Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Big 4-Oh!

The final count on the Democrats’ gain in the midterms is 40.

TJ Cox defeated three-term Republican Rep. David Valadao on Wednesday, giving Democrats a gain of seven House seats in California and 40 nationwide — the party’s strongest midterm showing since the Watergate era in the mid-1970s.

Cox clinched his victory more than three weeks after election day, when updated results from Fresno and Kings counties pushed his lead over Valadao to 529 votes. The contest was the country’s last remaining undecided congressional contest.

Cox, 55, trailed the GOP lawmaker by nearly 4,400 votes on election night but steadily gained ground as mail-in and other ballots tipped his way.

“Let this be a message to every Republican,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a tweet claiming victory. “If you come for Americans’ livelihoods, we WILL come for your seats.”

Not only that, it’s the most diverse House makeup ever.

The congressional freshman class of 2019 is perhaps best described in superlatives. It is the most racially diverse and most female group of representatives ever elected to the House, whose history spans more than 200 years. And it boasts an avalanche of firsts, from the first Native American congresswomen to the first Muslim congresswomen.

Now let’s do something with it.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Reading

A Small, Sure Sign of Hope — Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker on how Lucy McBath’s win in the Georgia 6th is a harbinger.

Three years ago, HBO aired a documentary called “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets,” which examined the tortured aftermath of the death of Jordan Davis, a seventeen-year-old boy who was shot as he sat in an S.U.V. parked at a Florida gas station. At the start of the film, you see Lucy McBath, Davis’s mother, sitting at a table, depleted, telling how she came to name her son after the Biblical River Jordan. “I wanted to name him something that would symbolize the crossing over and a new beginning,” she says. Later, you see a more resolute McBath seated in a Senate hearing room with Sybrina Fulton—whose son Trayvon Martin was also shot to death at the age of seventeen—giving testimony about Stand Your Ground laws and their impact on her son’s death.

The two moments are as apt an encapsulation as you’ll find of the significance of McBath’s victory last week in the race for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, situated just north of Atlanta. McBath, a Democrat who ran on a platform of growing the economy, funding education, and addressing climate change, was inescapably wed in the public’s mind to the issue of gun reform. Her despair and her resolve are equal parts of her political identity. She narrowly defeated the Republican incumbent, Karen Handel, in a race that remained somewhat low-profile among the prognostications about which districts the Democrats might flip in the midterms. Last year, the Democrat Jon Ossoff gained national attention in his bid to win the seat, which opened after the Republican Tom Price left it for what turned out to be a short stint as the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration. Ossoff lost to Handel in a runoff, by less than four percentage points, with 48.1 per cent of the vote. A measure of the skepticism about McBath’s chances could be seen in the fact that, before last Tuesday, the race was being referred to in some quarters as the “Ossoff race without Ossoff.”

McBath’s victory reflects several trends: the inroads that Democrats are making in Republican suburban districts that Trump’s tax cuts and border-fearmongering were supposed to secure, the record number of women elected to public office in the face of the mainline misogyny that is a feature of the Trump era, and the fading ability of gun-rights appeals to safeguard Republican districts. It is also worth noting that nine new African-American candidates were elected to Congress in the midterms—all of them Democrats, five of them women—and that, once all the outstanding races are called, will likely bring the ranks of the Congressional Black Caucus to a record fifty-six members. All but two of them are in the House, and the majority of those members won election in majority-minority districts. The nine incoming representatives, however, were all elected in largely white districts—a fact that may complicate the calculations of the caucus and the voting behavior of its members. McBath will be the first African-American to represent her district.

There are other, subtler dynamics at play in the Georgia Sixth results. The fight over Georgia’s gubernatorial race, between the Democrat Stacey Abrams and the Republican Brian Kemp, who, until last week, served as Georgia’s secretary of state, focussed on Kemp’s record of voter-roll purges and voter suppression. Many elections come down to turnout; in Georgia, the question was how many potential voters would be turned away. Kemp, however, was just following a playbook pioneered by Handel, who preceded him as secretary of state, serving from 2007 to 2010. Early in the 2008 Presidential campaign, when it was optimistically suggested that Barack Obama’s candidacy might put Georgia in play for the Democrats, Handel engineered a purge in which some four thousand eligible voters were flagged for removal for being “non-citizens.” (At the time, I was teaching at Spelman College, and this happened to one of my students. It took, in part, the intervention of a local CNN station to get her registered; a panel of federal judges overturned Handel’s order.) The gerrymandered redistricting in the Republican-controlled state legislature was also intended to thwart Democrats.

In a sense, the race in Georgia’s Sixth District was a small-scale version of the governor’s race. McBath’s results—she won 50.5 per cent of the vote—are particularly notable, given that black voters make up roughly a third of the electorate in the state but only thirteen per cent in the district. Ossoff ran in 2017 on a platform that was similar to McBath’s on issues such as climate change, the economy, and Medicaid. Ossoff also campaigned against subsidies that made it easier for foreign airlines to compete in the United States, recognizing that Delta Air Lines is headquartered in Atlanta, and that voters employed at the nearby Hartsfield-Jackson airport were affected by the issue. (McBath worked for Delta for thirty years.) The 2017 race became the most expensive House contest ever, costing some fifty-five million dollars. McBath’s campaign spent $1.2 million, but she improved on Ossoff’s margin by more than two points.

There are a number of ways to look at this outcome. The district, despite its history as a home of G.O.P. stalwarts—it was Newt Gingrich’s seat for twenty years—was trending toward the Democrats. In 2000, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by thirty-six points there. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s margin of victory was twenty-three points. In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by just a single point. It is sixteen months further into the Trump era than when Ossoff ran, and it is entirely possible that the President has worn out the grace period that moderate voters were inclined to give him last year. But, crucially, McBath represents a movement. Her son was shot by a white man named Michael Dunn, following a dispute over playing loud music, on November 23, 2012. Trayvon Martin had been shot nine months earlier, as he walked, unarmed, through a gated community where he was staying. Both deaths occurred in Florida and became central to the debate over the so-called Stand Your Ground gun laws in that state. George Zimmerman was acquitted in Martin’s death; Dunn, in a second trial, was sentenced to life without parole. The film “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets” follows McBath and her ex-husband, Ron Davis, as they pursued justice for their son over two trials. (They requested that the prosecutors not seek the death penalty.)

When I interviewed them after a screening of the film, at the Schomburg Center, in Harlem, McBath emphasized the extent to which she had channelled her sorrow over her son’s death into action with the groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. McBath served as the national spokesperson for both organizations and testified on the dangers of Stand Your Ground laws before the Florida, Georgia, and Nevada state legislatures. In 2016, McBath, with Sybrina Fulton and seven other women who had lost children, most of them to gun violence, appeared in support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, under the banner of the Mothers of the Movement. McBath’s campaign Web site carefully noted that she supports “2nd Amendment rights of Georgians,” but she also promised to “push for implementing background checks for all firearm purchases; raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21 years of age; working to defeat conceal carry reciprocity measures; and introducing legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other criminals.”

McBath was elected nine months after seventeen people were shot to death at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, and a little more than a week after eleven people were killed in the Tree of Life synagogue, in Pittsburgh, and two were murdered in a Kentucky supermarket. She was also elected almost exactly six years after her own son died. The plague of gun violence and the intransigence of the gun lobby in the face of it have often seemed like an unbreakable stalemate. McBath’s election is a small, sure sign of hope.

Speaking of Oz — Julia Baird in the New York Times on how hard it is to speak Australian.

SYDNEY, Australia — Running out of gas is one of the most foolish things you can do, but I was guilty of it several times when I was a lean-living university student. That changed, though, when Hugh Jackman was hired as the attendant at my local gas station. He was older than me, clean-cut and hot, an improbably nice star of local high school musicals who was known to date unassuming women. I tried not to stumble over my feet — or, say, into his arms — as he greeted me with a big grin when my Volkswagen Beetle sputtered in: “Jules!”

That year, I never ran out of gas.

Today, Mr. Jackman, the star of films like “Wolverine” and “Les Misérables,” is widely adored in Australia, even by those who never saw him behind a cash register. He holds a special place in Australian hearts because international success has not made him pretentious. Most crucially, his accent is still intact.

Australians have a strong, often irrational suspicion of people who leave the country, succeed and change. Even Paul Hogan, the comedian and actor who played that most iconic Australian caricature, Crocodile Dundee, belied his working-class image after he found global stardom and dumped his wife for his more glamorous — and American — co-star. Occasional grumbling is heard about the model Elle Macpherson or the singer Kylie Minogue, both of whom have acquired “global” accents.

By shifting accents, Australian expatriates are seen to be shifting class and status, indicating a sense of superiority to those who remain in Australia. The quickly acquired faux-British accent in particular has been associated with pretension, or a snootiness that reveals desperation to cover a humble antipodean past, to disown a sunburned, bikini-clad family. Part of our fight against a long-held cultural cringe has been the insistence that we do not need to erase our accents to, say, host a TV show or radio program.

The problem is, sometimes we do need to adapt the way we speak. When I moved to Manhattan in 2006 to work at a newsmagazine, my accent became a hurdle. “We are cursed by a common language,” my editor was fond of telling me, a line he ascribed to some British statesman, who doubtless looked down his pince-nez at his convict-descended cousins. After he told me that he could not understand 80 percent of what I was saying, I began to emphasize my R’s and slow my speech.

We Australians are used to people being rude about the way we talk. Winston Churchill was particularly cruel about our accent. He described it as “the most brutal maltreatment that has ever been inflicted on the mother-tongue of the great English-speaking nations.” At best it’s called cute; at worst it’s dismissed as incomprehensible.

But given that it is so hard to mimic, perhaps we should be proud of its uniqueness.

What Americans — and, to a lesser extent, the British — fail to recognize is that as much as they mock us, they are almost constitutionally incapable of imitating the Australian accent, no matter how often they repeat “G’day, mate!” Even the great Meryl Streep failed to capture it when she portrayed Lindy Chamberlain in the 1988 movie “Evil Angels,” about a woman whose baby is killed in the Australian outback. The line remains famous for its melodrama — “The dingo’s got my bay-bee!” — but in Australia it’s also famous as a reminder that even Hollywood’s greatest stars cannot master our way of speaking.

Foreign media’s inability to capture how Australians really talk has been back in the news recently, thanks to the new season of the American sitcom “The Good Place,” part of which takes place in Sydney. On social media and in newspapers, Australians are baffled — if not outraged — by hearing American actors mock and mangle the way we speak. This has revived a long-held resentment about the fact that we so often appear as caricatures, fools or comic figures onscreen, with failed attempts to capture our accents that make us seem like bigger idiots.

Why are we so hard to imitate? Maybe part of it is that there’s something deeply laid back about the Australian accent. One theory suggests that this is because of our habitat: Given the swarms of flies buzzing around the outback, the legend goes, we developed a pattern of speech that would involve only opening our mouths slightly for fear of letting in insects. That’s probably not true, but we can conduct entire conversations while barely moving our lips.

In recent years, another startling theory emerged: Drunken convicts are to blame. Dean Frenkel, a lecturer in public speaking and communications at Victoria University in Melbourne, wrote in 2015: “Our forefathers regularly got drunk together and through their frequent interactions unknowingly added an alcoholic slur to our national speech patterns. For the past two centuries, from generation to generation, drunken Aussie-speak continues to be taught by sober parents to their children.” A horde of linguists dismissed this, but the theory, predictably, got coverage around the world — it’s what people want to think about Australia.

Professor Frenkel is right that our speech is lazy. He thinks we use only two-thirds of our articulator muscles. We replace T with D (“impordant”) and drop I’s (Austraya) or make them into oi’s (roight!). But we also add vowels in surprising places (future becomes fee-yu-cha).

But the people best placed to mock Australian accents are Australians. Self-parody is a national sport. On Twitter, we lampoon our country by calling it #Straya. We shorten “Good on you” to “onya” and we stretch out the greeting “mate” to “maaaaaaaate,” the length depending on the depth of affection and time of day. These kinds of joyous subtleties are lost on outsiders, though. And that’s what American television and movie producers need to understand. Next time, hire Australian actors to do Australian accents. Like, say, my mate Wolverine.

Doonesbury — Phoning it in.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Slow Going

The recount in Broward County is going to take a while.

Two days after state officials ordered a statewide recount in three key races that ended within razor-thin margins, Broward County elections officials said Monday they have not yet started their recount of more than 700,000 ballots it must tally before Thursday’s deadline.

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes said she was not concerned that her office would not meet its deadline, even if the start of the recount is delayed until Tuesday morning.

“No, there is not” any concern, said Snipes, whose headquarters in Lauderhill were once again surrounded Monday by a small crowd of protesters critical of the elections chief and her competence to serve.

Broward will conduct three statewide recounts and additional recounts on four municipal races, all of which are on the first page of Broward’s ballots. The machines have to first separate that page from the rest of each ballot before they can then be refed and recounted. (Ballots in Broward county can range from four to seven pages, depending on the city.)

Elections workers had begun that process on 10 machines late Sunday morning, after technical glitches delayed the start for a few hours. Two new machines were delivered to the supervisor’s office on Monday morning, and workers were still separating ballots as of Monday afternoon. About 10 representatives from both parties are overseeing the recount, along with monitors from the state’s Division of Elections.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are in a huge hurry to get it done, the implication being that if it not done RIGHT NOW they will somehow lose, or it will give fraud a chance.

Despite mounting pressure from top Republicans to investigate unfounded claims of voter fraud in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, the top official for Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement remained mum on whether  his agency would start a probe.

A day after Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi publicly rebuked FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen for not investigating claims of voter fraud in the state’s midterm election, the two agencies issued a joint press release assuring the public they were watching for “criminal activity.”

But they stopped short of saying whether they’d found any fraud.

Gov. Rick Scott has repeatedly gone on TV to complain of “rampant fraud” in Tuesday’s election after witnessing his lead in the U.S. Senate race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson dwindle as votes continued to be counted after election night.

Like Bondi, he’s offered no evidence of fraud in his call for an investigation. So far, FDLE officials have said they’ve had no evidence to warrant an investigation.

Jim York, who was FDLE commissioner under Gov. Bob Graham in the 1980s, said he was outraged that Scott and Bondi were pressuring Swearingen.

“It’s extraordinary. I don’t know where the attorney general feels she has any jurisdiction here,” York said. “I just appreciate Swearingen, and I hope he continues to stand up to this kind of crap.”

In normal times, it would be the people who are behind in the race who are screaming fraud and carrying on about that kind of crap, but Scott has an apparent lead and it’s very rare for a recount to overturn an election.  But Scott and Biondi and the rest of the banshee delegation are taking their cue from Trump, who’s injecting himself and his nutsery into the recount here.  Andrew Gillum, the candidate for governor who trails Ron DeSantis by less than 0.5%, dealt with Trump’s frothing with the perfect response.

He should win just on that alone.

Stay tuned, folks.  This ain’t over by a long shot.

Friday, November 9, 2018

In Florida, It Ain’t Over

Here we go again.  Via the Tampa Bay Times:

A visibly frustrated Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday accused “unethical liberals” of trying to steal a U.S. Senate seat from him, as his campaign filed a lawsuit against election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties for allegedly refusing to release voting tabulations.

“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott told reporters on the front steps of the stately  Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee.

The targets of Scott’s wrath were Brenda Snipes, the Broward County elections supervisor, and Palm Beach supervisor Susan Bucher. Both officials are Democrats; Scott is a Republican.

Scott unleashed the attack as his slim lead over Democrat Bill Nelson in the Senate race continued to evaporate. It stood at 15,092 votes, or .18 percent, on Thursday night.

“And I would have pulled it off if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!” said every villain in a Scooby Doo cartoon.  Nature and barbering choices are what made Mr. Scott look the part, but it goes along with the axiom that Republicans believe that counting every vote is tantamount to fraud

Meanwhile, Andrew Gillum, who had conceded the governors race to Republican Ron DeSantis, is having second thoughts as the count narrows down to the range of an automatic recount.

As of 9 a.m. [Thursday], DeSantis’ lead was just 42,948 votes out of 8,189,305 ballots cast — equal to 0.52 percent of the vote. Concession speech or no, Florida law requires an automatic machine recount in any race where the margin of victory is within one half of one percentage point.

By 2 p.m., Gillum gained on DeSantis by another 4,441 votes, and now trails by only 0.47 percent.

Thousands of ballots still remain uncounted, so it’s too soon to say whether a recount will indeed happen in the race for governor. Florida’s 67 elections supervisors must send their unofficial numbers to the state by 1 p.m. Saturday, and campaign volunteers were scrambled around the state Thursday as supervisors prepared to examine provisional ballots cast by voters with unresolved issues at their polling places.

The Gillum campaign sent out an email to supporters Thursday afternoon urging those with provisional ballots to call their supervisor of elections offices before 5 p.m. to make sure their ballot was counted, and campaign spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said the campaign was prepared for a recount effort.

“It has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported,” she said in a statement. “Our campaign, along with our attorney Barry Richard, is monitoring the situation closely and is ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount.”

There’s good reason for both Scott and DeSantis to be worried.  All of the votes haven’t been counted in Broward County, which is Fort Lauderdale, and that’s the most Democratic county in the state.  If there’s going to be a change in the resumed result of Tuesday night, it’s going to come from those votes.

Might as well get comfortable; we’re going to be here for a while.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reasons For Hope

It wasn’t a wave, but it was enough to win the House, and that was as good a result as we could have reasonably hoped for in these contentious and tense times.

Here in Florida, Andrew Gillum gave it as good a run as possible and came very close to winning against a Trump puppet who undoubtedly counted on the inner racism of the GOP base here in places where old times there are not forgotten and the idea of a non-white person in the governors mansion in any capacity other than a servant is still cause for pearl-clutching.  In the Senate, a lot of voters probably forgot that Bill Nelson was still in office; he is not a dynamic campaigner.  But he did get things done, and he tempered the state’s image against that of the weathervane that is Marco Rubio.  The only saving grace of having Rick Scott in the Senate is that he will be spending more time out of the state, and with Congress now split between the Democrats in the House and the Republicans in the Senate, nothing will be passed and certain things will be saved, such as Obamacare and Medicaid expansion.  I’d rather have him retired and commenting on Fox than in elected office, but at least he won’t be able to do any harm.

Much to Florida’s credit, the voters passed Amendment 4 which restores the voting rights to convicted felons who have served their sentences, adding about 1.4 million voters back to the rolls.  That could have a deep impact in the 2020 election if they vote the way the demographics indicate they could.  Locally, the voters of Miami-Dade County passed a property tax increase to fund pay raises for public school teachers and support personnel, including school police.  Seeing as how teachers here can barely afford to live in the county, it’s a good step forward.

On the national scene, there’s reasons to be encouraged even if some of the hopes for a turnover in the Senate went aglimmering.  Beto O’Rourke gave Ted Cruz a very strong run and I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts getting the national attention in 2020.  Scott Walker lost the governorship in Wisconsin, Democrats won theirs in Michigan and Minnesota, and in Colorado, voters elected Jared Polis, the first openly gay governor in the nation.  They also flipped a House seat in a district that has been reliably Republican since I lived there in the 1980’s.  Nevada also went Democratic in both the Senate and the governorship, taking that state back.  Most importantly and a result that will have an impact long after this election and the one after it is over, the number of women who ran and won is stunning.  Finally, nearly a hundred years after they got the vote, there’s hope that the majority of people in the country will at last have equal representation in the halls of power.

Yes, there was some disappointment.  A lot of people — myself included — were hoping for a wave of the scale that would not just beat the Republicans to a pulp but humiliate them and Trump as well.  Given his propensity for lying, taking credit where none is due, and skirting blame when he was the cause, he’ll take yesterday’s votes as an endorsement of his campaign style.  Starting today — Campaign 2020 began when the last poll closed last night — we’re in for two years of making the last two years look like an episode of Mister Rogers.  But at least he won’t be able to pass any legislation.

So there is reason to hope.  A lot of it.  And temper your disappointment with resolve.  Like any movie about competition, the hero always loses the first round but comes back to win.  And we’re halfway there already.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

This Is It

You know what to do.

I arrived at the polling place at 7:10 a.m., ten minutes after the polls opened.  I had to drive around the large parking lot to find a place to park.  I drove the Pontiac with the Ontario plates in full display just to freak out any right-wing nutter poll-watcher (Imagined confrontation: “Hey, are you Canadian?” “No, but the car is, and it’s old enough to vote, too!”)  By the time I got to the entrance to the church parish hall, there was a line of sixteen people out the door.

When I finally got in and waited to check in, I stood behind a young guy, and I overheard him tell the clerk his birthday.  He was born in 2000, and I found out later that this was his first election.  I told him, “Welcome to the fight.”  I don’t care who he voted for; if he voted the opposite of me, we cancelled each other out, and if he vote with me, then so much the better.  At least he voted.

The ballot was four pages with two sides to page.  In addition to the state and local races, there were constitutional amendments and county referendums, and a question to increase the local millage to give teachers and instructional support staff a raise.  Not a tough choice on that one.

I finished in about fifteen minutes and the line had shrunk to where everyone was inside the hall, but there was still a line.  As I left I was stopped by a local reporter who asked if I vote in every election.  Yes, I replied, starting in 1972 at the Oak Avenue fire station in Coconut Grove, about ten miles from here, and it won’t be my last.

If you don’t vote, you don’t count.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Peak Freak

So we’re down to the last 24 hours before the polls open for the mid-terms and everyone is in the full-press mode to the end.  My e-mail box is stuffed with pleas from candidates all over the country (that’s because of posting the blog’s e-mail address), the cable channels are filled with warring ads from both parties and PAC’s, and even my phone is getting in on the act with texts urging me to vote early.  I only hope the enthusiasm and urgency was reciprocated by the early voters and will be tomorrow when the polls open.

Meanwhile, Trump is running around the country like his hair was on fire (okay, skip the cheap shot about flammable materials and accelerants) doing his best (or worst) to scare the crap out of the foolish and the weak, going only to places where he knows he’ll get a fawning reception, lying his ass off about what the Democrats will do when they get back in power; lying to the point that reporters aren’t couching their terms in quasi-objective modes but calling him a flat-out liar.

Trump has never been hemmed in by fact, fairness or even logic. The 45th president proudly refuses to apologize and routinely violates the norms of decorum that guided his predecessors. But at one mega-rally after another in the run-up to Tuesday’s midterm elections, Trump has taken his no-boundaries political ethos to a new level — demagoguing the Democrats in a whirl of distortion and using the power of the federal government to amplify his fantastical arguments.

In Columbia, Mo., the president suggested that Democrats “run around like antifa” demonstrators in black uniforms and black helmets, but underneath, they have “this weak little face” and “go back home into mommy’s basement.”

In Huntington, W.Va., Trump called predatory immigrants “the worst scum in the world” but alleged that Democrats welcome them by saying, “Fly right in, folks. Come on in. We don’t care who the hell you are, come on in!”

And in Macon, Ga., he charged that if Democrat Stacey Abrams is elected governor, she would take away the Second Amendment right to bear arms — though as a state official, she would not have the power to change the Constitution.

Unmoored from reality, Trump has at times become a false prophet, too. He has been promising a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class, though no such legislation exists. And he has sounded alarms over an imminent “invasion” of dangerous “illegal aliens,” referring to a caravan of Central American migrants that includes many women and children, is traveling by foot and is not expected to reach the U.S.-Mexico border for several weeks, if at all.

This kind of desperation usually presages a humiliation.  Those of us of a certain age remember the mid-terms of 1970 when the Nixon administration unleashed a barrage of lies and fear that backfired spectacularly to the point that when Nixon formed his reelection committee he instituted a mindset that amplified his inborn paranoia to the point that led to felonies and articles of impeachment.

To their credit, most of the Democrats have ignored the outrageous bullshit and focused on the things that matter to the voters such as the assault on healthcare and the grossly unfair tax cuts that left them holding the bag on the deficit.  They know — and hopefully the voters will too — that schoolyard taunts and conspiracy theory fantasies are distractions that work great in the MAGA mindset but are not solutions to the problems that they see everyday: sure, the economy is doing great (thanks, Obama!) but we still have lead in our water, red tide on the beach, crushing tariffs on steel and soybeans, and a promise to repeal the healthcare provisions that everybody needs.

We will know in 48 hours which way worked.  Being the optimist that I am, I think the voters of this country will deliver a resounding defeat to the voices of fear and loathing.  I believe the Democrats will take control of the House, they will win a number of governorships, and, most importantly, make deep inroads in state and local elections to begin to turn back the sea change, both literally and figuratively, that got us to this stage.  If not, we’re witnessing the unraveling of the promise of democracy and this could be one of the last elections where we really had a choice.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sunday Reading

Reigns Of Terror In America — Jill Lepore in The New Yorker on the legacy of fatal hatred in our nation.

On Friday, May 9, 1958, Rabbi Jacob M. Rothschild, of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, in Atlanta, delivered a sermon called “Can This Be America?” Crosses had been burned and men had been lynched, but Rothschild was mainly talking about the bombs: bundled sticks of dynamite tied with coiled fuses. In the late nineteen-fifties, terrorists had set off, or tried to, dozens of bombs—at black churches, at white schools that had begun to admit black children, at a concert hall where Louis Armstrong was playing, at the home of Martin Luther King, Jr. One out of every ten attacks had been directed at Jews, at synagogues and community centers in Charlotte, in Nashville, in Jacksonville, in Birmingham. In March, 1958, about twenty sticks of dynamite, wrapped in paper yarmulkes, had exploded in an Orthodox synagogue in Miami. The blast sounded like a plane crash.

“Our first duty is not to allow ourselves to be intimidated,” Rothschild told his congregation. Five months later, some fifty sticks of dynamite exploded at his temple, Atlanta’s oldest, blowing a twenty-foot hole in a brick wall, toppling columns, shattering stained-glass windows. “We bombed a temple in Atlanta,” a man claiming to be from the “Confederate Underground” said, when he telephoned the press that night. “Negroes and Jews are hereby declared aliens.”

Rothschild grew up in Pittsburgh, in Squirrel Hill. His family went to Temple Rodef Shalom, just blocks away from the Tree of Life Synagogue, where eleven people were recently shot and killed during services. Robert Bowers, the man charged in the case, had repeatedly posted on social media about a Jewish aid organization he thought was helping refugees cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The shooting followed a series of mail bombs sent to prominent critics of the President, allegedly by Cesar Sayoc, Jr., a Florida man whose white van was plastered with Trump stickers. In the days after these atrocities, Donald Trump announced his intention to end birthright citizenship—to declare, by executive order, that millions of U.S.-born children are aliens. Can this be America?

Rothschild, the liberal from Pittsburgh, moved to Atlanta to take up his pulpit in 1946, the year that a white-supremacist organization was founded in the city. The Columbians asked potential members three questions: “Do you hate Negroes? Do you hate Jews? Do you have three dollars?” On Yom Kippur in 1948, Rothschild sought to stir his congregation out of its silence. “There is only one real issue,” he said. “Civil rights.” The reign of terror Rothschild decried in 1958 had begun four years earlier, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, when White Citizens Councils began forming across the South to oppose desegregation. And then the bombings started, targeting the institutions that hold societies, and nations, together: schools, houses of worship, newspaper offices.

Standing at the site of the Atlanta temple blast, Mayor William B. Hartsfield declared, “Every political rabble-rouser is the godfather of every sneaking cross-burner and dynamiter at work in the South today.” In the Atlanta Constitution, the syndicated columnist Ralph McGill wrote, “To be sure, none said go bomb a Jewish temple or a school. But let it be understood that when leadership in high places in any degree fails to support constituted authority, it opens the gates to all those who wish to take law into their hands.” The F.B.I. investigated, as Melissa Fay Greene recounts in a book about the bombing, and five men were arrested. The American Nationalist, a California newspaper, ran a story that announced, “SYNAGOGUE BOMBING A FRAUD: Jewish Groups Use Bomb Incident to Confuse Gentiles.” Only one man, George Bright, was ever tried; he was acquitted. McGill won a Pulitzer Prize. “If you call that a prize,” Bright scoffed. “Pulitzer was just a Jew.”

America’s latest reign of terror began not with Trump’s election but with Obama’s, the Brown v. Board of the Presidency. “Impeach Obama,” yard signs read. “He’s Unconstitutional.” In 2011, Trump began demanding that Obama prove his citizenship. “I feel I’ve accomplished something really, really important,” Trump told the press, when, that spring, the White House offered up the President’s birth certificate. This fall, Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, fell into the same trap. For the five years of Trump’s campaign for political attention, leading up to the 2016 election, and for the first two years of his Administration, attempts to fight Trump on his debased terms have only strengthened him.

Rothschild delivered a sermon to his congregation the Friday after the bombing, its title taken from the Book of Ezekiel: “And None Shall Make Them Afraid.” Eight hundred people crowded into the blasted synagogue. “Never did a band of violent men so misjudge the temper of the objects of their act of intimidation,” Rothschild said. “Out of the gaping hole that laid bare the havoc wrought within, out of the majestic columns that now lay crumbled and broken, out of the tiny bits of brilliantly colored glass that had once graced with beauty the sanctuary itself—indeed, out of the twisted and evil hearts of bestial men has come a new courage and a new hope.”

Courage and hope are not the language of Trump’s most vociferous political opponents. Blame and grievance are their language, the language of the times, the grammar of Twitter, the idiom of Trump, the taste of bile. Trump’s critics have often answered his viciousness with their own viciousness, his abandonment of norms with their abandonment, his fear-mongering with their fear-mongering, his unwillingness to speak to the whole of the country with their own parochialism.

But the bloody-mindedness of deranged and broken men can be countered only by principle and fortitude. Rothschild once introduced Dr. King at a banquet in Chicago. King, he said, had been met with “wild thunder.” Never did he speak with more thunder than during his Christmas Eve sermon in 1967, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, in Atlanta, not far from Rothschild’s temple. “If we don’t have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves,” King said. “There have always been those who argued that the end justifies the means, that the means really aren’t important,” he said. “But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.” Another tree has been cut down. May a new seed be sown.

Only Going To Get More Extreme — Jonathan Chait in New York on what will happen if the GOP retains control of Congress.

Politics since Donald Trump’s election has felt like a static state of misery, as the president’s approval ratings have been surprisingly stable and the only apparent variable has been each party’s chances of gaining or consolidating power in the midterms. But that reading ignores something tectonic: the rapid decay of the institutional Republican Party. Everything that was terrible about the party that nominated Trump is significantly, terrifyingly worse today. Even more distressing: It is likely to lurch further rightward regardless of the outcome of the elections. This will happen right away.

It was not so long ago that most Republican professionals firmly believed the party was still theirs and Trump had merely borrowed it. The GOP Establishment, one congressional staffer told the reporter David Drucker earlier this fall, had “forced Trump to govern as a ‘conventional conservative.’ ” Ten months ago, when the Senate voted to pass a huge tax cut, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, “If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work.”

They couldn’t. They tried convincing the public their tax cuts for the rich will mostly go to the middle class, but the middle class doesn’t believe them. “I would have bet you a lot of money going into this year that if you cut people’s taxes by thousands of dollars per year, that would be politically popular,” Republican consultant Ryan Ellis told Politico. “But it has not worked out that way.” As private Republican polling has confirmed, the party “lost the messaging battle” on taxes.

Rather than finding another line of work, however, McConnell’s colleagues have grasped a disturbing reality: They don’t need to sell their policies to the American people. They’re better off following Trump’s political formula of constructing an alternate reality in which their party is cast as one of economic populists. Recently, Trump has been insisting he has another plan to give the middle class a tax cut. A big one! A whopping 10 percent cut, just for the average taxpayer. “We’re doing it now for middle-income people,” Trump told reporters about a bill he claimed would pass before Election Day.

Reporters quickly noted this was impossible. Congress was out of session until after the election; it would need 60 votes to pass another tax cut, anyway. Trump then insisted he had a secret plan, which he would reveal soon, that would allow a huge middle-class tax cut without adding to the deficit. “We’re doing other things, which I don’t have to explain now, but it will be pretty much a net neutral,” he told reporters. No such tax proposal exists, and nobody actually believes anything like it will ever materialize. Yet Republican leaders are pretending to take Trump’s instructions seriously. “We will continue to work with the White House and Treasury over the coming weeks to develop an additional 10 percent tax cut focused specifically on middle-class families and workers,” promised House Committee on Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady. Why shouldn’t they go along? What cost is there to sustaining the lie?

Republicans are attempting a similar trick to resolve their political liability on health care, where Trump has ramped up their strategy dating back to the beginning of the Obamacare debate: promise to do all the good stuff Obama­care delivered but without making anybody pay for it. The administration, joined by several Republican states, is suing to overturn Obamacare’s regulations preventing insurance companies from charging higher rates to people with preexisting conditions and, in the meantime, undermining those protections by allowing insurers to sell cheaper plans to healthy people. Yet the Republicans’ health-care message has betrayed not the slightest hint of their anti-regulatory fervor. Arizona’s Martha McSally, who as a member of Congress gave a pep talk to wavering Republicans urging them to vote to repeal Obama­care and not replace it, is running ads for her Senate campaign claiming she “led the fight” to “force insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions.” Florida governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott, whose state is currently supporting the Trump lawsuit, is declaring in an advertisement, “I support forcing insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions.” Trump himself has advanced this lie to its Orwellian conclusion. Not only does he promise to defend the regulations he is actively seeking to eliminate, he has accused Democrats of trying to destroy them: “Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican.”

The defensive effort to steal the economic-populist mantle from Democrats, without making any substantive concessions toward that end, has been largely overshadowed by the louder cultural messaging that accompanies it.
Republicans have stoked white racial paranoia against a shifting array of targets. Kneeling football players and transgender bathrooms have momentarily given way to a convoy of Central American migrants that allegedly contains “unknown Middle Easterners.”

And Trump’s allies have gone from justifying his ­reality-show authoritarian persona as a necessary expedient to embracing it as a positive good. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate,” a senior Trump-administration official told the Daily Beast, defending the president’s fearmongering attacks on a caravan of potential refugees. “This is the play,” Scott Reed, a strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the Washington Post. “It’s a standard tactic to use fear as a motivating choice at the end of a campaign, and the fact is the fork in the road is pretty stark.” In Texas, when a fan at a Ted Cruz speech exclaimed about Beto O’Rourke, “Lock him up!,” Cruz answered, “Well, you know, there’s a double-­occupancy cell with Hillary Clinton.”

The degree to which Trump’s party has molded itself in his image is worth bearing in mind when contemplating what the next two years might bring.
If Democrats win the House but not the Senate, they will be working with an even more hardened foe: The Republicans who will have lost, or who are retiring, are those most vulnerable to outside pressure; the surviving core, from the reddest districts, will be the most Trumpian. They will be much less likely to abandon their president in the face of incriminating evidence than were Richard Nixon’s Republicans in 1974, and much more likely to escalate his attacks on the rule of law into a full-scale culture war.

In the event Republicans retain full control of Congress — improbable, but about the chances FiveThirty­Eight gave Trump toward the end of October two years ago — the transformation would be even more dramatic. The American people would be led not by a party learning to accommodate its unhinged leader but one trained by him, and the con job they have been enacting on the American people would swiftly come to completion.

Imagine Republicans waking up after Election Day and discovering their aging coalition has been given a new lease on life. They will instantly grasp the possibilities available by campaigning in opposition to reality: telling voters they are protecting popular social programs that Democrats are trying to cut and reinforcing this message through media channels their party effectively controls. What would stop them from launching the full-scale assault on the welfare state that Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan never mustered the courage to fully enact? Why wouldn’t they go through with abolishing Obamacare and slashing funding to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

Though they control all branches of the federal government, Republicans have been held back for two years by the expectation of a backlash and a setback in the midterms. After not one but two expert-defying victories, the Trumpian cult of personality would grow exponentially. For all the unprecedented and brazen acts the past two years have brought, what we have not yet seen is a Trumpian party that feels invincible.

If The Trumpistas Win: Get the hell out.

It’s the ultimate fantasy: Escape the 9-5 by moving to a place where it’s so cheap you barely need to work — and could even retire early. The Panama-based Live and Invest Overseas advises people on how to do just that, and the company has just announced its list of the 10 best places in the world where you can move in 2018 and live very well for very little.

We caught up with Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, who told us why each of these places made the coveted list. If want to find more cheap places to live abroad, check out “Quit Your Job: 5 Countries Where You Can Live For Under $1,500 A Month.”

Doonesbury:  He’s back!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Friday, November 2, 2018

Desperation

Trump at a rally in Columbia, Missouri, last night:

If you don’t want America to be overrun by masses of illegal aliens and giant caravans, you better vote Republican!

I think what’s happening is that Trump and a lot of Republicans see that they are about to get their heads handed to them by the voters on Tuesday and they’re trying everything they can possibly come up with to motivate their base to save them from complete ignominy.  That explains the blatantly racist commercial they’re running to try to scare voters about immigration.  That explains why Trump is sending 15,000 soldiers to defend the southern border against a slow-moving caravan that more resembles a new production of “The Grapes of Wrath” than it does an invading force.  That explains why Trump said that if they throw rocks (assuming they have the strength), the soldiers will shoot back, which would constitute a war crime, and remind people of a certain age of May 4, 1970 at Kent State.  That explains why he and his minions are flying around the country to campaign in safe districts only and speaking — or shouting — to crowds that are only friendly to them.  And that explains why the early voter turnout has surpassed the total number of voters in the last mid-term election.

It’s not the invasion of migrants that Trump’s worried about.  It’s the onslaught of voters who are going to the polls.  It’s not the rocks they’re going to throw that worries him, it’s the votes they’re going to cast.

The Democrats may not retake the Senate; the sheer number of seats they’d have to flip makes it unlikely (but hope springs eternal, etc).  But even with the mandatory grains of salt in the mix, it’s looking like the Democrats will not only gain a majority in the House, they may even exceed the needed 23 seats and go as high as 40.  That will do two things: put the kibosh on any policies the GOP hopes to get through Congress for the next two years, and paint a huge target on the Democrats as obstructionists who are bent on destroying the America that Trump was making so great again.  He’ll be on Fox and Twitter every ten minutes with more vitriol and outrage that makes the last three years look like a garden party.  If you think we had gridlock outrage under the Republicans versus Obama, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

But the scariest thing for Trump isn’t that he’ll lose control of the legislative branch; he doesn’t care about that.  What’s scary is that he will now appear to be vulnerable not just to the Democrats but to what’s left of the sane people in the GOP who know that there’s an expiration date on Trump’s tenure and that the future of their party is at stake.  You’re going to hear more whispers and rumblings about defying Trump, and not just from the ones who are safely out of electoral reach such as Bob Corker and Jeff Flake (who still voted for Trump’s shitty ideas anyway).  There may even be primary challengers starting to work backstage next week when Campaign 2020 kicks off: Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska has been trying to come off as the Jiminy Cricket of the GOP, and Nikki Haley didn’t resign as UN ambassador just to spend more time with her family.  If recent history is any guide, an incumbent president facing a viable primary challenge stands a good chance of losing re-election.  A huge election loss in the 2018 midterms will embolden those who were waiting for their chance to say that they were never really in favor of Trump all along.  The GOP has never missed an opportunity to be opportunists, after all.

So the stench of desperation from Trump and his acolytes in the GOP and on Fox News will be nearly overpowering.  Hold your nose and vote.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Previews Of Coming Attractions

A week from today we’ll know how much trouble Trump and the Republicans are in.  If the House flips to the Democrats, and polls (oh yes, I know) are leaning in that direction, phones will be busy at lawyers’ offices in DC as cabinet members and West Wing hacks find themselves on the receiving end of invitations by the new chairs of various House committees.

Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice has a rundown of what could come to be.

I caught a little flack when I noted on Facebook that I’m waiting until Election Day to vote even though Florida has early voting and I’m getting calls and texts to vote NOW!  But this year the ballot here is really long with state and local races as well as state constitutional issues that range from vaping to dog racing up for a vote.  I will study up on the sample ballot that arrived in the mail yesterday and then be at the polls first thing Tuesday morning and take my time to fill out the ballot.  In fact, I’m taking the whole day off so I’m not rushed.  If we’re going to take back the wheel of sane governing from the whackos, it must be done with the sure steady hand of knowing what’s at stake.

If you want to early vote, go for it with my blessing (as if that matters).

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

All For Show

Via the Washington Post:

Homeland Security and Pentagon officials said Monday that they will send 5,200 troops, military helicopters and giant spools of razor wire to the Mexican border in the coming days to brace for the arrival of Central American migrants President Trump is calling “an invasion.”

The troop deployment, one week before the U.S. midterm elections, appears to be the largest U.S. active-duty mobilization along the U.S.-Mexico boundary in decades and amounts to a significant militarization of American border security.

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Monday that the deployments, dubbed “Operation Faithful Patriot,” already are underway. He said the military, working alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), will focus first on “hardening” the border in Texas, followed by Arizona and California.

The operative phrase in there is “one week before the U.S. midterm elections.”  Next Wednesday, after the election is over and no matter who wins and the caravan, such as it is, is still weeks away from arriving, the Pentagon will quietly issue orders for the majority of the troops to return to their regular duty back home, leaving a few there to clean up after themselves.  Operation Faithful Patriot, which should really be called Operation Midterm Rescue, will be called off.

The article doesn’t say, but this has got to be costing the Pentagon a bundle; not that they’ve ever struggled for money.  But still, deploying 5,200 soldiers and support staff along with equipment, transport, tents, food, latrines, and all the other facilities that go along with them has got to be running up a tab somewhere.  But wouldn’t that money be better spent by providing for and provisioning the immigrants when they eventually get here so that when they’re arrested, they at least have a place to stay before we force them to go back?

But it really doesn’t matter; they’re not thinking that far ahead, because by Thanksgiving the caravan will still be hundreds of miles away, the numbers dwindling down to the desperate ones who could no more represent a threat to the border than the moths that batter themselves against the screens of the back porch on a summer night.  And Trump and his band of xenophobic nationalists will have found another target or another mass shooting to exploit.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

“Racists Call Him Racist”

A snippet from the Florida gubernatorial debate last night:

Via the Daily Beast:

In a fiery exchange in their debate Wednesday evening, Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said of his opponent, Republican candidate Ron DeSantis, that “racists believe he is a racist.” When asked about his support of conservative writer David Horowitz, DeSantis asked, “How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement somebody makes,” adding “I am not going to bow down to the altar of political correctness. I’m not gonna let the media smear me like they like to do with so many other people. In response, Gillum started listing the people who he said have supported DeSantis. “He’s got Neo-Nazis helping him out in this state, he’s spoken at racist conferences, and he accepted a contribution and would not return it from someone who referred to the former president of the United States as a Muslim n-i-g-g-e-r,” Gillum said. “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.” DeSantis has been under fire recently for telling voters not to “monkey” up the election by voting for Gillum. Gillum has also been the target of racist ads and comments throughout the election.

I’m not sure what “a hit dog will holler” means, but I think Mr. DeSantis was howling.

ETA: An explainer of “a hit dog will holler.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

What About The Polls?

I used to be obsessed with reading polls, and there are certainly a lot of them: FiveThirtyEight, Quinnipiac, NBC/Wall Street Journal, even Fox News, which is surprisingly not the modern version of Der Volkischer Beobachter.  But polls are lagging indicators; they take a while to compile the data and check for accuracy, and this close to the election things shift.  We all thought 2016 would be a landslide.

So forget about them, whether they show your team in the lead or not.  Leading, and people get complacent.  Behind, and people despair and mutter “what’s the use?” and start Googling cheap places to live overseas.

Just vote.  Like I’ve said before, read up, know what’s on the ballot — including your local races because that’s where the insurgency starts — and go vote.

And if you insist on reading the polls, here’s a handy flow chart via Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Early Voting

Polls are open in a lot of states already where there are races with big implications such as Texas (Senate) and Florida (Senate and governor).

If you’re in Florida, here’s a link to the state guide of where and how to vote.  If you’re in another state that has early voting, go here and find out.

Oh, and do yourself a favor: bone up on the other races and ballot measures beyond just the big-ticket items.  Here in Florida we’re going through our constitution-revision phase, which happens every twenty years, and there are a whole load of amendments, from restoring voting rights to felons who’ve served their time to banning dog racing, on the ballot.  So, to borrow a phrase from another public service announcement, Know and Go.

It’s Never His Fault

Via Politico:

At his rallies, President Donald Trump argues that the midterm elections are about one person — Donald Trump. “Get out in 2018,” Trump told a crowd in Missouri last month, “because you’re voting for me!”

Privately, the president says the exact opposite.

According to two people familiar with the conversations, Trump is distancing himself from a potential Republican thumping on Election Day. He’s telling confidants that he doesn’t see the midterms as a referendum on himself, describing his 2020 reelection bid as “the real election.” And he says that he holds House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responsible for protecting their majorities in Congress.

According to one person with knowledge of these talks, Trump has said of Ryan and McConnell: “These are their elections … and if they screw it up, it’s not my fault.”

Of course it’s not.  He never does anything wrong, never tells a lie, never exaggerates, and most of all, he NEVER makes it all about him.

If the Democrats win control of the either the House or the Senate or both, he’s going to blame everything that happens from now on until they bundle him off on Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan as if they were the ones who led him down the garden path.  And he carries a grudge, so don’t expect any significant legislation to come out of the next Congress until after the 2020 election, if then.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Oh, Mitt, You’re A Hoot

I’m very glad Mitt Romney didn’t win the election in 2012 for all the possible reasons you can think of, but I do miss his wacky sense of humor.

Mitt Romney, running as the Republican candidate for Senate in Utah, doesn’t think it makes sense to talk about impeaching President Donald Trump — because Trump is a “sitting president.”

“I don’t think it makes sense to be talking about impeachment, not for a sitting president,” Romney said at a debate with Democratic Senate candidate Jenny Wilson, a former US congressional aide who is on the Salt Lake County Council, this week.

Get it?  You’re only supposed to impeach a former president — or maybe one that hasn’t won yet — but not a sitting president because it would be unconstitutional, right?

Think of how much fun we would have had if he’d been elected.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

An Angry Mob, You Say?

From the Washington Post:

When thousands of furious, screaming protesters marched toward the Capitol over the weekend as Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed, Republican staffers peered out at the scene from the windows above. They were not alarmed but elated.

Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as “an angry mob,” a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country’s order and, they hope, energize their voters.

President Trump and the GOP firmly control Congress and the White House and have massive financial and media infrastructure behind them. But in an effort to flip the midterm elections from a referendum on the unpopular president, they are casting themselves as defenders at the barricades.

In Virginia, Rep. David Brat (R) is running against the “liberal mob,” and GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart has decried the “mob tactics” that “tried to destroy” Kavanaugh.

“When we’re out at grocery stores or at events, we’re finding swing voters are turned off by how Kavanaugh was treated,” Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said. “Chasing senators down the hall, running up the stairs at the Capitol — we’ve been taken aback by how people have reacted to it. And we’re responding.”

The characterization evokes fear of an unknown and out-of-control mass of people, and it taps into grievances about the nation’s fast-moving cultural and demographic shifts that Republicans say are working against them. With its emphasis on the impact on traditional values and white voters, particularly men, it strikes the same notes as earlier Trump-fanned attention to immigrants, MS-13 gang members and African American football players protesting police treatment of young black men.

So the angry protestors that disrupted town hall meetings in 2009 at the instigation of the poorly-disguised GOP-led Tea Party and the White Pride march in Charlottesville, Virginia, that killed a woman and were told that there were “good people” doing it; those were just good citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, is that it?  Oh, and all those people chanting “Lock her up!” and beating up demonstrators at the encouragement of their dear leader, why, that was just good old American freedom flexing its muscle.

The ironic thing is, though, that this country was founded by an angry mob: the American revolution wasn’t a polite disagreement, and if we’d let the fear of the unknown hold us back, we’d have never expanded this country beyond the Appalachians.  But the Republicans and the Trumpers are masters at exploiting fear and loathing; it’s the only way they’ve won elections in the last fifty years, and they know that there are enough weak-willed and blustering bullies out there who will either fall for their line or make money off it.

We’re better than that.  But don’t take my word for it.  Take it from a man who couldn’t even stand on his own two feet without help but who faced down fear and anger and turned it into good.

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Now’s the time to do it again.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Moving On

Now is not the time to dwell on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, but gather our forces and our voices and vote on November 6.  Let the right-wingers gloat and tease and be the typical sore winners that they are; we have work to do.  Don’t overthink the polls that show energizing Republicans; they have the attention span of a fruit fly and will soon find something else to be outraged about.

What does concern me is the historical pattern that this trend in our history seems to be rhyming, if not repeating.  Thanks to Hunter, I went to Hullabaloo and read this rather sobering assessment of the past and where it led.

This piece is meant to alarm. It should. We are all watching this unfold on a day to day basis, many of us stressed out and upset, aware that this is a very scary historical inflection point. Something has gone very wrong and we aren’t quite sure how to deal with it. I will just point out that the world may end up being lucky that the worlds only superpower produced the demagogic authoritarian Donald Trump instead of someone who was either more intelligent and competent or more malleable in the hands of an alt-right manipulator like Steve Bannon. That is small comfort, though. Incompetent imbeciles are often more dangerous than efficient geniuses.

So, as the piece in yesterday’s Sunday Reading noted, this is not the time to dwell on the past.  It’s a call to action, to do something, and to get out of your cocoon or bubble or whatever it is that protects you — and I’m just as guilty as the next one, bingeing on “The West Wing” and junk TV — but now is the time to get off our collective asses and vote these bastards out.