, an unwanted or hostile touching without permission, causing injury or damage. That can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on circumstances and jurisdiction. The statute of limitations may have run, but this alleged conduct, if fact, would have been some kind of crime virtually everywhere.

In contrast, Professor Anita Hill’s charges against now-Justice Clarence Thomas were for sexual harassment, not sexual assault. All the conduct Hill alleged was verbal, not physical: repeated requests for dates, constant sexual innuendoes, and invitations to watch pornography.

Even today, that kind of conduct is hardly a crime anywhere. If done in private, it has little or no legal remedy. If done in the workplace, as Hill alleged, it can support a civil lawsuit or a complaint to government bureaucracies for monetary compensation and/or official orders to cease and desist, remedy the situation, or “sanitize” the workplace. But it’s not a crime.

In short, the conduct that Professor Ford alleges is far worse than that charged by Professor Hill. It’s a criminal offense. And unlike Anita Hill, who was a grown women and a law-school graduate at the time of the harassment she alleged, Christine Blasey Ford was a fifteen-year-old girl in high school—a minor without training in the law or her legal rights. If we believe her account, we also believe she was too terrified, humiliated and confused to seek any legal remedy or even to confide in anyone for some time.

The second thing to notice is that women really hate this stuff, and rightly so. There is no passably attractive woman who has not, at some time in her life, been eyed like a piece of meat and subjected to obnoxious, humiliating and scary words and gestures, as Professor Hill alleged. That’s bad enough. But when it gets down to the kind of violence that Professor Ford alleged, it descends to another level altogether. Probably no woman alive has avoided fear of such attacks, especially when alone at night, and no mother has failed to fear it for her daughters. It’s a big, big deal that most men don’t understand because they can defend themselves, or at least their male pride deludes them into thinking they can.

The third thing to notice is numbers. Women are a majority of our population. They are a majority of voters. They are a majority of voters who actually vote. In other words, they are no minority. If we had a proper parliamentary-style democracy, with no electoral college, no mal-apportioned Senate, no “Hastert Rule” in the House, no gerrymandering and no vote suppression—and if women actually exercised their franchise fully—they could rule as a bloc. And they could do so without breaking a sweat.

But that’s not all. The clear majority that women as a whole represent is not the only demographic to feel the pain. There are tens of millions of men, whether husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles or not, who empathize with them. They believe, as do I, that if sexual assault is a crime (and it is and should be!) we ought to think long and hard, and thoroughly investigate all the facts and circumstances, before we put someone credibly charged with that crime on the Supreme Court for life.

But that’s still not all. The man who nominated Judge Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump, has insulted, belittled, offended and spurned virtually every minority in this most diverse nation on Earth. That includes immigrants generally, Hispanics and Hispanic immigrants, African-Americans, immigrants of black African descent (remember the “shithole” countries), Muslims, Native Americans and (less frequently) people from India and China. My own personal minority group, Jews, gets a pass most of the time because Trump’s son-in-law belongs to it. But Trump’s “base” includes a whole lot of white supremacists who don’t think of Jews as white, or even human.

So at one time or another, the GOP standard-bearer has offended virtually every ethnic minority in this great nation except card-carrying white, Anglo-Saxon Christians, and maybe Norwegians. Now, in attempting to railroad Kavanaugh onto the Court without fair and thorough investigation and hearing of Ford’s charges, the GOP is offending the majority, our females.

What gives this scenario unprecedented power is a simple fact. This is not about policy. This is personal. And Donald Trump made it so.

It’s personal even for white males like me, who consider ourselves relatively immune from rape or an American Kristallnacht. We weep and rage for women, who in theory have the power in their votes to demand equal dignity but often get no respect. We weep and rage for black kids shot down (in the back!) by racist police for nothing. We decry the millions of blacks incarcerated who would be free if they had some money and a good lawyer. We cry for the millions of honest Hispanic workers, doing our worst jobs, who are beset by crime and hide in the shadows for fear of deportation, and who are torn from their children. We rage for all the ethnic minorities treated inescapably like second-class citizens in encounters with the police, the State or other citizens. (Remember the East Indian senior body-slammed and partially paralyzed by Alabama police?)

And what is the Republican Party’s “answer” to all this hate, inequality and oppression, under the “leadership” of Donald Trump? It’s to pile on yet more hate, inequality and oppression, with only token objection from Republicans. That’s why today’s politics—and any judicial nomination intended, in the final analysis, to let Trump do what he wants—can never be anything but personal for all the people whose goals and dreams are disregarded simply because of who they are, and for everyone else who feels their pain of exclusion.

So do the numbers, GOP, please. Women are a majority, say 51%. To avoid double-counting of women, you have to cut each minority’s numbers in half. So add 6.5% for black males, 7.5% for Hispanic male citizens, and 4% or so (an estimate) for Asian males. That’s 69% already. Then add a few percent for white, male non-supremacists and non-chauvinists like me, say, 5%.

That’s 74% of our people. In the greatest landslide so far in our history, Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater—an old-fashioned, honest, non-hating conservative—with only 61.1% of the vote.

What do you think we’re going to do with that 74% majority? We’re going to pack the Court to bring it around to our views, whether or not Kavanaugh is on it.

We’re going to make sure women have control over their own bodies. We’re going to make sure that, when our Congress provides universal health insurance covering pre-existing conditions, it sticks. We’re going to assure everyone who works a living wage. We’re going to give immigrants and their children a fair shake and a chance to join our great nation as citizens. And we’re going to make sure that, when businesses abuse employees, consumers or the environment, or destroy our economy with their greed and stupidity, they will be held accountable. In serious cases like the Crash of 2008, we’re going to put some perpetrators in jail.

There is no constitutional impediment to a majority of both Houses of Congress packing the Court. Article III of our Constitution gives Congress plenary power over the structure of our courts, including the Supreme Court. When FDR gave up his plan to pack the Court, he did so because others convinced him it was not a good idea. They cited tradition and “comity.”

Well, tradition and comity flew out the window when the GOP treasonously set out to make Obama as president fail. They flew out at gale force when filibusters began to be used at 142 times the historic rate. The gale increased to hurricane force with rampant gerrymandering and vote suppression, the Supreme Court’s theft of the presidency from Al Gore, and McConnell’s theft of a Supreme-Court appointment from President Obama. So don’t expect pleas for “tradition” or “comity” to win the day when women join with all the minorities Trump has called out (while Republicans stood idle), and with empathetic white males, to form the greatest supermajority voting bloc in this county’s history.

And don’t be surprised now if, like Senator Cory Booker protesting hiding as “confidential” most things in Kavanaugh’s record to which Dems might object, we answer a threat to ram Kavanaugh through with the challenge, “Bring it!”

For we are truly fed up. If Republicans ram this accused would-be rapist through to a lifetime post on our highest court, we will see all of them as one with Donald Trump. And we will neither forgive nor forget.

So maybe having Kavanaugh step down now is the swamp, not the cliff, the queen’s sacrifice, not the checkmate. Maybe the checkmate will come anyway. It’s long overdue. But if Republicans want to play the odds, getting Kavanaugh to step down or adjourning his hearings to the “lame duck” session is by far the wiser and less risky choice.

Coda: Why and for Whom it’s Personal Now

Judge Kavanaugh’s “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution freezes it as of the year it was adopted and ratified, 1791. At that time, only white, male property owners could vote.

Of course we’ve expanded the franchise since then, by war, by constitutional amendment, and by statute. But that was the mindset then. Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial “philosophy” would keep it that way in every instance when the Constitution’s and statutes’ words are not crystal clear and decisive. Yet isn’t the function of a Supreme Court justice to decide precisely such cases? The clear and easy cases never reach the Supreme Court.

So how, pray tell, can anyone who is not a white, male property owner feel comfortable with a man who believes what Kavanaugh believes judging her or his case at the highest level? How can his confirmation not be a personal matter?

With women, this question assumes a higher dimension. Men can go anywhere without fear of attack. Even in rough areas, they can “pass” with proper clothing, a downcast look, and a beat-up car.

But women carry reasons for attack with them everywhere they go: their faces and their bodies. For evolutionary reasons, the male sexual impulse is strong. It’s the function of social evolution—i.e., civilization—to keep women safe by containing that impulse with law and custom.

If gender equality means anything, it means that women should be free to go where men can go. They should also be free to invite strong male tradesmen and contractors into their homes without fear of attack.

Today we have a president who is known for his propensity to use women as his personal sexual playthings, and to exploit his personal power and money to get away with doing so. Now we have a nominee to the Supreme Court accused of gross physical violence against a female child of fifteen. And the GOP wants to ram through his confirmation to a lifetime appointment on our highest court without properly hearing the accusation, let alone having it investigated by professional law enforcers.

How can any woman not take this personally? Among FDR’s four vital “freedoms” is freedom from fear. How can any female feel freedom from fear, knowing that a man who might have physically attacked a female child of fifteen with impunity would be among the highest judges of her civil suit or criminal charge against a another brutal man who did a similar thing to her?

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21 September 2018

How Important is Kavanaugh’s Alleged Attempted Rape?


[For comment on President Obama’s decision to join the political fray, click here. For a possible path to Trump’s impeachment and removal, click here. For comment on Trump’s deal with Mexico, click here. For a brief homage to John McCain, followed by reasons to support Stacey Abrams, click here. For a brief note on vote suppression in Georgia as a reason to support Stacey Abrams, click here. For other good candidates and causes and how to contribute easily, click here.

For links to the most recent posts together with the inverse chronological links to recent posts, click here.]


    We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . That to secure [citizens’ inalienable] rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .”—Declaration of Independence

    Might makes right.” Nazi slogan from World War II
What are we to make of the allegation that the latest controversial right-wing nominee to the Supreme Court attempted rape when he was 17? Is it a political ploy? Is it just a matter of “he said, she said,” better left to the bedroom? Do we have a mere claim of possible drunken, youthful indiscretion? Or is it an allegation that goes to the heart of democracy and indeed of human civilization?

Let us reason.

Of course, if Judge Kavanaugh’s categorical denial is right factually, there is nothing to discuss. But Professor Christine Blasey Ford has alleged that he, while 17 and in an elite Catholic prep school, assaulted her at a drunken party. She claims he grabbed her, threw her down, groped her through her clothes and tried to take them off. She escaped, she said, only after Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, also drunk, jumped upon the twosome. (Whether he did so to protect her or to join the “fun,” she had no way of knowing.)

Of course it matters who is telling the truth. But, again, to assess the seriousness of the charges we must assume they are true. So the rest of this essay will make that assumption, leaving out the words “allegation” and “claim” as defeating the force of the analysis (if the allegations are true).

We begin by viewing the attempted rape not from the perpetrator’s point of view, but from the victim’s. No doubt Ford was terrified. As a threat to her survival and her female role as procreator, this assault was tailor-made for the amygdala—the part of our human brains that prioritizes stimuli and engraves existential threats in mental stone. No doubt Ford would remember this event clearly her whole life, just as I still remember running in front of a car that might have killed me over sixty years ago.

From the viewpoint of human civilization and American law, Ford’s terror, lifetime memory, and narrow escape are only part of the story. What matters is Anglo-American law and tradition in particular, and human civilization in general. Shouldn’t any so-called “conservative” care about them?

Lawyers remember many things from law school decades later. One is repeated reference to the “inviolability” or “sanctity” of one’s person. What do these words mean? They mean that our law draws an invisible shield around everyone’s body. Penetrating that shield requires consent or “due process of law.”

The notion of bodily inviolability goes far beyond rape. Any unwanted or offensive touching can be a cause of civil or criminal liability for assault. If it results in serious injury—even in the case of an unusually delicate “eggshell skull”—it can justify aggravated charges, even of murder.

Why does our law go so far to protect the person of every individual? Because we are women and men, not apes.

In an ape clan, the alpha male rules by force, chasing away weaker rival males and dominating the females and babes in order of his preference. The other members of the clan are like his property. Human civilization began with the notion of personal “rights” that the group would enforce, even against a dominant male.

There can be no “democracy” or “freedom” for you if someone else can use your body as his plaything. After women got the right to vote and own property, there could be no “democracy” or “freedom” for them if a man—even their husbands—could treat their bodies as his property. That’s what’s at stake in Ford’s allegation.

We humans are highly evolved forms of apes, both biologically and socially. But sometimes we can’t help backsliding socially. This is one of those times.

For who is Donald Trump but our national alpha ape? He had no experience in office. He was and is totally unfit for his job in character, knowledge, intelligence and attention span, let alone diplomacy.

How did he get his job? He won a form of symbolic combat, in his rallies and his “debates.” He bested his rivals in insults and in lies—taunts that often seemed invitations to physical combat. He even “stalked” a much smaller female rival around the debate stage. If you doubt this, just read or view any of the innumerable (and shameful) press descriptions of this symbolic combat. Many called Trump a “street fighter” with palpable admiration.

Does the attempted rape matter beyond male-female relations? Of course it does. Does it matter more than abortion? Of course it does. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, there will still be states that provide access to abortion. All Planned Parenthood would have to do is provide information and transportation. Doing so might well be cheaper and less stressful than all the ceaseless, pitched political and legal battle that has been going on now for about half a century.

But a man who, deep in his subconscious, believes that following the alpha ape is the best and right course of action could forfeit our Republic. He could allow this president to burst constitutional bonds on his power, to turn law enforcers into his personal army, and to convert our democracy into his empire. It happened in ancient Rome, and it could happen here. Already we are more than part way there.

At a basic moral and psychological level, jumping a woman at a drunken party and letting the president lead us into war or financial panic all on his own are not really far apart. Neither is a “conservative” act. Both are radical reversions to our ape-like pre-evolutionary state.

Alcohol is no excuse. As we all learned in high school, alcohol is a sedative and a depressant, not a stimulant. It releases our inhibitions. It doesn’t make us do things that are not in our nature to do. An angry drunk has anger in his heart, and an aggressive one has trouble suppressing his inner ape.

We do not yet know how much a reversion to alpha-ape politics is genetic and how much is learned. But there is a direct progression from, and a logical connection between, a young male jumping a woman for fun and because he can (with drink as an excuse) and a mature male justifying or acquiescing in Dubya’s torture, secret renditions, secret prisons and a “Constitution free” zone at Guantánamo. Both are manifestations of the “might makes right” philosophy by which alpha males once ruled our clans, straw bosses once ran the South, and strongmen even now abound as “leaders” around the globe.

Our global evolutionary backsliding is worrying. So, yes, Ford’s charges are serious. They are as serious as they could be. They go directly to whether Kavanaugh has the innate understanding of human civilization and American democracy and values, let alone the wisdom, to merit a lifetime appointment to our Supreme Court. They go even more directly to whether we Americans will have a democracy or an empire several decades hence.

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10 September 2018

President Obama: Hope versus Fear


[For a possible path to Trump’s impeachment and removal, click here. For comment on Trump’s deal with Mexico, click here. For a brief homage to John McCain, followed by reasons to support Stacey Abrams, click here. For a brief note on vote suppression in Georgia as a reason to support Stacey Abrams, click here. For other good candidates and causes and how to contribute easily, click here. For links to the most recent posts together with the inverse chronological links to recent posts, click here.]

Ex-President Barack Obama spoke out forcefully and directly last week. He did so for the first time since leaving office nearly twenty months ago. Why did he break the recent “tradition” of ex-presidents: keeping silent and letting their successors take the reins and the limelight? Why now?

Last Saturday’s New York Timesfront page suggests that he bent to enormous pressure from Democrats. But he has faced enormous pressure many times before, both while running and while in office.

He faced constant pressure from African-Americans to “be more ‘black,’” i.e., to do more for a worthy group that has suffered oppression for four centuries. But he had a still bigger job to do. He had to convince the other 88% of Americans that a “black” man could govern all of us fairly and well. He did that job beautifully: that’s why he got re-elected, despite the GOP’s diabolically dishonest “chutzpah campaign.”

Obama also faced enormous pressure for greater military involvement in Syria, especially after Assad crossed his “red line” on chemical weapons. Many now criticize his decision not to get involved more deeply. But our two “forever” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are already the longest in our national history. Who’s to say that Obama was wrong in keeping us out of yet a third optional war?

Syria is Russia’s problem now. Someday, the Russian people will come to understand the vile butchery that their president and military are supporting. They will do so just as we Americans are slowly coming to recognize—half a century later—the massive evil that we did in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. When a similar light dawns in Russia, the world will be a more peaceful and a better place. (Despite all its faults—and there are many—the People’s Republic of China has engaged directly in only two foreign wars since its founding in 1949, in Korea and Vietnam. Both were proxy wars, and both involved countries right on China’s border.)

Making such difficult decisions is the province of our president in our constitutional system. You can carp at the results. But no one can deny the care, thought and analysis Obama put into them.

Dick Cheney, who helped get us into our forever war in Iraq in a hurry and on a false premise (that Saddam had or was developing nuclear weapons), accused Obama of “dithering.” But taking time and thought to make decisions that are matters of life and death for millions is not “dithering.” It’s leadership.

We Americans have suffered a vacuum of leadership for over half a century. That’s why Obama is the only president since Ike to have been elected twice, by clear popular majorities both times. (Dubya’s first “election” was anything but clear; the Supreme Court declared him the winner.) Ike left office in 1961.

Our current president has taught us well how racism is still latent in America. Apparently, it was always there for any demagogue to play. Trump plays it like a mighty circus organ. His ghastly fugue only highlights how improbable was the political feat of Obama’s two successive electoral victories. It was Obama’s own brilliant strategizing that made them possible.

So if we are thoughtful and honest with ourselves, we start with the premise that Obama knows what he’s doing. He knows perhaps better than any single pol now living. It’s not the pressure. Obama is immune to that. He keeps his own counsel, ands it’s not about him. His decision to speak out now is a deliberate, careful stratagem, just like everything else in his improbably successful political career.

So we return to the central questions of this essay. Why did he speak up at all? Why now?

The answer, I think, is Obama’s deep insight into the human heart. He knows that, for evolutionary reasons, fear is our strongest emotion.

Fear is powerful. But as the science-fiction writer Frank Herbert brilliantly wrote, “Fear is the mind-killer.” It spurs our adrenal system and our “fight or flight” instinct, but it shuts down our higher mental functions.

Warriors know this. That’s why they strive hard to conquer even the acute fear of imminent, instant death. Fear makes us do silly and stupid things, like wasting money trying to build an impenetrable physical wall along our Mexican border, rather than using smarter and cheaper high-tech means to police it.

Hope is a slower, less acute emotion. But in the long run it may be as powerful as fear. Sarah Palin once ridiculed Obama’s “hopey, changey thing.” But that’s what got him elected, twice. Obama is now a revered ex-president. Many of us would re-elect him in a heartbeat, if our Constitution so permitted. Where is Sarah Palin now?

The GOP has become a master of fear mongering. In my youth, it played the “Commies” or “Reds.” These bogeymen were supposedly going to take us over from within. The GOP could hardly claim a direct assault, after we had just invented nuclear weapons and were the only participant in World War II whose territory, industry and war machinery remained largely intact.

The apogee came with Joe McCarthy, a Wisconsin demagogue who saw imaginary Communists in our State Department and even our Army. But if the truth be told, Joe never strayed far from the mother ship. In 1960, when Richard Nixon lost the presidency by a hair, he had beaten the drum of a so-called “missile gap” between us and the Soviets. JFK’s thin win probably saved humanity from nuclear Armageddon in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

If it wasn’t the Commies, the GOP told us to fear violent crime. That’s been its constant pitch since Richard Nixon’s first failing shot at the presidency in 1960. Fear mongering about crime persisted through Daddy Bush’s infamous but highly effective “Willie Horton” ad, which showed the black face of a convicted criminal who had murdered someone after his release from prison. That kind of fear mongering is now a primary means by which Trump tries to foster enthusiasm in his base.

We did have riots during the tumult of the 1960s, spurred in part by our three terrible assassinations, all within five years, of JFK, MLK and RFK. We had a spike of crime during and after our crack epidemic. But that spike is over. We now have the lowest rates of violent crime in a generation, despite more complete reporting of crimes. Yet the GOP keeps plugging away at fear of crime, trying to convince us that immigrants and minorities are everywhere lying in wait to rob, assault, rape and murder us.

The GOP plays on this fear despite careful studies showing that immigrants commit the same number or fewer crimes than others. The reasons are obvious. Undocumented immigrants balk at doing anything that might get them deported. Both lawful and undocumented immigrants are entirely focused on enjoying and succeeding in a system that, for all its faults, offers them far more freedom and opportunity than the ones they left behind in their home countries.

In the long run, the GOP’s fear mongering just grinds everyone down. It grinds down the duped “majority,” who so fear crime, minorities, and immigrants that they can’t think straight about them or anything else. They vote reliably for their own serfdom, while what “trickles down” is never enough to improve their own lives. The fear grinds down minorities and immigrants themselves, forcing them to keep their heads down lest they be noticed and subjected to yet more bias and discrimination.

This long-exploited fear has helped cause the most salient fact about our democracy in its present state. We let a small minority of zealots govern us. Only about a third of us vote regularly, especially in non-presidential elections, let alone in party primaries. We suffer bad government because we don’t have majority rule.

We don’t have majority rule because most of us simply don’t vote, except in presidential elections. And those who, in large numbers, don’t vote are the very ones who, in theory, have the most to lose from not voting: youth, minorities and members of immigrant families. They don’t vote because they don’t believe their voting will make a difference. They are told every day that they are inferior, dangerous and unworthy.

Hope can break this cycle of fear and despair. It can do so especially for new citizens. Indeed, they are precisely the people whom we want to heal and advance our democracy. Why? Because, unlike many cynical and apathetic natives, they still believe in our system.

They sacrificed to get here. They paid guides and “coyotes” to bring them. Some literally walked over a thousand miles. Almost everyone left family, familiarity and community behind. And now they have to learn to work and live with a new language and in a new culture, and to become parts of a new and strange community. They do all this because they see, better than most, the shining city on a hill that we once were and still can be.

In the midst of all the derogation and stress, immigrant citizens need hope and encouragement to play politics and vote. The same truth holds for minorities. African-Americans have felt fear and despair for four centuries. It was only after they saw the realistic possibility of having a president who looks like them that they came out in droves and even “flipped” Southern states.

Whenever Obama speaks out, he gives new voters hope. He gives minorities hope that someday the ugly stain of white supremacy will be wiped from our politics forever. He gives all of us hope that someday we will have thoughtful, deliberate, rational government again, in which a single old man’s planet-sized ego is not our nation’s lodestar.

The time for hope is especially auspicious just now. One of our fastest-growing minorities is (East) Indians. Many are citizens or becoming ones. Unlike many other immigrants, Indians are fully fluent in English and familiar with democracy and how it works. (By population, India is the world’s largest democracy.) Unlike the Chinese and Eastern European immigrants of earlier years, they are not so spooked by fear of Communism as to allow the GOP to conflate mild democratic socialism with Communism and so lead them to serfdom by fear.

Then there are the recent Puerto Rican immigrants to Florida, refugees from Hurricane Maria. They are American citizens. They can vote at any time. But Trump’s neglect and disparagement of their island territory has driven them to fear and despair. When they see a prominent “black” man—an ex-president!—speaking out for rationality, fairness and justice, they may use their votes. If they do so in Florida, our third most populous state and the key “swing” state in the 2000 presidential election will revert to being “flipped” and blue. (Obama won it both times, but Hillary lost it to Trump).

So, speak out, Mr. (Former) President. Please do. Give more of us new hope and new motivation, especially those who despair to vote. If you can get just half of us, rather than a mere third, to vote in this non-presidential election year, our nation will see a new dawn. We will come much closer to majority rule, and much farther from rule by fear-mongering zealots. Only then can we make America great again.

Footnote: There are also structural reasons why we don’t have majority rule in Congress. For a summary before recent changes in filibuster rules, click here.

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06 September 2018

The End Seems Nigh


[For comment on Trump’s deal with Mexico, click here. For a brief homage to John McCain, followed by reasons to support Stacey Abrams, click here. For a brief note on vote suppression in Georgia as a reason to support Stacey Abrams, click here. For other good candidates and causes and how to contribute easily, click here. For links to the most recent posts together with the inverse chronological links to recent posts, click here.]
    “The darkest hour is just before dawn.”—Old Proverb
At the end of the second day of the Kavanaugh Hearings, other news inspired a welcome sense of hope. For the first time since I woke up from surgery on November 8, 2016, only to watch Donald Trump win his election, I can visualize closure. I can foresee the end.

Of course the Trump Presidency was a mirage from the very beginning. It required so many lies and pretenses.

Workers in the White House have had to pretend that their Chief is sane, steady, competent and experienced enough to lead. In fact, as we learned today from Bob Woodward’s book and an anonymous pol’s confession, his “team” has had to “manage” Trump by such means as taking papers from his desk and ignoring his direct orders.

Republicans in Congress have had to pretend that they love their “leader” and enjoy following him. Journalists have had to pretend that a steady diet of lies, anger and hate, delivered with a child’s vocabulary, justifies their lifelong dedication to truth and the English language. All whom Trump touches have had pretend that they can work comfortably with an irascible old man whose only concerns are himself and his twisted public image.

Of course all this has been charade. It’s not how life works. It’s not how politics works. It’s not how this country works; it’s not even close.

The linchpin that has held held the broken train on the tracks so far has been Republicans’ goal orientation. They got their tax cuts. They busted so many regulations. They managed to postpone the inevitable consequences of letting global warming run away. They got their stolen Supreme Court seat and appear on their way to securing a second conservative appointment. And for those who had to suffer primary contests in a Trump-dominated party, the ones who kow-towed for an endorsement managed to win, while those who didn’t lost.

But here’s the thing: there’s no second act. There’ll be no more tax cuts; there’s nothing left in the kitty but debt. The regulatory revolution is working its way through the “deep state,” but doing so will take months or years—maybe decades of litigation!—and resistance is growing. No more Supreme Court vacancies appear on the horizon. And the consequences of unaddressed global warming are becoming self-evident, with massive fires in California, hurricanes in Hawaii and Mississippi, and algae blooms and toxic red tides tormenting Floridians from both sides.

As for the primaries, they’re rapidly coming to an end. Most of the pols who pandered obsequiously to Trump will lose their general elections. Those who win may drink or drug themselves out of office in shame. Those who haven’t had to suffer primaries will come to realize that they hate Trump’s guts. They hate him because he’s mean and nasty, because he’s tormented them with demeaning nicknames, bragging and insults, and because (unless they’re newbies) he’s broken every rule they ever learned in their careers—including basic tact and diplomacy—and then rubbed their noses in his undeserved victories.

As for the much-vaunted resurgence of bigotry in America, there’s a backlash to the backlash, and it’s much bigger! The silent majority is turning around. It’s feeling the tug of traditional American sympathy for the underdog. It’s voting for minority candidates in record numbers—as if to thumb its tens of millions of noses at Trump.

That’s only part of the meaning of Stacey Abrams’ upset in Georgia, Andrew Gillum’s in Florida, and Ayanna Pressley’s in Massachusetts last night. Most white Dems don’t care what color their reps are, as long as they’re progressive, smart and courageous. And black, brown and yellow voters will come out to vote for black Democratic pols because they know they aren’t white supremacists in disguise. Everybody is happy, the more so as Trumpism appears the last, dying gasp of white supremacy at the dawn of new age of equality and meritocracy.

Florida, in particular, is a key swing state and one of the three Southern states that can give the Dems a lock on the presidency without the upper Midwest or Pennsylvania. And Florida is the locus of a perfect Democratic storm. Together African- and Hispanic- Americans are about 40% of the population, and they are awakening. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Puerto Ricans, enraged at Trump’s neglect of and disdain for their Island, waiting to register and vote their revenge. Finally, the explosion of algae and red tides, devastating Florida’s tourist industry, has given the lie to the usual GOP attitude toward environmental planning and regulation: “Don’t worry; everything’s OK!”

No, it’s not OK, and it may never be OK again. Millions of workers and owners in the tourism industry are about to experience their personal political epiphanies.

So it’s now possible to foresee a likely endgame. The Dems will take the House in November, probably handily. They will start an investigation with a view toward impeachment, for treason, corruption and obstruction of justice. They will have the votes to impeach, which requires only a simple majority in the House.

When the case goes to the Senate, GOP senators will have a choice. They can keep an unreliable, dangerous, and increasingly senile and erratic man, whose guts they hate, in the White House and ride with him to almost certain defeat in 2020. Or they can switch him for a reliable, conventional Republican, Mike Pence, and a second chance. What choice do you think they will make? It will probably take less than a third of the GOP caucus to convict and remove.

It’s too soon to say that the long national nightmare is over. In politics, anything can happen. But a perfect electoral storm is shaping up, and the GOP appears to have only one reasonably reliable path out of its way. All that’s really needed to force it onto that path is Democrats registering, voting, and keeping the faith.

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