Every Time A Journalist Fails To Call “Corruption” What It Is, They Normalize Corruption A Little Bit More

Donald Trump Alleges Corruption in the GOP as the Desperate Fight for  Delegates Heats Up Video - ABC News

Here’s a question for every single American journalist — or journalist who’s working the American beat: how much corruption does it take for you to witness personally before you will call that thing “corrupt” professionally? Maybe I’m asking the wrong question… Do American journalists even recognize corruption as corruption anymore? That’s a terrifying thought — that America has already sunk to such a state of banana republicanism that we don’t even see corruption because corruption is everywhere we look because we made corruption “just how it is”. That is kinda how it is right now. The Republican Party no longer even pretends not to be corrupt. I refuse to scratch my head in bewilderment as Republicans push through voter restrictions in the face of an election that passed every corruption smell test. The Republicans aren’t reacting to how Trump lost, they’re reacting to the fact THAT Trump lost. Reporters remark on this fact every day and yet, they never seem to build that fact into the narrative they’re reporting.

Reporters also report endlessly how the GOP has willfully become a white, Christian, male-dominated grievance party. Republicans don’t have a problem with the fact that this is what they’ve become. They love who and what they are now. They’re unashamed and liberated. They spew demonstrable lies about literally everything including the coronavirus. Hell, our news media has even reported on treason at the GOP’s leadership level and not followed up their own story! If Republicans honestly thought “There’s two people Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” on June 25, 2016 (a month before nominating Trump to be their presidential candidate), then why on earth did they go and nominate a man they agreed out loud was guilty of not just corruption but treasonous corruption?

Donald Trump provingwhat Kevin McCarthy said of him “Putin pays Trump”.

The problem: the news media — the one group that can “J’accuse!” the GOP of every bit of its corruption (it’s the press’s Constitutionally mandated job FFS!) — sees GOP corruption as “political” rather than what it is, criminal. “Both sides do it” brand journalism insists that everyone does the exact same things for the exact same reasons. Everyone wants power for power’s sake. Everyone lies. Everyone is either corrupt or equally corrupt. No one is thinking about the commonweal or the very real people with very real problems that democracy and self-government is supposed to service. This assessment of American politics simply is not true. But, once a journalist goes to this cynical place and takes up cynicism’s cause, journalism itself becomes useless.

Despite what Donald Trump said on the very day he launched his bid to be president in 2015, Mexicans are not rapists and it’s not okay to grab women by the pussy just because you’re rich. Despite what Trump says now, the 2020 election was not stolen from him. Despite what Trump insisted, “But her emails” was bullshit. That our news media followed Trump to this corrupt place was our news media first giving credence to Trumpian corruption and then normalizing it. “But her emails” changed how some voters voted. “But her emails” — by design — caused some voters to throw up their hands and not vote. Cheating Americans out of their true electoral choice in order to seize power illegitimately — what could possibly be more corrupt?

Every single voter or voting restriction legislation just passed by every Republican-run state government is an act of anti-democratic criminality. If you attempt to deprive any American voter of their right to vote or of having their vote counted, you are violating their rights and that is a federal crime! There are no built in “gradations”, no “you get to violate someone’s rights “x” number of times before we tell you to stop”. That’s because no American’s right to vote is any less valid or important than any other American’s right to vote. Violate just ONE American’s right to vote and you’ve crossed a line in the sand that demands the rule of law prosecute you.

When the news media bleeps Trump’s language, they’re insulting their NEWS audience. They’re deciding that certain truths — language, for instance — are too much for their delicate audience’s sensitivities. The fact that what the Republicans are doing is monstrously obscene, far more obscene than any one word could be, doesn’t matter. When our news media calls a traitor and a criminal an honest actor or “the former guy”, they’re mis-labling the truth. They’re giving credence to bullshit. Worse, they’re giving credence to criminality and normalizing it as part of our political process.

Nothing good can come of this.

We need our news media to put on its big boy and girl pants. We need them to report every politician’s words for what they are, not the bullshit kabuki they’re trying to sell it as. A news media that can’t do that is hopelessly corrupt.

Dear American News Media: I’m Just Here To Help!

Dear American News Media:

I’ve had a change of heart about you and me and our relationship. After using this space to criticize you relentlessly, I’ve decided to “go positive” toward you instead. Pointing out your many flaws (like when you fawn over power instead of interrogating it or cynically insist that “both sides do it”) has gotten me nowhere with you. You still fawn over power when you should be skeptical of it (and that’s because you’ve mistaken cynicism for skepticism) same as you did during the George W. Bush presidency. It’s strange though how that cynicism gets applied the moment Democrats assume the mantle of power. But, there I go again, criticizing when I mean to be giving positive re-enforcement. I see now this is going to be a harder habit to break than I realized.

Most of my notes here apply to MSNBC because I spend so much more time with them than CNN. Actually, aside from Chuck Todd’s hour of over-rehearsed tics, random twitching and “I’m being thoughtful” eye rolling, I’m pretty exclusive to MSNBC where cable news is concerned. That’s not because I love most of their on air talent — I don’t. MSNBC has a few truly exceptional news broadcasters/communicators on their team. I have zero problem with advocate journalism so long as its open about its advocacy and consistent in its morality. Nicolle Wallace evolved into a super star whose past — as the basis for her crisis of conscience — gives her point of view gravitas. She is what a “Come To Jesus” moment looks like when given two hours of cable news five days a week.

Rachel Maddow’s integrity is rock solid. Stories that seem to meander suddenly cut to the bone when seemingly disparate dots connect and a real sense of “the bigger picture” flashes to the surface.

Ali Velshi is a rock. He’s gone from being the H-POD to being a beacon of logic and humanity. I don’t know how he keeps his (second) marriage together considering his work schedule. His family’s loss is our gain. Okay — I can be selfish that way.

I’m thrilled for Joy-Ann Reid (righteous indignation + receipts = what journalism should be) and all the talented people flowing from her “space”: Jonathan Capehart and Tiffany Cross both bring intelligence, cultural insight, wit and grace to their time slots, MSNBC and American journalism as a whole.

Lawrence O’Donnell puts a great bow on most days. My only note is one I’m not sure he could do anything about. I agree with most of what Lawrence says. But then, I’m the choir. Something in me always feels like that’s who Lawrence is preaching to — people as sensible as he is. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that but it does feel like a loop. Whereas Joy-Ann Reid can persuade with her passion, Lawrence reinforces with his warm reasonableness.

Chris Hayes epitomizes both advocate journalism’s strengths and its weaknesses. Hey — bring receipts like Chris does and you can flail away. But, sometimes that flailing feels like, well, flailing. The problem though is less Chris than the entire news industry’s aversion to including ALL possible explanations for Donald Trump’s presence in American politics and his behavior.

Ari Melber has the potential to be better than he is. He seems especially resistant to drawing conclusions and connecting dots minus ironclad evidence or a literal smoking gun. He sees the legal angles clearly but, at the moment of truth, when he could step forward and boldly connect the important dots, he gets lawyerly cold feet.

For the year and change of Trump’s candidacy (he declared on June 17, 2015), the four years of his presidency and the (almost a) year since he lost re-election, our news media has framed Trump as legitimate candidate, president and former-president. He’s been none of those things — from legitimacy’s point of view. Our news media however, having succumbed to access journalism’s lure during George W. Bush’s presidency, can’t bring themselves to call anyone what they are. Hell, our news media still regularly bleeps foul language from the news because they think 1) their audience “can’t handle the truth” and 2) language isn’t part of the news. Though “journalists”, they feel how a person expresses themselves — with all the significance their word choices imply — is less important if that expression might offend certain people. That’s not journalism, it’s misguided nannying.

To blunt language is to blunt news’ impact. It’s sugar-coating at a time when the more truth we get — all bitterness included — the better!

When our news media “pussy-footed” around “pussy-grabbing”, they deep-sixed the truth in favor of “being sensitive” — but to whom? Every woman in America deserved to know exactly how Donald Trump thinks about women. If that view of women includes his thinking he can do whatever he wants to whatever woman he wants — that’s material. Look, just because someone has a point of view (and we all have points of view), that doesn’t mean their point of view has a point. A rapist (like Trump) has a point of view as he commits rape (“I’m raping because I want to and can!) but that doesn’t mean his point of view is valid where fairness and the rule of law are concerned. Mexicans aren’t rapists as a culture. Trump’s candidacy should have ended the day it started because he said that.

The fact that Trump did say it — and his candidacy didn’t end — that’s not on the Democrats, it had zero to do with them. It’s not on the Republicans either because the rest of the Republican field would have been just as happy if Trump and his campaign had imploded that day. It’s hard to say how many Republican contenders knew yet (as the Washington Post reported in 2017) that “there’s two people Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump”. The GOP still hadn’t embraced Trump the way they would eventually. Only the news media really “saw something” in Trump.

A cash cow.

I didn’t start out a news junkie; I’m just a humble storyteller and an occasionally successful screenwriter and film/TV producer. Something about Trump’s candidacy triggered my “Spidey-senses”. My storytelling senses, too. What stuck in my craw from the get-go was a growing perception that the news story I was living through was not the news story our news media was reporting. I started to think of it like icing and cake. The news media were all about the story’s icing when, really, they needed to be looking much more deeply at the cake. Take Trump’s relationship with Vlad Putin. To this day, our news media will scratch divots into their heads pondering why Trump is soooooo beta to Putin’s alpha.

Someone should write a saying about how pictures speak a thousand words — and then hand it to our news media. “Both sides do it” journalism however gives every piece of information equal weight — and they refuse to “judge” information or the people supplying it. That’s how liars spewing lies about climate science can be the same as climate scientists presenting conclusive data. Before being shamed into cutting the shit, our news media regularly presented climate science and climate denial as if both points of view had equal merit. Even if they didn’t mean to do that, our news media presented both points of view on screen as a fifty-fifty proposition. That’s what it says visually when two people argue, both with 50% of the screen — both points of view could be true.

This still happens every time our news media presents a Democrat’s point of view and then — for balance — a Republican’s. If the Democrat says “we need to these programs to help these people and we calculate it will cost this much, the Republican replying “That costs too much” isn’t an actual reply to the question. The people the Democrats are trying to help still need that help. That’s empirically true regardless. If it will cost x dollars to help them then the proper framing is “We need this amount of money to help this amount of Americans accomplish equity — a thing we know America needs to deal with”. “Costs too much” means “I’m choosing NOT to help all the people who need help”. The question is “why?” Where should that money go instead?

Our news media loves a horse race because races are easy to call. You just sit there and watch the horses run. But, America’s in a very strange place right now. There are horse races being run — and our news media is reporting on them (the “Will Joe Biden get his agenda passed by Congress” story is nothing but a horse race in our news media’s hands). But these races are happening while the race track is burning down around us. And the Republican Party set the fire.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only member of the cable news audience baffled by cable news’ inability to aggregate the story we’re all living through. Example: the news media itself kept track of the number of lies they believe Trump told in public. 30, 573 was the “official” tab according to the Washington Post on January 24, 2021. Those were lies told while Trump was POTUS. The WaPo, as far as I know, stopped keeping track; we have no idea how many lies Trump has lied while being former-POTUS. Whatever that number is, it’s a record. Yet, few in the news media framed Trump as a liar first — though, considering the amount of lying and Trump’s willingness to lie about everything no matter how small and demonstrably false — that, too, is baffling. You’d think that, after even just 10 percent of those lies — thirty-five hundred or so — you’d stop assuming Trump was ever telling the truth since there’s clearly no evidence of it while there’s ample and growing evidence that he lies.

Our news media still publishes Trump’s lies without framing them as such even while knowing that that’s what they are. Oh, sure — they do tell us they’re lies — but, if we see it from Trump’s point of view (knowing he’s lying), the point of the exercise isn’t to prove you’re not lying, it’s to blanket the world with the lie so as to turn the lie into “the truth”. Even when acknowledging Trump’s dishonesty, our news media continues to work to his dishonesty’s advantage.

Geez! I wanted to be positive here and, instead, I’ve criticized again. Did I mention yet what a hard habit this is to break?

Here — I’ll try to be positive. Kelly O’Donnell is someone I’ve been unkind toward in the past. And she epitomizes exactly what I’m talking about. Kelly (can I call you that?), I want to make amends because — hey, we’re both in show biz, right? The news biz IS show biz and the same principles that make my storytelling work also make yours work.

I mean this from the bottom of my heart (for what that’s worth): I want to help YOU, Kelly O, be the best storyteller you can be! Here’s a clip of Kelly O from August 17, 2017 after a terrorist attack in Barcelona. It’s early in the Trump presidency; his lying as POTUS is still newish (compared to his lying as candidate). But — context — Sean Spicer didn’t get up in front of the White House Press Corps and lie about the size of Trump’s crowd size for his health or because he really wanted to. Journalists like Kelly O’ had personally witnessed not just that Trump lied but that he lied about stupid things. And,, remember, this is well after “Mexicans are rapists” (a lie) and “pussy-grabbing” (another lie — his denial).

A storyteller adding information builds a platform from which to base the next part of the story. The goal is to tell the whole story, of course, by connecting dots as they become reasonably connectable. Once you’ve established that a person is a liar (inside your own head), how can you tell that person’s story as if they aren’t a liar? The fact is they could be and an honest telling of their story starts there — not after you’ve presented the lie. Context IS everything.

https://www.msnbc.com/deadline-white-house/watch/o-donnell-appears-it-is-incorrect-information-being-tweeted-by-trump-1027064387879

At the 1:07 mark, Kelly O’ reads a tweet Trump put out.

She then qualifies the tweet: “Especially in that last sentence,” says Kelly O, “That seems to be the voice of the president more than a staffer on his behalf”. “That seems to be” is Kelly O’ inserting herself into the story — putting herself into Donald Trump’s head because, I guess, she has such insight into how Trump thinks. Though Trump to that point had showed zero capacity for empathy, Kelly O’ makes him empathetic regardless as if he must be empathetic just because he’s POTUS and Kelly O’s reporting on him. But Kelly O senses there’s more to it. Good for her!

“But, then a curious follow up tweet,” Kelly O’ continues, “…where the President says” (and she reads the tweet) —

Kelly O reminds the audience that this echoes a story Trump told on the campaign trail (a place where he lied repeatedly of course and said outrageous, offensive things) even though, as president, Trump had access to copious information that proved the story wrong. Historians have found no basis in fact for this, Kelly O says, spinning a blatant lie into “it appears this is incorrect information being tweeted by the President at this time”.

Think about the difference between these two presentations of the same thing — a lie. One presents the lie as a lie. The other is Kelly O’ dancing around until the word “lie” can’t really be discerned anymore. No one lies by accident. They’re deliberate by definition and Trump deliberately lies as readily as he breathes. Yet Kelly O editorialized a Trumpian lie down into something Trump could have done accidentally. That’s really dishonest. And, when you consider what Trump did subsequently?

That makes Kelly O an enabler.

Ah, hell — I did it again! I’m so sorry, Kelly O — I really didn’t mean to criticize. You’re a nice person — anyone can get that just from watching you. From everything I’ve read, your colleagues like you. From your industry’s point of view, you’re at the top of your game. That doesn’t mean you’re AT the top of your game. Or maybe it does and the thing we’re comparing it to — the news industry’s game — has a “top” most industries wouldn’t brag about. What it means is that from mediocrity’s point of view, you fit right in.

You are tasked with covering the biggest, most compelling, most consequential story of our collective lifetimes. Our democracy’s survival hinges on you getting your job right. So far, you’ve let us and democracy down hard. But the game ain’t over yet! Hell, MSNBC itself has news assets that both see and perfectly articulate what’s happening to us. For my money, Jason Johnson and Elie Mystal are both Jeremiah’s we should be listening to religiously.

In my dreams, a day will come when I can step back from being a news junkie. Fascinating as it is, it’s exhausting. But, I know this: if the day comes when I can stop obsessing on the news, it will be because Progressives (the only adults in the room now) have finally cleared out all the dead wood — the stale, regressive, repressiveness of our racist right wing. When the day comes that we’re no longer under threat, I will relax. Finally.

I’ll miss a few of my regulars when that day comes: Nicolle and Rachel especially. But, as for the rest of you? I’ll assume you’ve gone off to greener pastures — and jobs you might actually be good at.

The Republican Party Is What Happens When Bad Ideas And Thinking Metastasize

The reason Republicans have to rely on gerrymandering, voter suppression and terrible legislation to win elections is because nobody except them will vote for their ideas. To be clear, the only problem Republicans see looming in America’s future is diversity and the loss of political power that diversity will cost them. They see a loss of political power as a “cost” rather than as what must happen if America is ever going to live up to its full E Pluribus Unum potential as the greatest experiment ever in human self government. The fact is, conservative America doesn’t want America to live up to that potential. They want “All men are created equal” to mean what it meant to the country’s white, Christian, land-owning founders — just them and only them. That is originalism. A very bad idea (because it’s bullshit). Originalism isn’t the idea itself, originalism is the bad idea’s manifestation out here in reality. The idea is a toxic cocktail of racism, bigotry, misogyny, magical thinking and outright bullying. Want to know what happens to someone who swallows this idea?

Look around. You can practically smell the cancer.

This awful idea — that America is some white peoples’ homeland (aside from the Native American population white peoples’ pathogens obliterated) — flies in the face of reality. Europe is white, Christian America’s homeland. And, while the organizing principles that knitted themselves into our Constitution flowed from the French Enlightenment, some of those principles also flowed from pure, unadulterated greed. The entire southern economy was built on stolen labor — slavery. That is what slavery is ultimately, stolen labor. A slaver wants a slave to work for zero pay. Sure, the slaver will have to feed, clothe and house the slave, but (the fact that slavery thrived in America proves the point), those costs must have been negligible compared to the profit one could make off the actual slaves themselves.

To this day, people will argue — thinking it’s a good argument — that, without slavery, the south could never have had an economy and thus neither could Early America. First, that means America can only happen with slavery in the picture. Bullshit. Most of Europe got rid of slavery and built their economies just fine without it. They may have enslaved the lower classes indirectly and in a thousand other ways, but, at least they quit buying and selling humans in public. Republicans don’t want Americans learning Critical Race Theory because, being conservatives, they want America to live in the past but they don’t want America to examine the past (because then they wouldn’t want to live in it). If conservatives really believed that getting all Americans to live in the past was a good thing, they’d package it that way.

Conservatives are very good at packaging things. Being cynical, they understand how to direct message. The world is black and (especially) white to them. Whatever they feel matters more than any fact ever could. Therefore, the Truth is whatever they say It is. If, they say “Mission Accomplished” then whatever the mission is, as far as the Republicans are concerned, that mission is as “accomplished” as it’s ever going to be. Of course, the mission wasn’t accomplished. We should never have invaded Iraq — another awful idea. We should never have changed our objectives on the fly in Afghanistan.

Bad ideas flow from Republicans like pus from a wound. Trickle down economics? Bad idea. Tax cuts for the wealthy? Bad idea. Refusal to admit climate change is real and it’s being sped up by human activity? Bad idea. Making church and state the same thing? Bad idea. Poll taxes? Bad idea. Separate But Equal? Bad idea. Slavery itself? Horrible idea! Segregation? Bad idea. Refusing women the vote? Bad idea. Citizens Unlimited? Bad idea. Making Donald Trump their 2016 nominee despite knowing Russia owned him (as GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy himself put it: “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!”) Bad idea. Obstructing justice on Trump’s behalf? Bad idea. Taking part in the January 6 insurrection? Bad idea.

I could go on… and on… and on.

As the Reagan years waned, the Right Wing Money saw diversity’s handwriting on the wall of America’s future. That terrified them because it meant that after 200 years of bamboozling the rest of America into believing that “All men are created equal” referred only to them, the rest of America was done with being bamboozled. America has always been a great idea poorly executed because white people selfishly held America back. Fortunately, that bad idea has run its course.

The only real idea conservatives and Republicans have in their heads is permanent minority rule. That would be originalism’s natural, organic conclusion: the “originals” get to run America forever just because they say so. Talk about a crap idea! That is what has been metastasizing all along in real time. Unable to get the Constitution itself to go along with their bullying, Republicans in Texas devised a way for ordinary citizens to do the hard work of keeping women in their place. Republicans in the rest of America have already seized on this cancerous idea and begun to metastasize it even further. They want to make this cancer even more cancerous still.

What makes this idea even worse — from the conservative perspective — is that the short term gains (putting women in their place) will be superseded by electoral oblivion when those same women show up en masse to vote out every Republican they can. It is a very bad idea to take away anyone’s rights; they’re not going to take it well — or take it PERIOD. The Republicans probably expect to slowly squeeze the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness out of America but they’re going to be shocked by what America does.

In all the places where authoritarianism and fascism succeeded, it did so in homogenous environments like Germany where everyone (fascists and non fascists) were German. Their families were German (or proto-German) for a millennium at least. Their whole culture was homogenous. Same goes for any place where authoritarian power ruthlessly asserted itself: it’s always done so in a relatively homogenous culture. That’s not the case in America. For the first time ever in human history, a nation has been slowly building itself using other nations to supply the people. That’s the whole point of America and the American dream: anyone from anywhere can come here and — provided they’re willing to put in the sweat equity — reinvent themselves and their futures. In America, the past is NOT prologue.

The world has flocked to America — bringing its great ideas with it. America is what happens when great ideas flourish. But, our present is what happens when a bad idea — permanent minority rule — tries to bully a good one: diversity. The best way to deal with a cancer is to either radiate it out of existence or excise it outright as soon as possible. That is exactly what America must do.

Because it’s a really good idea.

Who In Their Right Mind Would Vote Republican When Voting Republican Gets You Killed?

Politics in America make little sense because too much of our “common wisdom” thinks everyone does everything for entirely political reasons completely divorced from any desire to actually govern. That “common wisdom” is deeply cynical and deeply conservative — as all “common wisdom” is, coming, as it does, from either long held knowledge or just long held traditions pretending to be knowledge. I don’t know if American politics have always been this cynical (I suspect it has been) but the presence of cynicism also marks the presence of a very real divide. The much LARGER group — on the other side of that divide? They aren’t cynical. They don’t think the worst of everyone. They absolutely experience the same intense gravity from the same tribal pull but, having lived in a diverse culture, they recognize that E Pluribus Unum is the cure for all that. Out of many, one.

Please, let’s be straight up here (like it was a question): only one side in this “conversation” we’re having about America’s future sees diversity as a threat to their hegemony. White people have held political power (and, hence, da money) from the get-go. That’s not because the great idea they spun said that’s how it was supposed to be (the great idea says, literally “all men are created equal” and not “all men who look exactly like us”), that’s because the MEN who crafted these founding documents were flawed (of course they were flawed — they were the male of the human species!). They came from a Northern European culture that mistook the advantages their pathogens gave them as cultural superiority. It wasn’t Christian virtue that laid low the heathens of North America, it was small pox. Thus is cynicism born.

The very idea of “E Pluribus Unum” makes “originalism” bullshit. Originalism is itself a pathogen. It’s the racist mis-step at America’s founding given a deceptive branding. Think about what originalism is really insisting — that how America IS should reflect only what its white, Christian, male founding FATHERS were thinking when they drafted our founding documents. We must accept their world and their world view warts as our world view regardless of any or all changes to our knowledge or thinking caused by our subsequent history. We must accept that this country’s founders understood the “Pluribus” of E Pluribus Unum to be exclusively white people. Originalism is an attempt to excuse and justify racism. It is pure cynicism (as racism is).

But, our news media — lacking perspective — doesn’t see originalism as racism. They see originalism (as they see racism) as a legitimate opinion even if (in the case of racism), it’s an opinion the racist insists isn’t his. It may be an opinion journalists pooh-pooh as offensive — but, considering that their measure of a racist is whether or not a racist owns his racism — that’s really all the current journalistic culture thinks racism is — an unfortunate opinion about other people that good people shouldn’t have. “Common wisdom” therefore says you can ask someone “Hey, are YOU a racist?” and whatever their answer is — that’s the truth we should all accept about them. They would know if they’re a racist, right? And they’d be honest about it!

This is how cynicism “thinks”. From the inside. It’s a rabbit hole constructed entirely of bullshit. And all bullshit is ultimately toxic.

Outside that cynical rabbit hole filled with “common wisdom” and bullshit, that’s where the rest of us live. We watch our news media report on that rabbit hole like IT was reality. We watch them constantly get our story wrong because they’re not reporting our reality.

As with most cynicism, a nugget of truth gets colored all one way. Americans do not vote en masse in mid-term elections the way they do in presidential elections. Except when they DO vote en masse in mid-terms as Americans did in 2018. They also vote en masse — contrary to “common wisdom” — in special elections like the one in Georgia that put two Democrats in the Senate. Our news media really didn’t see that coming because they — being cynical — thought the worst of Georgia’s electorate. When our news media tells us what terrible voters we are, we tend to behave like terrible voters. When they tell us we’re good voters, well — they’re usually behind that curve.

Why did Americans lose their civic pride? Why did Americans stop educating themselves about their own government when their form of government DEMANDS their participation — and therefore their education in HOW to self-govern? Self governing still doesn’t come naturally to human beings. It’s something we have to work at — hard. But you have to keep reminding yourself of all the steps it takes. It’s not unlike playing tennis. Want to have a good ground stroke? It’s all about the fundamentals regardless of the ball coming at you. If all you do is react to the ball — rather than attack it fundamentally, the will will own you. Your ground stroke will be late and it will suck.

Democracy is a contact sport that demands our involvement if we want it to work. And the overwhelming majority of Americans WANT democracy to work. We don’t understand the question, in fact. In fact, we don’t want — and did not vote for — the authoritarian alternative the Republicans and their Russian pals imposed upon us in 2016. Here again, it’s the originalists who are dancing with Russia because even though Russia is a hostile foreign government, all-white originalism lines up with all white Russia and Vladimir Putin’s dreams of a renewed Crusades to take back the Holy Land. Think that’s nuts? It’s for real. Ask Steve Bannon. It’s why Bannon had no issue with Donald Trump hitching America’s wagon to Russia’s: because Steve’s bizarre, Jesus-was-a-white-guy version of Christianity says this must be.

Ah, but the “common wisdom” — even though it heard Bannon and reported on Bannon and even talked about Bannon in their talking head discussions — says this is “just how it is!” Of course certain Republicans think like this and, when in power, of course they do everything they can to manifest their craziness in our reality. Can you feel the cynicism?

Through nearly a year of Trump’s candidacy, four years of his presidency and, now, nearly nine months of his post-presidency, our news media has treated this abomination as if it was normal. As perverse and outlandish as Trumpian pronouncements could be, our news media — rather than saying “Hey, that’s really perverse and outlandish — I’m digging in my heels right here!”, shrugged their shoulders and willingly moved on from “Mexicans are rapists” to “Pussy grabbing” – and then to “But, her emails!” because THAT, suddenly, became the story. As we know, there was zero “there” there. And it’s not as if our news media rushed back to their previous outrage to defend either Mexicans or women or any American.

A lot of “common wisdom” stays that way not because it’s wise but because people keep repeating it. “Common wisdom” doesn’t know what to do with people being woke because “common wisdom” — being conservative — cannot tolerate wokeness; all new information threatens the old information’s validity. If some of that “old information” is “white guys are superior to everyone else and therefore deserve to govern and have all the money”, well, you can see how those believing it would be mightily threatened by those who don’t. That, in a nutshell, is America’s dilemma. The rich white, Christian men are unwilling to share power or money. Like Charlton Heston’s gun, it will have to be plucked from their cold, dead fingers. Metaphorically speaking, of course

From the moment our news media finally agreed that Joe Biden fairly and squarely beat Trump — while taking back the Senate — they’ve pointed to the “common wisdom” that off year elections are always catastrophic for the newly elected president. Yes, that’s based on plenty of history. But none of that history is remotely like now.

That’s another of “common wisdom’s” blind spots — the assumption that nothing ever changes. That we live in a constant whose circumstances repeat endlessly. That is the world conservatives dream of. It’s the world they want to bamboozle us all into thinking “is”. It isn’t. Human beings evolve and change and adapt. And they get woke, too.

The moment Trump became potus, America changed. Rather, change was forced upon America and either we were going to accept that change — a right wing power grab aided by a hostile foreign power actively engaged in a cyber war against us — or we were going to reject it. This is the stone cold realpolitik reality. A fearful white minority is trying to hold onto power forever via permanent minority rule. Elements of this fearful mindset have been actively suppressing Democratic voters and gerrymandering elections for a generation at least, the point being to deny the diverse majority its rightful vote and voice.

Only white people could possibly look at the current political landscape and think “do nothing”. Literally every other group is more keenly aware than ever of the threat white people pose to them and to the very notion of America. But, alas, that sentiment, true as it is, flies in the face of the “common wisdom” that says 2022 is an off year election so therefore give it to the Republicans because that’s how it always is.

Yo, America’s news media — trust me on this: nothing about the Trump candidacy, presidency or post presidency is or was normal. That’s not “just because”. It’s because Trump entered the political stage already an international criminal compromised by other international criminals. The Republican Party itself KNEW before they formally nominated Trump that this was true. They said so out loud amongst themselves. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it in 2016 at a leadership meeting held a month before the party nominated Trump: “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!” That, American News Media, is not NORMAL. Doing nothing in the face of such an accusation by one’s own party? NOT NORMAL!

In fact, cynical. To report such a story — as the Washington Post did a year later, its reporter having heard the RECORDING of the meeting — and not follow up until the question gets answered: why did everyone in that room of GOP leaders agree to keep this terrible information “in the family” rather than call the FBI to report it? Want to know how every Republican in the room could persist and how our news media could report it and not become laser focused on getting to the bottom of it? Cynicism.

If our news media were doing the job imagined for them in the Constitution, they’d be We The People’s final line of defense against unbridled political power. They wouldn’t be political power’s propagandist of choice. That’s what access journalism (the brand practiced too often during the Trump years) creates: news compromised by the access required to get that “news”. It becomes “sales” instead.

I dare the news media to point at one positive benefit voting Republican could do for anyone except for indulging their hatefulness and ignorance. Would voting Republican in Florida or Texas or South Dakota alleviate the pandemic’s onslaught on those mask and vaccination mandate-free states? No, in fact, continuing to vote Republican will exacerbate this tragedy. Yet, cynically, our news media insists that — because 2022 is a mid-term election, Americans will “naturally” pull the lever for Republicans because “we need something different!” or “the other party is more motivated”. True, Trumpanistas may feel motivated — but that’s only if they’re not dying from COVID-19 as more and more now are. To assert — because “common wisdom” — that stupid, sick Americans will show up en masse while healthy, woke Americans won’t is to mis-read the landscape even worse than the news media did in 2018. If you go back and look at the “video tape” of 2018, our news media were determined that Donald Trump was going to win that night big.

He did not. In fact, the exact opposite happened, “common wisdom” notwithstanding.

In the “common wisdom’s” defense, it’s easy to keep in your pocket, even easier to pull out and put down on the table. No one ever was called out because they went with the common wisdom. Until now. There’s a terrible “come to Jesus” moment in our news media’s future. We The People will absolutely prevent the Republican Party from destroying American democracy because doing that is in our best interest while succumbing to the GOP’s authoritarian power grab isn’t. Life’s really that simple. While, sure, fascism overcame even the “good Germans” as it took over Germany, Germany was almost entirely homogenous. Everyone succumbing to Hitler’s totalitarianism was German going back a thousand years. Going along to get along with the tribe was hard-wired. Fascism didn’t work as successfully in France because the French — after a thousand years of becoming French — don’t act the same way.

America presents an entirely different set of circumstances especially since the majority of Americans are NOT part of the same tribe, or even the same culture. Our culture is still very much in its formative stages in large part because something like America — where all these cultures come together, some blending, others not — has never happened before in human history. E Pluribus Unum never happened before. And E Pluribus Unum is what’s now woke and waking up more and more.

Our news media doesn’t see it because they still don’t see us. They’re corporate, most of them, don’t forget. They step on set having been educated in a corporate way of thinking (“both sides do it”) and relying on playing the corporate game to keep the money flowing. They’re invested in the “common wisdom” without even knowing it. And, so, they report what (maybe) was as if it was what “is”.

Cynicism cannot tolerate perspective just like perspective cannot tolerate cynicism. Americans cannot tolerate Republicanism the way our bodies cannot tolerate the coronavirus. Like that deadly virus, Republicanism’s goal is to invade a citizen’s soul like a virus invades their cells, turning them into it. The cure is simple: vaccination. Up here in the political sphere, that manifests as information. Perspective. Why would anyone vote for Republicans when voting for them produces nothing good (not even for them)?

They wouldn’t. A news media with perspective would report it that way.

The Trick To Defeating Republicans In 2022 (And Beyond) Is To Call Them What They Are: CRIMINALS

I’m old enough to remember when the GOP was one of America’s two principle political parties. Now there’s only one — the Democrats. The GOP can no longer honestly call itself a “political party” because the GOP can no longer honestly do ANYTHING. That’s not a small detail. It’s not exactly a secret either. The Republican Party with two or three exceptions stands one hundred percent with Donald Trump. Never mind a few self-serving votes here and there for infrastructure dollars — despite Trump’s demands that they vote down all infrastructure. That’s pure political cynicism at work. The fact is, they still stand with Trump. Whatever Trump wants to do to their party, they will let him. They don’t have a choice. Yeah, to a degree it’s fear of being primaried by someone even more Trumpified than they are. Anyone with integrity would stand up for what’s right; at the very least, they’d do everything they could to uphold the oath they took to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign AND domestic.

In America, what do we call someone who’s either broken or refused to uphold the oath they took? Frequently, we call them “the current officeholder”. We call them that because there’s no actual penalty for violating one’s oath of office. Funny thing? There’s supposed to be: removal from office. If the act they took that violated their oath of office broke any kind of local laws, then they might face legal jeopardy. As we know from common experience, plenty of politicians violate their oaths of office. Pretty much none of them ever get removed from office for doing it. Gosh, could THIS kind of baked in corruption be one of those reasons Americans have grown cynical about our politics?

We’ve enabled our political class to all nod and wink at each other as they take their oaths of office: “We all understand that this activity is pure kabuki and we all understand that none of us will ever confess that truth”. That is fixable and we must fix it. But, alas, now that the doors have been thrown open to corruption, it’s going to be hard to close them. It’s just easier to be corrupt than to maintain one’s integrity. To maintain one’s integrity, one must deny every greedy impulse one has. One must place the greater good above the good of any one person — including oneself. Like I said — it’s no picnic. The rewards are more subtle than the creature comforts greed provides.

Part of our problem in telling this story is our news media’s inability or unwillingness to differentiate between Truth and bullshit. “Both sides do it” journalism is, by its nature, deeply cynical. It’s also profoundly wrong. Both sides do not do “it” because the two sides are, really, nothing alike. Yes, both sides have their points of view, but both points of view don’t carry equal weight. A point of view based on good, solid data and logical, reviewable analysis has earned the right to be accepted as “truthful”. A point of view based on feelings, conspiracy theories, Fox News and QAnon drivel is drivel. The two things are NOT equal. If you could hold them in your hand, you’d get it: these two things are not even remotely the same thing. But, when, as our news media does, when they give credence to bullshit, bullshit becomes truthful. They’re saying clearly of something they know is bullshit “It may sound like rot, but (“both sides do it” after all), under some bizarre, imaginary, pretzel logic circumstances, it could be the truth and for that reason, we must give it credence as if it is the truth”. Um, no. Bullshit is always bullshit. It’s never the truth. That’s why it’s bullshhit.

We need to get it into our heads that there’s no such thing as a person with 99% of their integrity. Integrity is an all or nothing proposition. Either you have it or you don’t. We’re all born with one hundred percent of our integrity intact. Here’s the problem with that: that is all we get. It surrounds each of us like parapet made of gossamer. If we dig in our heels once under attack — if we make defending that parapet everything — that gossamer will hold fast like titanium. On the other hand, if we waver (worse, if we give in to corruption), that gossamer will have already dissipated into nothingness. The very instant one’s integrity gets dinged, either one addresses the ding immediately or, in time, that one ding will become two and then four and then eight et cetera.

Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walks around with literally zero integrity. That’s been the case his whole political life but it became demonstrably factual on June 15, 2016 when Kevin — a month before the GOP convention where it was already a foregone conclusion that Trump would be their nominee — entered a room of GOP leaders and said out loud “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” At the same time Kevin lost his integrity, so did everyone else in that room.

Mind you, this conversation was recorded and played a year later for a Washington Post reporter. No one on the recording replies to Kevin with a horrified “Whaaaaaaat? Kevin — are you sure about this?” No one says “Hey, that’s a problem! We’re about to nominate a guy owned by Russia to be POTUS?” Instead, those assembled go along with then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan’s suggestion to not discuss this matter outside this room. “That’s how we know we’re family,” said Paul Ryan. If we had video of the meeting instead of just audio, I bet we’d actually see Ryan twirling his moustache as he spoke those words.

What the Republicans did that day was treasonous. That is a stone cold fact. If you even suspect that America is under threat from a hostile foreign power (and a country engaged in CYBER WAR with us is indeed behaving with hostility) then you are obligated to ACT. If you don’t — as the Republicans didn’t — we have to ask “WHY?” Why did Paul Ryan and Kevinn McCarthy and every other GOP leader in the room that June day NOT tell anyone about what they suspected? Why did they lie about “joking” the one time any of them were confronted about the conversation? Trust me: no one there was “joking” in large part because no one there was capable of making a joke. One must be able to laugh at oneself to have a “sense of humor”.

If you can’t laugh at yourself, that means you can only laugh at others. That’s the tell. If you can’t laugh at yourself but only can laugh at others, it means YOU HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR. Donald Trump notoriously has no sense of humor. But, you could pretty much point at any Republican and find the same thing: people incapable of laughing at themselves but more than happy to laugh their heads off at others. That’s bullying. And bullies are notoriously unfunny. Because they have no sense of humor. Kevin McCarthy was not joking. He was learning something plenty of his GOP fellow travelers already knew — that Donald Trump was a fully owned subsidiary of Vladimir Putin.

Everything that follows — every lie, every attempt to obstruct justice, every brazen attempt to overthrow the last election’s results — is flat out one hundred percent ILLEGAL. What the Republicans are doing isn’t them “expressing their opinion about American democracy”, it’s them trying to end our democracy — in direct opposition to the majority’s wishes (and that’s not some slim majority either!). This is NOT “political behavior”, it’s CRIMINAL behavior being done for a political reason (to force permanent minority rule down the majority’s throat).

Democrats have a frustrating habit of dithering when they should be acting. We get lost in the weeds because the rules matter so much to us. We don’t feel entitled to fix what’s wrong if we’re behaving wrongly at the same time. We really do value people over profits (unlike Republicans who always favor profits over people) but the evidence of that is harder to discern. The child tax credit Team Biden just introduced (which has already cut American childhood poverty in half!) is evidence of that. That same sense of caution stands between us and calling out Republicans for who and what they really are.

How treasonous does Trump have to behave towards Putin before some intrepid reporter focuses on it? How many times does he have to openly support Russian intelligence over our own or give Putin the benefit of the doubt he never deserved? How many openly obstructive acts must one person attempt on a regular basis before sensible people stop giving that obstructive person the power to obstruct justice? Or the benefit of the doubt that THAT’S what they’re up to?

Donald Trump was the ONLY American president to run for office AFTER having been impeached. He’s the first American POTUS to run for office after having been impeached for cheating in the election he was about to run in! All by itself, that screams volumes. When we get to the moment when we FINALLY say out loud to ourselves that, yes, but for Russia Trump would never have become POTUS, we will be on the road to recovery. For starters, we will have finally said out loud what Kevin McCarthy did on June 15, 2016: Trump is a criminal and because the Republicans did nothing about it, so are they.

Now — what do we do about the fact that the criminal behavior the Republicans STILL are engaging in is TREASONOUS? For one thing, how about we don’t call it what it isn’t: “an opinion”.

Criminals have opinions just like everyone else. Everyone’s got a point of view. But not all point of views carry the same weight. Not all points of view are based on facts and observations. Some points of view traffic in conspiracy theories or cultural-political hackery. That’s not the same as reality or the truth.

America needs to start calling bullshit what it is: BULLSHIT. We need to start calling people who obstruct justice what they are: criminals. We need to reframe how we see ourselves not as two equally valid points of view but as a complex, multi-faceted point of view. Also we need to understand that not all points of view have a “point”. A traitor like Donald Trump absolutely has a point of view — that he’s happy (if not desperate) to share. But, being a lying, rapey, greedy scum bag, his point can only be to justify his awful point of view. His awful, INDEFENSIBLE point of view.

The press keeps reminding us that the common wisdom is that the out of power party (in our case the Republicans) always do great in the first mid-term after a presidential election. That’s almost always the case during normal times. Except these times aren’t even remotely normal. They’re like nothing we’ve ever been through before. America and Americans are more woke than they’ve ever been. For some reason, people wanting to defend democracy isn’t sexy enough for our news media to stay focused on. They like covering crazy people better. And pretending they’re sane.

It’s like covering Republicans like they were honest actors.

Teams v Mobs

Successful teams do historic things. So do mobs. While both rely on the “groupiness” of their effort, the team needs clear organization and a process; everyone needs to know and do their part. Teamwork rewards everyone who puts in the work to help the team succeed. Even the greatest of great ideas require teamwork in order to move from the abstract to the real. And, ask any athlete — even the ones who play individual sports — if they really accomplished greatness entirely on their own. No, they’ll tell you, they didn’t. Others had to sacrifice in order for them to realize their greatness. That’s not a bad thing. It’s how greatness happens — even spontaneously.

Mobs also can happen spontaneously except their energy doesn’t go in the same direction that a team’s does. Whoever’s calling out the mob — or directing their efforts once the mob has formed — THAT’S the mob’s “organizing principle”. The mob isn’t working as a team, it’s working as a cynical chaos machine at someone’s behest. Sometimes however, mobs can be organized so that they behave like mobs while not exactly looking like mobs. The January 6 insurrectionists looked like a mob but they weren’t the mob’s organizing principle. As we’re learning, the January 6 insurrection wasn’t spontaneous. Not even remotely. People (some inside the White House) planned it and planned for it. Then they directed the mob where they wanted it to spend its rage.

What Joe Biden pulled off — becoming the POTUS — required a lot of teamwork. Overcoming Trumpism required (and still requires) teamwork. Everyone had to put their personal comforts aside and make the group their priority even if it meant standing in nine for hours to vote — in the midst of a pandemic — and despite the weather. I don’t recall seeing Republicans standing in line for hours. That’s because most Republicans didn’t have to. Their precincts had enough voting machines and enough volunteers to handle any situation. Hmmmmm… Sounds like teamwork of a kind, doesn’t it? But this was a “team” working at the behest of corruption at the top. People working for a crime boss can be remarkably efficient. Their efforts don’t benefit the larger “we” however. They only benefit a handful of people — a “me”.

Getting vaccinated demands that every one of us think of ourselves as part of a team. Getting vaxxed makes us better teammates because we won’t get sick (or anywhere near as sick as if we didn’t get vaxxed). We won’t transmit the virus, should we get it, to others. Not getting sick, we won’t tax the health care system. We’ll give the economy a chance to get better faster. The team that is We The People will get back to something like “normal” sooner. NOT getting vaxxed has all the opposite effects. Unless your immune system is compromised, there is no excuse not to do what the team demands. There are only crap excuses for selfish behavior.

The Delta Variant is now raging through all the unvaccinated parts of America — except for Nevada, all red states. This time, young people are landing in over-taxed hospitals. Some are dying. It’s tragedy heaped upon tragedy and it’s all preventable. I just saw a clip on MSNBC. A reporter asks a high school students in Arkansas — one of the few getting vaccinated at the vaccination event set up at their high school — why THEY are getting the stick while most of their classmates aren’t.

Turns out, most of those kids getting vaxxed in this now anti-vax red state are athletes. And the reason they’re all getting it? TEAMWORK. If anyone on their team gets sick, the whole team will have to sit down. One member’s fate is everyone’s fate.

Ironically, even when they rely on teamwork, Republicans view teamwork as something for suckers. Criminals, of necessity, need to be able to turn on their co-conspirators at the drop of an indictment. In several recent interviews, Donald Trump’s niece Mary Trump has stated that her cousin Ivanka will probably flip before Allen Weisselberg, Trumpco’s money man, does. That either would “flip” shouts volumes. That Ivanka would flip — that bellows at the top of its lungs. These people don’t even see a “team” where it should be most firmly entrenched — in their own family.

Oh, the irony… as “team-like” as organized criminals can be, we call them “the mob”. And as every good cop can tell you, it takes significant teamwork to bring down a mob.

American Journalism Sucks Because Too Many Journalists Don’t Get How Mosaics (Or Connect-The-Dots) Work

Hmmm… I wonder what it is…?

After five years of Trumpism in our politics, America’s news media have finally acknowledged that Trumpism is a very real threat to our democracy. If you demanded specificity, most journalists would probably point to all the obvious instances of Republicans drafting anti-democratic legislation in nearly every state. They’d be right, of course. Most of those journalists are very clear about the terrible implications of what the GOP is doing and what those implications mean: the Republican Party is trying to discount every other vote except theirs. If they can’t outright STOP Black, brown, young or LGBTQ people from voting then they’ll simply refuse to COUNT those votes. Same end product: the Will Of The People to expand the democratic franchise as far as possible will be circumvented by an angry, racist, white minority who want to keep all political power for themselves. But then, after reporting this, most reporters, upon turning to the next story — the battle over the filibuster, for instance — will report it as if the previous story didn’t exist. So, in one moment, Republicans are destroying democracy while, in the next, Democrats are being asked why they won’t work with Republicans.

One of the most painful, frustrating experiences American journalism subjected their news audience to flows from the idea that, in American politics, “both sides do it”. This fallacious framing is pure cynicism. It ascribes the same motives to the Republican suppressing a Democrat’s vote as it does the Democrat whose vote has just been suppressed: they’re being “political”. Oy. That’s as stupid as ascribing the same motives to the car thief and the car thief’s victim who wants his car back. “You want your car back? What are you, some kind of car thief?” That’s the implied question. “Both sides do it” turns healthy skepticism — something every journalist must have in their arsenal — into unhealthy cynicism. Except our motives are all different. If Democrats thought and acted like Republicans, they’d BE Republicans.

The simple truth is, progressives and conservatives (never mind their political labels) are different creatures. We think differently. What’s most important to us is different. Conservatism wants to preserve the past for as long as possible because the past represents a kind of “Golden Age” in their minds. Progressives, on the other hand, want to fix what the past got wrong and make THAT our collective future. We will almost always favor people over profits. The commonweal is way more important to us than anyone person’s bank account. We understand that it takes a village to do literally anything — especially when it comes to money.

American journalism has gotten it into its head that, at all costs, it must be “neutral”. To a degree, they’re right. Journalism’s job is straightforward reporting of the facts with as little bias as possible so that the news audience can draw their own conclusions. But, as new information enters the environment, the environment must adapt and evolve. If new information says it’s raining outside, you may want to take an umbrella with you when you walk out the door. This morning’s weather forecast will be useless by this afternoon. But, American journalism — because they think “both sides do it” — has become obsessive over old weather forecasts — as if this morning’s forecast still applied to right now even though, clearly, the weather is entirely different.

American politics have always been ugly. We forget that because we have no sense of our own history; we’ve gotten it into our heads that, in the past, we were all “Kumbaya” despite our differences. We’ve never been that. Hell pro-slavery Southern Democrat Preston Brooks nearly beat abolitionist Republican Charles Sumner on May 22, 1856 to death on the Senate floor. Quick reminder: per Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party”, Lincoln’s Republican Party and the modern GOP are diametric opposites now of what they were then. Modern Republicans are Southern Democrats (Dixiecrats) who always opposed racial justice in America. But, as bad as it has been in the past — up to and including attempted homicide — the introduction of Trumpism into our body politic (into Republicanism in particular) — ratcheted up every terrible impulse every Republican ever had.

Same goes for our journalists.

“Mexicans are rapists” should have been the end of Trump’s presidential bid as it would have been for literally any other candidate. “Pussy grabbing” should have iced the “Trump Will Never Be POTUS” cake. And yet, both those very real concerns for a presidential candidate were outdone by “But, her emails!”, a tempest in a teapot if ever there was one. “Mexicans are rapists” wasn’t just a single statement addressing a single issue (Trump’s appreciation for fellow rapists), it was an opening to a wider discussion because what Trump revealed was clear: HE’S A RACIST who, without even thinking about it, regularly says racist things.

But, let’s bore in on racism itself as an example of what I mean. Our news media thinks its an open question as to whether anyone is or isn’t a racist. They think it’s as easy as asking a racist if he’s racist. Except racism (like beauty, ironically) isn’t up to the subject, it’s up to everyone around the subject — the beholders either of the beautiful person’s beauty or the racist’s racism. And it’s not subject to a vote either. It only takes one racist victim to make a racist. If anyone feels anyone else is being racist toward THEM (no one gets to proxy here), then that’s the end of it. Mind you, this does assume we’re all being honest actors, so obviously I’m excluding any and all Republicans.

Our news media struggles with whether or not Donald Trump — with a whole freakin’ HISTORY of doing and saying racist things — is or isn’t a racist. That’s because they bore in on each instance of racism as if stood all by itself, unconnected to any other moment in Trump’s life. Trump’s niece Mary Trump did a wonderful job of contextualizing her uncle’s psychopathology. She doesn’t question whether or not her uncle’s racist because she’s heard him say racist things. Same goes for whether or not her uncle’s a scumbag.

If you looked only at a dot on a page, you might think that dot was everything — the whole universe. A professional, compulsive journalist would, understandably, make that dot the sole focus of her existence until she’d explained it. But, if that compulsive journalist can only see that one dot — even down to the microns of ink intertwining with the microns of paper fiber — while she may be giving us a new, profound understanding of one thing, she’s missing the boat on literally everything else in the whole universe. Or, can we say “missing the big picture”?

A tile is one thing, the mosaic it sits inside of is something else entirely. Donald Trump was the first president EVER to have been impeached — for election fraud no less — and then run in the very same election he was impeached for cheating in! But, during the election, very few journalists connected those dots for their news audience — even as Trump was actively cheating in the very same way. But then, Trump cheated to become POTUS in the first place. If not for Russia, Trump does not win in 2016. What about that piece of the mosaic?

Our news media continues to this day to scratch its head over the hold Trump has on the Republican Party. While, sure, there are Republicans who just plain adore Trump’s authoritarian bent (they’ve always hated the gamble that elections present), it’s not ideology connecting these pirates. It’s treason — pure and simple. Our news media should know this because THEY have reported it. In 2017, the Washington Post reported on a conversation that took place in 2016, a month before the GOP nominated Trump to be their presidential candidate. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walks into a room of Republican leaders a month before the convention and says out loud (it was recorded and the recording was played for the Post’s reporter) “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” For the record, no one in the room questioned McCarthy’s truthfulness. They all seemed to take it as a given that McCarthy was spot on — that Russia was paying Rohrbacher (among other Republicans) and Trump (the guy they were about to nominate to be POTUS). Their issue wasn’t THAT Trump was compromised, it was “how are we going to keep this terrible information a secret?”

That’s why, per then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan, the Republican leadership agreed to keep the secret that their presidential nominee to be was a Russian intelligence asset “in the family”.

It shouldn’t be a question of “Is Trump a traitor” just like it shouldn’t be a question “Is Trump a racist?” Hell yes and hell yes!

The Big Picture shouldn’t be as hard to see as we make it. And connecting dots shouldn’t be the challenge it is either. For the record? The connect-the-dots picture up top? It’s a dinosaur.

Icing v Cake

How many times has a cake with amazing icing disappointed because the cake itself — even if it was good — simply couldn’t match the icing’s enticing promise? Or, more basically, how would we feel about being served a piece of cake that promised greatness but delivered its opposite (while making us physically sick)? . Icing’s a great metaphor. It sets up a promise that the cake beneath better deliver on — that’s how “cake” works,. The icing in the brick designed cake above is funny, clever and a great enticement to sample the cake within. But, what if the situation was reversed slightly. What if beneath every bit of icing meant to look like a brick was a real brick? Okay — clever icing but it leads to a terrible final experience — no one wants to eat an actual brick, right? Or, even if we iced the brick with the best butter cream icing available? We can make that brick look incredibly appetizing — until the moment you bite into it and wreck your teeth. Expectation v Reality. And sometimes? Flat out bullshit v reality.

Sometimes we go even further: we sugar coat poison then serve it up to people.

Politics is “Icing v Cake” on steroids. So’s religion. That’s what makes both so vulnerable — the most toxic political or religious cake can be hidden beneath Kool-Aid flavored icing a la Jonestown. Nobody went to Jonestown to die. That wasn’t the “icing” they bought into. They had no idea how diabolically evil a cake Jim Jones was baking for them all. “The Peoples Temple” sounds lovely because it’s icing. Consider what that icing looked like BEFORE the massacre: The Peoples’ Temple that Jones founded in 1955 was racially integrated and counter-cultural; Jones advised his adherents to live a communal, socialist life style filled with shared purpose. Strip away fifty years of accrued cynicism and you can sorta kinda recall how much more “innocent” we were. Innocence and icing love go hand-in-hand. That’s not a knock, it’s just a fact.

Most of the 918 people who died at Jonestown walked in the door expecting one thing — the glorious icing of happiness but, instead, ended up dead because the cake itself was utterly poisonous. Figuratively and literally.

The Republican Party is another “Icing v Cake” situation. Their icing says they’re a political party. The cake beneath is something entirely different. The cake — and we’ve experienced samples of it for five long years now — is flavored with greed and power lust and even treason. The odor it gives off is pure, unadulterated corruption. Our news media however cannot see the cake below the GOP’s deep red surface. To them, it’s just a red cake doing things red cake does. They’ll even ask the red cake how it tastes — not an unreasonable question but you have to know as you ASK the question that the answer is going to be totally biased. “I taste great!” says the red cake even though, fact is, it tastes like an anal wart covered in putrescence.

That’s like asking a racist if they’re a racist. How the hell would the racist know? He’s too much of a racist to give you any sort of an honest answer. Want to know if someone’s a racist or if the cake they made tastes okay? Ask someone ELSE. And don’t ask someone who hasn’t sampled the cake, ask someone who’s experienced racism directly. Even better, ask someone who’s experienced the racist’s racism directly. They’ll tell you — even as the racist shakes his head in earnest denial — not only THAT the racist is a racist, but just how MUCH of a racist the racist is. Racism, of course, is one of the cakes always available in America.

Cleaning up America’s cake is going to take some time. Republicans and conservatives have been hard at work the past decade destroying our pantry, making our stored ingredients vulnerable to rats and roaches and other gnarly creatures. Worse yet, Republicans sold us out to their crazy friend Vladimir. What else are we to make of “icing” that looks as screwed up as this —

Alas, our news media are icing junkies who have a limited tolerance for cake. That’s a product of “both sides do it” journalism which insists that both sides make exactly the same cake; they just frost them differently. That is absolutely not so. Republicans like their cake dry as hell — white as hell, too. Angel food is ideal because it’s white. Any chocolate on it better come from a jar so they “keep a lid” on it at all times. Progressives and most Democrats are far more open-minded about cake. They make a point of embracing all the kinds of cake there are — especially the multi-colored kind with the chocolate icing.

Marie Antoinette famously said (was famously misquoted actually) “Let them eat cake” when told the peasants of Paris were starving because they had no bread to eat. What she really meant, of course, was let them eat icing. Rich Marie knew better than to promise the rabble anything as nourishing as cake.

There’s No Point Being “Honest” With Everyone Else If You Can’t Be Honest About Yourself First

There’s an iconic film moment in the movie “A Few Good Men”. Military JAG officer Tom Cruise has the movie’s villain (played by Jack Nicholson) on the stand where he’s pressed him hard to get at “the truth”. Nicholson’s Colonel Jessep barks: “You can’t HANDLE the truth!” Of course, in the movie (written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Rob Reiner, both very progressive), we’re meant to shake our heads at Jessep’s arrogance. Of course we can handle the Truth. Ah, but, can we? Can any of us really handle the Truth about who we are and where we are in our lives versus where we wished we’d be? As much as I advocate in this blog for “living bullshit free”, the unvarnished truth about humans is we need a certain amount of bullshit just to get through each day. Hell, we need a certain amount of bullshit just to justify getting through most days. Especially these days.

The trap in being honest with ourselves is if we equate being honest with being judged. The reason we don’t want to be honest is because we don’t want to be judged — especially if we’re just “being honest”. Inside our own heads though, things get grey. We don’t judge ourselves the way we judge others. We couldn’t stand it if we did. But, if we could push past that kneejerk judgment, let our psychological hair down and run free, we’d probably be shocked by the stone, cold truth about ourselves. That’s neither good nor bad. It’s just the Truth.

For instance: none of us can say whether or not we’re racist. It’s not up to us. It’s up to anyone toward whom we may have been racist. IF someone were to accuse us of being a racist (or bigoted or misogynist in any way), would we accept hearing such a terrible TRUTH about ourselves? Or would we insist the “truth” was otherwise — something kinder and gentler toward us? Being honest with oneself is hard, hard work. But the payoffs are considerable. Important detail: being totally honest with yourself about yourself must precede any attempt to be totally honest about anyone else.
If you’re doing it right, being honest with yourself about yourself is pretty much a full time job all by itself. You won’t have time to give others the “benefit” of your honesty. If the world was working the way it should, all those others will be as consumed as you will be by the work involved in patrolling their own “perimeters of truth”.

One of the first benefits of being honest with oneself however is how it opens one’s eyes to the myriad ways OTHERS aren’t being honest with themselves but with some very important, very human context around it. On the one hand, that can make us more empathetic to why and how others dance around the truth. On the other, the context makes it crystal clear when others aren’t being “truthful” about WHY they’re dancing as fast as they’re dancing: they’re being cynical. Or, worse, corrupt.

The whole point of being honest with oneself is to “vaccinate” against bullshit and bullshit’s influence on our psyches.

Cutting ourselves slack is completely understandable. We all have to live inside our own heads. But, we have to recognize (if only to ourselves) that that’s what we’re doing. Again, the point isn’t to judge, it’s merely to RECOGNIZE what really is versus what isn’t and probably never was.

There is not a Republican Congressperson alive right now who doesn’t know what they’re really doing. They KNOW they’re not working to make America a stronger democracy dedicated to expanding its electorate. They KNOW that what they’re doing will, in fact, undermine American’s democracy because that is the point. If you can’t win elections via the strength of your ideas and arguments, you’re going to have to “win” elections by “other means”. Republicans don’t suppress Democratic voters because they believe in democracy, they do it because they fear democracy. That’s not a judgment; it’s a stone cold FACT.

Hey, look — Republicans aren’t “obligated” to want the greatest experiment in human self government to continue. They are obligated however to be honest about their intentions. And, if they refuse to be honest about themselves, it’s incumbent on our news media to force them to be honest. That’s their Constitutionally mandated mission — to be the final check on power. Honesty and sunlight — they both work wonders on a dark, corrupt world.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare put it this way: “To thine own self, be true”. Of course, the person giving that advice (Polonius) is a deceptive skunk, but the sentiment’s right. We can only really be honest — and the sunlight can only do what we need it to do — if we begin the process with ourselves to ourselves.

Conservatism And Corruption Have Always Been Fellow Travelers

No one ever seems to describe paradise as “just how things are, kid, sorry.” Perfection’s a high, high bar. We can accept the failure that occurs between aspiration and attempt, They gave it their best shot! It’s the failure that happens because of corruption that sticks in our craw. While the rest of us play by the rules — because there’s no other way to live successfully in a society — the corrupt always look for ways to cheat. And damned if their cheating and corruption don’t screw the pooch for everyone else. Corruption once it sets in begets cynicism. We can all feel corruption’s oily awfulness. We can smell it. Corruption’s knee jerk response when we go to eradicate it is to, like a cockroach caught on a kitchen counter when the light goes on, run for cover. Corruption wants to endure. That’s how conservatism works too.

Conservatism walks in the door with (what, to me,, is) a glaring problem: it wears its intentions on its sleeve and in its name. What does any conservative want? Why, he wants to conserve. Via legislation and judicial result, a conservative wants to conserve the status quo because right now contains as much of the future as any conservative wants and as much of the past as they can bear letting go of. What does any conservative long to conserve (considering as it’s impossible to conserve the future since it hasn’t happened)? They want to conserve the past, of course. The more conservative a conservative is, the more distant the past in their mind that they want to reproduce out here in reality. There are luddites who would happily take us all back to the stone age if they could.

Going back to Newt Gingrich, the Republican Party made compromising with Democrats a non-starter. Mitch McConnell has raised being a recalcitrant shit to a high art. Mitch also has raised being a traitor to a high art (as we will learn soon enough when Merrick Garland puts Mitch under oath and grills his Treason Turtle ass about his weird relationship with OLEG DERIPASKA. Mitch is the Poster Turtle for conservatism and corruption. He’s been working for the libertarian Koch Bros who’ve made no secret of their intent to use their money to reshape American politics to their liking — the majority be damned. The Kochs (now just Charles since David died in 2019) are white hegemonists. They believe absolutely that white people (of their social class) know best and that democracy is, at best, cute. The world the Kochs (like the Mercers and all the rest of the right wing money) aspire to enshrine in perpetuity isn’t some progressive paradigm; it’s the opposite of course: it’s a state of permanent minority rule where white men get to do all the real decision-making.

Conservatism lives by absolutes. How can it not? The world must be exactly how it must be. The reason conservatives can’t abide by any change is because change begets more change and once the process of change sets in motion — there’s no stopping it. Better, thinks conservatism, avoid change altogether. Moderate whatever gets through, strangle the rest in its infancy. Call it socialism.

We’re hearing and seeing more and more stories about cops being, shooting, murdering Black people. It’s not that it’s happening more, we’re suddenly woke about it — and realizing there’s evidence of it aplenty. Conservatism’s hold can be narcotizing. Hell, in America, conservatism has continued to nurture racism and bigotry. Think it’s a coincidence that the most racist Americans are also the most conservative? It’s all the same defensive posture, the same terror at losing its grip on power because of demographics.

That is what happened here. In the post Reagan years, conservatives realized their future was bleak because America was diversifying so rapidly. Republicans may talk about having a wide tent, they don’t. They can’t — because their core-most value is the perpetuation of white hegemony. Any non-white they do coax into the tent? They’re there to be used cynically. They’re the Clarence Thomases and the Herman Cains. The bright, self-starters whose drive to succeed was turned against them. Clarence Thomas and integrity have probably never met. And Herman Cain died of covid-19 because he foolishly believed in Donald Trump’s lies.

Republicanism is Trumpism and Trumpism is proudly racist. That, with conservatism, is the bottomest line there is. They may want to conserve values but those values are all white values as practiced by white people.

Conservatives know they’re in a minority position. They can’t sell their ideas successfully at the polls. Too few voters (especially if there are more of them) are buying. So — if you can’t win at the polls (in other words, win LEGITIMATELY) but you want to hold onto power — what’s a conservative to do? There’s only one answer: cheat.

Corruption becomes the only way to hold onto power — and thus corruption breeds more corruption. That sick feeling we all experienced election day 2016 when Trump improbably “won” the presidency? That was us reacting to what we KNEW in our gut was corrupt. The four long years of Trump’s presidency stank of corruption. Everything the Trumpanistas did or said or even thought was corrupt.

Over the course of American history, conservative corruption has brought us the Confederacy, the end of Reconstruction, the Teapot Dome affair (that brought down Warren Harding’s administration), the Great Depression, McCarthyism, The Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran-Contra and Trumpism. The biggest scandal you can throw at Democrats (or a Democrat) is Bill Clinton getting a hummer then lying about it.

Yeah… “both sides ‘do it’.”

The Republican Party, conservative to its core, has a corruption problem. AG Merrick Garland has just started to pull at the threads of the massive Republican Corruption Sweater left behind from the Trump years. The Republicans want to make that sweater a permanent part of our wardrobe. Merrick Garland will see to it that doesn’t happen. As he pulls at those threads — as he is now — the whole foul garment will fall apart in his hands. It will start with Matt Gaetz’s indictment which should drop any moment.