The Man Behind the Curtain

Here’s the guy who’s setting the agenda for the United States of America. He’s a stone cold fascist and an unrepentant white supremacist. The only appropriate response to this president (Trump or Bannon, take your pick) and this kind of regime is resistance. Period. Full stop.

(And if you need a primer on resistance in the age of Trump, here’s a great place to start.)

My Nightmare Scenario For 2017 Has Nothing To Do With Trump

I’m going out on a limb here so bear with me: My biggest worry these days is that the most serious threat we face will be something that’s not on most people’s radar right now. I believe it will be something that takes place away from the glare of the Washington spotlight, likely drowned out of your newsfeed by the ongoing cacophony of Trump tweets and the outrage du jour over Spicer’s latest misdirections and deflections.

I believe that 2017 will see unprecedented restrictions on voting rights—aimed explicitly at Democratic voting blocs—enacted on the state level. Republican majorities in one state legislature after another will enact impediments to minority voting that will dwarf in scale and scope anything we’ve seen so far in states like North Carolina.

And here’s the thing: No one in the Justice Department is going to lift a finger to stop it. The protections of the Voting Rights Act have been dismantled, relics of a different era with different values. And if this is going to be stopped, it will have to happen state by state. If it isn’t stopped now—and if I’m right about the nature of the threat—then the resulting system will probably include some sort of voting (for the right people, at least) but it will be anything but a democracy.

It CAN Happen Here

I’m not big on the concept of generational identity but my generation—the so-called Baby Boomers—has certainly been lucky (or unlucky) enough to witness a large number of newsworthy events over the years. They include:

  • The assassination of President Kennedy
  • Beatlemania and the 1960s cultural revolution
  • The Vietnam War
  • The first moon landing
  • The only presidential resignation
  • The impeachment of President Clinton
  • The Bush/Gore election fiasco
  • The 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S.
  • The election of the nation’s first black president

As we slowly vanish from the scene, however, those of us who are still alive are glimpsing perhaps the most newsworthy event of them all: The United States of America’s descent into despotism.

Upton Sinclair and Frank Zappa titles notwithstanding, it’s clear now that it can happen here. And it is happening.

A Letter to My Elected Representatives

Senator Tim Kaine
Senator Mark Warner
Representative Robert Wittman

I am writing today to urge you as strongly as I possibly can to boycott Donald Trump’s inauguration later this month. The office of the presidency is being hijacked by someone without the experience or moral authority to govern in a democracy. Moreover, the legitimacy of a Trump presidency is questionable, at best, considering the totality of the circumstances surrounding it.

Normally, of course, it is desirable for opponents to close ranks after an election and then work together for the common good to the extent that it’s possible to do so. This election held in 2016, however, was anything but a normal election. As Democrats consider which responses to a Trump presidency are appropriate, it’s critically important that they do not for victim to their own best instincts. If the Democratic Party and its leaders have any hope of being effective in protecting the country over the next four years, they must appraise the threat and react to it as it actually exists, not as they were taught to behave in the theoretical confines of a Civics class.

For a variety of reasons, a Trump presidency is inherently illegitimate. If Democratic leaders like you want to respond to it in a way that’s consistent with their responsibilities to the country and their constituents, then they must not confer on Donald Trump a legitimacy that he has not earned. Failing to boycott the inauguration would legitimize and normalize the presidency of the most dangerous, least qualified president-elect that the country has ever seen.

It’s also important to note that during the entire term of Barack Obama’s presidency, the Republican Party did all it could to delegitimize a president for whom there was no rational reason to do so. Eight years ago, rather than graciously accepting their loss after the devastation of the Bush presidency, Mitch McConnell and his colleagues plotted to obstruct and undermine Obama’s term in office. Following that, there was a series of slights and roadblocks that were literally unprecedented in the history of the country. (Perhaps you remember John Boehner denying the House chamber to Obama for a State of the Union address?) I mention this not to suggest that Democrats sink to the level of McConnell and Boehner but rather to point out what should be obvious: The Democrats can never prevail if they continue their failure to respond proportionately to their opponents’ tactics.

The bottom line for me is that this is not normal. You do not do the country or your constituents a service if you pretend that it is. Again, I urge you as forcefully as I can to boycott Donald Trump’s inauguration. The GOP will howl, of course, but I am quite certain that history will respect and embrace those courageous politicians who take a stand in the face of this abomination.

The Desperation of the Democratic Party

Greenwald’s recent interview with Amy Goodman is well worth your time and attention: “It has become exceptionally important to Democratic partisans to believe that the reason they lost this election is not because they chose a candidate who was corrupt and who was extremely disliked and who symbolized all of the worst failings of the Democratic Party. It’s extremely important to them not to face what is really a systemic collapse on the part of the Democratic Party as a political force in the United States, in the House, in the Senate, in state houses and governorships all over the country. And so, in order not to face any of that and have to confront their own failings, they instead want to focus everything on Vladimir Putin and Russia and insist that the reason they lost was because this big, bad dictator interfered in the election.”

I guess no one should be surprised at the time and attention Clinton supporters are devoting to justifying themselves after November’s debacle but the result of nominating Clinton speaks for itself. Of course, there’s no way to prove a counterfactual, i.e. that Sanders would have beaten Trump if he’d gotten the nomination, but it’s important to note the obvious: Clinton lost in precisely the way that Sanders supporters predicted she would. Given that Sanders’ supporters provided a far more accurate analysis of the electoral landscape in 2016 than Clinton’s supporters did, it seems clear to me whose advice the Democratic Party ought to be heeding in 2017… and whose advice it ought to ignore.

“Democrats would be smart to embrace Keith Ellison as DNC chair.”

Matthew Yglesias over at Vox offers his analysis of the contest for Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee and I think he gets it exactly right. Keith Ellison’s candidacy for this post is simply too important an opportunity for the Democratic Party to miss. The entire piece is worth reading but the nut graf is here:

Signaling to supporters of Bernie Sanders that they have an ownership stake in the party while reassuring the party’s core African-American supporters that they aren’t being ditched in the post-Obama era is solid step toward unity.

What the Point of Tom Perez’s Candidacy Anyway?

I weighed in on the race for the DNC Chair a few days after the election (I support Ellison) and subsequent events haven’t caused me to change my mind. But I’ve got to say that the whole Perez candidacy strikes me as a bit bizarre. Sure, he doesn’t seem like a bad guy and, from a policy standpoint, there’s not much to argue with when you review his stated positions.

But it’s worth asking: What’s the raison d’etre for this candidacy? When Perez got into the race, Ellison had already secured the endorsements of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — two large unions that had endorsed Clinton in the primaries. He was emerging as a unity candidate behind who both faction of the party could unite.

Since Perez doesn’t seem to disagree with Ellison about all that much, what is the point of his getting into the race? Many people (myself included) believe that Perez’ candidacy is based solely on a desire of the DNC’s old guard to deny leadership to anyone who supported Sanders in the primaries. (This analysis of the race by Jeff Stein is worth reading in its entirety. It details the kinds of ugly tactics that don’t deserve to ever be rewarded in a party that purports to take the high road.)

If that’s the case then I hope the DNC is prepared for the inevitable backlash from the party’s most committed activists. That kind of political vindictiveness against Sanders supporters would be a horrible mistake and would represent a grievous unforced error in the battle for the country’s future.

Isn’t it clear that the folks who blew the race against Donald Trump have forfeited the mantle of leadership? Their brand of politics offers no value for progressives in 2018 or 2020.

Steve Jobs famously believed that everything in life could be described by either a Beatles song or a Bob Dylan song. As it turns out, our most recent Nobel Laureate described the Ellison/Perez race pretty well in 1964 when he wrote:

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
Cause the times they are a-changing