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.
The first step before you can begin any 12-step program is to recognize that you have a problem. Speaking from experience — I never ever thought of myself as “an alcoholic” though I abused alcohol exactly like one. Often, we are the worst judges of our failings, being so close to them, as we are. But, if we want to conquer our weaknesses — if they’re holding us back from the lives we want to lead — we can’t conquer shit if we don’t own up to the fact that we have those weakness to begin with. Look, racism (like beauty) is entirely in the eye of the beholder. Just as beautiful people can’t really judge their beauty, neither can racists judge their racism. Whether or not someone thinks they’re attractive or not is one thing — the worst thing most beautiful people are guilty of is self-adoration. Whether or not they’re racist is entirely different. When racists act on their racist impulses, the subject or subjects of their racism often get hurt or killed. Racists are all time bombs unaware that that’s what they are.
Eight people, six of them Asian women, are dead today in Atlanta. Eleven Jews were murdered, six wounded at the Tree Of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018 (the shooter wanted “all Jews to die”). There’s a whole freakin’ LIST of church shootings — that’s Black churches or Muslim houses of worship being shot up by angry white guys like Dylan Roof. A nominee for president began his presidential campaign by telling the world “Mexicans are rapists”. Almost every bit of Republican opposition to Barack Obama started with his skin color. The British royal family (well, Prince Charles, most likely) worried aloud that they feared “their blood” might appear “tainted” should the color of Meghan and Harry’s kid be thought “too dark”; what on earth makes ANYONE think any royal’s bloodline is superior to any other human’s? That’s bullshit — on steroids. I know it ain’t America’s racist problem, but it flows from the very same poisonous well of racism.
I drank to excess because I had anger issues that I mistakenly thought alcohol was “helping me” with. I was wrong. Radicalized white Americans (men mostly) think their racist attitudes are helping them. They think America should be some sort of “white homeland”. No, that would be Europe. America WAS a “homeland” — but not to anyone white. Racists are like a virus — infecting things and taking them over, converting that thing into them. And just as viruses are harder to kill than, say, bacteria (penicillin is useless against viruses), diminishing the impact racism has (and anti-Semitism and misogyny and bigotry of every stripe) will require not only vigilance but persistence.
America was born a racist. “All men are created equal” did not mean “all men”. It certainly didn’t mean all humans. C’mon, America — say it out loud. The Truth will absolutely set us free: We’re America and we are RACIST!
I don’t judge conservatives because they want to conserve — as their name says. I judge them because they won’t admit WHAT they want to conserve. Considering as you can’t conserve what doesn’t exist, conservatives have zero interest in the future. That’s Progressives’ territory. That’s why I prefer the descriptor “progressive” to “liberal”. Progressive is just more accurate — every fiber of my being wants humankind to progress as quickly as we can into the future (because we’ve made a total hash of the past). Just as “Progressive” neatly describes my overall direction with one word, so, too does “conservative” describe the direction conservatives want to take America. What do conservatives want to conserve? What does any individual conservative want conserved? For them, the present is the perfect place to start. If they could literally take us back to the past — to the idealized time and place in their head that they think of as “perfection” — they absolutely would. Same as a Progressive would whisk us all off to a perfect future of enlightenment and harmony. Like I said: I’m not here to judge (in this blog post). I’m here to understand.
Look, the future is scary. Who knows what’s going to happen? If I take off my “Progressive World View Specs” and put on a pair of borrowed “Conservative World View Specs” (they’re way too tight for my liking), I begin to appreciate the security the past held for some. In our part of the world, Europeans got it into their heads that the brutal lethality of the pathogens they carried with them meant they were morally superior to the indigenous peoples of North America they rolled with relative ease BECAUSE they’d been decimated by European pathogens. Europeans didn’t walk onto a “virgin continent” waiting to be enlightened by them, they entered a graveyard — the ground softened not by their ideas, a little by their superior weapons, but mostly because the pathogen load heading west (smallpox, measles, whooping cough, bubonic plague, malaria, yellow fever, dysentery) was more overwhelming than the pathogen load heading east (syphilis). Europeans carried more than just disease with them though. They brought their monotheistic religion — and their monotheistic religion convinced them that THEIR god was THE god and THEIR god said THEY could do whatever they liked to other people — especially if they believed in other gods or, worse, no god.
“Manifest Destiny” was no different from Cortes decimating the Aztecs and Pizarro brutalizing the Incas. “Gold, glory and god”. That was the mandate. Europeans took the Americas with relative ease but not for the reasons they thought or still think. Better and more pathogens. That’s it. That’s the difference.
But, once convinced of their superiority, Europeans would not be dissuaded. Europeans even used their most sacred religious texts — the thing upon which they based their entire civilization — to JUSTIFY enslaving other humans. If bondage and stolen labor were good enough for iron age people, then, damn it, it should be good enough for us! When you cloak your justifications for slavery and personal superiority with the divine, perhaps you can be forgiven for thinking you ARE the “alpha and the omega”. You’ve come to believe your wardrobe is who you are — and you think you’re God.
But for their pathogens, white Europeans might not have had such an easy time dominating the America’s. Their beachheads might have been smaller and less successful even over time. Instead of being easily rolled by the Europeans — who they outnumbered by a lot! — the Aztecs and Incas might have recognized the Europeans for the competitors they were. I bet, given the chance, the Aztecs and Incas might even have learned from the Europeans, found ways to either approximate or steal the Europeans superior war-fighting technology. We’ll never know. When Americans began rolling across North America, their destinies manifested, each mile further west they traveled convinced them that they were truly on a divine mission — new crusaders, if you will, conquering Indians instead of Muslms.
The “All men” that America’s founders thought were “created equal”, were white and they were all men. In their defense, maybe they weren’t quite as ‘enlightened” as they thought. But, that’s the America conservatives want to conserve. That’s the “original version” of America constitutional originalists are thinking of. They believe THAT is the America the rest of us should still be living in. If the founders couldn’t imagine a thing, then we just have to live in an America that laments its founders’ lack of forward-thinking chops. Talk about the tail wagging the dogma! Except that wasn’t how those men thought. They made the document dynamic.
Take away the native peoples who were here for ten thousand years before the Europeans set sail just for argument’s sake (though I bet their traditions would still help us a lot). Prior to the arrival of the Europeans — and then everyone else on the planet — this continent had no “native culture”. That is, European culture was not “native” to this place. Now, when we say, “European culture”, we don’t mean one thing. German culture is not so different from English culture (their royalty’s all related) but very different from Italian culture. It took a thousand years for several of the more prominent tribes of France — the Franks, the Merovingians, the Carolingians — to evolve into what we now think of as “French people”.
Remember how some of the French had no problem collaborating with Germany during WWII? That wasn’t a new behavior, that extreme pragmatism in the face of shifting political tides. In “A Distant Mirror”, her wonderful history of “the calamitous 14th century”, the historian Barbara Tuchman returns repeatedly to the story of Charles de Navarre (10 October 1332 – 1 January 1387), a French knight, in his time called Charles the Bad. He was King of Navarre from 1349–1387 and during those years — as the Hundred Year War raged on, Charles (whose property was in Normandy) saw the English and the French armies go back and forth across his domain repeatedly. The war pitted he French crown against the English crown; both wanted to declare the other’s as theirs. While he could have remained loyal to France the whole time — and simply took his licks (being sacked and burned) each time the English plowed through. Instead, Charles chose to ally with the English BEFORE they got to his land. Suddenly, this French lord couldn’t be more English. He’d welcome them to and through his territory, feeding them, housing them, giving them happy endings if they wanted them.
Then, when the tides changed yet again — and the war’s momentum swung back to the French, Charles would hang out his tricolor as if he’d never taken it down. Why, Charles had ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia AND those damned English! Vichy France’s pragmatic survival instincts kicked in at least six hundred years before we realized. That behavior pattern is part of what we think of as “French” behavior in national affairs. Same token — the Swiss and their neutrality are not new either. The Dutch have always been traders. The Germans have always been… well… “German”. The more closely aligned with the Catholic Church a country was — like Spain — the more cruelly dogmatic it became. Franco and the Spanish Inquisition are directly related.
Even the Europeans will tell you how their neighbors are. Especially the Europeans. When those people came here, to America, they all brought their national personalities with them. No such personalities existed here. But, Europeans weren’t the only non North Americans hitting our beaches. Before too long, people from all over the world had “discovered” America — and saw that they, too, could fill this empty canvass with themselves. Who “got here first” is a nonsensical argument since, really, no one was here first. And, as for whose money paid for it? That’s swell, but “ownership” is a concept invented by men to justify their claim that a thing — land, a cave, a woman — was theirs. The concept of “ownership” saves us from having to piss on or lick everything to prove that it’s ours.
Conservatives, if they could, would piss on or lick practically everything (licking it all firstbefore pissing on it, I’m betting). Conservatism hews closely to its “religious values”, don’t forget. They believe in a kind of perfection perverted — an Eden destroyed by a woman. They believe that humanity’s fall from Grace was redeemed by a man-god born of a virgin, sent to die for all of our sins (though, if he doesn’t get betrayed by Judas and doesn’t die for our sins, I’m kinda wondering what that woulda been like but nevermind). Let’s be real. Down deep, there’s no such thing as a “God-fearing conservative”. No truly conservative person fears God.
That’s because most every God-fearing conservative doesn’t believe IN God, he believes he IS God. They won’t put it that way. Instead, they say “I understand what the lord wants from me” or I have a personal relationship with God!” He looks around at others who think they understand God and shakes his head sadly. Poor, misguided fools think God speaks through them, can ya believe it? Even those of us who “think” we understand God need to be set straight by this guy because HIS version of God is THE version of God (no substitutes accepted).
Enlightenment scares these people almost as much as Enlightenments do. Conservatives have rooted not just their religious faith but everything they think in the belief that a sky deity loves them and wants them to do his bidding here on earth. How things WERE — that’s what the sky deity wants. And if how things ARE RIGHT NOW is the closest we can get to HOW THINGS WERE then so be it. We’ll take what we can get. We’ll enshrine as much of yesterday into today as we possibly can and turn off the engine.
Unlike conservatives, Progressives aren’t intimidated by the unknown. We’re adaptive by nature. New information isn’t anathema to us, it’s our life blood. And if new voices bring new information or new ways to problem-solve? So much the better! The future is going to happen whether anyone likes it or not. Change is inevitable. It’s only ever a matter of time scale.
What do conservatives want to conserve? Everything you need to know is right there in the pause BEFORE they start to answer. They’re making a list, don’tcha know! They’re thinking about everything from the past that they wish could become permanent. The playing field was not level in that past. It wasn’t meant to be. Only the “equal” “all men” were expected to play, being the only ones qualified to play — by themselves of course.
That’s the America conservatives want to conserve. It’s why they’re always looking backwards, hoping to see the past come alive again. It’s the America they had full control of, before the rest of us realized how little they understood it.
Yesterday, the Republican House membership met behind closed doors to choose which direction to point their party toward: old school Republicanism (that pretends it wants small government & more freedom for the individual) or utter chaos. On the surface, chaos won with a standing ovation. But, when they took the vote using secret ballots? Conventionality won. Uh oh — that means more than a few of those standing and applauding chaos were lying. Who could possibly have seen that coming?
Republicans — true to their whiteness — love exclusivity. When it comes to being a Republican — or an American or a Christian — Republicans tend to see themselves as the epitome. They are the true faith and all not like them are apostates. In their minds, they are the ideal members of a any club of which they are a member. What are we poor outsiders to make of it then when TWO white, Christian Republicans claim THEY represent “the true faith” and the other does not?”
Belonging — and not belonging — are very important concepts to Republicans. It’s a characteristic that sets them apart from Democrats. When you allow for diversity, you also have to allow for all the different ways that different people are. “Belonging” to the group becomes more nuanced because how you demonstrate your “belonging to the group” will reflect who you are and why you have chosen to belong to the group. Democrats can’t march in lockstep the way Republicans do. Ironically, Republicans spout their love for the individual over the group but, really, what they love is the individual’s ability to make money in whatever way he wants to. While getting rich however, that individual better do what the group tells him to do. Or he won’t be in the group anymore.
These same Republicans — who will tell you who the real Republicans are — will also tell you who the real Christians and the real Americans are too. It’s them, of course. “Real” Christians (them) see Jesus as the “Do Unto Others” Happy Meal McMascot misrepresenting a church menu of crushing, judgmental “Do What We Say Or Else” dogma. They do the same thing with patriotism. Americans look like them. Anyone else is a pretender. They’re good enough to fight and die as volunteers in our army but letting them vote — now, that’s going just a little too far.
The “modern” Republican Party — if we use the party’s foundational documents as a guide (I highly recommend Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party” to guide you) — are not Republicans. The Party of Lincoln — just going by its own principles — has swapped names with the Democrats. Abe Lincoln, if he were to rise from the dead, would NOT join the modern Republican Party; he wouldn’t recognize them as “Republicans”. But then, if Jesus were to pull of the same magic trick — and rise from the dead for real — he wouldn’t hang out with most people who call themselves “Christians”. Jesus would be baffled, to begin with, that there even are Christians. To him, any followers would be Jews since Jews are the only people he ever preached to — or expected to preach to. Jews even back then did not proselytize.
But, Republicans proselytize. They insist THEY are “the good news” — haven’t you heard? They proselytize their patriotism the exact same way. And their party loyalty.
Asking “who’s a better Republican” is exactly like asking “who’s a better pirate?” Honestly? Who the hell cares? A pox on all their pirate ships!
I love me a good metaphor. Listening to some people argue, one gets the clear impression that they couldn’t care less about cake. They’re all about the icing. The color of the icing especially. They’ll insist that nothing can happen if the icing on this cake isn’t red — a very particular kind or red, too. Only a cake with that kind of red icing will satisfy them, never mind that the cake itself is one hundred percent poison. People who problem solve or see the world from the icing’s perspective only never solve their problems. Worrying about the icing instead of the cake is exactly like putting the cart before the horse — except it’s worse — because the cake might not even exist yet.
Go try icing a nonexistent cake here in reality.
And, while you’re here in reality, take note: drop-dead beautiful icing can cover a cake literally made of shit (the eating of which would cause you to drop dead). A pig in lipstick is still a pig. Even if the lipstick’s his color.
By the same token, a transcendentally good cake could be slathered in unappetizing beige-green slime that tastes only of sugar while, beneath it, a symphony of complex, compelling flavors awaits. Covers don’t always accurately represent their books either.
Our news media are all icing eaters. You can tell by the way they report; they might as well have bits of icing between their teeth. It’s easy to report “Today, the icing is green!” Much harder to dig into “But the cake beneath it smells rotten — why is that?” When Donald Trump began his run for the presidency by announcing that “Mexicans are rapists” (interesting accusation coming from a serial rapist), our press should have pointed out that fact — and what it said about “the cake” — about WHO Donald Trump is and always has been as a human being. Only a bigot and a racist would think, never mind say such a thing.
Instead, our news media, after grabbing for the smelling salts while clutching their pearls, allowed Trump to move on from “Mexicans are rapists” to “pussy grabbing” — the new color of Trump Brand Icing. But, then, they quickly moved on from that to “her emails” color icing.
In doing that, our press normalized things that should never have been normalized. They stopped caring about the cake entirely — and that the cake was clearly marked “poison”. All they could conceive of was what they could see: icing. That’s why our press still asks racists if they themselves think they’re racist or not. How the hell would they know? They’re racists! The same applies to beauty and its place in the beholder’s eye. The beholder gets to decide if what they’re beholding is “beautiful” or not. The beautiful person’s too close to themselves to judge. They’re automatically biased!
Racism and bigotry epitomize the love of icing over any appreciation of cake. A racist disregards 99% of the human in front of them when all they see is the color of the Black man’s skin. In a way, it’s the least important detail about the Black guy. Who he is, what he’s capable of, what he can contribute to the greater good have zero to do with the quantity of melanin in his skin. If ever a thing was pure icing on a human being, it’s their flesh tone.
And icing… sometimes, it just misses the point entirely.
It almost always sucks when an unintended consequence punches far above its weight and delivers a knockout blow. That’s the filibuster. This bizarre tactic gives one person — one US Senator — the ability to stop what the majority wants in its tracks. In the 1960’s, Southern Democrats (now known as Republicans — as Heather Cox Richardson writes in her excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party” our two parties, the Democrats and Republicans have, in essence, switched names since the Republican Party’s founding in the 1850’s) used the filibuster to block passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Back then, filibusterers were made to actually filibuster. The Senate’s Racist Coalition had to filibuster for 75 hours straight including a 14-hour and 13 minute address by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia (before Byrd had his “come to Jesus” moment and repented his racist ways). The filibuster failed when the Senate invoked cloture for only the second time since 1927. The filibuster is antithetical to democratic governance — that’s why it’s the tool-of-choice of racists.
The filibuster has to go. Screw its giving the minority a voice against a hostile majority. That bullshit celebration of the “rugged individual” standing heroically against the forces of evil is actually a lone racist stemming the tide of equality. Or a handful of racists as with the Southern Democrats. It’s the few holding sway over the many. In America, that always means rich, Christian white men having power far beyond what they’re entitled to. That the filibuster still exists is a quirk of American politics and history. It arises from an accommodation made in 1806 to Aaron Burr — then the Vice President — before he left office. It was never intended to be used for ordinary business; (this is from Wikipedia: “a small number of super-majority requirements were explicitly included in [the Constitution], including conviction on impeachment charges (2/3 of Senate), expelling a member of Congress (2/3 of the chamber in question), overriding presidential vetoes (2/3 of both Houses), ratifying treaties (2/3 of Senate) and proposing constitutional amendments (2/3 of both Houses) — see the Wikipedia article “Filibuster In The US Senate” for footnotes and sources).
By 1846, the Senate tired of even casual abuse of the filibuster “rules” such as they were. This “addition by subtraction” was regularly bringing the Senate and its business to a dead stop while one Senator dead set on having HIS way, got up on his little pegs and spewed until either he got his way or 2/3 of the Senate (finally!) told him to shut the hell up already. Not the point of the exercise.
In the 1970’s, the Senate — trying to have it both ways — voted to keep the filibuster alive but make it more “practical” to apply: just what WAS NOT needed. Now, instead of having to actually get up in the Senate and speak for as long as they possibly could, Senators could now “threaten” to filibuster — and get all the benefits of a filibuster’s obstruction without having to any of the heavy lifting of actually filibustering. How white guy of them!
The fear is that destruction of the filibuster will make most every Senatorial decision a simple majority proposition. That proposition scares conservatives more than it does Progressives.
Let’s remind ourselves — the Senate, like the Electoral College, is, by nature and design unfair. The EC stands between each American voter and the president they vote for. We only pretend to vote for president; the Electoral College is the actual mechanism that picks a POTUS. And make no mistake — the EC exists solely to soothe the furrowed brows of slavers. There has always been dynamic tension in America between the populated, diverse cities — Blue America — and the unpopulated, white-ruled rural parts — Red America. On a map, all that red ink represents real estate way more than it does any people who might live on it.
Imagine a presidential campaign where voters in Ohio or Florida didn’t have the potential to literally decide a presidential contest for the whole country. Think of the undue but very real political weight this gives voters in one state over another — almost always rural over urban. Candidates chase “undecided voters” in specific states because their eye’s on the EC. That’s why they’ll go to diners in Iowa and listen to farmers like they were sages. Hey, they might indeed be very bright people with smart things to say. But how they vote should have far less impact on my life than it does just as how I vote should have less impact on theirs.
That the farmer’s vote matters more than mine at present — that’s a problem. The Senate’s design exacerbates it. Again, by design, rural voters get hyper-represented while urban voters get hypo-represented. Wyoming’s 445,000 voters get two US Senators. Same goes for California’s 45 MILLION voters. Each Wyomingite has a far better chance of getting their Senator on the phone — and doing what THEY need than any Californian does (unless they’re super rich). So, a sheep rancher in Wyoming stands a better shot at seeing his needs legislated than a Black single mom in Los Angeles who’s struggling to pay her bills. Such is equality in a system designed to deliver the opposite.
Fixing the Senate is a Big Job that will take a super majority of Democrats to accomplish. Don’t pooh-pooh the possibility. In “normal times”, the coming off year election in 2022 (and why the hell is anyone thinking about THAT already?) would advantage the party OUT OF power because the party IN POWER screwed up. But — cue the “Breaking News” banner — these aren’t “normal times”. The first job the Democrats now controlling the reins of power must accomplish is to undo as much of the damage Trump did as possible. That’s not the Democrats being political. That’s the Democrats GOVERNING.
Our news media — drunk off their asses on the “Both Sides Do It” kool aid — have convinced themselves and half of America that anything anyone does is motivated first by politics. This isn’t just cynical, it’s flat out wrong. They now think that both sides behave the same way and for the exact same reasons. Oy. Just… oy. Before the Democrats can even think about putting forward their “socialist wet dreams”, they FIRST have to solve the pandemic. Do that, they can solve the economy. In between all of that, the Democrats have to deal with the fact that the GOP just sponsored a coup d’etat against the rest of us.
And, on top of THAT, the Democrats have to deal with the fact that the entire Republican Party either participated in multiple acts of treason or stood by while treason and traitors threatened America. Countries that allow traitors to walk free will not be countries for very much longer. The traitors will see to it.
Right now, Mitch McConnell — our Treason Turtle MINORITY LEADER — is attempting to keep the filibuster alive both to protect racism but also to protect the traitors in his party. The fact that racists, bigots and seditionists would benefit — well, to Mitch, that’s all just icing. Odds are, if Mitch McConnell is FOR something? That something is rotten. Or Mitch is doing it for rotten reasons.
Repeat: the filibuster has to go. The people defending it have to disabused of their bullshit excuses (history, fairness, the tyranny of the majority) and made to fess up: they are standing in the majority’s way mostly because they’re racist — and keeping racism alive in America is more important to them than almost anything.
Racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not for the racist to say whether or not he’s racist — how the hell would he know if he’s racist or not? He hasn’t the perspective; that’s why it’s up to the racist’s victim — the person the racist behaved in a racist way toward — to say whether or not racism occurred. They get to say “That was racist!” or it wasn’t. The same goes for political legitimacy. You can claim it — but it’s not yours to bestow.
Think of it from Moscow Mitch McConnell’s point of view. Having Trump around your neck is a burden-and-a-half. You’ve accomplished your mission: you’ve hijacked the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments that should set America back a generation while keeping most of the real power in America concentrated into the minority rule-ing hands of the Republicans. Who needs the daily tsoris (that’s the technical term) of Trump yanking everyone’s chain this way and that? While Mitch and the Republicans can’t betray Trump directly (he’s got too much hold over them, too much kompromat, I’m guessing, or too much knowledge of how deep their criminal complicity runs), the American People could — via an election — solve their problem FOR them.
From that moment on, not a single Republican could honestly say Donald Trump’s campaign was legitimate. They sure have worked hard, the Republicans, to keep Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia and Vlad Putin a secret. These aren’t things that make you go “Hmmmmm…”, these are things that make you go: “I get it”. But then, political legitimacy is not a thing you can claim for yourself. In a democratic republic like ours, legitimacy flows from We The People. We grant the legitimacy and authority required to govern us via our votes. If we do not or did not grant you such legitimacy? You do not have it.
If you STEAL an election result — as Donald Trump and the Republican Party did in 2016 — literally giving the majority of voters the diametric OPPOSITE of what they voted for — you cannot claim to govern legitimately. You can call yourself “the president” all you like. In point of fact, you are not the president. You’re using the power gained via your illegitimate power grab to call yourself “president” but the facts say something else. And the facts are about to land on your head.
The Republicans have done everything in their power to avoid oversight and use their offices to help Donald Trump undermine our democracy. Even now, the majority of Congressional Republicans have refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s legitimacy — as if that would deny it to him. That, in poker, is called a tell. It’s the Republicans acknowledging very quietly that they know that THEY lack legitimacy.
But then, that’s so on-brand for Republicans — claiming to be one thing (patriots, say) while in fact being another (traitors).
That’s why traitors or criminals or Republicans don’t get to say whether or not they are patriots. That’s for others to say. If Republicans feel so compelled though to talk about themselves, there are plenty of things they could confess to. We The People will be happy to listen. But then, pirates like the Republican Party aren’t exactly down with contrition.
They’re not down with legitimacy either. It’s too hard. Requires too much work. Too much honesty and integrity. For criminals, it’s just easier to do whatever works — to put money that isn’t theirs into their pockets and power that isn’t theirs into their hands. Republicans are all children, their mouths crammed with cookies, a cookie in each hand, insisting that, no, they don’t know anything about any stolen cookies.
It’s not a matter of “if”. It’s a matter of “when”: a Great Moral Reckoning is coming — and the entire Republican Party is going to hate it.
Remember back to election night 2016? Remember how the evening began to feel — especially when it became apparent that Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin were landing in the Trump column? It didn’t feel like we’d “lost”. It felt distinctly like something was “taken”. It wasn’t our expectations that were dashed — it was our sense of fairness. The Comey Letter plus Russian disinformation — landing as they did WHILE EARLY VOTING WAS HAPPENING — had a profound effect on the election’s outcome.
In the end, of course, the Comey Letter was bullshit. The investigation wasn’t being re-opened; the files in question were all old. Several “rogue agents” in the FBI’s NYC bureau — all fans of the Breitbart published book Clinton Cash — had dragged their heels for months, refusing to examine the files on Anthony Weiner’s computer. They deliberately waited until October — just so they could get the news media buzzing again about “her emails”. Of course, that was after a whole campaign season filled with cynicism, lies and the news media insisting that both sides were “doing it”.
No, both sides were not committing treason to win the election.
America has been due a Great Moral Reckoning since its inception. “All men are created equal” and slavery are mutually exclusive propositions. There are no compromises between the two. It’s a tug of war where only one side can win. Up until today, Slavery has continued to pin “All men are created equal” to the mat. That is finally changing.
The Electoral College is a vestige of slavery. It’s been a long time since a Republican became president because he won the popular vote. They now rely on the Electoral College to keep them — a minority — in power. They rely on a relic of slavery to keep slavery alive.
The Republicans have always portrayed themselves as the “moral party” — pointing to their piety as proof. Their piety is horse shit. So’s their “morality”.
The irony? The “moral party” — especially its religious wing — are the ones who most fear a Great Moral Reckoning. That’s because they’ll have the most to lose from it.
America must finally confront the racism that we built into our democracy. We have to own it. Slavery is, above all, stolen labor. That’s the whole point of having a slave: they work for you for free. You may have to house them and clothe them and feed them — so they’ll be able to work for you whenever you need them — but you don’t have to house, clothe or feed them well. The point is you’re not paying them — and that means you’re saving a fortune entirely at their expense.
Stolen labor is theft. It undermines not just the people whose labor is being stolen but all labor — because when it goes unpunished (as it almost always does), it encourages more stolen labor. I shouldn’t have to say this: stolen labor is immoral. To benefit from stolen labor is immoral. To profit from it — even more immoral.
Once we’ve owned our thievery, we can begin to fix the future. We can change our emphasis from making the rich richer to raising all boats. Real morality flows from equality. What’s moral is what’s most equal and what benefits the most people without harming anyone.
America’s women — especially Black women — are already driving us away from corruption and toward the “come to Jesus” moment we desperately need. When this is all done and dusted, America will owe its Black women more than a “thank you”. We’ll owe Black men, too. But Black women will have been made to bear the additional burden of sexism. We’ll owe Black women our deep, abiding, permanent respect — which we owed them all along.
Despite this country treating Black women callously in every way, Black women have kept the flame of American democratic principles alive. Though they’ve never benefited from the level playing field promised in our foundational documents — Life, Liberty, The Pursuit Of Happiness — they’ve demonstrated via their tenacity how the rest of us should feel about our democracy. Black women got it a long, long time ago. So did Black men of course. America’s founding ideals are worth fighting and dying for.
Note: while it’s understandable we might have to fight outside forces from time to time to protect our democratic principles, we should NEVER have to fight inside forces.
While one side perpetually plays the moral indignation card, it’s the other side that perpetually feels actual moral indignation — because of the first side’s relentless immorality. Our news media fails to see it because they’re convinced “both sides do it” while, in point of fact, both sides don’t.
Both sides don’t suppress the other side’s voters, for example. Both sides don’t commit treason in order to win elections. Both sides don’t relentlessly obstruct oversight or election security. One side does this — and for specific (political) reasons. How, I wonder, will our news media explain itself when we come to the understanding that, no, Donald Trump did not “win” election in 2016, he STOLE the election. Cheating to win does not equal winning. It can NEVER equal winning.
That’s something our news media will have to learn the hard way — via its own Great Moral Reckoning.
It sucks waking up every day, feeling exactly what former first lady Michelle Obama described yesterday in her podcast — a persistent mild depression. I’d quibble with the word “mild” but then I’m a quibbler by nature.
This would never have happened to a white family. Listen to the sound of those terrified children and then look to the WHITE COPS (a female included). Wonder what could be going through their minds. Wonder at the inhumanity.
Think about the trauma that will haunt all of them forever.
I sure hope the people in that van can sue the Aurora, CO Police Department. They’re going to need the money to pay for their therapy. And, it seems, the only way to drain racism from a police department is to, first, drain it of money. At least the money that supports the racism inside a police department.
It gets extra disgusting when you consider that the people inside the van are paying the tax dollars that resulted in them lying on the pavement, terrified for their lives. They paid for that. They will pay for it the rest of their lives.
This has been going on FOREVER. Black people have been saying it. Racists have an excuse. They’re the cause. What about the rest of us white people? Why have we put up with it?
Down deep? Most of us didn’t believe it. Not so much because it strained credulity but because it was too monstrous for our tender, white minds to process. We couldn’t imagine it. Our imaginations failed.
Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia has also revealed a failure of imagination — on the part of most Americans but, worst of all, on the part of our news media. Plenty of them STILL can’t imagine that Donald Trump has any sort of “unseemly” relationship with Vlad Putin. They still wonder aloud why Trump is always so beholden to Putin.
If they scratched their heads any harder, they’d create permanent divots in their skulls.
The truth about Donald Trump has always sat there in clear view. FFS — the first concerted oppo research carried out against Trump established that. Paul Singer, the money behind the Washington Free Beacon (a conservative news organization awarded for its journalism by the extremely conservative Heritage Foundation) hired Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Trump. Fusion was a research company run by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Thomas Catan. For the record — no one here is a raving socialist.
Simpson testified before the House Intelligence Committee on August 22, 2017 for ten hours. Back then, the House was run by Republicans who were trying to undermine all investigations into Trump’s 2016 campaign and its strange relationship with Russia. Simpson testified that the first thing Fusion did after getting the oppo research gig was their due diligence. They got their hands on every piece of Trump-related anything (newspapers, magazine articles, TV interviews, radio interviews, books). They scoured the internet, shopped at Amazon, visited actual bookstores and even the public library.
What they found — in publicly available material, in other words, information ANYONE could find — convinced them that Donald Trump could well be an international criminal who’d used his bankrupted Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money. If that was the case, they understood, then Trump was completely compromised. To do the dirty work inside Russia, Fusion sub-contracted the work to Orbis, a London-based private intelligence firm run by Christopher Steele — former head of MI6’s Russia desk.
That’s why the Steele Dossier exists. It’s Steele’s raw intel. Let me repeat: it’s RAW INTEL. If you don’t understand the difference between raw intel and news reporting, you should put down the raw intel. It will confuse you.
In the shadow world of spies, one can’t rely on a “smoking gun”. One has to rely on context — the most complete picture one can form so as to discern real objects from fog. The Steele Dossier paints a picture that has remained mostly accurate about Trump and the many ways Russia has compromised him.
And yet, our news media STILL describes this document as fake.
Because Donald Trump and the Republicans describe the dossier as fake. Of course, they have to — they’re all compromised toghether. Hell, the Republicans knew Trump was in bed with Russia during their 2016 convention. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously walked into a meeting of Republican muckety-mucks and said “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. Then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan wasn’t shocked by that news. He was so un-shocked in fact that 1) he didn’t call the FBI and 2) he swore the whole room to secrecy. “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
We don’t know what secrets Trump has shared directly with Vladimir Putin — his chief handler — because Trump has never let Americans in on the meetings. The Russians always seem to know what went down though. How much imagination does it take to connect dots here?
Look at these two photos of Donald Trump and Vlad Putin. How much imagination does it take to extrapolate what these photos are shouting at us?
Donald Trump violated the Constitution the moment he took an oath to uphold and protect it. We knew it as he did it — and yet did nothing. Failure of imagination — to act but also to recognize what the ripple effects of our failure would be. Our imaginations failed to tell us that there would even be ripple effects.
Yet, here we are.
Racism is failure of imagination. Extreme religiosity is failure of imagination. Of course it is — you’re letting an imaginary creature or creatures do all your thinking for you. Misogyny is failure of imagination. So’s bigotry and fear of LGBTQ people and intolerance and ignorance of any stripe. It’s all failure of imagination.
Fortunately, failure of imagination is fixable. All one has to do is step outside the box you’re living in, take off your normalcy bias blinders and open your damned eyes.
LOOK at what is instead of assuming you know what is. Actually LISTEN to people and what they need. Imagine solutions that aren’t earthbound. Yes, we can’t make the impossible possible. But we have to be willing to challenge the impossible. Better yet, let’s give our imaginations a chance.
We may find that what we thought was impossible isn’t.
As shocking as it is that we’ve come to this, it’s even more shocking that, to a third of the country, “this” makes them happy. They’re glad America has come to this.
Racists are never going to like Democracy because every election is a gamble — that is, if you let everybody vote. The whole point of voter suppression and gerrymandering is make the gamble almost negligible as a gamble. If less Democratic voters turn out because they 1) couldn’t register or 2) registered but couldn’t spend ten hours in line to vote, that’s as good as a vote against whatever the Democrats wanted. This is not a new game. And though it’s wrong to shame the victim — and the Democrats have always been the Republicans’ victim — the Democrats have known since Nixon (and before) how Republicans ticked. After a while, one has to stand up for oneself because no one else is going to.
On the day he resigned from office because of Watergate, Nixon’s approval rating sat around 29%. His guilt was so undeniable that a delegation of Republicans (including Barry Goldwater — the conservative’s conservative) went to Nixon to tell him he had to resign. That’s how bad it was then. The 30% is still there. They’ve filled out a bit but they’re still very much there.
So, a third of the country couldn’t care less if America sinks into authoritarianism. In fact, they’d celebrate if it happened. With a (theoretical) 70% majority, you’d think the rest of us would have long ago figured out how to keep the crazies in check. But half that 70% doesn’t care about politics (or didn’t). In America, we think 50% – 60% of the voters showing up at election time is success. Hopefully the days of disengagement are over. But, for now, all we can point at is our history.
Ben Franklin saw us coming. As he observed 240 years ago — Republic’s are wonderful things — if you can keep them. They don’t get kept by accident.
Keeping a republic alive and well is damned hard work. Of all Americans, the people who’ve worked hardest to keep our republic alive are African Americans. They should have bailed on us eons ago. But they understood how important liberty was because they didn’t have it. It wasn’t just a word to them or an abstraction. It was something they wanted above all else. Nothing fancy — just the equal treatment before the law that the Constitution theoretically guarantees.
We kinda screwed the pooch right at the beginning. “All men are created equal” and slavery are mutually exclusive propositions. You can’t hold those two ideas in your head and not lose your mind. And look how hard we made it for women to vote. Where’s the “democratic” in that?
The truth is, we’ve always talked a better game about democracy than we’ve ever delivered. Good thing that’s fixable. First thing we need to do is shut up. That is, white men need to shut up. We need to step back from the controls and let others have a go at it. After they finish fixing the mess we made of it, who knows? America might finally live up to its own ideals.
If we followed the lead of African American women especially — they will have been the true saviors of American democracy — we might even get good at democracy eventually. That’s not guaranteed. But, if white men listen — if we let the genius of E Pluribus Unum (that’s what makes America exceptional — diversity, not white guys and their money) wash over us — we might could learn how to be better.