On June 17, 1858, Abraham Lincoln accepted the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate. In his acceptance speech, he famously said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure … half slave and half free.”
Racism had enabled Whites, apparently guilt-free, to enslave other human beings. More than 150 years later, with racism still a force in America, we’ve come to another critical divide, not as cruel, not as inhumane, but dangerous for us all. That’s the divide between illusion and reality.
This democracy cannot survive, half crazed and half sane.
Republican senators had two opportunities to join their Democratic colleagues in convicting an inept, corrupt president after he was impeached by the Democratically-controlled House. Hostage to Trump, Republican senators refused.
They then could have joined their Democratic colleagues in creating an independent panel to investigate the unprecedented (and, until the age of Trump, unimaginable) attack on the Capitol on January 6th. Hostage to Trump, again they refused.
That’s head-in-the-sand insane. The Republican party has been hijacked. It lives in the world of Donald Trump's illusion.
Meanwhile, while Trump continues to hawk the notion that the Dems "stole" the election, a video surfaces in which the Texas attorney general happily takes credit for Trump's win there. He simply blocked the distribution of mail-in ballots in selected areas, he tells us. Then there's also the inconvenient fact that federal judges rejected or declined to hear 61 of the 62 lawsuits in which Trump attempted to overturn election results in states Joe Biden won.
The Time of Magical Thinking
Analyzing stages of child development, Jean Piaget, 20th century Swiss psychologist, identified early childhood as a time of magical thinking, a time in which a child believes that what he or she wishes will affect actual events. Piaget theorized that most children emerge from that stage around the age of 10.
But as Trump continues to claim he’ll be “reinstated” as president soon, I wonder: Is Trump stuck in this stage, the time of magical thinking? And is this “stuckness” reinforced by a Republican party that has taken him to heights that, by any objective is beyond his scope? Do Republicans truly believe their only power comes from a guy
whose support depends entirely upon their surrendering independent thought and action?
If so, they become powerful, ironically, only by becoming powerless.
Think of the consequences …
What Motivates Voters?
Still, there’s the question of what motivates the voters to cast their ballots for such a transparently selfish and unprepared man.
Science journalist Tanya Lewis, writing in Scientific American, says “What attracts people to Trump? … The reasons are multiple and varied, but … developmental wounds … make the leader-follower relationship magnetically attractive. The leader, hungry for adulation to compensate for an inner lack of self-worth, projects grandiose omnipotence—while the followers, rendered needy by societal stress or developmental injury, yearn for a parental figure. … When a highly symptomatic individual is placed in an influential position, the person’s symptoms can spread through the population through emotional bonds, heightening existing pathologies and inducing delusions, paranoia and propensity for violence—even in previously healthy individuals.”
In Plain English ...
In other words (and more crassly), it’s akin to the relationship between Jim Jones and the 900-plus members of his cult who “drank the kool-aid” in a mass suicide in Jonestown in 1978.
It should come as no surprise that Trump’s hunger for adulation is driving him to resume prematurely his “rallies.” I suppose they fill a need for a man once characterized by an interviewer as having achieved something remarkable: “an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul.”
* In Arizona, this has been done by a private company called Cyber Ninjas. I can’t help myself: Did you know a ninja is “a person trained in ancient Japanese martial arts and employed especially for espionage and assassinations”? (Merriam-Webster)
** To visit her Facebook page, click here
*** For information on contacting your Representative, click here
For information on contacting your Senator, click here
**** To see the video, click here
*Interestingly, the aforementioned trip to the nation's Capitol occurred in the last millennium. Apparently, the boxcar problem remained unsolved for a long time. I googled "boxcars on sidings" and found several newspaper articles complaining about the boxcar problem. They were published in newspapers in 2009. Click here to see the Wall Street Journal coverage.
Traveling in the Balkans a few years ago, I took a city tour with a local guide. I’m embarrassed to say now that I can’t be sure which country I was in at the time, though I believe it was Montenegro. Such is life on a cruise with way-too-brief shore excursions crammed into way-too-few days. Our city guide met us dockside, introduced herself and told us briefly about her background.
“I’ve never moved,” she said, “but I’ve lived in three different countries.” Thus she described life where unrest and fighting sometimes results in an area being taken over by another nation, which then imposes a new name and a new regime on the land in question.
Here, in my lifetime, we’ve had none of that. But still … though the land where I’ve lived my entire life hasn’t changed its name nor its political structure, for the last four years I’ve often felt as though I’m living in another country. But then, a couple of months ago, we had an election. I started to breathe again as I looked forward to sane, experienced leadership and—belatedly—for the first time, a woman (yay!) in the second highest office in the land. It felt like a homecoming.
But then … but then … the self-absorbed occupant of the most expensive government housing in the country decided he wanted to stay—the constitution, the law, and the time-honored tradition of the peaceful transfer of power be damned. And that, the peaceful transfer of power, never breached, is the keystone of this democratic republic.
As I write, I persist in believing that we’ll stave off this threat from the most ignorant and self-absorbed president ever to sully the oval office. I'd be even more optimistic if Republicans would follow the lead of their colleagues in Georgia. There, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger handled a one-hour phone call with the grace and aplomb of a diplomat as Trump demanded that he "find 11,780 votes" to put Trump over the top in that state. Later, Gabriel Sterling, Georgia voting systems implementation manager, offered up a detailed televised answer to all the accusations of voting irregularities.
I do worry about the Republican party as a whole, however. They brought us here and many of them are more than eager, even at this eleventh hour, when they should be ushering the wannabe tyrant out, to support him in his quest to overturn a free and fair election. The disregard for themselves, their constituents, and their constitutional duties is mind-boggling. Who do they see when they look in the mirror?
There are bright spots. Few and far between, they burst from the quagmire of our capital and illuminate the landscape like late-night lightning in a thunderstorm.
Adam Schiff, the unassuming congressman from California and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, lit up the political landscape with lightning clarity last week—especially in closing remarks as he wrapped up the House floor managers’ presentations in support of the impeachment of Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, after a day in which the House managers provided detail after detail supporting the charges against Trump, Schiff spoke about the courage of the career diplomats who risked their futures by coming forward to testify. He challenged Republicans to display the same kind of daring.
“Why is it that Col. Vindman, who worked for Fiona Hill, who worked for John Bolton and Dr. Kupperman, why is it that they were willing to stick their necks out and answer lawful subpoenas when their bosses wouldn’t? … I think this is some form of cosmic justice—that this ambassador [Marie Yovanovitch] that was so ruthlessly smeared is now a hero for her courage. There is justice in that. But what really vindicates that leap of faith that she took is if we show the same courage. They risked everything, their careers. And yes, I know what you’re asked to decide may risk yours, too. But if they can show the courage, so can we.”
The following day, Schiff closed his final statement by appealing to listeners’ sense of what is right.
“The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interest first,” Schiff said. “… if right doesn’t matter … it doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. It doesn’t matter how well written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves if right and truth don’t matter.
“And you know that what he [Trump] did was not right. … here right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth. No constitution can protect us. Right doesn’t matter anymore and you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now, he’s done it before, he’ll do it for the next several months, he’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why, if you find him guilty, you must find that he must be removed. Because right matters. Right matters and the truth matters. Otherwise we are lost.”
Republicans, are you listening? Are you thinking? Are you taking the long view?
Would the people who raised you be proud?
Drifting Into Danger
*The Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological condition in which hostages identify with their captors and come to see them in a positive light
**In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court ruled that campaign expenditures by corporations and unions are protected under the First (free speech) Amendment and not subject to restriction by the government.
***Albright, secretary of state during the Clinton administration, warned of a drift towards fascism in the U.S. and other western democracies in her book Fascism: A Warning.
Wacky? Ignorant? Cruel? Trump
Give Trump the Attention He Deserves _______________________________________________________________
The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.
I’ve been silent, so to speak, for a month. Until recently, it’s been hard to exercise restraint as I watch the craven and impolitic decisions emanating from the White House and the cowardly politicians (you know who they are) who won’t stand up to the man ensconced therein. Now, however, while I’m not indifferent, I am unschockable, and I’ve fallen into the Trump torpor commentators have feared.
Trump rambles through the verbal wilderness, and I mute the TV. I know he will lie. I know he’ll denigrate the work and wisdom and warnings of experienced national leaders; I know he’s easy prey for Putin and Kim Jong Un and the Saudis; I know he has a damningly inflated opinion of his own brain; I know flattery works; I know…I know…I know. And some days I just don’t care.
I can’t respect the man or the knowledge and wisdom of those who put him there. And, while we’re on the subject, let me point out that the politicians who helped him onto his perch on the catbird seat aren’t only those of the Republican stripe. The blame lies with all those who, for years, have pandered to wealthy donors in order to serve their highest priority—holding onto their own powerful perches—rather than serving the true interests of their constituencies. The gaping income gap, the national debt, the stagnation (or reduction) of wages, welfare for the rich at the expense of those who live on the edge of survival, crumbling infrastructure, failing schools—all those and more are largely attributable to legislators who have failed us.
Remember that old saw? Which comes first—the chicken or the egg? Do we have failing schools because we have failing legislators? Or do we have failing legislators because we have failing schools?
Regardless of the answer, the dilemma we’ve created for ourselves is partially (but only partially) the result of two obvious factors: The first, a flawed system, which not only tolerates blatant gerrymandering but also holds the country hostage with an antiquated electoral college; the second, an inadequately educated populace, often poorly served by schools that fail to adequately teach history, the basics of democracy, and critical thinking skills.
Neither of these situations—or any of the other causes of our malaise—will be corrected any time soon. In the meantime, we need to fight Trump torpor.
TrumPutin, the GOP and the Stockholm Syndrome _______________________________________________________________
Dems to Shift Focus to Problem Solving ... What a Concept! ________________________________________________________________
"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government."
Edward Abbey, American author and essayist
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. But we do things differently here.
Congress fiddles while our wanna-be Nero, befuddled and reckless, blunders about the globe torching alliances and embracing foes.
I’m not sure which is more dangerous—the roving wanna-be or the Republican-dominated Congress, whose incompetence was on full display in the joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees yesterday. For nine hours, that group grilled Peter Strzok, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, whose major mistake was using his FBI-issued cell phone to send the kinds of text messages millions of us write every day—words expressing dismay and disgust over the politics of our time.
His most egregious offense, in the view of his GOP inquisitors, seemed to be that when his girlfriend sought reassurance Trump would never be elected, Strozk had replied “…we’ll stop him,” thus shocking the tender sensibilities of the Republicans, who saw it as a threat.
I was briefly in Madrid during the run-up to the 2016 election. One evening while a group of us dined at an outdoor café, a Brit stopped by our table seeking the same reassurance. We offered it, saying things like, “… we’ll never let that happen …never fear; not a chance …” Strozk’s response sounded a lot like ours. No threat, just a naive statement we believed at the time was true.
Carried gavel to gavel by major networks, the committees’ hearing offered only one thing: incontrovertible proof of the dysfunction of our legislative branch. What the committees saw as the purpose of their hearing is unclear. They were confused about the difference between political opinion and bias. Mr. Strzok helped them with that—or tried to—as he explained that we all have opinions, whereas bias means we allow those beliefs to so taint our view that we act, not in accordance with known facts, but in conformance with our beliefs. (I might add, since Mr. Strzok didn’t, that a lot of that tainting goes on inside the beltway these days.)
In my opinion, the purpose of the hearing was about the same as the purpose of those ever-recurring falsehood-strewn Trump rallies—entertainment for the GOP base, spiced by dismay for the rest of us. Now, in all honesty, there was some entertainment involved. At one point, Rep. Louie Gohmert, (R-Tex) alluded to Strozk’s infidelity, which was, incidentally, unrelated to the subject at hand. With that, the Dems had had enough; they roared disapproval, and an outraged New Jersey legislator, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman demanded of Gohmert, “Do you need your medication?”
Clearly, the GOP needs more than their meds. Spending nine hours in a pointless hearing … while thousands of children, ripped from their parents, remain alone; while Trump insults our NATO allies in Brussels; while anti-Trump protests erupt in the UK; while wanna-be Nero insists he wants to meet alone with his hero Putin?
Really? Republicans, you control Congress. What say you?
In case we had any doubts, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has demonstrated once again that the Republicans really are the party of unbridled greed and pure hypocrisy. He did this when he fired Rev. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest who has served seven years as chaplain of the House of Representatives after complaining to the priest that some of his prayers in the House were too political. And thus, Ryan confirmed that justice and mercy has no place in the politicos’ hallowed halls.
The speaker found particularly offensive the prayer Conroy offered during the tax cut debate when he prayed that legislators would “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”
Shortly thereafter, Conroy says, Ryan approached him to say, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”
At various times since, however, Conroy has offered prayers that legislators would act with decency and compassion for their fellow human beings. The ideas espoused are classic New Testament fare, notions like …
Having had enough of all that, Ryan demanded Conroy’s resignation.
“Only in this perverted time could a priest lose his job after committing the sin of crying out for justice for the poor,” writes Dana Milbank, columnist for The Washington Post. “But then, look around: Everywhere are the signs of a rising kleptocracy. The $1.5 billion tax cut did make winners of corporations and the wealthy.”
And Paul Ryan? His dismissal of the chaplain shows, as a prosecutor would say, consciousness of guilt.
Thoughts for Our Time
“Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future.”