I’m All For Compromise But The Question Is Who Or What Are We Being Asked To Compromise With?

Relationships are all about compromise. No marriage can survive without copious amounts of it. The bottom line is incredibly simple: if you want any relationship to survive, be prepared to compromise pretty much everything. That means whoever (or whatever) you’re compromising with better we worth the compromise. You will be living with that compromise’s results for some time — for better or worse. Ideally, a great compromise makes no one happy because everyone had to give so much to get a piece of what they wanted. If that something is a successful marriage or business relationship, the compromise will (hopefully) be entirely worth whatever was sacrificed. But not all compromises work like that. Some compromises aren’t compromises at all because one of the two sides never had any intention of giving up anything to get what it wants.

Evil never compromises. Never, ever, EVER. That means when you negotiate with it? You’re the only one compromising. Evil will have remained where it is while you will have moved yourself a little closer to it. No compromise is a bad compromise (from the other side of the negotiating table’s point of view). Our news media, insisting that both sides do it because (presumably) both sides are exactly the same, insist that Democrats negotiate with (and, of course, compromise with) Republicans. In normal world, that makes sense because (at least on the surface) it’s always made sense. But the Republican Party of Saint Ronnie Reagan is deader than Lee Atwater’s soul (which is even deader than Lee Atwater – former business partner of Paul Manafort). The remaining Nixonians coalesced around Donald Trump as did the rest of the GOP as Trump slowly rolled them all up into a massive web of compromise.

While the RW money has never loved Trump, they hitched their wagon to him regardless — even though they KNEW that Trump was owned outright by Russia. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it back in 2016 a month before the GOP nominated Trump — as he strode into a meeting of Republican muckety-mucks: “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one in a position of authority in the Republican Party can honestly say they had no idea Russia had compromised their presidential candidate. They discussed his being compromised openly. The conversation was recorded even (and heard by the Washington Post writer who wrote the piece!) It is inconceivable if not impossible that the Republican Party hierarchy did not know that Trump was being controlled by a hostile foreign government. If the Republican hierarchy knew then pretty much everyone at least suspected. Secrets of that kind don’t stay secret in DC no matter how hard some people try to “keep it in the family”.

One thing Republicans are good at that Democrats aren’t is marching in lock step. Like right now. Republicans are marching in lock step as they try to destroy our democracy. They march in lock step as they gerrymander and suppress Democratic voters because if they relied on selling their ideas to win elections, they’d lose every election. Republicans march in lock step as they strip away reproductive rights from every woman in Texas. They march in lock step as they rape the environment, ditch all regulation, make peace with COVID-19 and openly plot insurrection. They march in lock step as they try to shove permanent white minority rule down a rapidly diversifying America’s throat.

When our news media clicks its tongue at Democrats for refusing to be “bi-partisan”, what they’re saying is Democrats should negotiate with Republicans even if Republicans are terrorists, seditionists and traitors. Even if everything the Republicans are trying to accomplish was demonstrably evil (as it pretty much is).

In the Warsaw Ghetto — the German Army’s collecting point for trips to Auschwitz — a group of Jews insisted they could “negotiate” with the Nazis. The Judenrat — this council of traitors — took over the job of “governing” the ungovernable ghetto which meant 1) selecting who’d be collected from the ghetto and sent to the camps or 2) betraying any Jews inside the ghetto who were plotting against the Germans (because every time the Jewish resistance acted, killing German soldiers, the Germans retaliated). To the Judenrat, keeping the peace — compromising with absolute evil — was preferable to resistance even if both led to the same terrible conclusion.

I would not compromise with a Nazi, nor with a white supremacist, nor with a Republican. Those three things could all walk into a bar inside one person — and they frequently do.

Democrats Eat Their Own (Usually) Because They Deserve It; Republicans On The Other Hand…

To every rule, there’s an exception. Andrew Cuomo is turning into one of those. The last time a prominent Democrat not named Bill Clinton faced charges of sexual impropriety of any sort was Al Franken. If Franken’s transgression had surfaced today instead of when it did, I have to wonder if Franken would resign now because the context has changed so profoundly. While the main accusations deserve scrutiny because of who made them (and why — and there was most definitely a “why” unconnected to the acts themselves), there were other women who said Franken made them feel uncomfortable at various times. If Franken was still in office today, those accusations would all have to be heard and if Franken, assuming old school rules of conduct, did indeed cause anyone to feel uncomfortable then apologies would have to be made of course. And so would a commitment to not ever do it again and an even bigger commitment to use the power of his office to help that effort in any way he could. Democrats, for better or worse, are the party host who can’t help cleaning up before the party’s even over.

It simply is not in any Progressive’s nature to worship a person over policy. We’ll remain loyal to a public servant only so long as they truly serve the public. Democrats may produce charismatic leaders (like Clinton) but we never get lost in their thrall the way Republicans have done with Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. It’s simply not in any progressive Democrat’s character to think a person — even Bill Clinton — can transcend the public they’re elected to serve. But then, diversity all by itself makes anything remotely like Trump worship impossible among progressives or Democrats. Too many cooks in the kitchen with too many strong opinions. Democrats are still the rabble of whom Will Rogers said “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. Exactly so. And that’s exactly why Democrats could never march in lock step with each other the way Republicans so happily do.

And yet, if there’s one thing that will get most (you can never say all) Democrats to line up, it’s moral issues. That’s not “moral issues” as Republicans refer to them (coldly and cynically), it’s actual morality — the foundational kind that you either have or don’t and Republicans don’t. Before New York AG Tish James was halfway through her very detailed, very disturbing report on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s consistently sexual behavior toward women, pretty much every Democrat worth anything was demanding that Cuomo resign. Cuomo’s pre-recorded defense did nothing to change that; if anything, Cuomo’s digging in his heels made it worse. He will be impeached if he doesn’t step down. It really isn’t a question.

The GOP is the White Entitlement & Grievance Party. If they could stop time and prevent the future from ever happening, they’d do it. The view the past — when white men were one hundred percent of American political power — with longing. If they could snap their fingers and bring it all back just like “that”, it would already be our new reality. The only bad behavior, in their eyes, is behavior that interferes with their ongoing coup d’etat.

Republicans have zero interest in the rule of law since the rule of law says they can’t do what they’re doing (because it’s illegal). The advantage to acting like a criminal is that you never have to sweat getting the rules right since, in your mind, there are no rules. There’s just whatever you can get away with.

It would be bad enough if Republicans were just behaving like monsters. Alas, they’re so much more than monsters. And considering what Republicans have done and where they’ve been — would you want their corruption anywhere near your mouth?

The Problem With Conservatives Is WHAT They Want To “Conserve”

I call myself a “progressive” instead of “liberal”. I’m extremely liberal in most ways but the word’s got too much damned baggage. It’s been abused and misused and neo-ed to the point where, to my mind, it’s become too imprecise to describe how my mind sees the world. I want the American commonweal to progress into the future with gusto. I want us to embrace our challenges. I want us to go as far outside the box as we need to to solve those challenges. I want America to live up to the motto on our Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of many, one. I want America to live UP to its ideals — even the ones it didn’t fully embrace at its creation like ALL “men” are created equal. Here’s the irony — in a way, conservatives WANT America to live up to the same ideal — but EXACTLY how the founders meant it: “all white, Christian men are created equal — so long as they’re landowners.”. That is what too, too many conservatives have in mind when they take up conservatism — America circa 1850.

A debate now rages in conservative circles, started by longtime Republican strategist Stuart Stevens. In his book “It Was All A Lie”, Stevens (who has been instrumental in crafting the messages that elected hundreds of Republicans to office) unabashedly accepts responsibility for having contributed to the deeply cynical enterprise that, he now sees, was always the GOP’s true self. Stevens even sees Saint Ronnie Reagan in this harsh, new light. As satisfying as it may have been hearing Reagan deride “welfare queens” for living off the government, what Reagan really was doing was spewing racism.

Racism and white supremacy have nested at the core of Republican intent at least since Barry Goldwater, Stevens says, and it disgusts him. He now understands: the Republican Party stands for nothing today. They exist to hold onto power however they must. If that means destroying the republic? So be it. This isn’t Trumpism, insists Stevens, it’s pure Republicanism screaming at the very top of its racist, bigoted, misogynistic, ignorant voice. This is conservatives making it crystal clear WHAT exactly they want to conserve.

Obviously, no conservative wants to conserve the future. The future’s the thing conservatives are trying to keep at bay. They want to hold onto as many of their conservative values as possible so as to slow, mitigate or prevent the future from ever happening. The conservative ideal, after all, is to make the future look as much like the past as possible. If the future could BE the past? So much the better (from the conservative POV)!

This isn’t rocket science (a thing conservatives fear because rocket science causes innovation and innovation causes change). Look at anything most conservatives want to legislate. The goal is to keep white people in power. To keep money in their hands. To give them advantages versus the rules that non-white people won’t get. Conservativism, by design, wants to maintain the status quo. To conserve it. The present contains as much of the future as a conservative can tolerate. They want to preserve as much of the past as they can in the present.

If every conservative was honest, that’s what they’d tell you. That’s why you should vote for them — because, unlike the progressive who’s unafraid of the future, they, the conservative, will take you back in time to when it was safer to be white. To when white people felt more assured that the future belonged to them just like the past did. One of the reasons to scream about Critical Race Theory is that CRT demands that we tell the FULL story about the past. The reason so few Americans even knew that a “Black Wall Street” existed (only to be wiped out by a race riot 100 years ago) is because “we” never reminded ourselves that it was part of our story. White people never want to hear stories about white people acting like monsters regardless of how true the stories are. They don’t want to see themselves that way.

That, too, is part of conservatism’s nature. Conservatism cannot look itself in the eye. It can’t self-analyze. It cannot stand being judged (judgmental as it is toward everyone else). It has no sense of humor. Oh, conservatives can laugh — but they never laugh WITH anyone (except other conservatives) while they’re collectively laughing AT someone else. Conservatism regards those not conservative with cynical distrust. It assumes the very worst about the rest of us — that we’re out to destroy the thing they love; for them, even freedom is a zero sum game. It’s not possible, they think, for others to have rights without white people “losing” rights. Power sharing just ain’t in their DNA.

And, so, conservatives gerrymander and voter suppress and even conspire with Russia in order to win elections that they know they can’t win fairly — all in order to conserve a version of America that never existed in the first place except in their minds. That’s the nutshell our problem sits inside of — conservatism can’t even be honest with itself about its intentions. About what IT wants and why.

Good thing the rest of us are here to explain it to them.

Of Bond Villains And Presidents

Some of us used to joke how much Donald Trump was like having a Bond Villain as president. Been a while since that was funny. That’s the problem with irony: it can cut like a knife. One of the reasons our news media cannot wrap its head around Trump — to this very day — is because they lack the imagination to “see” Trump. Because they’ve convinced themselves that “both sides do it”, they’ve already got it in their heads that if Trump hadn’t done it first, some Democrat would have done it anyway. So, whatever Trump is doing — it’s not “corrupt”, it’s not a “crime”, it’s not even “treason”. It’s “the new new normal” because this (apparently) is what “both sides do”.

No, it is not.

Ronald Reagan was the first “movie star president”, but he wasn’t the first POTUS to use “movie star thinking” to win a presidency. Jacqueline Kennedy may have associated JFK’s 1,000 days as POTUS with “Camelot” after he was assassinated, but the idea stuck: a story about our present fit snugly with a story about a mythological past that never was. The Kennedy White House had all the same sparkle as Hollywood. Why, Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe even famously sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Americans like that. A lot. We especially like it when you do things positive with that star power. Or convince us that you are even if you’re not.

Back to Reagan. He understood the seductive qualities of smoke plus mirror. Stories can be as real as reality if you want them to be. Style over substance is not a new idea. Trickle down economics, coming from Reagan, was like the last little bit of a movie star’s gold-plated essence seeping into ordinary Americans’ grey, humdrum lives. It doesn’t seem like Reagan was anywhere near as cynical as the rest of his party. He may really have seen America as some “shining city on a hill”. Problem was (and remains) — the shining city in Reagan’s mind was all painted on a backdrop.

Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first person to get confused by Hollywood into thinking his version of America was “America”. In the terrific “An Empire Of Their Own: How The Jews Invented Hollywood”, Neal Gabler theorizes that our whole notion of “America” is, in large part, a fiction invented by Jewish movie studio owners (with plenty of Jewish writers and directors, actors and other technicians assisting) to, in essence, give them something into which to synthesize. Having spent almost two thousand years as “outsiders”, Jews suddenly had a chance, Gabler thinks (and, personally, I like his thinking), to invent a world that might more willingly accept them.

Having spent a career in the “making shit up” business, I’m keenly aware of the media’s power to invent not just worlds that don’t exist but ideas that, without the smoke and mirrors, couldn’t hold water. Time travel, for instance. A lot of “why” people think it’s possible is because stories have said it is. Those stories weren’t based on any sort of physics. They were based on “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…!”.

Trump is even more of an invention than Reagan was. Trump’s dad — Fred — knew his son was a “lox” as a negotiator. And anyway, making deals you never intend to honor is not actually “negotiating”. If Mark Burnett never imagined “The Apprentice” then none of Vladimir Putin’s investment in Trump would ever have paid off. But, Putin understands how propaganda works. He knows how to use it: destroy our common idea of “reality” then use the ensuing chaos to invent a “new reality”. Like, say, one where Donald Trump isn’t corrupt or a traitor.

Bond villains aren’t supposed to make you think. Even if they have some theoretically correct point of view — humans need to be stopped from destroying the planet — Bond Villains always go about it too heavy-handedly. I always wonder as I watch Bond movies, who’s cash flowing this guy? Who’s paying for the high tech set up and the gadgets and the rocketry and the people! Think of the payroll a guy like Blofeld has to maintain. Some of those people are super qualified, too. They don’t come cheaply. And is there any sort of profit-sharing involved? What kind of benefits does a Blofeld offer people he hopes will willing break the law with and for him? How do people who work for Blofeld report their income?

I know — it’s stupid to worry about things like this — he’s just a Bond Villain FFS! But then, I’m a John Le Carre fan, not an Ian Fleming fan. Oh, sure — in my youth, Bond was great fun (but then, Sean Connery was the Bond of my youth and movies like “From Russia With Love” remain the canon’s gold standard because they keep Bond’s world more real than surreal. I wonder if “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” suffered from an emotional Bond at the ending (he openly cries when his lover is shot dead — by Blofeld) or a more or less lackluster Bond (George Lazenby) trying to fill in for the recently departed-from-the-franchise Connery.

Le Carre (one of 2020’s cruel losses) based his Circus on the very real British spy agency he worked for. His spies weren’t about adventure or busting super villains, they were about betrayal — personal and tribal. The (usually) unspoken mantra underlying most of Le Carre’s work: “Love is the thing you can still betray”.

Though personally incapable of love, Donald Trump is much more a Le Carre villain than a Bond Villain. Trump’s villainy is pure betrayal. Not of love, but of everything else — everything everyone else loves. We know who his backers are. Even his political party knows who Trump’s backers are — the backers who aren’t them, I mean. The backer who holds them all in their thrall. The backer who’s been running this show since Trump was declared the “winner” in 2016: Russia.

No writer sitting down to write this, what we’ve been living, as a Bond movie could get away with it. It’s relentlessly over the top for starters. Who the hell acts like this — outside of a Bond movie — and not one of the good ones? Turns out, Donald Trump does. His whole party does.

In the Bond movies, the villain either dies spectacularly or gets away to fight another day. Soon enough, another cash flowed Super Villain will step up to fill the vacuum (having apparently fooled his investors into believing he could do what all the other supervillains couldn’t — deliver a return on their investment). We never get to see actual justice delivered — the kind that would flow from We The People. Bond movies don’t seem to exist inside the same democracy we do. Or did…

That’s what’s on our plate: how do we deal with the Bond Villain in front of us? He may not be a very good Bond Villain, but he’s ours. In fact, Trump’s such a crap Bond Villain that he doesn’t even qualify. He’s more a small screen TV villain punching above his weight — getting away with it — but only until now.

Come January 20, 2021, we will begin to write Trump the ending he deserves. We will challenge every single pardon he’s issued because we must. Trump’s whole presidency is based on treason — take Putin out of the 2016 equation and Trump never gets through the primaries. Just like traitors can’t legally become president, whatever they do WHILE president — that also doesn’t count as “legal”. How could it?

By obstructing justice, Trump and the GOP have tried to keep the rest of America from learning what the REAL story of the last four plus years has been. That obstruction is about to hit a wall. A rejuvenated Department of Justice dedicated to Justice (rather than to being a mob boss president’s consigliere), asking hard questions under oath — restarting every investigation Bill Barr or Rod Rosenstein stopped (especially the counter-intelligence investigations into Trump’s relationships with Russia) — will change the landscape significantly — just by asking hard questions under oath.

Anyway — Trump was never the real Bond Villain at the heart of this story that Mitch McConnell. Mitch after all is the link to the answer to my questions — who pays for these Bond Villains and all their toys? Turns out? Our villains are so bad — and so real? They put Bond villains to shame.