Consider Donald J. Trump’s major campaign promises. Here’s a list of three of them. Then guess how many are going to be included in the Republican’s spending bill next month.
- Building the Mexican wall.
- Eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.
- Boosting military spending.
If you guessed one, or two, or three of them, you’re wrong. None will be funded in the upcoming bill, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reports that Republicans are “likely to exclude the most contentious provisions from legislation needed to keep the government running past April.”
This is pretty shocking, since it comes on the heels of Trump breaking his #1 campaign promise—to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. That was demoralizing enough to Republicans; now, this latest inability to follow through on his pledges means that Trump’s voters are starting to understand just how incompetent and mendacious he is.
Why won’t Congressional Republicans fund even these most basic campaign promises? Because, after the collapse of Trumpcare, they understand they can get nothing done by themselves. The party is so riven with internal fractures, so politically incoherent, that the only things Trump can get done are through executive orders, which don’t require Congressional approval. (This is how Trump is demolishing the Environmental Protection Agency. If he had tried to do it legislatively, it, too, would go down in flames.)
Put yourselves in the shoes of a typical Trump supporter. He voted for Trump essentially for these four issues (repeal Obamacare, build the Wall and have Mexico pay for it, put Planned Parenthood out of business, and pour billions more into the Pentagon). How must he feel now, as he sees each of those cherished dreams threatened? True, Trump may eventually get all four done. But he’s going to need Democrats, and, as with any political wheeling and dealing, it’s always a question of who needs whom more. In this current political atmosphere, where Trump is feeling a world of hurt despite his denials and those of his surrogates, Democrats don’t need Trump for anything. He’s swinging in the wind, circling the drain—choose your metaphor—and if, in fact, Democrats were to work with Trump to rehabilitate his image and give him something to brag about, their constituents would hold it against them. So Trump needs Democrats, not the other way around.
Some people, including a few Democrats, will argue that my position is crazy. They say that we should put the country first, that antipathy to Trump is not the highest priority, getting stuff done is. I can respect that point of view. But I don’t agree. Yes, stuff needs to get done. But not Republican stuff. We do not need a Mexican wall. We should not stand by and see Planned Parenthood gutted. The Defense Department does not need tens and tens of extra billions of dollars. (And we certainly don’t need to reduce taxes on billionaires.) Trump now is making noise about working with Democrats on fixing Obamacare. Well, here’s my proposal for a deal: Stop using the words “repeal and replace.” Admit that “repeal” is not going to happen because it’s not needed; Obamacare has done what it promised to do (unlike Trump). Fix whatever needs to get fixed, but retain the name “Affordable Care Act” and get rid of that stupid “American Health Care Act” nomenclature. Yes, it will be very hard for a man as arrogant as Trump to swallow his pride and continue to call the A.C.A. by its real name, while working with Democrats to improve it. But Democrats should insist on no less.
At any rate, maybe talking about this stuff, while the Senate and F.B.I. investigations are active (forget about the House Intelligence Committee) is premature. We may not have a President Trump before too long. Wouldn’t it be interesting to get inside Mike Pence’s head and hear what he’s thinking? Too bad Gerald Ford is no longer around to advise him.
Are Democrats in Congress “digging themselves into a ditch”? Is Democratic leadership “babbling”? Is the Party “lost”? Are they merely “posing for the angry left”?
Those allegations were hurled against the Democratic Party on March 22 by a Republican operative, Ed Rogers, a hatchet man for Ronald Reagan who has resurfaced as an apologist for the Trump regime. Rogers is not known for his genteel style; the political blog, “No More Mister Nice Guy,” recently called him “a crude man who says nasty, hateful things about people he doesn’t like, particularly if they’re not white or male,” which makes Rogers sound like his new idol, Trump.
Rogers’ March 22 screed, in the Washington Post, is easily disproved. To start with, he wrote it days before Ryan summarily pulled the TrumpCare bill from a floor vote in the House, which has since become one of the worst political defeats for a sitting President in history. Now, nobody has a crystal ball, so Rogers couldn’t have known the bill was headed off the cliff, but still, he shouldn’t have been quite as exuberant as he sounded when he claimed the “Republicans [were]…steamrolling opposition to the American Health Care Act” and that “Trump was effective” in persuading recalcitrant Freedom Caucus members to vote for it.
Some steamroller! Some effectiveness!
Really, given his political acumen, or lack of it, do we really need to consider anything else Rogers says? Well, yes, because this hack’s attacks on Democrats echo the insults Trump hurls at the party all the time. So let’s look at his other allegations.
“There’s no good fight to be had on Judge Neil Gorsuch.” Not true. In fact, there’s a very good fight. Democrats are energized by opposition to him. He may well become the ninth Justice despite Democrats’ best efforts to prevent it, but the “good fight” is invigorating Democrats in resistance to the Trump regime. And if Schumer succeeds in a filibuster, which in turn gets broken by Republicans launching the nuclear option, Americans will clearly understand that Democrats no longer are rolling over for Republicans. They also will understand that this Republican Party will stop at nothing to achieve their backward-looking, dangerous agenda.
Is Democratic leadership “out of touch” and “babbling”? I don’t think so! In the House, we have rising stars like Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Joaquin Castro, as well as more established representatives like Maxine Waters, Jim Clyburn, Nita Lowey, Elijah Cummings and Nancy Pelosi. In the Senate, Schumer is as tough as they come; joining him are Senators Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar—my gosh, what a talented bench. They’re out there every day and night, articulating cogent, forceful messages. Hardly what I call “babbling.” You know who babbles? This current President, on twitter.
As for these Democratic leaders “posing for the angry left,” it’s true that the left is angry—and should be. But did Trump not “pose for the angry right”? Rogers doesn’t seem to notice that. Besides, there’s a crucial difference: Democrats never, ever stooped into the gutter of lies, smears and innuendoes to critique their Republican opponents. Democrats stick to issues. Republicans, afraid of issues, rely on prejudices and the ignorance of their base.
Rogers’ conclusion also is a lie: “Democrats are clearly lost, with no sense of direction.” Laughable. Watch the Democratic Party rally as this Republican regime increasingly lurches from crisis to crisis, with all those investigations hanging over their heads. Rogers, Trump and the others wish mightily that Democrats were directionless, but their wish will not be granted. Democrats have 2018 solidly in sight, with 2020 close behind. Their direction, Mr. Rogers—in case you haven’t noticed–is regaining Congress and the White House. And with Trump hitting historically record lows in the polls, I’d hardly call Democrats “lost.” The one who’s lost his way—if he ever had it—lives in the White House.
Most people I know are against CalExit, the scheme, modeled on Britain’s “Brexit” from the European Union, for California to break apart from the U.S.A. and form its own country. Newspapers are editorializing against it; politicians, including Gavin Newsom, who’s likely to be California’s next Governor, denounce it, and polls show that ordinary Californians don’t favor the move—at least, not yet.
But hidden in the poll numbers are hints that things could change, and quickly. The number of Californians favoring CalExit has grown by 12 percent in the last three years—and the election of Trump, a man deeply loathed in blue-state California, also has added to people’s inclination to look for alternatives to living under his regime. Granted, those in favor of CalExit still account for less than one-third of all voters (32%). But “There’s such hostility towards Trump that many citizens believe it would be smarter to leave [the union] than fight,” according to a Democratic political insider, Steve Maviglio, who was former California Governor Gray Davis’s press secretary.
What would it take for a majority of Californians to favor CalExit? What might be the precipitating event? Well, with Attorney-General Jeff Sessions’ remarks the other day about cutting federal funds to sanctuary cities—a Trump campaign promise—we might be seeing the beginnings of the move towards a California Nation.
Yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, my local newspaper, gave the Sessions threat huge coverage on the front page, overshadowed only by the (truly awful) news that the Raiders are leaving my home town of Oakland. (Oakland to Mark Davis: drop dead.) The Chron analyzed many areas that the Trump regime might eliminate from funding, ranging from money for providing police with body cameras to forming gang task forces in police departments, from providing trauma services to crime victims to ending certain probation-related programs in the courts.
The blackmail aspect of Trump’s threat cannot be overlooked, and will not be among Californians. I may be living in a blue bubble in the bluest of coastal California regions, but there are millions of people like me who feel the same way. Imagine if Trump follows through on his sanctuary city punishment. Cities such as Oakland, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and at least 16 California sanctuary counties (not all of them coastal), will scramble to come up with replacement funds. Resentment in these areas will build, and will be fueled, no doubt, by other mean steps the Trump regime takes that are anathema to liberal sentiment. Nor is California alone: hundreds of other cities and counties around the country, from Georgia to Iowa, Minnesota to Nevada, have sanctuary policies, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, citing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data.
It’s not all that hard to envision a scenario in which increasing dissension in California to Trump leads locals to demand action from our elected officials, including Congressmen and Senators. We are witnessing, right now, how local activism is influencing our politicians as hasn’t been seen in decades; I’ve written about how Senator Dianne Feinstein suddenly discovered her inner warrior woman after hearing from constituents concerned she’s not taking the Trump threat seriously enough.
What happens when the majority of the California congressional delegation feels the heat? When Feinstein and her fellow Democratic Senator, Kamala Harris, feel it? When the Governor feels it? When Boards of Supervisors, county officials and Mayors begin demanding it? When that 32% of Californians now favoring CalExit rises to 40%, 52%, 59%?
We haven’t faced the situation of an American state leaving the union in 157 years, since 1860, when South Carolina seceded from the U.S., thereby precipitating the American Civil War. In that case, Lincoln was adamant in preserving the Union; he could have told the South, “Fine, leave, we don’t need you,” but he took the opposite step. What would Donald J. Trump do if and when California declared that it will no longer forward tax revenues to Washington…that it will resist Washington’s efforts in the areas of immigration enforcement? What happens when the Governor and the legislature appoint a formal task force to study and report on all issues connected with CalExit? Will an aggressive, paranoid President Trump take counter-measures, or will he tweet, “Goodbye, California, you’re not really America anyway, bye bye?”
We may be about to find out.
What does Trump do now that his regime is on life support?
- Double down on pandering to the far right
- Declare war on the disloyal Freedom Caucus and see what he can do with the Ryan wing of the party
- Reach out to Democrats
Pragmatism will determine his answer; this particular President has no moral or ideological scruples or, if he does, is perfectly willing to sell out on them if circumstances mandate. So, from a pragmatic point of view, pandering to the far right is not viable. Trump was never their creature; pragmatism dictated his brief flirtation with them, but the Freedom Caucus is on Trump’s hit list now that they deserted him on healthcare.
Working with the Ryan wing is the natural outcome of breaking with the far right. The problem is that the divisions within the Republican Party between the “moderates” and the “right” are not as clear-cut as they seem. Cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans while spending $1 trillion on infrastructure will certainly find fierce opposition among fiscal hawks from both the moderate and more conservative elements—especially now that Trumpcare is dead. Even relatively minor issues, such as women’s healthcare rights and Planned Parenthood, carry the threat of dividing the party. So it’s not clear moderate Republicans can save Trump from this death spiral.
Which leaves #3: reaching out to Democrats. “Trump Considers Bipartisan Outreach” reads the headline on page one of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. “The White House…may increase its outreach to Democrats if it can’t get the support of hard-line conservatives.”
It makes sense, I suppose, from the point of view of a Trump administration that’s on the ropes and hopes to survive a while longer. Trump has learned he can’t govern like a dictator but must form alliances. He can’t ally with his far right; his alliance with the moderates is increasingly shaky; why not then go back to his roots (he used to be a Democrat) and make nice with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi?
There are two reasons this won’t work. One: we, the Democratic base, won’t tolerate it. Secondly, neither will congressional Democrats, who are in lockstep with the base. Look, after everything Trump said and did to hurt our former President, Barack Obama—a man all Democrats revere—we can never find it in our hearts to forgive him. Nor can we forgive the party he chose to be part of, the Republicans, for their eager participation in the sliming, slander and slurs, which continued in mounting falsehood against Hillary Clinton during the campaign.
Nor can we forgive Trump or the Republican Party for their unholy war on Truth. Trump has been an insult to the human intellect. He has resorted to the basest, most blatant lies. He has pretended to believe in nonsense for the sole reason of appealing to the worst, more deplorable instincts in American civil society. He thus has offended what Democrats hold most dear: a belief in progressive human intelligence, which alone can solve the problems of modern society.
So, President Trump, if you’re considering “outreach” to us Democrats, fageddaboudit. We don’t want or need your help; you need ours, but you’re not going to get it. Yesterday, I emailed my congressional representatives, in the House and Senate, demanding that they not cooperate with any phony attempt by Trump to cozy up to them. He isn’t serious; he does not wish to see Democratic solutions prevail; he has repeatedly trashed the Democratic Party; he is a cancer on our history. Let him stew in his own juices. He created the mess he now inhabits, enabled by a Republican Party that is beginning to see the magnitude of their mistake. Let him sink, slowly, into the morass of his own making, a sinkhole of incompetence, corruption, nepotism, lies and stupidity. Democrats owe not one damned thing to Trump, or to Republicans. Meanwhile, let the various investigations into Russiagate continue. And let Democratic preparations progress for the 2018 elections.
After Trump’s disastrous defeat over the weekend, with more catastrophes for him almost sure to occur, the national conversation now turns to how Democrats can regroup for the 2018 elections and beyond.
One heated topic is “the hillbilly” problem. Hillbillies were traditionally rural inhabitants in eastern and southern U.S. regions of the Ozarks and Appalachians. Nowadays, they can live anywhere. I think of the movie Deliverance—the simple-minded albino kid playing his banjo, and the two psychos who raped Ned Beatty in the woods. Among many Americans, there’s always been a certain looking-down-upon condescension towards hillbillies: they’re white, uneducated, prone to violence, love guns, racist and hate “gummint.”.
One meme surrounding Trump’s election is that he was voted in by just these hillbillies, a fact alluded to by Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment. Ironically, there also is in this country what we might call a “hillbilly pride” movement, in which these people—sometimes also called “rednecks” or “white trash”—self-identify with concepts like rugged individualism, not relying on the government, working hard, religiosity of the Christian variety, various forms of xenophobia and racism, and patriotism. Their music is country music, their politics (to the extent they vote) rightwing. And yet, these proud hillbillies have their own form of condescension: against “city folk” or “coastal elites” whom they deem “liberal” (a disparaging term), arrogant, effete, spoiled, entitled, naive and possibly communistic.
Another meme following the election is that Democrats have to do a better job of reaching out to these hillbillies. According to this analysis, the party, and the Clinton campaign, ignored them in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. As a result, these dispossessed farmers and assembly line workers revolted, voting for Trump in a sharp rebuke of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. To hear some tell it, Democrats must now figure out a way to regain the trust of these hillbillies.
I strongly disagree. Had a mere 70,000 votes switched in the three states I just mentioned, Hillary would have won. As it was, she took the popular vote in a landslide: 3,000,000. Had Democrats been better at getting out the vote, especially in key districts, particularly among Blacks, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because Hillary would be President and Trump would still be groping pussy. As for those 70,000 voters, my considered sense is that they’re beyond civil conversation. They’re so stubborn, so resentful, so low information, you just can’t get through to the rational part of their brains. They don’t analyze issues; they live in their Fox “News” and right wing talk radio bubbles, and don’t even know that the Republican Party is shafting them. (How many hillbillies did Trump ever invite to Mar-a-Lago? He wouldn’t have been caught dead socializing with them.) I used to try to reason with these people. Now, I no longer bother. Why bang your head against the wall?
So for me, 2018 is all about turnout. America has always been a Democratic country; when we actually get people to vote, we win. When we don’t, for whatever reason, the bad guys win. I have no desire whatsoever to “reach out” to the hillbillies and rednecks. I do expect, on the other hand, that those “moderate” Republicans with some education who voted for Trump are watching developments closely and witnessing the debacle of this regime.
You know, on my Facebook feed there are a couple pro-Trump people who put up ridiculous claims about him along the lines of “Promises made, promises kept.” I don’t think they can do that anymore. He promised the Wall would go up and Mexico would pay for it. Lie. He promised he’d ban all Muslims from entering this country. Lie. He promised he’d repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something better. Lie. Now, he’s promising some sort of fantastical tax “reform” by which taxes on billionaires like himself plummet, even as he spends $1 trillion on infrastructure, and we’re supposed to believe it will somehow result in a balanced budget? This is not only a lie, it’s a pathological lie.
The hillbillies will never understand this. They don’t want to, and you can’t make a crazy person sane. For that reason—as the guys on Shark Tank say—“I’m out.” I don’t care about hillbillies. I don’t care about reaching out to them. I care about beating them.