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Another Republican is infected

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The Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, says he’s “shocked” to test positive for C-19. Although he’s currently asymptomatic, he plans to self-quarantine at home. Where did Kevin Stitt contract the virus? It’s impossible to say, of course. But we do know that Kevin Stitt went to trump’s Tulsa rally, on June 20, despite repeated warnings from health experts. And even though that rally was a dismal failure, with half the seats empty, 6,000 people, mostly maskless, crowded into that hot, steamy hall, spraying their nasal droplets with each Heil, easily spreading the coronavirus amongst themselves.

Stitt insists he didn’t catch the virus at the Tulsa rally. He said “he was certain he did not contract the virus at the Tulsa event.” And he refuses to issue any kind of statewide mask order, unlike his fellow conservative Governor, Kay Ivey, who just did in Alabama.

Here’s what I tweeted Kevin Twitt, err, Stitt:

Listen, schmuck: You’re a trump slave. You went to trump’s Tulsa rally. You were warned. You chose to obey your Fuehrer instead of listening to the doctors. Now you’re infected. You deserve it.

It’s very hard not to feel schadenfreude whenever one of these science-denying, pathological trumpers gets the virus. Whether it’s an evangelical preacher, a Governor, or some MAGA freak in Podunk, I smile to myself when one of them is reported to be infected. I smile even more broadly when they actually get sick, and the sicker they get, the broader is my smile.

Yes, I was raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which says we should never take pleasure in the misfortune of others. The fact that I do is a burr to my conscience. But I manage to overcome that inconvenience. What is conscience, anyway, when it comes to dealing with trumpers? I started from a place of bipartisanship: “Can’t we all get along?” I was willing, at one point, to accept Republicans as “the other party,” whose views I might not have agreed with, but with whom I was willing to strike deals.

Not anymore. No deals. No compromises. Complete extinction: that’s my motto.

When did I get this uncompromising? If there was any one moment, it was in 2016, when McConnell killed the Merrick Garland nomination. That’s when I realized, “There can be no cooperation with these people. They’ve completely surrendered to the worst excesses of fascist thuggery.” And that was before trump became president, which has made the Republican Party so much worse. The Republican Party has become my implacable enemy, as it has for at least half of the American people. We (the Allies) fought World War II because it was “the good war.” Unlike World War I, which was a muddle nobody could figure out, the Second World War had a distinct enemy (the Axis powers) and a distinct ideological framework (freedom vs. dictatorship). This current struggle against the Republican Party (or the party of trump, as it is more accurately described) is “the good struggle” in American politics. All sides are not the same. There are moral distinctions. There is such a thing as evil, and it has to be resisted by people of decent moral fiber.

It’s very sad, but there it is. If any sitting Republican official had any sense of moral courage, or even a smidgeon of self-respect, he or she would have already quit the party. They might not necessarily have had to become Democrats, but they would not feel it was possible for them anymore to remain Republicans, as long as the monster in the White House remained in control of the party.

But while we’ve seen a handful of Republicans denounce their former party (don’t you love Steve Schmidt? I could listen to him all day), they’re in a tiny minority. The vast majority of Republicans have stood by trump for the last 3-1/2 years. He gets worse and worse every day, more insane, more dangerous, more sociopathic, more incompetent; and yet these Republicans celebrate him as though he were the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (which, bizarrely, some evangelicals reportedly believe he is).

What can you do with such people? Nothing. You can’t reason with them, any more than you can reason with a three-year old or a crack addict. Their minds are gone, destroyed by corrupt preachers and manipulated by a rightwing media that knows no bounds to its lies.

Look, masks save lives, and keep COVID-19 from spreading. This so-called “president” has chosen to politicize basic healthcare science, for the simple reason that his only goal is—not to protect the American people—but to get re-elected; and for that, he has to stir up resentment and fear among his base. He knows how to do it: he’s stoked those flames for years. It’s awful, it’s horrible, it’s disgusting, and History, who always writes the final chapter, will condemn trump and his acolytes as fiercely as she condemns Hitler and his Nazis. But we don’t have to wait for History’s verdict. We can snuff trump out this Election Day. Vote! And if you vote by mail, be sure to send your ballot in well in advance of Election Day.

When you’re down and depressed, think of the celebration we’ll have the minute Biden is declared the winner. The hoots and hollers and hurrahs! The Champagne corks popping! The high fives! And that sound of rustling paperwork? It’s the scores of subpoenas being prepared to serve on trump, on his family, on his supporters. They will have to answer, not only to History, but to the Courts.


In defense of Gavin Newsom

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This was not the headline we wanted to wake up to today:

PULLING BACK

“Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday signaled a major retreat in the state’s two-month effort to recover from the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus,” the article began, outlining Newsom’s latest dire directives: shutting, or rather re-shutting down California restaurants, bars, movie theaters, museums, hair salons, wineries, and just about everything else.

And not just in a few counties with the worst infection rates, but in all 58 of California’s counties. That’s 40 million people, 12% of the entire U.S. population.

Maybe, given Murphy’s Law, we should have seen it coming. For a while, we Californians were very proud of ourselves. We were the first state in the country to shelter-in-place. Our COVID-19 numbers were incredibly low throughout the Spring. Massachusetts had far more cases than we did, even though our population is so much bigger. It looked as if California was setting the pace for the rest of America.

And then came July, and Boom!

Already, Gov. Newsom is starting to get the blame. After being the media’s Wunderkind for the past 1-1/2 years since his election, with positive ratings that would be the envy of any sitting governor, he’s now learning that the media that thrusteth up can also pulleth down. The Bay Area News Group, whose (conservative-leaning) newspapers cover the San Francisco Bay Area, ran a scathing editorial on Sunday (link not available) with a shocking allegation: “Gov. Gavin Newsom bears responsibility for the current surge of COVID-19 cases in California.” They accused him of re-opening the state too soon, and even compared him to Trump: “Like Trump, Newsom keeps trying to push responsibility down to the next-lower level of government.” It concluded that “Newsom’s leadership has fallen woefully short.”

This is grossly unfair. To begin with, science calls this the “novel” coronavirus for a reason: It’s brand new. It has never existed before, and scientists hardly knew anything about it. Figuring out a battle plan against an unknown biological agent is next to impossible; everyone has made mistakes.

Nobody knew, nobody could have known, exactly when to shut down, in which places, or for how long, or when to re-open: all at once, or regionally. This was a game with hundreds of moving parts. There’d been no rules, and, given the utter absence of national leadership, local officials, like Newsom, were left to their own devices. They did the best they could. It’s surely good to learn from the past, but to engage in pointless, partisan, polemical recriminations is not helpful.

Newsom, like all other officials, is trying to find the balance between keeping an embattled economy going, and stopping the spread of the disease. Both are imperatives, but, as we know, they clash. Everyone has struggled with this question. It can’t be easy. Cuomo gets a lot of credit in New York, but we don’t yet know if New York is really out of the woods. Everyone thought California was safe, until it wasn’t. New York might be in for a second surge. So it’s too early to be playing that particular blame game.

Besides, as Cal Matters, a non-profit, non-partisan news provider, points out, one of the main reasons for California’s second surge is because “many Californians haven’t been wearing masks and avoiding crowds.” That’s not Newsom’s fault. Southern Californians and inland, rural counties have been particularly disdainful of masking. Newsom’s messaging has been consistent to the point of relentless: Wear masks! Practice social distance! Don’t go out in crowds! True, Cal Matters says another reason for the resurgence is because of “confusing and mixed messaging.” And it’s true that trying to understand how the rules apply to every nail parlor and bar in 58 counties can be difficult; this, too, is something California and Newsom are learning to deal with. But where are the most “confusing and mixed” messages coming from? Trump. It must be very difficult, even for an articulate governor like Newsom, to make himself heard, no matter how loud or often he speaks, when the President of the United States is lying through his teeth, and his lies are repeated on every news show, every newspaper, and on social media.

We’re all miserable about this situation. Everybody’s looking for someone or something to blame. I understand that; it’s human nature. But let’s be intellectually coherent. Gavin Newsom has come as close to getting a handle on the virus, and in keeping the public informed, as any Governor in America. If he can’t wave a magic wand and make COVID-19 go away, it’s hardly his fault.


I’m getting weary. But “keep hope alive!”

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I get emotionally exhausted sometimes, keeping up with all this Trump nonsense and the impending election.

I should probably not get so wrapped up in politics. It’s not good for my health. But that’s who I am: it’s how I was raised, to be passionate about politics, which after all is a blood sport. (It was the British Labor Party politician Aneurin Bevan, a member of the House of Commons during World War II, and a man Churchill loathed, who invented that metaphor.) But I can’t help myself; I waver between optimism (that there will be a Blue Wave this November) and fear (that there won’t, and Trump will be re-elected).

Sometimes I change my mind 40 times a day. Currently, I’m in one of the fear modes: he will be re-elected, and the reason why is this anti-cop and anti-monument phenomenon that’s sweeping the country. As committed as I am to doing everything in my power to defeat Trump (and all Republicans), I have to admit to increasing trepidation about what the Left is doing, and how they’re going about it.

The thing to remember is that most Americans like and respect cops. They know that the “thin blue line” is all that separates them from “the bad guys.” (Who ya gonna call when you’re accosted, a social worker?) They also know—now more than ever—that there are indeed some bad apples in the barrel, maybe a lot of bad apples, and that these rogue players need to be weeded out. They know that hiring practices have to be reformed. They know that the “code of silence” ultimately does not work to the benefit of cops, and they know that police unions all too often are roadblocks to reform.

At the same time, most Americans are in no mood to “defund the police.” Indeed, the phrase itself is offensive. If it doesn’t mean, literally, taking 100% of police department budgets away (and its backers insist that’s not what they mean), then the phrase is stupid. It ought to be discarded and replaced with something else: “reform police budgets” or something. The truth is, a massive number of Americans is repelled by all this talk of defunding, of ACAB (all cops are bastards), “kill the police,” and so on. That’s hate speech, as surely as using the n-word or calling a gay person a faggot. We’re seeing pro-cop demonstrations around the country, as citizens—not all of whom, I might remind you, are racists—rally to the cause of their local police departments. We’re also seeing–and I hate to say it–a growing fascism on the part of the Left, where people aren’t allowed to say how they really feel, out of fear of being picketed or attacked.

These same Americans are similarly concerned about the riots and looting that continue to plague American cities in the wake of the George Floyd murder. They don’t like seeing their shopping districts boarded up or, even worse, burned down. They don’t like seeing their CVS stores and Ace Hardwares and 7-Elevens looted. They don’t understand how robbing a food market has anything to do with civil rights, and when they hear that the same people who are demanding the removal of statues of Confederate generals just tore down a statue of Frederick Douglass, a Black man of immense historic importance in America, they’re positively baffled. It makes the protesters seem, not like patriotic idealists but more like insane children.

These are the emotions Trump is playing to, and when I’m in fearful moods like I am now, I have a sense that he might somehow get re-elected. I had the same sense in September and October of 2016, when all the polls said Hillary was going to be elected. A nagging voice inside me worried that something was happening in America, or certain parts of America—something that wasn’t being discerned by the pollsters. I worried so much that I was rushed to the hospital the day before election day: two stents were put into my chest. I awoke, in my hospital bed, to news of Trump’s victory, and wept silently into my pillow.

That same nagging voice is whispering to me now. Oh, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. How I wish I had the power to wave my hand and make Trump go away, make his felonious family go away, make McConnell and Nunes and Cruz and Graham and Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan and the rest of the cult disappear into the ash heap of history. How I wish I could make Biden win in a landslide, have the Democrats increase their majority in the House and take over the Senate with a veto-proof 60 seats! And how I wish that next year will be the start of payback, with trials and hearings and prison sentences for the worst of the Republicans, including Trump himself.

But I don’t have that power, and that’s what gnaws at me. Hopefully, my fears are just passing clouds, presaging sunnier days. Tomorrow, I might feel much better. But, like I said, this see-sawing is getting tiresome. Binge watching “Sex and the City” gets my mind temporarily off it, but I know that’s escapism. We have real problems in America, and sticking our heads in the sand so we don’t see them solves nothing. All I can do is persuade myself to be optimistic.


The Stepford Republicans

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“There will be someone with my name,” says the lead character, Joanna Eberhart, in a climactic scene from The Stepford Wives, the 1975 Gothic horror movie. “She’ll cook and clean like crazy, but she won’t be me. She’ll be like one of those robots in Disneyland.”

Joanna, played by Katharine Ross, is slowly realizing that something insidious and horrible is happening to the housewives of Stepford, the fictional Connecticut town where she and her lawyer husband, Walter, had recently moved with their two young children. The film is in the tradition of “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “Village of the Damned” and others of that genre, in which humans are secretly possessed by sinister forces (usually symbolizing Communism) bent on subverting our way of life.

Watching The Stepford Wives is great fun. Screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men) meant it to be a spoof on “a bunch of Playboy bunnies,” but this perhaps misinterpreted the goal of Ira Levin, whose 1972 book of the same name, on which the movie was based, was more menacing: these robotic women had been murdered and then mysteriously transformed by their husbands, through some unexplained (surgical?) process, into complaisant helpmate-robots. Coming after Joe McCarthy and during Nixon’s administration, Levin’s book represented the nightmare side of America.

Re-watching The Stepford Wives in the era of Trump, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how Levin and Goldman unwittingly presaged what’s happening now in America. But this new tale is no longer about women and their role and place in our society. It’s now about the Republican Party, which, like the women in the novel and film, has been transmogrified: from a fairly conservative political party into the Party of Trump.

The scholar Rashna Wadia Richards dismisses the simple explanation that The Stepford Wives is merely “a cautionary tale about secret, robotic Communists hiding among unsuspecting, passionate Americans…” We have “to dig deeper,” she writes, and seek “other cultural anxieties” the film taps into. What might these be? Richards considers issues of sexual and racial politics before concluding that The Stepford Wives is actually more complex and horrifying: the ultimate alien tale. “Not only can’t we tell who has been ‘taken over,’ but we also can’t tell who hasn’t been ‘taken over.’”

Many Trumpers don’t publicly admit their true affiliation because they’re embarrassed. They know, in their hearts, that Trump is evil and Trumpism is an aberration. It’s politically incorrect to admit that you rather like Trump and will vote for him in November. In that sense, The Stepford Wives has now become The Stepford Republicans, a horror movie for our times.They’ve out there, these evil robots, walking among us, looking like us and sounding like us. But except for the obvious crazies with their MAGA hats and twisted faces at Trump rallies, we don’t know who the rest of the robots are. They could be your mother, uncle, cousin, neighbor, friend, boss. Or you.

If there are enough robots in November, Trump will win re-election. But I don’t believe there are. Public sentiment, as measured by every single poll, has the American people rising up against him. We’re tired of this horror show. We want him gone. The ending of The Stepford Wives is sad: Joanna becomes “one of them.” I firmly believe that the ending of The Stepford Republicans will be far happier.


We, the people, are the Silent Majority

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Most presidential elections are about issues: war, peace, the economy, race. The man who is more in touch with the greater body of the electorate on the issues wins.

This upcoming election is only tangentially about issues. Instead, more than any election in my lifetime, it is going to be about personality: and the personality of a single man, Donald J. Trump.

By November, the issues may be aligning favorably for Trump. The economy may well be sound: the stock markets seem remarkably resistant to the ravages of coronavirus so far, and as the country re-opens (let it be so!) unemployment will fall and people will be back at work, earning spending money.

The coronavirus will no doubt still be with us, but I have the feeling the country has gotten used to it, and I have to say that when Trump says, “We have to learn to live with it,” I largely agree. How could it be otherwise? We’ve been unable to tamp it out. It’s not going away anytime soon. So young people will continue to ignore it, by and large, while vulnerable populations—the elderly, mainly—will continue to socially distance and wear masks; and by November, I think that coronavirus will play little or no part in the electorate’s decision. Of course, Democrats will happily replay video of Trump saying cases will soon be down to zero, and Trump’s profound stupidity will impact a lot of people’s decision; but that has more to do with the “personality” issues I’m talking about than with the issue of coronavirus itself.

So, America could be in relatively good shape by November. Ordinarily that would redound to the benefit of the incumbent, but in this case, I don’t believe it will. Because all those extraordinary polls showing Trump losing to Biden, even in formerly red states, reflect a simple premise: the American people now know who Donald Trump is; they know what he is; they’re sickened by him, and want him out.

There’s nothing he can do about that. Lately, he’s seemed to acknowledge the fact that he’s widely loathed. The Supreme Court doesn’t like him, he whined, a startling admission from a narcissist who believes that everyone should love him. Trump reads the polls; he sees his numbers suffocating in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, even in red Ohio. Trump is not an intelligent man; he is not a reflective man; he doesn’t spend any time looking at himself in the mirror and trying to imagine how others see him. But Trump is a feral man, a calculating survivor who is governed by his reptilian brain, and he must know that, at this point, he would go down to ignominious defeat if the election were held tomorrow instead of Nov. 3. It is terribly difficult for Trump to grapple with a problem he cannot fix through his usual means of threats, bribes and lawsuits. Seldom in his life has he faced such defeat. True, he’s dealt with multiple bankruptcies, but painful as those must have been, they were but minor episodes in the greater catalog of his life. A casino here, a steak company there—what of it? The empire itself stood.

Not now. His empire totters like a Lego construction in an earthquake. And for the simplest reason: people do not like him. Not only do they dislike him, they loathe and pity him, and they want, more than anything else, for him to be gone. Conservatives know that a President Biden won’t be the worst thing that ever happened. He’s no Socialist; he’ll hold the line, which will be generally pro-business. But conservatives also know that, if Trump is re-elected, the Republican Party will have received its final nail in the coffin, and will be as dead as the Whig Party. This is why their thinking now goes like this: “Let Biden be elected. We’ll suffer a short-term defeat, but we’ll be able to rebuild the Republican Party post-Trump into the respectable organization it always used to be.”

After Trump’s defeat, we’ll have plenty of time to digest the whys and wherefores. Why did so many people who voted for him in 2016 turn against him? And it will come down to the simple question of his personality. Americans are sick and tired of the pathology that emanates from him constantly: the hatred and divisiveness, the megalomania, the lies, the corruption, and overt dog whistles to neo-nazis and white supremacists. Thirty-five or thirty-eight percent of the American people might like those dog whistles, but the rest of us don’t. We are the true “silent majority,” and We, the people, will throw Trump out of office in November.


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