Will Trump Really Jail Clinton?

lock-her-up

I have a sense that many Trump supporters think they are playing a game.

A lot of them had no idea what the issues were in the campaign, because their candidate didn’t really talk about them except in vague, tough-guy terms. It was, after all, a game. Now that their guy has won, they are jeering at the losers like any bleacher gang full of sore winners, trying to humiliate or anger us, while they hide behind U.S. government protection.

I hadn’t really thought much about Hillary Clinton being prosecuted for her many imagined crimes, but now I wonder if Attorney General Giuliani (or Christie) will actually file some charges. The new president doesn’t have a history of taking his promises seriously, so I kind of think not. The threat has served its purpose, and they don’t really have a case anyway, so why go to all that trouble? Trump’s base will move on to the next performance, whatever that may be. Some of them will be angry, because they were dead serious when they chanted “Lock her up!” But most of them will let it slide, and Mrs. Clinton will remain free.

New Reality

I had almost given up hope of fulfilling my lifelong dream of finding out firsthand what it would be like to live under a fascist state.

But it looks now as if I’m going to get a chance. Donald Trump is a fascist, and now he is president. His party also controls both houses of the legislature and soon they will have packed the Supreme Court with like-minded partisan ideologues. They’ll be able to pass any laws they want, and repeal any, too (I’m looking at you, Obamacare). Should anyone point out that something they’ve done goes against our constitution, the court will shoot that down.

definition of fascism

Of course we have to hope that President Trump will be a good man in office and work for the betterment of all people. But he pretty much ran on promises to do exactly the opposite of that, and the people who voted for him expect him to make good on those promises: killing off universal health care, banning Muslims, destroying Planned Parenthood, bombing “the shit out of” somebody, building a giant wall down south, and starting trade wars with our international partners, to name just a few planks of his “platform.” I know a lot of his supporters are willing to hand him complete authority as “the only one who can fix it,” and that is pretty much what they’ve done, but I don’t think they’ve thought that through, and we will all live to regret it.

Not that in a fascist state we will be able to do anything about it, but it seems to me the only patriotic thing to do is to oppose him at every turn. History will judge us harshly for what we did yesterday, but if we don’t stand and fight now, it will condemn us forever.

What Will Become Of Us?

NOTE: I wrote this before the election. Obviously, things didn’t turn out the way I expected, but I think it shows that I am a man of courage and integrity that I’m leaving it here, whenI could have easily edited it to show that I knew what was going to happen.


Now that it’s perfectly clear that Donald Trump is not going to be President of the United States, it’s time to reflect on what the next four years might be like.

Of course many of us are looking forward to the historic election of our First Woman President. I know I am, although I will miss the inspirational oratory of Barack Obama. But the Republicans in Congress are not going to back off their 8-year policy of total obstruction, which means Hillary Clinton won’t be able to get much done, even if Democrats take over both houses. The other side of that coin is that Republicans won’t either, as President Clinton will veto anything they try that’s truly damaging. In addition, the Republicans may lose their majorities in the House and Senate, or see them reduced reduced substantially, which will make the GOP even less effective in their crusade to:

  • lower taxes on the super rich…
  • …while allowing them to anonymously contribute any amount of money directly to their favorite political campaigns
  • get rid of all trade barriers
  • privatize Social Security
  • make abortion illegal and
  • prevent minorities from voting.

So expect another four or eight years of gridlock during a Clinton presidency, with a public more and more frustrated and angry about it.

But, you say, the worst fallout from the upcoming defeat of Donald Trump will come from the 25 million or so alienated and resentful die hard Trump supporters. They have shown over the past year that they don’t give a fuck about tradition, compromise or moderation. Trump is telling them now that the election will be “rigged,” meaning when Hillary Clinton wins on November 8th, she will have done so through chicanery, and will not be the legitimate president. These are people who are OK with Trump wanting to ban immigrants based on their religion; who believe it’s a good idea (or even feasible) to build a 2,000-mile wall across the southern border, and who beat up dissenters at Trump rallies. They have shown themselves to be animated by anger and they are potentially violent.

There’s been talk of Trump supporters going berserk if (and when) they lose the presidential election. Riots, insurrection, that sort of thing. And it’s probably true that many of those armed yahoos will be mad as hornets. It could be a real mess if they take to the streets.

But in the end, I believe they will just go home, turn on Fox News or the new Trump Network, and sulk. Once their leader — and their shot at taking the White House — is gone I don’t think they’ll be organized enough to accomplish anything really big. A lone wolf or two might attempt a “2nd Amendment remedy,” or burn something down, or occupy a federal building somewhere for a while, but as a movement, the wind will be out of their sails, and the Republic will stand.

On the other hand there are all those Republican leaders in Congress who have disavowed Trump. These traitors must be punished, and they surely will be, with ultra right-wing primary opponents in 2018. I have no sympathy for these establishment Republicans who are faced with the horrible choice of supporting Donald Trump or losing all of his fanatic supporters. They have used the crackpot wing of the party for decades to maintain power, and now the rabble has gotten sick of the false promises and has taken over the party. They may be ignorant, but they represent millions of votes. Establishment Republicans won’t ever again get those votes and will have to rely on support from moderates, including conservative Democrats. Conversely, Tea Party types will never get a vote from the moderates, and there you go: The GOP will be split in two. They will be the center right and the extreme right. Between the two of them they’ll probably keep control of the House and most state governments, but they won’t agree on much of anything, and unless they find a way to coalesce they won’t have a chance at the presidency.

I’m afraid that Donald Trump has poisoned the well that we all must drink from. His thoughtless, obnoxious rhetoric is “normalized” now, and President Clinton, who has been victimized for 30 years by false allegations, whisper campaigns, innuendo and phony investigations will face more of the same for four or eight more years. And Congress — spurred on by the angry, ignorant, resentful leftovers of the Trump campaign — will dutifully obstruct everything, cause debt ceiling and funding crises, vote repeatedly to “repeal” Obamacare, and generally make a nuisance of itself.

Buckle up, everybody.

Nixonia

Janey and I were traveling aimlessly through the beautiful state of Oregon, taking turns at the wheel of my 1964 VW bus.

It was August 8, 1974, and we were headed for Crater Lake when we heard the news on the radio — Nixon was set to deliver an important speech. The Watergate affair had been occupying the top spot on the evening news for months, but we had been out of the loop for a week or more, so we didn’t know for sure what almost everyone else in the country knew: that Nixon was being forced out of office.Nixon

It’s difficult to describe the impact Richard Nixon had on my generation. He was every bit as important as President Kennedy, the earnest, slightly creepy A/V Club guy to Kennedy’s dashing frat boy. And even though we know that politics ain’t beanbag, Nixon found ways to reduce it to its most brutal elements, and he was good at it. He lost some Big Ones, but he won more than he lost. Elected for the first time just a few months before I was born, and stretching all the way through to just before my 25th birthday, Nixon haunted the hallways of our lives, in his dark blue suit and his five o’clock shadow, never looking straight at us, always seeming to harbor some hidden motive.

He had gone from Congress to Eisenhower’s Vice President in 1952, but after his first term in the number two job, the Republican Party wanted him gone, and, under pressure to leave Ike’s ticket in 1956, he went on television and gave the famous Checker’s speech, saving his job and surprising the political old hands of the day. Again, I thought he was finished after he lost the 1960 presidential election to JFK, who apparently had learned from Nixon himself the power of TV. Silly me. Two years later Nixon was back making a credible run for Pat Brown’s job as governor of California. In his concession speech it seemed that even Nixon himself figured his career was over, telling the press that they “wouldn’t have Dick Nixon to kick around” anymore.

But then came Dallas, and LBJ, and later LBJ’s decision not to run for reelection in 1968. Rested and fit, Nixon was back, and this time he won all the marbles. He was like a zombie that we just couldn’t kill, no matter how many times we didn’t vote for him.

Up to this point he was only a political opponent with whom I strongly disagreed. And disagreeable it was to have him in the White House, even if he did open relations with China and authorize the creation of the EPA. But once he got the top job, something must have changed in Nixon. Maybe it was simply the feeling that he had nothing more to strive for, or maybe he really was crazy all along, but by the time of the 1972 election he had become delusional, paranoid and criminal. He won that election, but he had begun to disintegrate psychologically.

His presidency was unraveling. He was caught sending burglars to break into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, keeping an “enemies list” of journalists, and authorizing “hush money” to keep witnesses quiet. And he was tape recording the whole thing, keeping an audio record for future prosecutors. During the two years after his second inaugural he was revealed as the dirty Tricky Dick we all remember. Not some weasel-assed nobody like Grover Norquist, but the President of the United States! It was appalling.

Janey and I got to some lodge on Crater Lake that afternoon. The grounds appeared deserted, but when we went into the bar, there were hundreds of people crowded in, watching the television. I have never seen such rapt attention to any political speech before or since. It was as if we were holding our collective breath. Only a week before, under order from the Supreme Court, Nixon had been forced to release his secretly recorded tapes. Tip O’Neill had told reporters that the House Judiciary Committee was going to vote — Democrats and Republicans alike — to impeach the President. Nixon was cornered, and I’m not proud today to say that I enjoyed seeing the rat trapped as he was.

Nixon made a dignified speech, not exactly beating around the bush, but stalling and offering excuses for a while before he got to point, which of course was that he was “not a quitter,” but he was quitting. He took no responsibility for what was happening to him. There was no way he could have stayed in office, but sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if he had apologized, admitted his wrongdoing, and left the world stage quietly. Would Republicans still feel they had to find a way to impeach Clinton and Obama?

Either way, Janey and I shared a long kiss, and soon — very soon, actually — we forgot all about Richard Nixon. But he’s still with us, in ways few historical figures can ever be. Many of us who lived through the Nixon years, what Gerald Ford would call “our long national nightmare,” wake up occasionally in a cold sweat, as an imagined footfall sounds just outside a door, and it takes a moment to remember — he’s is not coming back.

The Shadow Congress

It’s hard to imagine there’s anyone in the United States who does not know that Congress has been screwing around with the nation’s finances.

Over and over for the past couple of years, legislation has been proposed, talked about in the press, debated in the Capitol, and then dropped, usually without a vote. The extreme right wing of the Republican party doesn’t want to do anything that looks like a tax increase. As a lifelong taxpayer myself, I applaud the sentiment, but I also live in the real world, and I know that when you are trying to run an operation the size of the United States, you have to fund it.

The right wingers in the House are the ones blamed for (or credited with) repeatedly blocking votes on compromise legislation. Many of them are beginners, having just been elected in 2010. They don’t know that you can’t have things 100% your way on every issue, so they “just say no” to any bill that doesn’t meet all of their ideological criteria. But they don’t vote “no.” They simply let the House leaders know that they will vote “no.” The leadership doesn’t want to risk defeat and public embarrassment, so the bill doesn’t come up for a vote, the pending compromise is scotched and everyone goes back to the drawing table, the problem still unsolved.

This process protects the naysayers, because they remain in the back of the room and never have to go on the record. They get to block whatever bill they don’t like while avoiding responsibility for doing so. They are a shadow Congress, setting the agenda and dictating to the real Congress which laws can pass and which ones can’t.

But who are they?

I’d like to know their names, their districts, their party affiliation, and when they are up for reelection. Most of all I’d like them to explain their reasons. If they don’t want to vote on certain legislation, I’d like to know why. I’d like them to stand up and explain how they think we can cut our way to prosperity, or why so-called investment returns should be taxed at less than half the rate most of us pay, or why people earning eight or nine thousand dollars a week should not step up and contribute a little more when our country is in trouble and millions of citizens are out of work, out of money, and nearly out of time.

Grownups: Please Step Up

28 people dead in Newtown today, including 20 little kids, shot in their classroom.

It’s such an outrage that there will certainly be calls to restrict gun ownership or ban them altogether. I’d happily go along with that, but thanks to the gun lobby we can’t even speak the word “ban.” We can’t even have a conversation about gun control. The debate is so warped in our country that — and I can guarantee this — there will be those who say that teachers should be armed, and that would prevent these types of murderous rampages. See the logic? More guns=less shooting. Me neither.Pistols

Few civilized societies in the world today tolerate the kind of firearm profusion that we do in the United States. As of 2009 there were 310 million non-military guns in the U.S., one for every man, woman and child, including newborns. That year there were 17,000 homicides in the U.S., 12,000 of them by firearm. In fact, with that many guns floating around, you could say that there is no solution to the problem of folks going crazy and shooting up their schools, their workplaces, theaters, malls and neighborhoods.

Maybe you’d be right.

I won’t try to fight the NRA, the gun manufacturers or the cranks who think they need guns to protect themselves against being herded by the federal government into concentration camps in the Mojave desert. Their twisted logic has so permeated the culture that there’s no percentage in debating it. But I’m ready for our government — city, state and federal — to take some action.

I propose a ban on assault weapons and big ammunition clips. Much heavier penalties for possession or modification of fully automatic rifles. Deep background checks (paid for by the prospective purchaser) on anyone who wants to buy a gun of any kind, and a good long waiting period. Licensing of gun owners. Serious penalties on gun owners whose negligence allows their weapons to fall into the hands of unauthorized or unlicensed others. And a high enough tax on gun purchases to create a fund to help rebuild the lives of the inevitable victims and their families, as we have done with cigarette taxes.

There are so many guns already out there, legal and unregistered, that anything we do to curb their proliferation will not begin to be effective for generations. But in 85 years it will be the turn of the century again, whether or not we start now trying to fix this problem. Most of us won’t be around by then. I wonder if those who are will thank us for our foresight, or curse us for our stupidity.

Four More Years

So we have given the President a second term in office.

Serious political observers have known for some time that the election would turn out this way. For the past two weeks supporters of Mitt Romney have been talking optimistically about his chances. Dick Morris and Karl Rove, for example, were “predicting” a sizable Republican victory. But it felt hollow, as if they were only trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. By yesterday reality had set in and the happy talk (and the trash talk) had died.

I’m relieved that Obama won reelection, but I’m not elated. Generally, I believe the Democrats are on the side of regular folks like me, while the Republicans are on the side of transnational corporations, arms dealers and big-money donors. There are exceptions, of course, but in the big picture the two parties do break down like that.

In 2008 I thought that President-elect Obama might find a way to change the way things are done in this country. I thought he had enough support from a war-weary, skeptical nation battered by a brutal economic downturn. I thought he might parlay that support into a transformational administration. But he did not. He began dealing with our economic problems by appointing as his financial team the very same people who caused the meltdown. He addressed universal health care by handing 50 million new customers to insurance companies, who have long been the problem. WTF? He has become the only Nobel Peace Prize winner with a kill list.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have liked a Romney/Tea Party presidency, but I am only cautiously optimistic about a second term for Barack Obama. Now that Mitch McConnell can’t make good on his threat to make him a one-term president, maybe they’ll find a way to compromise and get some work done, and move the country forward, not just economically and militarily, but morally.

Fingers crossed.

Uncertainty

I posted this as a comment on Narya’s blog today, and since I rarely have the time to write anything new, I thought I’d use it here on my own blog:

In my whole long working life I have never seen as much uncertainty among workers as I see today. At my company, except for the sales staff, who by necessity lead lives of self-delusion, everyone around me is fearful for their jobs. Also, we have half as many people doing five times as much work.

This may not have been the conscious goal of all employers, but it is the end result of the politics of division, the destruction of the labor movement, the redistribution of wealth, economic globalization and the dumbing down of our people. Most of us have now learned to keep our heads down and our mouths shut and take whatever pay our employer wants to give us, along with whatever ration of shit comes our way on the job.

I have found a few things to do at my workplace that seem to be the right combination of “have-to-be-done” and “kind-of-hard-to-do.” In exchange for doing those tasks (and not ever, ever demanding more money) I get to keep my job and my 1976-level salary.

I really think the American worker is demoralized. We have seen our homes taken away, our pensions converted to “retirement accounts” and then wiped out, our friends fired from their jobs, our loved ones get sick and sometimes die for lack of medical insurance and our so-called leaders either clueless or collaborating, while the richest people and corporations continue to get richer and call all the shots, both in business and in public policy.

If you came here to visit me from Mars, you’d think I have a stable, secure life. It may look that way, but I am very uncertain about the future, and that includes tomorrow morning.

So, if you’re a little spooked these days, or going through the motions in a state of shock, you’re not alone.

Health Care Act on Trial

I was not happy about the Affordable Care Act when it was finally passed in 2010, after nearly two years of wrangling in Congress.

I thought President Obama had sold out, that he should have at least urged a discussion of single-payer or a public option. In the end I felt like the insurance companies had won a great victory, and I still think that. Since then I’ve tried to soothe my outrage by looking at the good points of the finished legislation: Insurance companies can’t refuse coverage because of preexisting conditions or drop you when you get sick; the “lifetime limit” on coverage is banned; kids can stay on the family health plan until age 26; seniors get help paying for their prescriptions. I told myself that, after a hundred years of inaction it was a start, and it could be improved over time.

I should have known better.

I still don’t know why there was a popular outcry against the bill. I assume it was uninformed cranks or people who just hated Obama. Why would you not want affordable health care for everybody? But then the state attorneys general got into the act, and now the Supreme Court is deliberating. Once the court challenges began I knew it would end up with the Supremes, and I was sure they would uphold it. I still think they will, but I’m no longer certain, and neither are most court watchers.

Here are two reasons why I think the law will be substantially upheld:

  • There are four right-wing extremists on the court, plus Justice Kennedy, who is pretty conservative. Their questioning during the arguments this week indicates that they are viewing this case through the most partisan of lenses. They seem to have made up their minds, and are looking for a way to strike down the law. But… like most extreme right wing politicians, they are controlled by rich people and corporate interests. They know their job: Make life better for Exxon, Halliburton and United Heath Care. Right now, this bill feeds 40 million new customers to the U.S. insurance industry. Strike down this bill and the industry would have to spend untold millions of dollars over several decades to gain that much new business, and it’s possible that they never would. I don’t think the corporatists on the court will let that happen.
  • The right wingers on the court are worried about the requirement in the bill that everyone must purchase insurance. They think it’s too much government intrusion. Fair enough, but if they invalidate the health care bill and put the nation right back where it was — near the bottom among developed nations in medical outcomes and near the top in medical spending — there will still be a health care crisis and a desperate need for reform. And version 2.0 of that reform will very likely be a single-payer system administered by the government and paid for with taxes. This would be unarguably constitutional, but a nightmare scenario for the right. I believe that someone will mention this to the conservatives on the court in the next few weeks, and that it will make them stop short of striking down the bill.

That’s what I think, anyway. But lately the right wing has become sort of unhinged. They do things based on a perceived ideological mandate rather than practical considerations of moving the nation forward. We can’t always predict what they will do. So they might shoot this down.

In the chaos that will ensue, I hope none of them sprains a wrist high-fiving each other, because there will be a long wait to get treatment at the emergency room.

Neither Snow Nor Sleet

The Postal Service is one of the finest institutions we have.

Personally, I think forty-four cents to mail a letter to anyplace in the country is the bargain of the century. And they will take that letter to any address, no matter how far out in the sticks it happens to be.

But have you noticed lately all the talk about how the Post Office is a basket case, inefficient, poorly managed, and unable to pay its bills? According to this drumbeat they have to shut down a bunch of offices and lay off tens of thousands of workers, and even then they will have to reduce services to make ends meet. They just can’t compete with the leaner, smarter, market-driven private delivery services.

But did you know that beginning five years ago during the Bush Administration, a law was passed requiring the Postal Service to fully fund its pension plan 75 years into the future, and that they are required to accomplish this feat within the next five years? In other words they have to be 100% ready to pay a pension to workers who have not yet been born. And this at the same time that UPS and Federal Express are lobbying strongly to be allowed to use their pension funds today as operating money, claiming that it will enable them to be more profitable, thus “saving” their pension funds.

Meanwhile, the “bankrupt” U.S. Postal Service is sitting on 47 billion dollars, much of which won’t be needed for decades, and instead of being allowed to use it, they are told to sell off property and fire workers.

Put those facts together with the fact the the Postal Service is the second largest employer in the country, with by far the largest unionized work force, and I don’t know about you, but I smell something fishy. The drive to crush the labor movement and decimate the middle class would certainly count it as a major victory to see the Post Office dismantled, its workers laid off, its union shut down, its buildings and equipment sold off and private, anti-union, companies taking over the delivery of mail in the U.S. The nonsensical requirement that it overfund its pension and medical benefits plans so far into the future makes it little more than a large beautiful animal with broken legs, unable to defend itself as the hyenas of greed eat it, bite by bite.

Make no mistake — if we lose the Postal Service, we lose a precious American institution. The centuries have shown that the delivery of mail is a proper function of government. Privatization would put us at the mercy of delivery services which would no longer have to compete. Prices would rise, and with no mandate to deliver the mail, services would surely be reduced — except for those who could pay for them.

One step toward saving our Post Office (and the union, and all those jobs and all that tradition, and all those services) is House Bill 1351, which reverses the 2006 law mandating the benefits plan overfunding. You can read the bill here (PDF) and see some TV coverage of the subject here. If you care, consider contacting your member of Congress and asking them to support this bill.