Monday, October 10, 2016

Home to Roost

You know, I warned those Republicans. Back in December of 2015, after Donald Trump had insisted that we must ban Muslims from entering the country, I urged the the Republican National Committee to disqualify him from running for the nomination of their party because he had promulgated views that were entirely incompatible with American values. I have no idea why they didn't listen to me. I could have saved them a lot of trouble.

Following Romney's defeat by Obama in 2012, the Republicans performed a so-called "autopsy" (officially known as the "Growth and Opportunity Project") of the election results. Among the key recommendations was that the GOP should work to make itself more attractive to ethnic minorities and women. Hah!

What's happened instead? The party has embraced a presidential candidate who has gone out of his way to insult and marginalize Muslims and Hispanics. He has made statements about the African-American community that came across to that very same audience as condescending and clueless. And now, with the release of the Access Hollywood tapes, we can conclude that Trump's idea of outreach to women is pretty much limited to reaching out to them to grab them by their, um, lady parts.

See? I'm reaching out to women.

It didn't have to be this way. The Republican leadership could have stood up at the beginning of this sordid affair and said no way will this guy represent our party. Let him open up a third-party challenge, let him siphon off Republican votes, we don't care, there is no f-ing way that we will let this guy be the face of our party, and if he runs as an independent and takes away enough votes to cost us the election, at least afterward we are going to stand before the voters of this country with our dignity and integrity intact.

But they didn't do that. With a few notable exceptions such as Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney, who opposed him from the start, eventually all of the GOP's heavyweights fell in line and endorsed him. Reince Priebus, who even hinted that any Republican not endorsing Trump was in for trouble with the partyJohn McCain. Mitch McConnell. Paul Ryan. Marco Rubio. Even Ted Cruz, fer crissakes. And many, many others. No matter what offensive statements Trump may have made about whole groups of people, no matter what insults and abuse Trump may have hurled at them personally, no matter what they themselves may have said about Trump's manifest unfitness for the presidency, in the end they all got in line to kiss his orange butt. Most if not all are experiencing some serious buyer's remorse now, but it changes nothing about how ready all of them were to hitch their wagons to an odious, demagogic huckster against their own better judgment.

Hey guys, why the long faces?

Last week I listened to an episode of On Point, an NPR program produced here locally and syndicated nationally. The topic was the Weimar Republic, Hitler's rise to power, and parallels (or the lack thereof) between that historical period and the one through which we are living now, occasioned by the recent release of the book Hitler: Ascent by Volker Ullrich. One of the guests, the historian Eric Weitz, was asked by host Tom Ashbrook about what commonalities there may be between the rise of Trump and the rise of Hitler. Weitz answered that there is really only one: the courting of both by conservative elites who thought they would somehow harness Hitler or Trump, respectively, for their own ends, in the process lending each an aura of legitimacy and respectability that neither previously had.

Well, better late than never, I guess. Now that Trump's campaign is turning into a kind of slow-motion train wreck, these opportunistic fools, these disgusting Mitläufer, are tripping over each other to reach the exits as the whole affair blows up in their smirking faces. It is with a fair amount of satisfaction that I observe the corner into which many of them have painted themselves, fearing punishment from mainstream constituents on election day if they continue to support Trump, but facing the wrath of Trump's supporters at the ballot box for withdrawing that support. These guys aren't a bunch of uneducated hicks who fell for Trump's populist snake oil; they knew exactly what they were doing and why. They created this monster and now that it's turned on them, all I can say is: Good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Time to Make the Right Choice

Much has been written in this campaign season about how this year's major party presidential candidates are the most disliked candidates ever. Articles such as this one, or this one, or this one (just a tiny sample) have dissected this phenomenon in great detail.

I hear from friends and acquaintances on the left how they would never even conceive of voting for Trump, but they just can't bring themselves to vote for Clinton. They talk of voting for the Libertarian candidate Johnson, or the Green Party candidate Stein, or just not voting at all. The anguish among no small number of lifelong Republicans who can't stomach Trump, but can't bring themselves to vote for Clinton either, is also "a thing", as we say nowadays.

I can understand why a lot of people, even die-hard liberals, have their problems with Clinton. Bill and Hillary Clinton are perceived as the secretive power couple who play by their own rules and feel accountable to no one. While (in my opinion, anyway) much of that reputation has been manufactured by their political enemies, some of it is a product of their own actions. The matter of Hillary's private email server, however much she may seek to downplay it, is incredibly problematic, and symptomatic. The FBI investigation found no evidence of offences warranting prosecution, but in his statement to the press FBI Director Comey also made it clear that there was serious negligence involved. In talking about the matter, Clinton continually emphasizes the former while ignoring the latter, perpetuating the existing narrative that the Clintons are pathologically secretive and, when accused of wrongdoing, will defend themselves with legalistic arguments while appearing tone-deaf to the political and moral issues raised. To some extent I can empathize with the Clintons' intensive pursuit of privacy, given the long list of discredited conspiracy theories that have dogged them now for decades, but they just don't seem to get how their perceived lack of transparency fuels these very conspiracy theories.

But let's get serious here. Donald Trump is, as I previously wrote—good lord, was it really almost a year ago?—at best Berlusconi and at worst Mussolini, and my assessment leans more and more to the latter. He is a man with demonstrable fascist tendencies. He is, to quote the Washington Post, "a unique threat to American democracy". This man must under no circumstances become President of the United States. I am not the sort of person who is given to hyperbole, but I believe that the election of this man to the highest office in the nation could set in motion events that would make the disastrous end of the George W. Bush administration look trivial by comparison.

And after the inauguration, it's bunga bunga time!

While the rest of us are distracted by this current circus of a presidential campaign, the Trump team is making its transition plans. In a recent New Yorker article, Evan Osnos writes about those plans, not as a matter of speculation but as a product of good old-fashioned journalism. If you like what was achieved during eight years of Obama, too bad, because you can expect to see all that undone as quickly as possible if Trump wins. And you are not going to like where it goes from there. Read that article.

Consider also that regardless of who wins the presidency, the chances are good that we will still have a Republican majority in both houses of Congress post-election. Trump will need congressional support to put many parts of his program in place and congressional leaders will want something in return. So you can expect plenty of collateral damage not initiated by Trump himself, such as when he signs off on that infamous hypocrite Paul Ryan's pet project of destroying Social Security as it currently exists.

Come on, Paul, just kiss his ass one more time. It's for the good of the party.

Then, at a more visceral level, consider the man's performance in the first presidential debate against Clinton, which took place a couple of days ago as I write this. He was obnoxious and rude. He was petulant and childish. He showed no evidence of preparation beyond his few pet talking points. He demonstrated no knowledge of history and no grasp of how government actually works. He lied and he blustered. He complemented his third-grade vocabulary (and inability to form complete sentences) with the arrogant, bullying antics of an actual—extremely spoiled—third-grader. He was Trump at his trumpiest. The next day he blamed his erratic performance on his microphone, like that same third grader making lame excuses for not doing his homework. We have heard so much in this campaign about how he's going to negotiate or renegotiate all kinds of deals with NATO or Mexico or Russia or China or Iran or whomever. God help us if that's how he plans to do it.

Who's laughing now?

And so it is time to make a choice, and let's be clear about what that choice is. The choice is between Clinton and Trump, period. Forget Gary Johnson. Forget Jill Stein. Forget about writing someone in on your ballot. And don't even think about not voting.

Coming back to those people who don't want Trump, but don't want to vote for Clinton: disaffected, disappointed Republicans generally say they'll vote for Johnson instead; erstwhile Democratic voters tend toward Stein (or say maybe they'll write in Sanders). They think they are registering some kind of symbolic protest. I have empathy for their frustration with the candidates on offer, but as far as I'm concerned they are just registering their political immaturity.

Gary Johnson seems like a nice enough guy, but I've listened to a number of interviews with him over the last few months and he always sounds kind of incoherent to me, talking out of both sides of his mouth about how we should drastically roll back government regulation, but we should have a legal, regulated market for marijuana and we should strengthen the EPA, which, the last time I looked, was a regulatory agency that perpetually angers anti-regulation ideologues. I could cut him some slack for his "what's 'Aleppo'?" moment if he had then come back and said sorry, I'm tired and had a little memory lapse there, and then made a coherent policy statement, but instead we got some vague nonsense of an answer once he understood what the question was. I saw him and his running mate, Bill Weld, on Chris Matthews' show tonight and that topic came up; he owned up to his little brain freeze on Aleppo but then dismissed it by saying words to the effect that knowing every detail is not so important anyway. Then he and Weld went on to assert that we will only find a solution in Syria by cooperating with Russia, which may well be true, but then they talked about how completely untrustworthy Russia is. So where does that leave us? We look to a president to make the hard decisions, not just to tell us that the decision is hard.

I've also listened to some interviews with Jill Stein, and to me she comes across as well-meaning, idealistic, but just a little bit nutty. That impression notwithstanding, I will say that I actually find a huge amount of stuff in her party's platform that I personally could sign up to under other circumstances.

But here's the thing: Jill Stein is not going to win this election. Neither is Gary Johnson. Neither is Bernie Sanders, or Mickey Mouse, nor anyone else you might think of writing in. Sorry. Like it or not, it's just a fact that the solid core of committed Trump and Clinton voters is too large for any other candidate to have even a remote chance of winning. Your vote for any of the above is a vote that is not going to the only candidate who actually does have a legitimate chance to defeat Trump, and that is playing with fire for the sake of making some kind of statement that is going to change exactly nothing if it gives Trump the presidency. Presidential races are won in the states, not at the national level, and sometimes state races are won by very small margins. Remember Florida in 2000.

A variant on the "I'll protest by voting for Johnson/voting for Stein/writing someone in/not voting" approach I heard someone mention in an NPR interview today was "I'll register a protest vote if Clinton is clearly ahead, but I'll vote for Clinton if the polls say the race is tight." That's the wrong approach on two counts. First, all polls have a margin of error, many that the media like to report on are poorly designed and therefore not very accurate, and they tend to focus on the national mood overall rather than on the individual state races. Second, and more importantly, Trump needs to not just lose, he needs to lose big. The electoral vote in the individual states and the popular vote overall need to send a very clear message that the Trump program of "make America hate again" is rejected and repudiated by the vast majority of American voters. He needs to lose by such clear margins in every state that his almost certain charge that the voting was "rigged" will look ludicrous.

I myself will vote for Clinton, and I will do so gladly and not reluctantly. I am painfully aware of her flaws, but I am equally aware of her very genuine qualifications for the office. If you have to hold your nose to do the same, I understand, but do it. With a Trump presidency averted, by all means focus your attention on remaking the Democratic Party into something more to your liking, or on building up the Green Party, or on whatever other cause is near to your heart. There is a time for symbolism, and there is a time for pragmatism. Every one of us needs to be clear on which time we're currently in.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Your Own Facts

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

I have read or heard those words (originally attributed to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan), or variants of them, in any number of articles, blog postings and commentaries. Invariably it's coming from a left-leaning author or speaker excoriating some conservative politician or pundit for inaccurate, misleading or just plain fabricated claims about science, history, politics, social matters and so on.

It is a long-held belief of mine that there is a vastly lower level of inhibition on the right than on the left to support political arguments with assertions that lack a firm basis in fact. I wrote about this a long time ago in the context of the steady stream of crazy right-wing propaganda I used to get sent to me by a close relative who meanwhile seems to have moved on to other leisure pursuits. Democrats just seem to be, well, more ashamed of peddling nonsense in the guise of facts.

Maybe it's the media I consume, or the company that I keep, that leads me to that belief. This study would tend to support me, although I'm not sure it really stands up to statistical scrutiny. This more recent New York Times op-ed piece by a Politifact fact-checker that compares the accuracy of statements made by some leading Republicans and Democrats does seem to show more persuasively (for me, at least) that there are a lot more whoppers being told on the right than on the left.

I was startled and dismayed, therefore, to come across this graphic shared a few months ago on a Facebook page by one of my more staunchly liberal friends, along with some comment signaling general agreement with the statement in the graphic:

Now, one may look at this and say, "yeah, it does seem kind of funny". Maybe it conforms to a general sense that the country, or the world, is controlled by a small circle of individuals who use their enormous wealth to perpetuate a rigged system that enables them to keep and grow that wealth at the expense of everyone else. Maybe it makes one want to reflexively click that "share" button on Facebook to pass the message on. Maybe I even agree with the sort of underlying sentiment about the outrageous influence of the few over the many. But when I see you share this specific thing with me, or something like it, I am pretty shocked.

I'm shocked—and, as a Hebrew-American, personally insulted—because you are sharing with me one of many incarnations of the "international Jewish conspiracy" trope. Do a Google search on "Rothschild central bank meme" and look at the images that come up, and draw your own conclusions about the company in which you find yourself. Then maybe read up a little on the history of this topic; here's one summary.

I'm also shocked because you apparently don't know what a central bank is and how it is governed. Well, maybe not extremely shocked, because central banking, for mere mortals such as you and me, is admittedly a pretty dry and arcane topic. But you have probably heard of the Federal Reserve Bank (the US central bank, aka "the Fed"), and know that its activities are fairly extensively reported on in the press. The Fed's Chair (currently Janet L. Yellen) submits a semiannual report to Congress on current Fed policy (here's the latest one) and then gets grilled in an open hearing before Congress (here's that as well).  So the idea that the Fed is just a cog in the wheel of some carefully concealed international conspiracy is fairly laughable. You might also want to investigate how central banks actually work and then consider how it is that all but a handful of central banks could be "owned" by one diabolical family. Of course, I say all this assuming that you are a reasonable and intelligent person.

Finally, I'm shocked because you are apparently browsing through Facebook posts or liberal political web sites or whatever with your BS detector completely switched off. My dear leftist/Democrat/progressive friends, I expect better of you. I expect you to look at this and ask yourself, "what exactly is a 'Rothschild bank'?", and maybe Google the term to see what comes up. Then I expect you to read a few of those paranoid articles and say, "you know, I see a lot of outlandish assertions here, but not one shred of credible supporting evidence."

Then I expect you to look at that list again and realize that we're not actually "at war with" any of those countries, even though we have our beefs with some of them. The closest we come to that currently is our somewhat tense truce with North Korea. And we did fight North Korea and China in the Korean War, but China is now a key trading partner and a major holder of US Treasury debt. We fought Hungary in WWII, when they were allied with Nazi Germany, but Russia (well, the Soviet Union) was our ally in the same war, and Hungary is a member of NATO now. And Iceland? Really?

As you can probably tell, I got pretty worked up over the whole thing. But eventually I let it pass. I have known the person who shared that graphic for a very long time, and know that person to be a kind and generous soul who would never do anything to hurt anyone and who has never hesitated for a second to lend a helping hand to someone in need, regardless of the associated time commitment and personal expense. And that person is certainly no antisemite or bearer of prejudices of any kind, something I have seen tangibly demonstrated many times. I have to assume that sharing that graphic was a mistake made in haste and not some carefully considered act.

So yeah, I got over it. And then more recently I saw this video shared by a completely different Facebook friend who is a frequent sharer of left-leaning posts:

And I got upset all over again.

According to this video, the list of countries without a "Rothschild-owned central bank" is now just North Korea, Iran and Cuba. The list goes on to say that in 2000, the list also included Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Libya. But wait, what about that other list? It didn't include any of those countries. Can't these conspiracy theorists get their so-called "facts" straight? At any rate, the video goes on to provide an "explanation" of the dark conspiracy that brought those four countries under Rothschild control and how those remaining three will ultimately do so as well. All I can say is, do your homework; If you believe the content of this video after that, then please stop referring to yourself as a "progressive", because you are anything but; you are just an atavistic mouthpiece for the latest edition of a slander that goes back to medieval times.

It comes down to this: think before you post, or share, or "like", or whatever else one does these days on social media. You can't decry Republican denials of global warming (I will still continue to use that term rather than the more neutral one, "climate change"), or bogus claims of rampant voter fraud that necessitates new voter ID laws, or assertions that the President is secretly a Kenyan Muslim plotting to replace the constitution with Sharia law, and then pass on some farcical nonsense you saw on Facebook because it sort of fits your left-wing world view. If it sounds far-fetched and crazy, it almost certainly is. Just do your homework. You owe it to yourself.

My mother told me when I was small, "don't believe everything you see on television". This was long before anyone had even thought of something along the lines of the World Wide Web (a term you don't really hear much anymore, come to think of it). Today I guess she would be telling me not to believe everything I read on the Internet. It makes me think of the lyrics of a classic Frank Zappa song (one of several that support my insistence in discussions with The Young Master that Zappa invented rap); I just substitute the word "Internet" for "TV set".

Friday, March 4, 2016

The "F" Word

I don't feel comfortable using the label "fascist" or "Nazi" to refer to someone with a right-wing ideology that I find distasteful. However strongly I disagree with the policies of a Reagan or a Bush, however obnoxious I find Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter, however insulting and hypocritical I find the whole Fox News crew, I don't use the aforementioned terms to describe their personalities or their politics.

Nor do care for the casual use of those words to mean something like "bully" or "mean person". The Seinfeld "Soup Nazi" episode was pretty funny, but I will always cringe at the term "Soup Nazi" itself. Words that evoke ideologies and events that culminated in the deaths of tens of millions of people and the physical and cultural devastation of an entire continent are not epithets to be thrown around casually.

As I watch the Trump political juggernaut rolling from one primary victory to the next, my inhibitions as far as using the "F" word are rapidly diminishing. I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime, certainly not in America, but there it is.

It's hard to find a single concise definition of fascism, though anyone reading this probably has a general sense of what that word means. I will offer my definition of fascism as a political system characterized by authoritarian rule, violent repression of any and all opposition, chauvinistic nationalism, militarism and expansionism, and featuring a cult of personality around its leader, in whom all political authority ultimately rests. It distinguishes itself from other totalitarian political systems by seeking to incorporate all parts of society into the political system (as opposed to, say, various flavors of communism, which emphasize class conflict), and claims no divine mandate as the basis for the right to govern. I would describe Nazism as a variant of fascism that more sharply focuses the nationalistic/militaristic component into an ideology of racial purity and predestination to rule over all other races.

I usually think of fascism and Nazism as political movements that were peculiar to a specific historical period and were able to flourish due to the prevailing political, social and economic circumstances of that period.To be sure, there are still plenty of authoritarian regimes around, but none that would fully match the definition I've set out above. But now there's Trump. Is it fair to call him a fascist? Let's see.

Last week I found myself in New York City on business. After spending several hours in the train from Boston, and then spending the better part of the day sitting in meetings in a windowless conference room in an office high rise, I had to get out and just walk around a bit, despite the cold, rainy weather that evening. I took the subway from the financial district up to 59th street to check out a couple of stores that interested me, and then began walking back in the direction of lower Manhattan, intending to just walk until I didn't feel like walking any more, then take the subway the rest of the way back to my hotel.

Shortly after stepping out of the subway, I found myself facing a large residential high-rise with the name "Trump Park Avenue" in giant letters over the entrance. I continued my walk, heading down Fifth Avenue, soon coming upon the massive and imposing Trump Tower. I didn't go in, but looking through the glass front into the interior I could see the signs directing patrons to the Trump Grill, the Trump Bar, the Trump Cafe and various other things named Trump. It made me think of the many other things Donald has put his name on (here's a short list, in case you're curious). What is it with this guy's need to put his name on everything? Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and other billionaires own tons of stuff, but none of them seems to share this urge.

Trump's cult of personality seems fairly laughable, but he clearly takes it pretty seriously. His web site offers a random grab-bag of policy statements, but his whole political program is still basically… himself: elect him and he will "make America great again", whatever that means, and never mind how he'll do it. Maybe since he has changed his positions so many times over the years, he's just keeping his options open. Or maybe it's because proposing a concrete policy or program just invites a lot of unhelpful scrutiny, as with his foolproof plan to defeat ISIS or his supposedly revenue-neutral tax reform plan. The bottom line is: he is Trump, he will fix whatever ails you by virtue of being Trump. I vaguely recall the federal government also having a Congress and a Supreme Court, but presumably he expects those to just fall in line behind President Trump.

Among the few concrete policies he has articulated is his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, which he has justified with a series of racist remarks about Mexicans. He has passed on bogus statistics about killing of whites by blacks. He insists that we must keep Muslims from entering the US, and has repeated his baseless claim that during the 9/11 attacks, "There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down". In other words, people who don't look like Trump have no business coming into the country—racism as the basis for government policy. And Trump's racist tendencies are not a recent, campaign-induced phenomenon, but rather a consistent pattern going back many years.

As distasteful as I find Trump's narcissistic personality cult and racist bent, to me the really concerning thing is the pattern of authoritarianism and the embrace of violence as a legitimate political tool that runs through so much of what he says and which seems to find such a consistently positive echo among his supporters.

The Trump/Putin mutual admiration society is well documented. Trump seems unconcerned when confronted by assertions that Putin is behind the series of murders of Russian journalists—it's only Putin's endorsement that matters to him. And while referring to him as a "madman", Trump simultaneously expressed admiration for Kim Jong-Un's violent purge of generals and party leaders: "And all of a sudden — and you know it's pretty amazing when you think of it — how does he do that? Even though it is a culture and it's a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, and he's the boss… It's incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one." So Kim having his political enemies dragged before some kangaroo court and then summarily executed is, to Trump, not a repulsive act; it's actually kind of cool.

Trump strongly supports the use of torture as an interrogation tool, insisting, "Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works… Half these guys [say]: ‘Torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works." I'm not sure who "half these guys" are; maybe the Senate Intelligence Committee, who after six years of study released a report saying that little to no useful intelligence was acquired  through the CIA's post-9/11 "harsh interrogation" techniques? Not that that matters anyway, since Trump also says, "If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing." So much for due process.

Trump also makes it clear that he will tolerate no dissent at any of his campaign rallies. I imagine that any of the candidates, Republican or Democrat, would have disruptive protesters and hecklers removed from their rallies, but Trump is not satisfied with that: he wants dissent punished. In a rally in January in New Hampshire, following an interruption by a protester, Trump instructed the security guards to "Get him out of here!… “Don’t give him his coat. Don’t give him his coat! Keep his coat. Confiscate his coat. You know, it’s about 10 degrees below zero outside. You can keep his coat. Tell him we’ll send it to him in a couple of weeks." When another protester interrupted him, Trump again insisted, "OK, throw him out into the cold! Don’t give them their coat. No coats! No coats! Confiscate their coats!" This to the cheers and applause of his supporters.

At a more recent rally, Trump said of a protester that he would "like to punch him in the face". As the man was taken away by security, Trump pined for the "old days", when "You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher." Now, I'm not the oldest guy in the room, but (regrettably) I'm not the youngest either, and I don't know what "old days" he's referring to. Maybe the early 1960s in Birmingham, Alabama? Or maybe he just means that same Birmingham last November, when a Black Lives Matter protester was punched and kicked at one of his rallies, later eliciting from Trump the comment, "Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing." (The thing he was doing was protesting Trump.)

Or possibly he's thinking all the way back to the 1930s, when Nazi meetings and rallies were guarded by the SA (Sturmabteilung, aka storm troopers or "brownshirts"), the party's paramilitary force of thugs recruited from the ranks of the angry and unemployed, who did indeed deal with any opposition in that violent, Trump-approved manner. I can't imagine that Trump could actually create his own private army in 2016 America, but he has no inhibitions about appealing to the kind of people who would be his pool for recruiting. Former KKK head David Duke said in recent days that, "voting against Donald Trump at this point, is really treason to your heritage", so clearly somebody is hearing the Trump dog whistle, which is about as subtle as a foghorn. Trump, clearly wanting to avoid alienating an important part of his base, first claimed not to know who David Duke was (even though it's well documented that Trump knows exactly who he is), then finally came out with a lukewarm disavowal of Duke's support that for me at least had the implied subtext, "I'm just doing this to make the press leave me alone."

I could go on, but let's total up the score. Authoritarian: yes. Violent repression of dissent: check. Nationalism/racism: yup. Militarism/expansionism: not so sure on that one, since Trump hasn't really articulated a policy beyond, "We’re going to make our military so big, so strong and so great, so powerful that we’re never going to have to use it… We’re going to have a president who is respected by Putin, respected by Iran." Oh, and, regarding ISIS, "I would bomb the shit out of them". Cult of personality: absolutely.

Chi non è con noi è contro di noi.

Does that make Trump a fascist? Well, he doesn't overtly espouse a fascist political program, but I have no doubt about his fascist mindset. The only reason I can think of not to put that label on him is that fascism is an ideology, and an ideology is something you genuinely believe in, and for the life of me, I can't tell whether Trump actually believes in anything beyond feeding his own ego.

Would a Trump administration institute some sort of totalitarian, single-party rule? I sort of doubt that would work, but who knows? I know that it was a different place and a different time, but it still sticks in the back of my mind that Hitler didn't come to power through some violent coup, he was elected and then successfully manipulated the system to quickly achieve absolute power. Just recently we heard Trump blustering on about how he's not so crazy about freedom of speech; not a good sign for someone who aspires to office in a democracy. We also heard from former CIA head Michael Hayden that he thinks the US military could refuse to carry out some of Trump's policies—what kind of political crisis would such a confrontation between the Commander in Chief and his top generals produce?

I tend to think that at some point reason will prevail and even if he gets as far as the Republican nomination, he will still never see the inside of the White House. But I also never imagined that he would get even this far. I guess I can take comfort in the thought that if he really became president, and things actually got really, really bad, My Favorite Wife and I could could always return to the progressive democratic country from which we moved to the US sixteen years ago, namely—irony of ironies—Germany.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dear Republican National Committee

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, has condemned Donald Trump's remarks about banning Muslims from entering the US. Priebus: "We need to aggressively take on radical Islamic terrorism but not at the expense of our American values." Other leading Republicans have done similarly. Even Dick Cheney, certainly not my favorite primate, said his statement, "goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

But words are not enough. Consequences must follow. The RNC should immediately disqualify Trump from running as a Republican for the presidency of the United States of America.

I watched Trump's latest run at the Republican presidential nomination initially with a degree of bemusement. How could anybody take this guy seriously? He's a preening narcissist. His program is basically himself. He promises to "make America great again", but he has very little to say about what exactly that means and how he plans to do it. When he's challenged by anyone in the press regarding his vague promises and made up facts, he drowns out the criticism by unleashing a barrage of bombast and blather. At base he is a clown, a walking self-parody.

I'm not laughing now. The joke's not funny any more. Trump is nominally a Republican but he talks like the candidate of the National Front. And he continues to lead the polls among the field of Republican candidates. His xenophobic rants against Muslims in particular seem to have no problem finding a receptive audience.

I was startled when my trusty clock radio came on at 5 AM this morning to treat me to an earful of Trump going on about how we need to ban all Muslims from entering the US. This, I thought, is going too far. As already noted, condemnations from leading Republicans were not far behind. But what I didn't hear was a statement like this from the RNC: "It is unacceptable for the candidate of our party to promulgate views that are so totally antithetical to American values. As such we  reject his candidacy and hereby disqualify him from any nomination as the Republican candidate for president of the United States."

To not exclude Trump from the nomination, regardless of how certain or uncertain it is that he could actually win it, is to tacitly approve the views he promotes. Apparently the party's attitude is that if this guy can win enough primaries and caucuses to win the nomination, it's his; all they care about is that someone who calls himself a Republican ends up in the White House. Besides, they're undoubtedly afraid that if they shut him out of the party, he will run as a third-party candidate, splitting the conservative vote and guaranteeing a win for the Democratic candidate. For the sake of having a Republican president, even those in the party who know better are ready to hold their noses and send a guy into the running who at best is Berlusconi and at worst is Mussolini.

Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy.
You in America will see that some day.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

In my view that's a cowardly and cynical calculation. If the Republicans love their country as much as they profess to, they will do the right thing and toss this guy out on his ear, regardless of the electoral consequences. I am not particularly confident that will happen.