Wednesday, December 28, 2016
One of the things that drives progressives like me crazy in this country is the way that middle and lower class white people (especially men) vote for Republicans time and time again, despite the fact that the Republicans economic plans of tax cuts for the rich and rolling back social programs will not actually benefit them. Putting it simply, since Lyndon Johnson signed the civil rights voting act and declared a war on poverty back in the 60's Republicans have been playing on racial resentments in code words, (welfare queens) allowing the rich and the powerful to hold onto more of that wealth and power by shifting the problems in America onto the backs of supposedly lazy minorities. Donald Trump campaign took those code words and turned them into outright race baiting, although he blamed Mexican immigrants more than African Americans.
One of the craziest trends of poor and middle class whites voting against their own economic interests comes from people who can only afford health care through the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) , which Trump repeatedly said he would repeal. (And in typical Trumpian fashion, said he would replace it with "something great" without explanation.) Recent stories in the New York Times and Vox magazine interview people who are glad to have healthcare through Obamacare and yet who gleefully voted for Trump. Many of them felt that he couldn't possibly repeal something that has helped so many people get healthcare. But will he?
Well, he certainly said he would, and the Republican lead congress is even more enthusiastic about it. The result of that repeal could mean that the twenty five million Americans aided by it could be thrown off of their healthcare. Obviously, the Republicans don't want that to happen overnight, so they have proposed repealing the bill and putting a time limit on that repeal in two to three years, at which time, so they claim, they will have a better proposal in place. But one has to wonder just what kind of plan the Republicans will come up with that isn't the kind of big government program they claim to hate. Both Trump and congress say that they want to retain certain provisions of the bill, like allowing young people being able to stay on their parents's health plan until their 26, and health care companies not being able to refuse care because of a patient's pre existing condition, but they don't mention just how to afford those provisions without retaining the insurance mandate provision, that is, the part of the bill that says all Americans must purchase healthcare or pay a fee. That provision is how the bill is paid for, and it's also the part Republicans claim to hate the most. So what will they do?
Sadly, this all seems to be coming down to a horrible game of chicken with the well being of millions of Americans in the middle. Will the Republicans find a free market solution that doesn't just look like they're dumping millions of people off health care? And if they do, will the Democrats in congress filibuster it, or live with it rather than let those millions of Americans go without care? It's going to be interesting, but I think those white middle class voters really need to think about what they've done and learn to stop shooting themselves in the foot. (Especially since they may soon not have any healthcare coverage).
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
As President elect Trump continues to compile a list of anti environment crazies for his cabinet, (including Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil's chief executive, as Secretary of State), a question arises: where the heck are the Democrats?
Let's examine the chain of events that lead America to the scary unknown waters we are about to wade in: Trump won the election while losing the popular vote by almost three million; in the history of our country there have five presidents who have won the electoral college and lost the popular vote, and Trump's loss was by far the biggest. Throw in the fact that James Comey of the FBI gave Trump a big boost by announcing less than two weeks before the election that he still had Hillary Clinton emails to investigate (even though he found nothing), plus the fact the CIA has declared that Russia definitely hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to sway the election to Trump, and you have a formula for a weakened presidency, one that even could be overturned by dissenting members of the Electoral College, who don't officially vote until the 19th. of this month.
And yet, where is the outrage from the Democrats? Why aren't they speaking out against the many obvious conflicts of interest Trump will have as president? Why aren't they mounting court challenges against his tainted victory? When Green Party candidate Jill Stein called for a recount in several states, the Democrats barely supported it. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (who isn't even technically a Democrat) have spoken out, but otherwise, there's been little reaction from the so called opposition. Instead of uniting against an potentially wildly unpopular president, the party is licking its wounds and looking for a leader.
This, sadly, may be part of the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats; liberals are just too darn nice. The Republican party has become the domain of the aggressive, alpha male type (who sometimes is a woman), with leaders who march with macho swagger, and exude the air of certainty, and who demonize liberals with over the top arguments that they never apologize for. The Democrats are the party of compromise and reason, they're open to negotiation. And so they get killed. Remember how during the campaign, Hillary Clinton got in trouble for referring to half of Trump voters as a "basket of deplorables"? And how she had to quickly issue an apology afterwards? While she was doing that, Trump was referring to her and President Barack Obama as "traitors" and the "co-founders of Isis". And there was never any mea culpa given for his literally saying that the president helped start a terrorist organization! And this didn't just start with Trump; for years conservative media has hyped a world view that sees the world simply in black and white terms, and with liberals in league with Satan.
One of the problems liberals have is that we look at the changing demographics of the country that seem to favor us, and the polls that show that most Americans agree with us on issues like gay marriage and abortion, and we think we will win. But we often fail to see the passion and sense of moral certitude on the other side that can bring more voters to the polls; conservatives just seem to want power more.
Now, as a passive liberal who hates to raise his voice in anger and likes musicals more than action films, I can relate to the problems of the left. But now is not the time for complacency! We have to take a page from the Republican play book; in 2008, when Obama won the White House and the Democrats made big gains in congress, did they decide to start compromising? No, they filibustered everything they could in the Senate, and they stood united against everything Obama said and did. They proudly became the party of NO. And they were rewarded by retaking congress and grid locking the government in Obama's second term. Well, if the Republicans can stall a president who won the popular vote twice, certainly the Democrats should be able to stall a president who lost the popular vote by a wide margin. So come on Democrats, do you really just want to let Trump dismantle everything Obama has done in the past eight years, from rolling back environmental regulations to throwing millions of people off of health care? If not, get out there and fight. There can always be more than one party of NO.
Monday, December 5, 2016
The above picture is of a Klan rally that was held in Washington DC in 1922; the idea that such a hateful organization could at one time come together in our nation's capitol seems like a relic of our backwards past. Surely, white supremacist groups like them have no power or influence nowadays, right?
Well, their numbers may be smaller, but the Klu Klux Klan is still with us, and they still like to come out in force sometimes. Like they just did last Saturday in North Carolina, only now, instead of rallying in front of the White House, they just rally in favor of the man about to live in the White House. Yes, along with their usual cries of "white power", Klan members were also heard yelling "hail victory" in praise of Trump's win. And to make things even more clear, here's a direct quote from Amanda Barker, an "imperial komander" in the group: “Actually we have the same views,” she said, referring to the president-elect. “A lot of white Americans felt the same way, especially about the wall, immigration and the terrorism coming here. I think Donald Trump is going to do some really good things and turn this country around."
And that Klan leader has reason to be happy: Trump's choice for Attorney General is Jeff Sessions, a man who was denied a federal judgeship back in 1986 for racially inflammatory statements, and Trump's chief strategist is Steve Bannon, a former alternative right media leader also known for racist and anti Semitic statements. So don't be fooled by his appointment of African American Ben Carson to be Secretary of the House And Urban development, most of the people Trump will surround himself and listen to as president are white men whom those Klan members will approve of. And the more you think of it, the worse it gets: over two million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Trump, but he won because we have an outdated electoral college system, which was first devised to give more power to smaller, less populated slave states. So our legacy of slavery just gave the White House to the most openly race baiting modern presidential candidate ever!
And then there's the so called "pizzagate" scandal: last Sunday a man opened fire in a Washington DC pizza parlor; while he thankfully hurt no one and was quickly caught, his inspiration for the shooting was clear. Shortly after Wikileaks released thousands of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta's emails last November, a conspiracy theory began that stated that somehow the DC pizza place Comet Ping Pong was the center of a child prostitution ring, with Clinton herself inevitably involved! (Every time Podesta emailed Clinton about ordering pizza, he was actually ordering up another child prostitute, so the theory goes). There has never been a shred of proof for any of this, but the belief has escalated from threatening messages towards the pizza place's owner and coworkers to the aforementioned gun toting nut job shooting up the place.
So how could this now violence inspiring crazy conspiracy get any worse? How about the fact that one of the people who spread it is now Trump's choice for National Security Advisor? That's right, today's New York Times reports that Lt. Gen. Micheal Flynn has endorsed this conspiracy on his twitter account, along with other Clinton and President Obama conspiracies. The fact that a candidate for a major political appointment could believe something so insane and unproven should be a major scandal, but, as with so much else, Trump just sails over it. And it should come as no surprise. Why should it matter that a Trump appointee believes bug nut crazy conspiracies when the president himself recently tweeted that millions of illegal voters voted in the presidential election? As with pizzagate, there is absolutely no proof of Trump's voter assertion, but then there is absolutely no proof in so much of what he has said in the past eighteen months that one more lie is nothing. He lies multiple times in practically every speech he's given as a candidate, and he won, so why stop?
So let's review: American voters elected a man who ran a campaign filled with bigotry and conspiracy theories, and he now is surrounding himself with bigots and conspiracy theorists! This is why progressives must never stop opposing him, this isn't about Republicans vs. Democrats, this is about wrong and right.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
"No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."
Article I, Section 9, Clause 8
The above clause of the US Constitution is known as the Emoluments Clause, and it was included out of a concern that members of English royalty may try to influence American politics through bribes or royal titles. Just how it applies to the modern American political scene is debatable, although I doubt few of our citizens would argue with the basic notion that our politicians shouldn't take bribes from foreigners. Which brings us to President-elect Donald Trump; he will be groundbreaking in his presidency not only because of his complete lack of political or military experience, but also because he will be the first to ever to run a massive, multi million (perhaps billion) global corporation just before entering office. While he has stated that he will hand over his corporation to his children once he is in office, this will hardly remove any potential conflicts of interest that may arise.
Indeed, even before taking office, there are reports of him receiving a congratulatory phone call from the prime minister of Argentina and turning it into a plea for restrictions to lifted on a building his company is working on there. He also has interests in India that he may see advanced through his ascendancy to the White House. And the Secret Service may be renting a floor in his New York Trump Tower building, at a cost of over a million dollars a year (if that happens, that's our tax dollars going to a standing president, folks!). And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. It really appears that Trump plans to use the office of the Presidency to advance his own economic interests first and to implement policies second (unless those polices also advance his interests). Is this all constitutional? Probably not, but given that it would take a Republican majority congress to do something about it, there may be no move to rebuke or restrict him. But as long as he uses his office like a cash machine, there may come a time when public outcry causes congress to act.
And then we need to consider the general temperament of the man we somehow elected president; during the campaign, Trump advisors often admitted that he would listen to their advice for a short time, before impulsively doing his own thing, like sending insulting tweets at three in the morning. This is bad enough when one is a candidate, but when you're president? Quite frankly, he has the maturity level and attention span of a toddler, combine that with his godlike sense of self importance and lack of experience in politics, and it is entirely possible that this man may blunder into some kind of criminal corruption or international crisis without even knowing it.
What am I saying? I'm saying that some kind of impeachment is possible in the next four years. Understand, I'm not just predicting this out of angry sour grapes or my personal intense dislike of the man, I'm just honestly looking at him through media reports on his manner and disposition and finding that he is probably a psychopath, with inflated self esteem and an inability to care about any other person in the world. Meaning that he very well may stumble into something impeachable as he childishly tries to increase his own wealth and importance, and don't forget that many Republicans in congress did not support his campaign and would rather have his VP Mike Pence as president than him, and we may see our country's desire to have a inexperienced, immature, sexist, bigoted, bullying, demagogic, hate filled, narcissistic leader turn out to be short lived. Boy, I sure hope so...