Sunday, October 10, 2021

<b>October 10, 2021</b>

<u>Irrationality rampant</u>

Will Rogers captured the enduring character of our politicians on the left: “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”  There may be more potent prescriptions for failure and defeat than disarray and internal squabbling, but those will suffice.  The Democrats have those traits in abundance and, irrational as it would be, if they don’t get their act together, the voters may decide to put the party that hates government in charge of it next year.  Another of Rogers’ quips applies today: “Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.”  Voters may prefer unified action, regardless of direction, to dithering accompanied by pompous declarations of high principle.  The return to sanity, responsibility and constructive policies promised by Biden’s election is in danger.

Democrats’ squabbling reveals a lack of clear thinking, but they are a model of intellect compared to the right.  There are many examples of truly idiotic statements by Republican leaders and hangers-on  However, much of the blather is tactical, designed to stir up the base.  Many theories have been advanced to explain how so many people could believe, or at least swallow, the nonsense and patent lies that pass for Republican policy.  None of the various analyses of the behavior of the base, for example reference to authoritarian personalities, seems to me to fully explain it.  However, whatever the mechanism, there is a  striking, and frightening, resemblance to the behavior of followers of dictators, notably Mussolini and Hitler.

I’ve discounted comparisons of the American right to fascism because it seemed to me that the term was being used too loosely.  However, a recent book[1] offers this brief description of politics in Germany and Italy, and the rise of dictators, which applies all too well:  “Out of the crucible of these years,” the early 1920s, “came the cult of victimhood that turned emotions like resentment and humiliation into positive elements of party platforms.”  In this mind set, Germany lost the war not because it was defeated on the battlefield but because it was “stabbed in the back” by leftist elements at home; the Versailles Treaty cheated Italy out of territory it was entitled to for its minimal efforts in the war.  Similarly, white Americans are being displaced, the government has been taken over by liberals who despise ordinary, hardworking people, other countries are stealing our jobs, and Trump lost the election because of massive fraud.  The politics of victimhood redux. 

I’m back to where I always seem to end up.  With a populace as resentful, foolish and gullible as ours, we can be saved only by leadership, and some of it must come from conservatives.


<br>1. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, <i>Strongmen, Mussolini to the Present</i>, pp. 21-22

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

September 20, 2021
Another factor in our decline

I’ve speculated on the contributions of the people, leaders and institutions to the condition of the nation.[1]  It would be easy to focus on the people, as there are so many examples of irrational behavior, resistance to vaccination being the most recent.  I’ve mentioned the culture in passing, but it occurs to me now that it is a separate, fourth, factor.  In this context, I’m referring to the aspect of culture dealing with standards of behavior and restraints on antisocial actions.  If people are not individually responsible — many Americans today clearly are not — and therefore unable to exercise appropriate self-control, there should be commonly accepted rules which will discourage misconduct and reenforce positive behavior.  Laws and prosecution are blunt instruments, useful only in extreme cases. There must be ethical and moral restraints.  However, those must be accepted, at least in general outline, by a majority of people, or by enough influential people to bring the rest along. (I’ve just invoked the leadership factor).

It could be argued that culture is not separate category, merely another institution. or that it is simply an aspect of the people.  However, I’ve used “institution” to mean something formally organized, such as the Supreme Court,  the electoral system or political parties; culture, as I’m using the concept, is a set of standards and controls, not an organizational structure.  At least functionally it is distinct from the people as well, as it describes principles, not behavior. 

However, culture, in the sense of anything binding all of us, virtually has evaporated; standards have been repudiated and social control has been weakened.  Individualism has triumphed.  True, there are tribal loyalties, and one could posit a tribal culture, but so many of those tribal impulses stem from rejection of controls that the tribes fundamentally are collections of rebellious individuals.  The movement toward individualism began in the Enlightenment and it is to some degree enshrined in the Constitution.  However, in recent decades it has moved to the point that it threatens democratic government. This development is by no means peculiar to the right; liberals have made a major contribution to the abandonment of social standards.  However, the present assault comes from  the right. 

An interesting irony is the reaction, years ago, among conservatives to perceived excesses of behavior by liberals.  The Death of Outrage, William J. Bennett’s 1998 attack on President Clinton, exemplifies that righteous indignation:  “What we need in our president is one who stands against destructive cultural norms, not one who embodies, manipulates, and exploits them.”[2]  Where is the outrage at  Trumpish behavior, which is far more destructive?  He concluded: “Our commitment to long-standing American ideals has been enervated. We desperately need to recover them, and soon.”[3]  We could start by supporting and accepting fair elections.

Another conservative critic, Robert Bork, offered these pronouncements in 1996, in a book subtitled Modern Liberalism and American Decline: “What liberalism has constantly moved away from are the constraints on personal liberty imposed by religion, morality, law, family, and community.  Liberalism moves, therefore, toward radical individualism and the corruption of standards that movement entails.”[4]

Also: “Modern liberals employ the rhetoric of ‘rights’ incessantly not only to deligitimize the idea of restraints on individuals by communities but to prevent discussion of the topic.”[5]  What a perfect appraisal of those who refuse to wear masks or be vaccinated because it interferes with their freedom, who assert their right to carry guns.  “The idea that men are naturally rational, moral creatures without the need for strong external restraints has been exploded by experience,”[6]  Indeed.

I return to the conclusion to which these ramblings has led me: faced by ignorant and irresponsible people, flawed institutions, and a culture in decline, the way out is dependent on leadership, but that is a complicated issue.  Not only must my hypothetical leaders show the right path, they must denounce and destroy the credibility of many of those now in positions of influence: Trump, McCarthy, DeSantis, Abbott, et al.  Leaders, in other words, are both the solution and part of the problem.  Still, it might take only a relatively few prominent Republicans to turn the tide.
<b>1. My comments are in these posts: 1/14/19, 3/15/19, 1/17/20, 9/11/20, 9/22/20, 11/1/20, 1/25/21.
<b>2. The Death of Outrage, p. 42 (emphasis in the original)
<b>3. Id., at 129
<b>4. Slouching Towards Gomorrah pp. 61-62
<b>5. Id., at 150-51
<b>6. Id., at 139

Thursday, July 8, 2021


July 8, 2021

A limited approach to the gun menace

As noted, the legislature did much to address the issue of the use of force by police.  It took a more cautious approach to the proliferation of guns in part, no doubt, because the state constitution, like the federal, contains unfortunate language regarding weapons.  The state version is worse; it took a misreading of the Second Amendment to convert it into a broad declaration of an individual right to be armed, but the state provision clearly separates the individual right from a collective one:

RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.[56]

Despite that sweeping grant, Senate Bill 5038, recently passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, establishes some limits as to where guns and other weapons may be carried.  Omitting some details and qualifications, it provides as follows:

Section 1, subsection (1) declares that 

It is unlawful for any person to enter the following places when he or she knowingly possesses or knowingly has under his or her control a weapon:

(a) The restricted access areas of a jail  or of a law enforcement facility . . . ;

(b) Those areas in any building which are used in connection with court proceedings . . .;

(c)  The restricted access areas of a public mental health facility . . . and state institutions for the care of the mentally ill . . . ;

(d) That portion of an establishment classified by the state liquor and cannabis board as off-limits to persons under 21 years of age; or

(e) The restricted access areas of a commercial service airport . . . .

Subsection (1) does not apply to:

(a) A person engaged in military activities sponsored by the federal or state governments, while engaged in official duties;

(b) Law enforcement personnel . . .;

       (c) Security personnel while engaged in official duties.

There is appended a definition of “weapon” but, for no obvious reason, it applies only to (b) above, where it means “any firearm, explosive as defined [by a statute], or any weapon of the kind usually known as slungshot, sand club, or metal knuckles, or any knife, dagger, dirk, or other similar weapon that is capable of causing death or bodily injury and is commonly used with the intent to cause death or bodily injury.”

To confuse matters further, the following definition appears later, and is applied to all of Section 1:   “ ‘Weapon’ as used in this section means any firearm, explosive as defined [by the same statute], or instrument or weapon listed in RCW 9.41.250.”  That statute, in one subsection, lists the following: “slungshot, sand club, metal knuckles and spring blade knife,” and in another subsection “any dagger, dirk, pistol or other dangerous weapon.”  Yet another subsection refers to silencers.  RCW 9.41.250 defines “spring blade knife,” but we are left to wonder what  slungshots and sand clubs are.

Section 1, subsection (2) provides that, except for law enforcement or military personnel, “it is unlawful for any person to knowingly open carry a firearm or other weapon while knowingly at any permitted demonstration. . . .”  The ban applies whether the firearm or other weapon is carried on the person or in a vehicle. “Weapon” has the same meaning as in subsection (1)(b) above.

The ban in subsection (2) does not apply “to the lawful concealed carry of a firearm by a person who has a valid concealed pistol license.” The reference to “firearm” is confusing, as the license would authorize only a pistol.  There is a similar, qualified exemption under Section 1, subsection (1)(a) above,  in which “pistol,” “firearm” and “weapon” are mixed. 

Section 1, subsection (3), continuing the baffling application of conditions and restrictions, provides that, cities, towns, counties, and other municipalities may enact laws

(a) Restricting the discharge of firearms in any portion of their respective jurisdictions . . . . Such laws and ordinances shall not abridge the right of the individual guaranteed by Article I, section 24 of the state Constitution . . . ; and

(b) Restricting the possession of firearms in any stadium or convention center, operated by a . . . municipality, except that such restrictions shall not apply to:

(i) Any pistol in the possession of a person licensed under [state law] or exempt from the licensing requirement . . . ; or

(ii) Any showing, demonstration, or lecture involving the exhibition of firearms.

Cities, towns, and counties [why not “other municipalities?”]  “may enact ordinances restricting the areas in their respective jurisdictions in which firearms may be sold, but, except as [to school zones], a business selling firearms may not be treated more restrictively than other businesses located within the same zone.”

Section 2, perhaps exhibiting a degree of self-interest by legislators, makes it “unlawful for any person to knowingly open carry a firearm or other weapon” on the “west state capitol campus grounds; any buildings on the state capitol grounds; any state legislative office; or any location of a public legislative hearing or meeting during the hearing or meeting.”  "Weapon" is, in somewhat confusing fashion, given the same definition as in subsection (1)(b) above.

However, self-protection and protection of others can go only so far: “Nothing in this section applies to the lawful concealed carry of a firearm by a person who has a valid concealed pistol license.” (Again, the odd combination of pistol and firearm). Apparently, it’s acceptable to be a menace if the gun isn’t brandished before use.    

The statute is a drafting mess, but the more serious problem is that we are limited to half-measures by the self-destructive gun culture, which never will be eliminated until we expunge gun-rights provisions, or those interpreted to grant gun rights, from our constitutions or, as to the Second Amendment, until the Supreme Court recognizes the error it made in Heller and McDonald.


56. Constitution of the State of Washington, Article I, Section 24.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

<b>July 6, 2021</b> 

<u>Policing the Police</u>

The excessive use of force by police has been a problem here in Washington, as elsewhere.  Two developments provide some hope of progress. 

The first is the filing by the State Attorney General of criminal charges against three police officers involved in the death of Manuel Ellis, an African American, in March, 2020.  According to the charges, he was subjected to various kinds of force, including a “lateral vascular neck restraint” from behind — in other words a choke hold —  repeated  Taser bursts, hogtying (handcuffed and legs trussed behind his back) and an officer kneeling on his back and pushing his face into the pavement.  Ellis was heard to cry out “Can’t breathe, sir, can’t breathe.” We have heard that too often.  Despite that plea, a “spit hood,” in effect a mask, was put over his face. 

He died at the scene. The Medical Examiner concluded that the cause of death was “hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) due to physical restraint,” and that “the manner in which Ellis was restrained by officers and the application of the spit hood prevented Ellis from breathing properly and caused respiratory arrest and death.” He determined Ellis’s death to be a homicide.[53]

After a bungled investigation by the Pierce County Sheriff, the matter was referred by the Governor to the Washington State Patrol for a further investigation, and ultimately the State Attorney General intervened, resulting in the charges. The Tacoma Police Union issued a statement, Trump-like in its inanity and irresponsibility, calling the charges “a politically motivated witch hunt.”[54]

The second development is a package of bills passed by the Legislature, recently signed by the Governor, which address issues surrounding policing.  Briefly — and assuming that I have accurately untangled the unnecessarily opaque way in which bills are presented —they provide as follows:

Senate Bill 5051 amends a statute pertaining to the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, directing  it to “establish and administer standards and processes for certification, suspension, and decertification of peace officers and corrections officers.” It also will ”provide programs and training that enhance the integrity, effectiveness, and professionalism of peace officers and corrections officers while helping to ensure that law enforcement and correctional services are delivered to the people of Washington in a manner that fully complies with the Constitutions and laws of this state and United States.”  The Commission will include seven “community members who are not employed in law enforcement,” up from two; of the seven, three will be “from a historically underrepresented community.”

In a somewhat convoluted section, SB 5051 broadens the list of offenses that can cause officers to lose  certification, the loss of which will prevent their moving to other police departments.

House Bill 1001 provides that the Commission “shall develop and implement a law enforcement professional development outreach grant program for the purpose of encouraging a broader diversity of candidates from under represented groups and communities to seek careers in law enforcement.”

House Bill 1310 deals with the use of force.  Subject to certain limitations, a peace officer may use physical force when necessary to “[p]rotect against criminal conduct where there is probable cause to make an arrest; effect an arrest; prevent an escape . . . ; or protect against an imminent threat of bodily injury to the peace officer, another person, or the person against whom force is being used.”  Deadly force may be used “only when necessary to protect against an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to the officer or another person.”

In determining whether to use force, a peace officer shall, when possible, “exhaust available and appropriate de-escalation tactics,” some of which are listed.  Also, when using physical force, the officer shall “use the least amount of physical force necessary to overcome resistance under the circumstances.”

One of the aspects of police shootings that I have found puzzling and disturbing is that, so often, someone is fatally shot who could have been controlled by wounding (assuming that any shooting was required).  The foregoing provisions may have been intended to deal with that issue, but it should be addressed directly. 

House Bill 1054 bars police from using choke holds or neck restraints.  It bans the use of tear gas “unless necessary to alleviate a present risk of serious harm” posed by “[r]iot, barricaded subject, or hostage situation.”  It also establishes limits on the use of vehicular pursuit.

Addressing the militarization of police departments, HB 1054 provides that “A law enforcement agency may not acquire or use any military equipment.” Any law enforcement agency possessing military equipment “shall return the equipment to the federal agency from which it was acquired, if applicable, or destroy the equipment by December 31, 2022.“ 

Finally, 1054 provides as follows: “An officer may not seek and a court may not issue a search or arrest warrant granting an express exception to the requirement for the officer to provide notice of his or her office and purpose when executing the warrant.”  In other words, no-knock warrants are out.

Senate Bill 5066 requires officers to intervene when they see other officers using excessive force:

Any identifiable on-duty peace officer who witnesses another peace officer engaging or attempting to engage in the use of excessive force against another person shall intervene when in a position to do so to end the use of excessive force. . . . A peace officer shall also render aid at the earliest safe opportunity. . .  to any person injured as a result of the use of force.

There is a reporting requirement which seems to go beyond the issue of excessive force.           

Any identifiable on-duty peace officer who witnesses any wrongdoing committed by another peace officer, or has a good faith reasonable belief that another peace officer committed wrongdoing, shall report such wrongdoing to the witnessing officer's supervisor or other supervisory peace officer . . . .

It’s odd that the duty to report is limited to on-duty officers.

To protect the reporting officer, the act provides: “A member of a law enforcement agency shall not discipline or retaliate in any way against a peace officer for intervening in good faith or for reporting wrongdoing in good faith as required by this section.”

Senate Bill 5259 provides that a “contractor,” to be named, will “implement a statewide use of force data program as provided in this chapter.” The contractor will be an “institution of higher education.”  The statute is a maze of bureaucratic provisions pertaining to rules to be established and to an advisory body which will help draft them. 

If the program comes into being, it would operate as follows: “Each law enforcement agency in the state is required to report each incident where a law enforcement officer employed by the agency used force” and where a fatality or “great bodily harm” or “substantial bodily harm”occurred; or the officer used a choke hold or vascular neck restraint; or,  “against a person,” the officer pointed or discharged a firearm; used “an electronic control weapon including, but not limited to, a taser;” used “oleoresin capsicum [pepper] spray;” discharged ”a less lethal shotgun or other impact munitions;” struck, “using an impact weapon or instrument including, but not limited to, a club, baton, or flashlight;” kicked, punched or slapped; struck with a vehicle; or released a dog which then bit. 

Accumulation of this information would be useful to the state, and also to the FBI, which has struggled to obtain use-of-force data from police departments.[55]  Although the data collected under SB 5051 could help fill that gap, there is nothing in the bill about sharing the information gathered.  The closest it comes is a provision that the advisory group should “[r]ecommend practices for public, law enforcement, and academic access and use of program data.”

       House Bill 1267 contains this recital:

The legislature finds that there has been an outpouring of frustration, anger, and demand for change from many members of the public over the deaths of people of color resulting from encounters with police. The most recent deaths in the United States and within Washington are a call to lead our state to a new system for investigating deaths and other serious incidents involving law enforcement officers.

The bill creates an Office of Independent Investigations within the Office of the Governor. The new agency will “[c]onduct fair, thorough, transparent, and competent investigations of police use of force and other incidents involving law enforcement. . . .”  Although that refers generally to “force,” the specific provisions focus on deadly force, The Office shall:

(1) Conduct fair, thorough, transparent, and competent investigations of police use of force and other incidents involving law enforcement as authorized in this chapter . . . . The office shall commence investigations as follows:

(1)(a) Beginning no later than July 1, 2022, the office is authorized to conduct investigations of deadly force cases occurring after July 1, 2022, including any incident involving use of deadly force by an involved officer . . . and

(b) Beginning no later than July 1, 2023, the office is authorized to review, and may investigate, prior investigations of deadly force by an involved officer if new evidence is brought forth that was not included in the initial investigation.

Subsection (a) is puzzling; it isn’t clear what the Office would have to do with deadly force cases not pertaining to an involved officer.

The statutes need review, in part because they overlap, but they and the prosecution by the AG should help to put us on the right path.  Neither the reaction of the police union nor calls for defunding the police is a useful response to allegations of police misconduct.


<br>53.Attorney General’s  press release:

The Declaration for Determination of Probable Cause included in the release is a copy of a document of that title filed in Pierce County Superior Court as part of the prosecution:

<br>54. on-manuel-ellis-death/

<br>55. post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most& 2779564ed94%2 F24%2F72%2 F60c0ec059d2fdae3027672c7

1 Attorney General’s  press release:

The Declaration for Determination of Probable Cause included in the release is a copy of a document of that title filed in Pierce County Superior Court as part of the prosecution:

2 manuel-ellis-death/.

3 post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most&

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

<b>May 23, 2021</b>

<u>The formerly Grand Old Party,/U.

      In a way, the decline if the Republican Party is not surprising, as there are ample signs of the decline of the nation generally. There is no sense of common purpose; we are unable to work together; the country is descending into tribalism.  As David Brooks put it in a recent column, “Could today’s version of America have been able to win World War II? It hardly seems possible. That victory required national cohesion, voluntary sacrifice for the common good and trust in institutions and each other.”1  That no longer describes us.  Perhaps, then, the collapse of the GOP is part of a more general picture; even so, it is stunning.

      Donald Trump was a failure as President, and is a serial liar.  He is, to use his term, a loser, and is so  desperate to hide that from others and from himself that he concocted his crowning lie, that the 2020 presidential election somehow was stolen.  That story has no foundation in fact, and is not even entirely new; it recycles in more extreme form his excuse for not winning the popular vote in 2016.  Nevertheless, the Party has rallied around.  Its pathetic fealty to Trump was demonstrated by stripping Liz Cheney of her leadership post for speaking the embarrassing truth too often.   

      In following and praising Trump, Republicans have adopted his signature characteristic: lying.  They  no longer make any pretense of consistency or plausibility.  Kevin McCarthy said “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election” even though his leader and Republicans across the country do just that.  Matching him in ignoring reality, and adding a bit of gallows humor, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) described the mob storming the Capitol building as making “a normal tourist visit.”

      Another example of the shamelessness and irrationality of those genuflecting before Trump is that many of his ardent supporters trashed him in the past, including Liz Cheney’s replacement Elise Stefanik and even Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President.  A variation is denunciation by a loyalist, followed by return to the fold.  Examples are remarks after the January 6 insurrection by Kevin McCarthy (“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters”) and Mitch McConnell: (“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.)”

      Republican strategy assumes that the base have short memories and can’t tell fact from fiction. Republican lesders must hope so, as the truth would defeat them.  When Kellyanne Conway spoke of alternative facts, she was trying to explain away one of Trump’s fantasies but, as it turned out, she was describing the new political reality.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan is said to have declared that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Republicans want both and need the latter.

      The Party has no actual program, other than opposing everything Biden wants to do while screaming “socialism!” It has no message to the people that will win votes on the merits because, to the extent it has a political philosophy, it is helping the rich and powerful.  True, Republicans have a slogan: maximize freedom, but “freedom,” to them, always was something of a con, usually amounting to opposing regulations and taxes, in other words serving selfishness.  Now it often seems to contain a death wish: opposing masks and distancing in the face of a pandemic, opposing climate-control measures in the face of potentially fatal global warming, opposing gun control in the face of a flood of shootings.

      Despite all that, can the Republicans recapture Congress next year?  There are predictions that it is a certainty.2  Redistricting apparently will favor red states, but more will be needed. Lacking a meaningful message, the GOP pins its hope of winning the next election on two ploys.  First, knowing that it must have the votes of Trump’s supposed base — the MAGA crowd, driven by cultural resentments — it will continue to idolize, fawn over, lick the boots of their leader. Second, it will rig the election — there’s irony — by gerrymandering and vote suppression. Even after that, the Party will need independent votes.  Will those appear?   

      An article in The Washington Post suggested that they may not. Without providing any detail, The Post, referring to “a party retreat in April,” reported this:

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness . . . .  Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.3  

That result is generally consistent with national polls, which show Trump’s favorability rating falling.

      In addition, the Party is coming apart at the seams, and many voters may choose to follow the dissenters. Liz Cheney is not alone in criticizing fellow Republicans, nor is Trump her only target. Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene managed to find a parallel between Speaker Pelosi's decision to require members of the House to wear masks on the chamber floor and the Holocaust; Rep. Cheney denounced that as “evil lunacy,” Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) condemned Greene’s comment as “beyond reprehensible.”  Rep. Adam Kinzinger has said “I do think Kevin [McCarthy] has failed to tell the truth to the Republicans and to the American people” about the events of January 6. 

      Reps Cheney and Kinzinger voted in January to impeach Trump, along with eight other Republicans, the most in history to support impeaching a president of the same party.4  At the trial in the Senate, seven Republicans voted to convict Trump, shattering the record for the most votes to convict by a president’s party.  (The previous record was one, set in Trump’s first impeachment trial)5 

      Many prominent Republicans have broken with Trump.  One of the most significant is Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Party, emblem of the establishment. (“I am an American, a conservative and a Republican, in that order. And I am voting for Joe Biden on Nov. 3.”)  Several Republicans spoke at the Democratic Convention, Never Trumpers abound, and many Republican election officials have refused to go along with the big lie.  The Maricopa, Arizona Board of Supervisors — four of the five members are Republicans — has denounced the absurd “audit” of that county’s votes.  All of this not only reveals the weakness of the Party but provides encouragement and cover to Republican voters who may be tempted to desert. If Trump continues to trash prominent Republicans such as Pence and McConnell, there might even be some high-level defections, not from the Party or the anti-Biden agenda, but from the Trump-MAGA-election lies wing.

      None of this guarantees that the Democrats will win next year, and they have problems of their own to solve. They need to hammer on the sins and folly of the opposition, but also must convince ordinary folk, who were once the heart of the Party, that it understands them and that it’s on their side.


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<br>50. trump


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

 <b>January 25, 2021</b>

 The Wreckage left behind

Whether Donald Trump will be a force or even a continuing focus of attention for very long after this month is unknown.  However, there grew up around him a political and cultural malaise which may persist without his help.  This is not due to anything created by him; he is the epitome of negative leadership.  In effect, he removed a dam which held back a reservoir of antisocial tendencies which have flooded the landscape.  His effect on the country was epitomized by the mob scene at the Capitol on January 6.   

There are numerous manifestations of the Trump disorder.

1. Stupidity of opinion leaders

There really is no other way to describe the statements and attitudes of some of Trump’s defenders, including lawyers who have served him in one capacity or another.  L. Lin Wood hinted at armed rebellion,  calling on the soon-to-be-former-president’s supporters to “stock up on Second Amendment supplies.”1  Last year Joseph DiGenova was more explicit:  he advised us to buy guns because we “are in a civil war.” He declared that there would be no “civil discourse in this country for the foreseeable future;”2 certainly there will be none by him.  Lest anyone think that he had come to his senses, he offered this in late November: "Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity. That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot."3  DiGenova and Wood are embarrassments not only to the legal profession, but to the educational system; Trump uncovered quite a few of those.

Sidney Powell, although ousted from the elite Trump team led by — more examples— Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, turned up on Lou Dobbs’ show to agree with him that “this president has to take, I believe, drastic action, dramatic action to make certain that the integrity of this election is understood or lack of it, the crimes that have been committed against him and the American people.”  Picking up on Dobbs’ compliant about the failure of the Justice Department to uncover imaginary fraud, she sad: “ I'm about to think the entire FBI and the entire Department of Justice need to be hosed out with Chlorox [sic] and fire hoses.”4 

The following day, Dobbs decided that Attorney General William Barr, having failed to find all of that alleged fraud, was part of the “deep state” who “joined in with the radical Dems.” Referring to some charge or other about vote tallying, Dobbs wondered: “Could it be that antifa was running the election for Democrats in that room?”5

One of Rudy’s witnesses, Melissa Carone, not content with her foolishness at a hearing, declared on “The Obamas funded that Wuhan lab to make COVID.”6

At the recent pro-Trump rally in DC, Alex Jones, apparently having tuned in to QAnon, bleated this: “We will never back down to the satanic pedophile globalist new world order and their walking-dead reanimated corpse Joe Biden.”7

Another speaker at the rally, Republican Congressman-elect Bob Good, offered up the freedom-is- ignorance line.  Addressing a maskless crowd, he declared: “This looks like a group of people that gets it. This is a phony pandemic.”  “It’s great to see your faces, you get it. You stand up against tyranny. Thank you for being here today, thank you for saying ‘no’ to the insanity.”8

Incoming Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon fan, said that Republicans who don’t continue to contest the election results are supporting “the Chinese Communist Party takeover of America.”9  (That was one of her more rational comments). Lin Wood, in a series of tweets on January 1, proclaimed the following:   

(1) For two months we have focused on accusing the Democrats of attempting to steal the 20/20 election for Biden. . . . Over time, we have learned that the Democrats were joined by CCP & other foreign countries.

(2) We have also learned that the Globalists like George Soros & the Elitists like Bill Gates were involved. CIA too . . .It all seemed so clear we overlooked one of the main participants in the theft of the election: THE REPUBLICANS.

(3) These groups aspire to the goals of Communism. A ruling elite & an oppressed class of people who exist to serve those in power.

When arrests for treason begin, put Chief Justice John Roberts, VP Mike Pence . . ., & Mitch McConnell . . . at top of list.10  

2. Conspiracy theories.

The use of convoluted tales to explain, or explain away, developments is not new.  Conspiracy theories long have been a part of American politics, the claims of Senator Joseph McCarthy being a prime example. “False flag” stories have been used to explain away inconvenient events, such as school shootings; more  recently, the Capitol invasion has been so dismissed.  (See below, at footnote 32). The Trump years have seen an explosion of conspiracy mongering, the evidence-free claims of election fraud being the most widespread and the most dangerous.

3. Lying.

Falsehoods in the service of political advantage also hardly are novel, but Trump lied so constantly that he encouraged the same conduct by his aides and supporters.  Consider this, offered by his staff as cover for Trump’s playing golf in Florida while the pandemic raged, after vetoing the defense bill, and after his veto threat put the aid bill in jeopardy and threatened a government shutdown: “As the Holiday season approaches, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American People.”11

Much of what I described as stupidity also falls under this category if we assume, as I think we must, that some of those who say foolish things or spread tales of evil conspiracies realize that their statements are ignorant or false.  Trump has encouraged this tendency to say whatever seems to advance an agenda.  Certainly the repeated, ludicrous claims of election fraud straddle these categories.

In another sense a lie has come to the fore, the pretense of the Republican Party to a principled theory of governance.  The pretense, and its falsity, were described by Stuart Stevens in his recent book: ”Donald Trump did not change the Republican Party as much as he gave the party permission to reveal its true self. . . . We were only now seeing what they always were, freed from any need to pretend.”  “A party rooted in decency and values does not embrace the vicious hate that Donald Trump peddles as patriotism.12  I discuss this further under item 9 below.      

4. Public ignorance.

If the leaders are fools, it’s hardly surprising that followers are. At a rally in Michigan on September 10, Trump shamelessly boasted: “We brought you a lot of car plants, Michigan! We brought you a lot of car plants. You know that, right?”  The crowd roared its assent.  As one observer put it, any “member in good standing of the ancient ‘reality-based community’ could have told you that since the coming of Trump no new car plants had been built in Michigan, that since his ascension not less than three thousand Michiganders had lost jobs in the vital auto sector.”13  Perhaps Trump was citing alternative facts. 

The crowd’s response illustrates a category of foolishness: willful ignorance.  Millions going maskless is a major example.  Denial of the reality of climate change and human contributions thereto is another.  As with the auto plant issue, people have been misled, but the capacity for credulity or rejection of facts was there to be used.  Anti-vaccine agitation no doubt will arise again as the coronavirus vaccines become widely available.

5. Faux populism.

Trump has tapped into, pandered to, and encouraged feelings on the part of many that their world is disappearing, that they are being left behind, that they are ignored — when not harmed — by ill-defined “elites.” Believing, somehow, that he was on their side, they became his base, or part of it.  As Trump and Republicans have no intention of serving their interests, of making their lives better, this is a false populism, a swindle.  Hacker and Pierson have labeled this “plutocratic populism,” an alliance between “organized money and organized outrage.”14 

An abiding question about the popular support for Trump is whether it really is primarily by the  “working class.”  Those who attend his rallies may fit that description, but, assuming that we define the class by income, those who  vote for him do not.  Exit polls show that Biden won the votes of those making under $100,000 per year, and Trump won those making more than that.15   The makeup of the mob at the Capitol demonstrates that many of his followers do not fit the supposed model.  

6. Tribalism; terror of liberalism.

The success of the populist ploy has been aided by the increasing tribalism of American politics.  It is a factor in the willingness of Trump’s followers to believe, or at least claim, that the election was stolen.  Tribalism has been fed by both sides; it will be interesting to see whether Biden can suppress that tendency among Democrats sufficiently to achieve the unity he aims for. 

A factor in the tribalism of the right, and of Republican success in creating a pseudo-p0pulist revolt, is a resentment of liberalism, and hence of Democrats.  There are legitimate and strong differences of view between conservatives and liberals, but resentment often is disproportionate to real differences and degenerates into claims that liberals are un-American (and communist; how quaint!), a tendency manipulated by the right into irrational fear and hatred.  Trump constantly played the victim, culminating in his claims that the election was stolen, which reenforced a sense of victimhood in the base.  

7. Race-related bias and inequality.

It is no secret that racial bias and inequality persist, the former seemingly embedded in police departments.  Trump refused to acknowledge the problem, demanded “law and order,” denigrated racial-justice protesters and underlined his disdain by insisting that Confederate names remain on military bases. The agitation by white supremacist groups suggest that racial tensions will endure and may even be exacerbated by efforts of the Biden administration to improve conditions for minorities. 

8. Religious delusions.

In a recent column, Michael Gerson aptly noted that supporting and justifying Trump’s attempts to overturn a fair election “has driven some Trump evangelicals to the edge of blasphemous lunacy.”16  He offered as an example the mumblings of a radio talk-show host named Eric Metaxas, who has said: “This is a fight for everything. God is with us. Jesus is with us in this fight for liberty.”  Also: “Trump will be inaugurated. For the high crimes of trying to throw a U.S. presidential  election, many will go to jail.”       Another example is Guillermo Maldonado, a Florida pastor and Trump supporter, who has advised his congregation not to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, but to “believe in divine immunity” instead.  He claims that God warned him about a “satanic global agenda” that is trying to “bring the Christian church under governmental control.”  These evil forces “want to stop President Trump because he’s against that agenda.”17  

That’s our Donald: defender of the faith.

9. Decline of the Republican party and conservatism: repudiation of democracy; authoritarianism.

In the comments that follow, I will refer to characteristics of Republicans or the Republican Party.  There are exceptions to the negative picture I’ll paint, including election officials who would not be intimidated, members of Congress who rejected plans to manipulate the electoral vote and those who voted to impeach.  There are numerous Never Trumpers and other critics, some of whom, in a sense, aren’t exceptions, having left the Party.  Senator Romney projects honesty and sense, but Senator Ron Johnson, peddling election-fraud theories,18 Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene babbling about the Biden Crime Family, and the last proposing to impeach President Biden,19 are more typical.

The decline of the party has been underway for decades.  A <i>Washington Post</i> article in 2002 by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein summed it up: “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”20 Trump’s presidency was made possible and supported by that condition, which grew worse.

A tendency to manipulate elections has been part of the Republican playbook for some time, utilizing such tools as gerrymandering and closure of polling places.  Refusal to accept the recent election result built on that tendency. It is not just partisan fervor or ignorance; it is an abandonment or an active rejection of democracy, of the right of the people to elect their leaders. Beyond a point, long since reached, claims of fraud are an attempt to undermine the system.   

On Dec. 1, Michael Flynn, newly pardoned, put forward a plan in authoritarian form to overturn the election.21  He tweeted a link to a lengthy paid advertisement placed in the Washington Times by a group named We The People Convention.  The ad spoke of  “the current threat to our United States by the international and domestic socialist/communist left.”  We face, it said, “well-funded, armed and trained marxists [<i>sic</i>] in ANTIFA and BLM strategically positioned in our major cities acting openly with violence to silence opposition to their anti-American agenda.”22  Of course, Trump’s loss was due to fraud.   His enemies used “this corrupt and provably fraudulent” election “to illegally and un-constitutionally deny the American people their most sacred honor, right and privilege - which is the right to elect their Representatives!”  Irony obviously is lost on this group. 

What is the remedy for this crime? “When the legislators, courts and/or Congress fail to do their duty under the 12th Amendment, you must be ready Mr. President to immediately declare a limited form of Martial Law, and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections, for the sole purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote.”  Undo a fictional election theft with a real one. 

L. Lin Wood also endorsed the ad, and Sidney Powell retweeted a call for military tribunals and for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act.23     

A Republican Washington State Representative waved the flag of rebellion.  He, declared that “Joe Biden is not now, nor will ever be my President.”  That led him to ponder: “Is the ‘coup’ against the sitting President the start of a second ‘Civil War’ here in the USA?”  Stand up: “This is about America. It’s being destroyed by evildoers. Patriots, will you join with me? I need to know. Lets [sic]  raise the banner.”24  Other GOP state lawmakers endorsed martial law and use of the Insurrection Act to keep Trump in power.25

One of the stranger attempts at overturning the election was a motion by Texas in the Supreme Court for leave to file a complaint designed to overturn the results in other states.  The exact relief requested was that the Court “Declare that any electoral college votes cast by such presidential electors appointed in Defendant States Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin are in violation of the Electors Clause and the  Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and cannot be counted.”26  Trump filed a motion to intervene in support of the complaint, and 106 House Republicans submitted a brief in support. Texas rather obviously did not have standing to challenge elections in other states and, on December 11, the Court denied Texas’ motion to file on that ground.27

Stranger yet was a suit filed in a US District Court in Texas by Republican Representative Louie Gohmert of that state, supported by some Republicans from Arizona,  attempting to force Vice President Pence, as presiding officer in the Senate, to throw out Biden electoral votes and, apparently, replace them with self-appointed Trump electors.  Again, not surprisingly, the complaint was dismissed.28 

Most of the lawsuits alleging fraud were frivolous, but at least they stayed, barely, within the constitutional system.  Efforts to persuade legislatures to appoint Trump electors in place of those pledged to the winner of the election in swing states (i.e., Biden electors) cited a provision of the Constitution, but misused it.  Trump pushed this remedy in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania.29  His aide Stephen Miller also backed that scheme.30

The same ploy was endorsed in an open letter, signed by many alleged conservatives: It demanded that legislatures in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan “exercise their plenary power under the Constitution and appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump.”  Standing alone, that would accomplish nothing.  Therefore, “both the House and Senate should accept only these clean Electoral College slates and object to and reject any competing slates in favor of Vice President Biden from these states.”31  No such “clean” slates were submitted by states, so the alternative would be to accept self-appointed electors, as blatant repudiation of an election as could be imagined.

In order for this ploy to succeed, one member of the House and one Senator had to challenge electoral votes from several states.  Representative Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) announced his intention to challenge, and was joined some days later by Senator Josh Hawley (R- Missouri).  Hawley’s political stance had been dubbed “performative populism,” <i>i.e</>., populism for show; his electoral ploy certainly fell into that category.  Eleven more Republican Senators and more than one hundred Republican Representatives then jumped on the anti-democratic bandwagon-to-nowhere. 

This scenario began to play out, but the assault on the Capitol disrupted the session.  Upon resumption,some objectors backed down, but Senator Hawley, apparently still believing that following Trump will lead to the White House, went ahead with his challenge to the Pennsylvania votes, joined by Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on the path to nullification. They lost, 92 to 7, a fitting end to another show of pretended indignation at pretended electoral fraud.  The House, where Republican opposition to democracy is stronger, defeated the challenge 282-138.32

The invasion of the Capitol encouraged by Trump caused a good deal of soul-searching on the part of Republican officeholders, but that appears to have been a temporary phenomenon.  The assault wasn’t enough to test the loyalty those attending a meeting of the Republican National Committee two days later.  “Party members, one after another, said in interviews that the president did not bear any blame for the violence at the Capitol and indicated that they wanted him to continue to play a leading role in the party.”33  The Oregon Republican Party organization issued this exercise in irresponsible fantasy: “The violence at the Capitol was a ‘false flag’ operation designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans; this provided the sham motivation to impeach President Trump in order to advance the Democratic goal of seizing total power.”34

10. Disregard for public welfare.    

Republicans have not, for some time, demonstrated any concern for the lives of ordinary people which, of course, makes their populist ploy stunningly dishonest.  Tax cuts for the rich and deregulation are not benefits to the average citizen.  Economic inequality and the concentration of wealth at the top have increased over time, aided by Republican policies.  Tables appended to Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty, demonstrate the changes.  As of 2010, the top 10% of the population by income received 47.9% of total income, the top 1% 1received 19.8% of the total, and the top .1% 9.5%.  The corresponding figures for 1980 were 34.6%, 10.0% and 3.4%.35  Not surprisingly, charts of marginal tax rates for the wealthy show a change in the opposite direction.36  The 2017 tax cuts will make matters worse.

A table showing the full distribution of income further demonstrates the degree of inequality: rounding off the Piketty figures, in 2010, the top 10% received 50% of total income (the top 1% received 20%), the next 40% received 30% of the total, and the bottom 50% received 20%.37

Another measure of the failure of equitable distribution of income is the minimum wage.  In real terms, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $8.68 (in 2016 dollars). It was last raised in 2009 to $7.25 per hour but, by 2017 had lost about 9.6% of its value to inflation.38  The House passed a bill in 2019 to raise the federal minimum to $15 by 2025. Mitch McConnell responded with the usual excuse: “Research shows that hiking the minimum wage to $15 would kill jobs and depress the economy at a time when it’s thriving for the American people. We are not going to be taking that up in the Senate.”39

Trump and the Republican Senate acted irresponsibility regarding the pandemic. Trump’s principal contributions have been inaction, in which he was joined by some Republican governors, combined with dangerously inane suggestions. As part of his flirtation with herd immunity as a substitute for useful action, Trump reportedly mused: “Why don’t we let this wash over the country?”  In other words let the coronavirus spread unchecked.  As Dr. Fauci pointed out, many would die.40  As I noted earlier, Senator Rand Paul and a Republican state representative also toyed with that “solution.”       A tragic part of Trump’s legacy is the death toll from covid, which passed 400,000 on his last full day in office.  To be sure, he could not have prevented all of the deaths, but sensible, responsible attention to the crisis could have saved many, especially if he had set the right example, rather than reenforcing strong tendencies toward dangerous behavior.

For months, the Republican Senate also responded to the coronavirus crisis with inaction, then demonstrated its policy priorities during debates in December on the aid bill by demanding an employer-liability shield and a meal/entertainment deduction for businesses, while refusing to aid struggling states and cities.  No doubt this approach to lawmaking would have persisted had the Republicans retained a majority, and may still do so through obstruction.

The Party had nothing left but floundering attempts to overturn the election.  It has no principles, not even a program other than pandering to the Trump base while serving the interests of the rich.

11. Political violence; mob rule.

The potential for violence in the streets has been with us for a long time due to political polarization and the ready availability of guns, but tribalism and supremacist impulses have made it far worse.  Violence, occupation and vandalism are not unknown to demonstrations on the left, but it is primarily on the right that volence exists as a deliberate tactic and as an automatic reaction.  Louie Gohmert provided an example of the reaction; after the District Court dismissed his complaint he, in keeping with the right-wing mood, pronounced: “Basically, in effect, the ruling would be that you got to go to the streets and be as violent as antifa and BLM (Black Lives Matter).”41 Steve Bannon mused about putting the heads of FBI Director Christopher Wray and Dr. Anthony Fauci on pikes “as a warning to federal bureaucrats.”42       The gathering of armed protesters outside the home of the Michigan Secretary of State, protesting non-existent fraud, is an example of the tactic. Proud Boys prowling Washington DC was a more dangerous manifestation, as was a protest in Olympia, Washington; several people were stabbed in DC, one shot in Olympia.  

Trump encouraged violent, anarchic behavior by his claim of a rigged election — which prompted threats to election workers — and more directly by some of his comments, such as calling for followers to “liberate” states which annoyed him and, more recently, encouraging protests against the counting of electoral votes, tweeting on Dec. 19: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”43  That succeeded, bringing protesters to Washington who, with Trump’s further encouragement in his speech to the crowd, became a mob which invaded the Capitol.     

There may be more such events. The Capitol mob may have been Trump fans but, even if he fades away in disgrace, there will be many ready to carry on the destruction.  The mob, and the base generally, seem to epitomize the line from an old movie: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  Never mind whether the grievances are real; the heart of Trumpism is simply grievance — real, exaggerated or imaginary — and increasingly it is accompanied by violence..

12. Repudiation of the Union.

The Civil War did not end thoughts of disunion.  Several states have taken a step in that direction by toying with nullification of federal laws. The League of the South is a “Southern nationalist organization . . . whose ultimate goal is ‘a free and independent Southern republic’.“44 Refusal by Republicans and by Trump’s fans to accept the result of the election taps into this secessionist mood, shown by the waving of Confederate flags at protests, including the occupation of the Capitol, and by explicit threats.  After the Supreme Court rejected the ploy by Texas, talk of secession surfaced.  Among those suggesting it was Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, who  said that “perhaps” it’s time for “law-abiding states to bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.”45  A Republican Texas state representative announced that he is “committing to file legislation this session that will allow a referendum to give Texans a vote for the State of Texas to reassert its status as an independent nation.”46  The chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party mused: “Many of these Western states have the ability to be self-reliant, and we’re keeping eyes on Texas too, and their consideration of possible secession.”47  If this gained traction, it would be the final repudiation of its history, tradition and character by the party of Lincoln.


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Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day