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A family conversation



I was hanging out with my cousins yesterday—all my age—and we were asking the question many people wonder about: What the hell happened to our country?

When we were kids, back in the 1950s, things seemed pretty civil. Sure, Republicans were fighting Democrats, and vice versa, but once a President was elected, everybody pretty much got behind him. There could be gigantic battles over foreign and domestic policies, but when the Congress voted, the results were generally respected by both sides.

As a close observer of politics all my life, I first saw things change for the worse when the Republican Party, led by the then Speaker of the House, the now-disgraced Newt Gingrich, decided to go after Bill and Hillary Clinton. There always have been political charges flying back and forth between the two sides, but Gingrich, who liked being in the gutter, brought them to a new low with his lies, smears and insinuations. The result, of course, of years and years of going after both Clintons was Bill’s impeachment.

But at that point—1998—the American people as a whole were a lot fairer and more open-minded than they are today. Ultimately, very few of them gave a damn whether of not Blll Clinton had an extra-marital, consensual sexual affair, or whether he lied about it to cover it up. After all, national security wasn’t at stake. As a result, Clinton’s impeachment by House Republicans was not confirmed by the Senate; he was acquitted, as he should have been.

But the damage had been done. The Republican Party, newly emboldened, realized that the more scurrilous and sleazy they got, the more their candidates got elected. And so, here we are today. The GOP, as many Republican leaders (including former Speaker John Boehner) point out, is no longer the Republican Party; it is the party of Trump, which is to say it has lost its moral moorings and become just the latest fascist-nationalist government to wreak havoc in the world.

I do blame Gingrich (who is a Trump advisor) for the descent into the sewer, but he couldn’t have done it alone. He was aided and abetted by very dangerous rightwing ideologues in the Senate and, particularly, in the House of Representatives, which years ago ceased to have any credibility on the Republican side and has instead degenerated into a pit of conspiracy theories, racism, homophobia and so-called “Christian” extremism. I use the phrase “so-called Christian” because people like Franklin Graham and Mike Huckabee aren’t really religious individuals. They’re political animals, out for power, masking themselves behind a façade of “Christian” talk. Does anyone believe Jesus would have done what Trump is doing on the southern border? I don’t think so.

So there you have it: Gingrich-style fithy politics + perverted Christianity + Dark Money = the party of Trump. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that History will condemn what is happening now as the darkest period in American political history since the Civil War. You have a cabal of Republican leaders and opinion shapers deliberately lying to a mass of uneducated, bigoted Americans, in order to appeal to their worst instincts. This is precisely how dictatorships start, and how democracies end.

That lunch conversation yesterday with my cousins was a depressing one. They were filled with apprehension and fear that some awful catastrophes await us, brought upon us by Trump. My message to them was the same as it has been here for the last 18 months: Don’t worry. Have hope. Things will turn out for the better. Above all, don’t give up the Resistance! I do believe we’re winning. There will be a Blue Wave, and once we retake the Congress, we can begin with the serious work of repairing the Trumpian damage.

P.S. When Democrats are back in charge, I hope the Congress will launch investigations into the nature of the relationship between Fox “News” and the Republican Party. Lots of dark, twisted and possibly unconstitutional stuff going on that needs the disinfectant of sunshine to clean up!

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