Foxes in the Henhouse, Part 1

Will this be the cabinet appointment that finally makes it clear to the chumps who voted for Donald Trump that he has no intention of helping working people?andy-puzder

Andy Puzder opposes the minimum wage as well as regulations to protect workers, and 60% of all
Labor Dept. investigations of his company found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Get used to it, suckers: President Trump plans to reverse a hundred years of gains for wage earners in the United States.

A Way Forward?

The delay we must all now undergo as we wait a couple of months for the Trump Administration to get itself organized and finally take office is actually MORE suspenseful than the run-up to Election Day.

We knew what to expect from President Hillary. It would have been a simple matter of finding out whom she would appoint to carry out the expected policies. But throughout the campaign Trump’s many random and contradictory pronouncements and promises have muddied the water so thoroughly that no one is quite sure what he’s really going to do.

trumo-maga-hatI admit to a high level of apprehension about this — as I have written elsewhere, Donald Trump campaigned as a fascist, and 50 million people voted him into office. Forgive me if I now wake up screaming occasionally, from dreams of jackboots kicking in my front door. But one thing I have discovered is that if you step back from believing imaginary things that haven’t happened yet and study the situation as it really is, it is possible to start breathing normally again, and even to see a way to live with our new political reality. It doesn’t look like it will be a fun time, but it looks like we’ll survive it.

For one thing, I expect that being the (totally) out party will bring the left together – the moderates, the center-left, the really left and even a few of the radical left. We know what we want for the nation, for the world, for each other: freedom, civil rights, human rights, education, peace in the world, a healthy planet, a decent life. Lofty goals, and hard to achieve. We’ll need to pull together if we’re to have a chance of getting there. Losing all three branches of the federal government and a whole bunch of state governments ain’t a picnic, but it should focus our thinking in his regard. We must respect our institutions, but we must engage the opposition, and for the good of us all we must never surrender.

A thought that’s haunted me in the days following Trump’s victory is that those who voted for him must, to some degree, agree with him. Without going through the whole litany of regressive, unconstitutional, violent or ridiculous proposals he has made, can we stipulate that this is pretty scary? (If you really need a reminder, here you go.)

But I no longer think his supporters are all racist nationalists. Certainly some of them must be, and many of them are willing to tolerate that rhetoric and behavior, but here’s another possible explanation for why anybody might vote for someone as abhorrent as Donald Trump: They don’t take him literally.

They never did. They don’t expect him to do all the things he has “promised” to do as president. This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like him to do some of them: jail Hillary Clinton, ban Muslims, round up all the undocumenteds and ship ’em back. They want those things, but they’ll settle for just getting their jobs back. They don’t know what happened to those jobs, but they know that politicians so far have not seemed willing or able to bring them back, and so they voted for a non-politician. Not only will he get those jobs back for them, because he is a self-made highly successful businessman, but as a twofer he will go to Washington, kick over the tables and piss on the floor. That will teach those effete politically correct career hacks a lesson they won’t soon forget!

In other words, they thought they were “sending a message” to the Washington Establishment. They just didn’t think it through, to the succeeding four years of a Trump administration. This is both dispiriting and encouraging. Dispiriting because how could that many voters be that ignorant and short-sighted?? Encouraging because maybe — just maybe –when I look at the faces in a crowd at the mall I won’t necessarily have to think “Half of these people are violent xenophobic racists.”

Don’t get me wrong. The prospect of a Trump presidency is still profoundly frightening and depressing. I know there is no school for presidents, no place where you can learn the job in advance. Except for a short period after the election and before the inauguration, when you are briefed for the first time on challenges no one but the president ever has to deal with, you learn on the job, period. But as President Obama has said, this particular student is uniquely unqualified for the job. He has zero experience in government, he seems to have a narcissistic personality disorder, a short fuse and the attention span of a child.

How can he manage the most powerful nation in the world?

We Are All Fascists Now

It should be noted that Donald Trump ran for president as a fascist and won.

So it looks as if half the country is fascist, although most of them would scream if someone called them that. Jailing opponents, rounding up undesirables, silencing journalists, torturing prisoners — these were all part of his campaign. These are the things 50 million voters want him to do. Can anyone stop him? We’d better hope.fascist-trump

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.