It’s a puzzle, isn’t it? Assange’s Wikileaks has been devoting pretty much all its time to publishing hacked emails to or from or about Hillary Clinton and her senior staff, obviously to the delight of the Trump campaign. But no one is asking, Why is Assange so anti-Hillary?
What is Wikileaks, anyhow? Its website describes it as “a multi-national media organization specializing in the analysis and publication… of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption.” Founded in 2006 by Assange, Wikileaks first achieved notoriety by leaking documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; its biggest coup was perhaps the 2010 release of U.S. State Department cables, which led the Obama administration to talk about indicting him. In return, Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, in 2012, where he has been holed up ever since.
Most of us viewed Wikileaks with mixed emotions. We might have welcomed its efforts to expose official secrets around the world, which embarrassed governments, but seemed nonetheless in tune with the “transparency” that the public wants from its officials. At the same time, we might have felt that the U.S. government is entitled to have at least some secrets. It left us—at least, it left me—with decidedly ambiguous feelings about Wikileaks, but I never thought of it as being a tool of the Republican Party—until now.
After all, Wikileaks could easily have gone after Donald Trump, right? With their hacking ability, they could release his taxes, which he himself won’t do. They could further expose Trump’s shady business practices, the contracts he won’t honor, the details of his bankruptcies. They could no doubt hack into The Apprentice and Access Hollywood tapes to see what other incriminating things Trump has said and done concerning sexually assaulting women. Yet they have not done so, instead preferring to train all their firing power on Hillary Clinton.
To answer, we have to understand more about Assange. (And, by the way, the best reporting about him has been in the European press; the American media has held back.) He was born in Australia. He appears to be an atheist, and possibly an anarchist, although he has denied the latter. As such people often are, he is driven by his own private morality, which on the surface doesn’t sound bad: “We…expose abuses [and] proof of bad behavior,” he told an interviewer. But again, bad behavior is not limited to any one particular political party or candidate. So what’s Assange’s beef with Hillary Clinton?
Here, we have only speculation. The [London] Observor hypothesizes that he doesn’t want Hillary to be President because (quoting Assange) she “will push the U.S. into endless, stupid wars that spread terrorism.” The New York Times, calling Assange an “avowed foe of Clinton,” quoted from a 2016 interview Assange gave in which he admitted that his animosity towards Hillary Clinton is personal because, as Secretary of State, she tried to indict him. “We do see her as…a problem for freedom of the press” more than Donald Trump, he explained. In that interview, Assange also criticized Hillary Clinton for being “a liberal war hawk.”
Let us grant that some people share this view of Hillary as a bit of a Thatcheresque iron lady, anxious to rush into wars and muzzle the press. (I, myself, do not see that as the case, but that’s just me.) What about Trump? Does Assange think he’s a friend of the media? Just a few days ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists called Trump “an unprecedented threat to press freedom,” but Assange apparently disagrees. And does Assange seriously think Trump’s foreign policy would be any more benign than Hillary’s? I mean, this is the man who said “I love war.” Assange, asked this very question, replied that Trump’s foreign policy is “completely unpredictable,” meaning, I suppose, that in his mind Hillary is the Devil you know, whereas Trump is, I guess, the Devil you don’t. Assange apparently believes that casting his lot with a “completely unpredictable” narcissistic demagogue who loves war is preferable to a Hillary Clinton who, at least, has a long track record of working closely with the Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, when she was a Senator and as Secretary of State–our country’s leading diplomat. So there’s a bit of confusion here, as to why Assange—who may be an idealist—believes Hillary is more of a threat to his anti-war ideals than Trump.
But there may be something far more insidious about Assange than merely his professed idealism. In a 2010 interview with Der Speigel, the German newspaper, he said he started Wikileaks because “I enjoy crushing bastards,” a remark suggesting a streak of cruelty we might expect to hear from Donald Trump. But Assange is anything but consistent, or even honest, for that matter. In a 2010 profile of Assange, in The New Yorker, he described his concept of “scientific journalism,” by which he meant Wikileaks publishes all the information it can obtain, so that “people [can] check it, verify it”; the more information people have, Assange argues, the more informed their decisions will be.
That is a compelling case. But if Assange really were interested in offering all sides to the argument over who would make the better U.S. President, why isn’t he publishing the information on Trump he could? After all, he called both “the U.S. Democratic and Republican parties…broadly conspiratorial power groupings,” another concept many Americans might agree with. So why is he going after just Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee? Well, he’s been stuck in that Ecuadorian embassy for four years now, and by all reports his mental state is deteriorating. The International Business Times reported about “a year-long psychosocial and medical assessment” conducted on Assange that “uncovered a slew of issues with his well-being” leading to “a declining mental state.” Just last month, the website, RT, reported that “Assange’s mental, physical health [is] deteriorating under embassy confinement,” and that “sleep deprivation, [a] sedentary lifestyle” and a lack of “adequate medical care” are causing him to suffer from “obesity, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.” Along these lines, the foreign minister of Ecuador, last June, told the British newspaper, the Telegraph, that Assange “will have to be seen by psychologists” because “four years in this [Embassy] space has taken its toll.”
So perhaps we’re nearer to an explanation of why Wikileaks has chosen to go after Hilary Clinton, not Donald Trump. Wikileaks IS Julian Assange, and clearly, Assange is no longer capable of thinking clearly. His mind is that of a deluded, unbalanced prisoner in near-total isolation, who blames the Obama administration, not his personal behavior, for his current predicament. Anger and paranoid fantasy appear to be taking over; we can only guess if there are gender issues also involved in Assange’s hatred of Hillary Clinton. (After all, he has been accused, like Donald Trump, of sexual assault.) Clearly, when considering Wikileaks and the emails, Assange’s mental condition has to be taken into account.
Now, Republicans may argue that Assange’s mental state is irrelevant—what counts is the content of the emails. I have two replies: first, so far there’s been no there there in the emails: nothing illegal, nothing anyone can pin on Hillary, except for her haters, who will characterize anything—what she had for breakfast—as evidence of a crooked character. Secondly, Cui bono?, the old legal term: Who benefits? Unless you know a person’s motive for doing something, you can’t determine the context of whatever crime they’re alleging may have been committed. In this case, there is no evidence whatsoever—zero, zilch, nada—that Hillary Clinton has done anything illegal; but as for Julian Assange, we know or suspect he’s broken multiple laws, from rape to espionage. Perhaps this digital attack on Hillary Clinton is his last, desperate attempt to make sure Hillary loses the election, in the hopes that a President Trump, to whom he’s been so helpful, will pardon him.
Last Friday I blogged about the possible response by the Trump party after he loses the election. My post was, of course, pure fantasy, a scary dystopian hallucination of societal breakdown and violence. Over the weekend, however, just such a scenario has been increasingly considered by many others.
I Googled “trump election civil war” and got 15 million hits! The very first is typical. It appeared in the [British] paper, The Guardian, on Saturday, and was headlined “Life after Trump: Republicans brace for betrayal and civil war after 2016,” and if it went a little overboard with references to Adolf Hitler and the bunker, it captured well the sense of “siege” that is quickly racing through Trump’s increasingly angry and distraught supporters as they sniff defeat.
The online publication, Economy & Markets, headlined its article, “If Trump Loses, Expect Civil War.” This publication is, admittedly, a madcap heap of rightwing conspiracy theory, but it’s important because it represents the angry, uneducated white male perspective that fuels the Trump movement, and that will constitute its spearhead if in fact there is violence. It predicts “a wave of civil unrest” and expects “a large part of the southeast, southwest and Rockies [to] secede from the country,” just as my post last week presciently did.
Similarly, one of the worst, most vulgar rightwing talk radio hosts in the country, Michael Savage, predicted (in fact, basically encouraged) the Trumpsters to begin loading their guns now. “If Hillary is elected,” he told his listeners, “the country devolves into civil war.”
One of Trump’s top advisors is Roger Stone, a longtime Republican bagman who founded [in 2008] an anti-Hillary Clinton group called Citizens United Not Timid (whose acronym was a deliberate misogynistic insult to Ms. Clinton). Stone has been traveling the country warning of a “bloodbath” following a Clinton victory, and he showed his cards on the justification Republicans will use for violence: “widespread voter fraud,” which has been a consistent bugaboo in the minds of the paranoid right wing despite the fact that “voter fraud” is non-existent in the U.S. The independent publication, The Hill, which reports on the U.S. Congress, quoted a Trump supporter at a Trump rally in New Mexico: “If Hillary Clinton wins the election…there is going to be a civil war…”.
Finally, perhaps the most alarming, there’s the Republican Sheriff of Milwaukee, David Clarke, a Trump surrogate, who told a Trump crowd on Saturday that if Trump loses, “it’s pitchforks and torches time.”
A Sheriff, mind you!!!
I could go on and on citing the worst of those Google hits, but you get the idea. Clearly, I’m not the only one entertaining thoughts (or fears) of chaos when Hillary Clinton wins (and she will; I think we all know that, except for the most delusional among us). So the Big Question becomes: What or who is to stop such an alarming development?
Two possibilities. First, diehard Trumpettes have three weeks to get used to the fact that they’re going to lose, and badly. Three weeks is a long time. They could use it to reflect on how they got to where they are now; reflection can lead to a renewed sense of perspective, which is precisely what the Republican Party has been lacking. The Christians who count themselves among Trump’s fans could do what they claim they do so well: pray. They could ask their God for enlightenment, for peace, for balance and calm, and perhaps their God will bestow upon them those very qualities, all of which are antithetical to the massive anger and rage it would take to fuel an armed uprising.
Beyond Trump’s supporters, there remains a shrinking core of adults within the Republican Party: people like the Bush family, John Kasich, John McCain, Mitt Romney. Granted, these are the very Republicans who have been chased out of the party, chiefly by the insulter-in-chief, Trump; they’ve been vilified and effectively purged from Republican ranks…for now. If bad things do start happening after the election, if not before, these are the politicians who will have to stand publicly and aver their allegiance to law and order, their willingness to compromise with President Hillary Clinton, and declare their absolute opposition to the worst of the evangelical-tea party cabal that wants to take their losing cause to the streets. They will have to do so with no ands, ifs or buts…no distracting disparaging of Hillary Clinton…just a forceful j’accuse! against the tea party and its evangelical enablers.
Unfortunately, these Republicans I named—the Bushes, Kasich, Romney, McCain–are totally out of favor among rightwing radicals, who will not listen to them, and would in any case accuse them of treason were they to say anything remotely critical of the Trump movement. Then who else is left to talk to the radical right and get them to calm down, to put away their guns and work within the system?
Well, it’s not going to be the current Republican leadership in the Congress: McConnell, Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, all of whom have proven that they’re craven midgets who lack the cojones to stand up to the crazies in their party. Nor is it going to be the diminishing crowd of intimate advisors surrounding the beleaguered Trump—people like Giuliani, who has finally emerged from years of out-of-power white male resentment into full-fledged fascism. Nor the hapless Chris Christie, who still hopes, in his fantastical heart-of-hearts, to be in some never-to-happen Trump Cabinet (but has far more of a chance to land in jail for perjury concerning Bridgegate). The sad fact is there are no top Republicans in a position to stop the impending mess, because they abandoned their moral moorings (and their credibility) long ago.
The Republican clergy. Yes, that’s right, the Christian pastors, and especially the evangelicals. They appear to be the only ones who retain any credibility among that crowd. Although they’re the exact ones who have been among those most responsible for whipping up this insane fury against Hillary, against Obama, against Democrats, in the first place, they could ironically prove to be the peacemakers. Nixon, the arch anti-Communist, went to Red China, met with Mao, and changed the course of history. Likewise these evangelical preachers could be the first to talk to their flocks and tell them that they cannot shed blood—God will not allow it—they will go to Hell if they fire upon their brothers and sisters. (It’s “render unto Caesar” time, Christians!)
That would be a huge stretch for these preachers. They’ve not been known for courage, or truthfulness—quite the opposite. But the rubber is hitting the road, my friends, and it may be time for rightwing clergy to throw the balm of common sense onto the incendiarism they helped spark. If, that is, they have any hope for saving their own souls.
TOMORROW: Why is Wikileaks going after Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump? An analysis
Following his landslide loss in the election, Trump threatened to take his self-declared “movement” to the streets—a threat taken in earnest by his die-hard supporters, who warned of “revolution” and “civil war” were he to go down to defeat.
Which, of course, he did. Hillary Clinton garnered 391 electoral votes to Trump’s 147, and won the popular vote by 54.5%. The networks declared Clinton the winner early in the evening: NBC was first (at 5:27 p.m. eastern time), followed by CNN and CBS moments later. ABC was the outlier; the Disney-owned company did not declare for Hillary until 6:12 p.m.
At 5:46 p.m., Trump took to his usual media platform, Twitter, to declare that the election had been “rigged” and the result “stolen.” He urged his supporters to “let Crooked Hillary and her friends in the elite media know they can’t get away with this disgusting theft of your freedom!”
The first large pro-Trump demonstrations were reported in Atlanta, Georgia, whose 16 electoral votes went to Clinton by the narrow margin of 1.2%. Protestors, almost all of them white, massed on Peachtree Street. Police estimated the crowd size initially at 2,500, but it grew quickly, and by midnight, at least 25,000 demonstrators had blocked streets and highways, setting fires and smashing store windows. The downtown headquarters of Hillary Clinton for President were burned to the ground.
Protests across the country quickly multiplied, with the following cities reporting huge demonstrations by 2 a.m. Wednesday: Pittsburgh PA, Lawrence KS, Dallas TX, Frankfurt KY, Tallahassee FL, Cheyenne WY, Lincoln NE, Tulsa OK, Tucson AZ, Sacramento CA and dozens of others. Governors in 17 states called out their National Guards. The first casualties were reported in Council Bluffs, IA, where seven demonstrators and three policemen were killed in gunshot exchanges. By dawn on the day following Election Day, large parts of 142 American cities were in flames, and the death toll had risen to 360.
Throughout the night’s chaos, Trump kept up a steady barrage of tweets, some 176 by dawn. Here is a typical one, issued at 3.42 a.m.:
UNBELIEVABLE SUPPORT FROM ALL OVER AMERICA! DON’T LET HILLARY STEAL THIS! MARCH! SEIZE POWER!
By 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Trump had set up his own media headquarters at Trump Tower, where he broadcast continually on Twitter and Facebook. By then he had shed the dark suit and tie he usually wears for a military uniform. At 9:42 he announced the formation of a “Provisional American Government” (P.A.G.) because, he said, “Our existing government has failed, and proven it cannot defend the rights of the American people against the usurpations of power by Crooked Hillary Clinton and her aiders and abetters in both the Democrat and Republican parties.” Moments later, Trump announced he had appointed former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani to be “Minister of Defense” for the new government.
At a 10:15 a.m. press conference, Giuliani, wearing military-style garb similar to Trump’s, announced that the new Provisional Government was immediately beginning to draft men and women between the ages of 18 and 45 years “to form the backbone of a National Militia to ensure that Donald J. Trump is recognized as President of the United States of America.” Giuliani urged volunteers for the Militia to “gather up your guns and firearms and report to Trump Enlistment Centers” that had been set up overnight in dozens of cities and towns. By 5 p.m. that day, some two hundred thousand “Militiamen” had been inducted. Each swore an oath “to our sacred honor, to our country, and to President Trump.”
Meanwhile, Barack Obama—still the sitting President—addressed the American people in a broadcast at noon Wednesday that was covered by all the major television and radio media. He pronounced “a state of national emergency to protect domestic tranquility and the rule of law” and said that future demonstrations, if violent, would be met by “irresistible force.” The first major confrontation following his pronouncement occurred in Helena, Montana, where some 6,000 Trump supporters, most of them in western gear and carrying firearms, overwhelmed local police. Montana Governor Steve Bullock, asked by the Obama Justice Department to mobilize the state’s National Guard, refused. In turn, Obama, acting on a request from his Attorney-General, Loretta Lynch, ordered U.S. troops from Fort Missoula and Fort William Henry Harrison, two military installations in Montana, to Helena. By 3 p.m. the U.S. troops had fully engaged with the demonstrators, now joined by the Montana National Guard, which threw its support to the Trump camp. Full-scale fighting between the two sides erupted.
By nightfall, that scenario was played out in 34 States and 511 cities. At one point, CNN estimated that upwards of 200,000 individuals were actively “at war with each other,” with pro-Hillary Clinton protestors now taking up their own arms to combat pro-Trump activists. The death toll, CNN estimated, was “in the low thousands, and rising.”
At 1:15 a.m. on the Thursday following Election Day, Obama renewed his declaration of National Emergency and announced a 5 p.m.-9 a.m. curfew “in all areas of the country where active fighting is occurring.” Fighting continued throughout the next five days, with a defiant Trump leading his side’s efforts. Around noon on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in, tweeting that “Donald Trump apparently won the U.S. election but is having his victory stolen by the enemies of democracy.” Putin ordered Russian’s military forces to their highest alert level in 27 years. Troop concentrations were reported in eastern Silberia, opposite the Alaskan coast, and on Russian’s borders in Eastern Europe. Russia recalled its ambassador to the U.S. “for consultations.”
Exactly when the first dirty bomb went off in the U.S. has been difficult to ascertain, as multiple ones exploded more or less simultaneously in 30 cities on Thursday afternoon. ISIS immediately took credit. From his headquarters, Trump tweeted about “Hillary/Ryan/Obama dirty bombs! Disgusting! Jail her!” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sent 1,200 National Guard troops to seize Trump Tower and “remove Mr. Trump by any necessary means,” but by then, the luxury apartment building was being protected by some 20,000 Trump supporters, and the National Guard was unable to get through. Some 400 died in the ensuing battle.
As of today (Dec. 9), the situation has not been clarified. Fighting and killing have diminished, to some extent, but the animosity between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces seems likely to grow. Meanwhile, just this morning, the Governors of Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Indiana and Nebraska released a joint proclamation, stating they are “in active discussions pursuant to a formal withdrawal from the United States of America, to join forces with the Provisional American Government under President Trump.” Where things go from here is anyone’s guess.
An evangelical preacher and a conservative billionaire walk into a bar…
It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but there’s no punch line, really, just a sort of nostril-pinching stench to the whole affair. The preacher would be Dr. James Dobson, founder of “Focus on the Family,” who said that gay marriage signals “the fall of western civilization,” who called Obama “one of the worst presidents in American history,” a “tyrant…reckless and defiant,” who said that women who suffer from domestic violence from their male spouses “deliberately bait [their] husbands until they hit her,” who caused a university professor to be fired for teaching evolution, who sided with Jerry Falwell that the issue of global warming “is a tool of Satan being used to distract churches”—–this same Dobson now claims to know personally that Trump “recently [has] come to accept a relationship with Christ and [is] now a baby Christian.”
Trump as born-again Christian? Look, anything is possible. Perhaps Saint Donald really did have a road-to-the-White-House moment, falling to to his knees, renouncing the rampant sexual rage that has fueled him all his life, and accepting Jesus into his heart. Perhaps—or maybe he simply realized that pretending to be a Christian was his only conceivable chance.
Do you believe him? Even if it’s true, is that really a recommendation to vote for him—or a reason not to? Personally, I think Trump is the most devious and manipulative candidate I’ve ever seen in American politics, including Richard Nixon. He will say anything, no matter how ridiculous, no matter how easily disproved, in order to gain the slightest advantage in this election. He has no core beliefs, no diehard principles, except to advance the cause of Donald J. Trump—which cause apparently includes the right to grab a pretty girl’s pussy.
In truth, the rock-solid evangelical wall of support for Trump isn’t as firm as it was just a week ago, before the “pussy” video was released. Yesterday there were scattered reports of defections by evangelicals from the Trump campaign. The editorial director of the major Christian publication, Christianity Today, even conceded that Christian “enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus Christ is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us…”.
Count me in as one of those doubtful neighbors! It is patently clear that Trump is the antithesis of everything that evangelicals claim to believe in. It’s also patently clear that this hypocrisy doesn’t bother most of them in the least. Why not? Their “deep aversion to Hillary Clinton” is stronger than their aversion to Trump’s character. Well, to begin to fathom this, you might re-read my blog from yesterday, but really, there is no fathoming, no logical or rational understanding, to explain how allegedly God-fearing Christians can vote for a man so obviously devoid of moral character. There is, however, late-breaking evidence that evangelical women finally are seeing Trump’s true character and are “waking up” to the horror of his “locker room banter.”
We can only hope that increasing numbers of such evangelical women will whisper into their husbands’ ears that Trump really is a truly awful human being, and that even if they—the husbands—are inclined to support him, the wives are asking for a big favor this one time: please, honey, don’t.
Women are preferring Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by huge, unprecedented margins, while men prefer Trump, although by margins far less, according to data collected by fivethirtyeight.com.
|CBS News||Clinton +18||Trump +11|
|CNN||Clinton +14||Trump +4|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||Clinton +24||Trump +7|
|Fox News||Clinton +10||Trump +7|
|Google Consumer Surveys||Clinton +13||Trump +3|
|Ipsos/Reuters||Clinton +9||Clinton +5|
|Morning Consult||Clinton +6||Clinton +4|
|PRRI/The Atlantic||Clinton +33||Trump +11|
|Quinnipiac University||Clinton +20||Trump +12|
|Rasmussen Reports||Clinton +11||Clinton +2|
|USC Dornsife/LA Times||Clinton +9||Trump +14|
|YouGov||Clinton +15||Trump +2|
|Average||Clinton +15||Trump +5|
Why women are turning against Trump is pretty obvious, and it’s not only because Hillary stands to become the first woman ever to be elected (or even nominated) to be President of the United States, the ultimate smashing of the glass ceiling. It’s also because Trump is a moral, sexist pig, and just about every woman has had experience with that dreadful sort of man.
I’m not a woman, and it took me a while to understand what too many of them go through with respect to groping, leering, lecherous assholes. Decades ago, when I was a young, oblivious man, I was a short-order cook at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Brattleboro, Vermont. Several of my female friends were waitresses. As we lived in the same town twenty miles away, we used to carpool. One night, after work, I cleaned up the kitchen and went out to the restaurant area where the women were getting ready to leave. One of my friends, Wendy, seemed upset. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that a customer, a young man, had given her a really hard time. “When I asked him ‘What’ll it be?’, he said, ‘You, baby.’”
Well, I didn’t quite get why that was so upsetting, and I said so. That’s when all three of my lady friends gave me a lecture I never forgot about unwelcome sexual approaches towards them by men. We had a thirty-minute car ride back home, and on it, they poured out all of their buried angst, anger, frustration and grief.
I never forgot that. I think we men probably can’t fathom what it’s like—most of us, anyhow. We can try to be empathic, but it’s hard. But when women listen to Trump doing his vile thing on that infamous tape, they get it, bigtime. Trump is every pig who ever insulted them, groped them, said nasty things about them. He is every man who objectified them, saw them as nothing but pieces of meat, nice legs and great tits and awesome asses and grabable pussies. Women know, through long experience, about that kind of man, that if he’s that way with women, then he’s probably an asshole in other aspects of his life. And that is why so many of them have turned against Trump.
But questions remain. Why are there still millions of women who love Trump and will vote for him? Here, I’m no longer sure. Maybe they feel like his personal behavior, reprehensible though it may be, has nothing to do with what a President Trump would accomplish, were he to be elected. Maybe some percentage of them suffers from internalized misogyny, a form of self-hatred that can be difficult to discern within oneself. And, of course, there’s a particularly bitchy form of hatred for Hillary that comes from women. I can’t begin to fathom that one, but I know it’s out there.
But how about those men who will vote for Trump over Hillary? Here we have a trove of psychological complexity. Some of them will vote for Trump simply because he’s male, and they—being of the same moral character as Trump, talking about women the same way—identify with him. Certainly, many of these Trump men strongly support him because they loathe Hillary Clinton, which is a form of mental lllness in itself. Some of them respond to Trump’s vaguely-defined “authoritarianism” by which he portrays himself as strong and decisive. These are characteristics men like to think they, themselves, possess, and they like that kind of perceived strength in their leaders. Never mind that Trump’s “solutions”—to immigration, to ISIS and terrorism, to America’s complicated role in the world, to just about any issue you can name—are vague to the point of non-existent. Never mind that he would probably be a disaster with our allies. Men who would vote for Trump don’t analyze issues, they respond emotionally—and many of them are really still thirteen years old, psychologically, and want to do naughty things their parents forbade. Voting for Trump is the ultimate naughty thing they can do.
At any rate, we don’t know how this election is going to turn out. The polls are irrational: Fivethirtyeight.com gives Hillary an 83.5% chance of winning now, but just two months ago, she and Trump were neck to neck, and even a month ago, just before the first debate, he was closing in on her. So who knows? Something might happen: Hillary’s health, some email revelation, an asteroid strike on Chappaqua. I don’t think so, but you never know.
Still, I suspect Hillary will win (you probably do, too), and when she does, it will be the women of America who will have elected her. As for those men—look, I like men, I am a man, I identify with men, I like to drink in bars, I like going to ball games, I like gyms and lockerrooms, I curse and swear like a sailor. I “get” the guy thing…to a point. Where I break ranks with my gender is when they’re so stupid, so willfully ignorant and irrational, that they think with their peckers instead of with their brains. And that’s how Trump males roll.
Retro Cellars is a good winery and they make good Petite Sirah, with both a Napa Valley and a Howell Mountain appellation. I always gave them pretty high scores: generally low 90s, and always with a Cellar Selection recommendation. Petite Sirah is, of course, a very particular wine; you have to be in the mood for this rather heavy, full-bodied variety. With winter fast approaching, it’s a great choice for full-bodied stews and roasts. Anyhow, Retro sent me two new 2012s to review, so here we go.
Retro 2012 Petite Sirah (Napa Valley), $40, alcohol 14.5%. It’s nice to think that I would have known this was Petite Sirah even without actually knowing it (which I did), because of the color. There’s no other California wine this black, and I do mean black, with an utterly impenetrable core. Even at the rim, there’s barely any color, maybe 1/32nd of an inch of garnet. The wine smells as dense as it looks, offering up heaps of blackcurrants, with hints of espresso, violets, unsweetened dark chocolate, grilled meat bone and graphite, with a jacket of sweet, toasted oak. In the mouth, no surprises! Big, luscious, thick in tannins, huge in blackcurrants, with a spicy finish. Serious wine, mind you, port-like for a cold winter night, if a little soft. Yes, the tannins are formidable. But they’re sweet, ripe tannins, not the numbingly hard kind, so I wouldn’t mind drinking this wine tonight. Still, it will age for many years, not necessarily getting “better” (whatever that means), but shedding sediment and seemingly gaining sweetness. Score: 93 points.
Retro 2012 Old Vine Elevation Petite Sirah (Howell Mountain), $50. They call it “Elevation” because it’s the mountain wine, as opposed to the regular Petite, which is from Pope Valley. The official alcohol is 13.4%, but it doesn’t taste delicate, the way a 13.4% Pinot Noir would. It’s a big wine, drenched in 100% new French oak for thirty months. That’s a lot of wood, but the wine handles it deftly, because the fruit—blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants—is so incredibly concentrated. The tannins are bigtime, too. There are all sort of complexing tastes: anisette, dark chocolate shavings, charred beef, prosciutto, and exotic spices: cinnamon, clove, pepper, cardamom. How is it different from Retro’s Napa Valley Petite Sirah? It’s not really. A tad more intense, more focused, better structured. Well, those are the sorts of things you pay extra for. In this case, an additional ten bucks is worth it. Interestingly, 60% of the blend comes from the Park Muscatine Vineyard, which dates to the 1890s, which must also account for the wine’s unusual depth. It’s terrific to drink now with something rich, like short ribs, and it will age for at least twenty years, softening over time as it sheds sediment. Score: 94 points.
Political parties in America are remarkably hardy. They have proven themselves to be adaptable to the most far-ranging circumstances. The Republican Party has gone through many crises since its founding (in 1854). It has enjoyed periods of near-monopolistic control (1860-1912) and periods when it seemed like an endangered species (1932-1952). The party has swung from far right to moderate and back again, depending on the exigencies of the moment. Currently, it’s undergoing what David Gergen calls “a civil war” between its rightwing extemists and more “moderate” traditionalists. Democrats are enjoying this particular battle—I certainly am!—but before we break out the champagne we should keep in mind that this GOP is wily and will likely regroup after Trump’s defeat.
My younger readers might not understand how the Republicans got into their current predicament, so let me tell you about the last 45 years. When Richard Nixon ran for re-election in 1972, he realized he had no hope of winning the Black vote, which is essential to capturing the big cities of America. Therefore he developed “the southern strategy,” a thinly-disguised appeal to racism below the Mason-Dixon line. It worked; the Solid South, formerly Democratic, turned Republican, and remains that way.
The appeal to whites, particularly white males, continued throughout the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. The latter was not an especially conservative Republican, although he had to play nice with evangelicals (whom he disliked personally) and anti-abortion types (with whom he and his wife, Barbara, disagreed). Around this time—the late 1980s and early 1990s—the Republican Party made a fateful decision: it cast its political lot with evangelicals, to put together the coalition that elected George W. Bush twice. But in so doing, it empowered the fringe Christian right, who actually raised to power insane men such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee.
These people, the most extreme rightwingers, were emboldened enough during Bill Clinton’s presidency to impeach him. Fortunately, the American people—even many Republicans—realized that the right had vastly overreached. They continued to support Clinton by great majorities, which is why the Senate eventually failed to convict him. But the rightwingers had proven their power; they were just getting started. For the last twenty years, they’ve been busy little bees, taking over state houses and state legislatures; and their consistent message has been one of hatred against Democrats—a hatred that went on steroids with the election of our first Black President, Barack Obama.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the biggest problem with the Republican Party is that it doesn’t have the courage to stand up to the evangelicals. Many if not most clear-thinking Republicans believe that evangelicals are nuts. Donald Trump, for example, knows that the world was not created 6,000 years ago. He knows that Adam and Eve didn’t play with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden, and that the Grand Canyon was not created by Noah’s flood. He knows that the world with all its marvels wasn’t made in six days, and that science is the best way to explain and understand the universe. In his private moments (and perhaps a tape recording will surface), he, like most wealthy New Yorkers, thinks that evangelicals are redneck rubes he would never invite to his and Melania’s parties.
And make no mistake, it has been evangelicals who have driven the Republican Party off the cliff. They’re ignorant, yes, and stubborn as mules, and they celebrate their own lack of education. But they vote, and have provided the tipping point in electing Republicans for several decades now, so they have to be courted. People like Donald Trump have to pretend to respect them. But this merely emboldens the evangelicals even more: it makes them think they’re more powerful and numerous than they really are. That, in turn, causes them to raise the stakes: no on abortion, no on gay rights (despite what the Supreme Court says), no on a separation of church and state, no on taxes for billionaires, no on science, no on climate change, no on diplomacy—no on the very things that, if enacted into law, would actually benefit them and their families. It’s been a question on the Left for years: how come these Republicans vote against their own interests and the interests of their parents and children?
The answer is simple. Their thinking process is so messed up, by the superstitions and malice of their religion, that they’re no longer capable of sane decision-making. That’s a terrible thing to accuse them of, I know. I have evangelicals in my family. They are wonderful people—they’d give you the shirt off their back. They give to charity, they generally are good parents, they are loyal patriots who love their country, they are law-abiding citizens. Let’s give them their due.
But when it comes to intellectual clarity, they are a most diseased demographic. Their rejection of science indicates something seriously wrong with their frontal lobes. This is not a disease caused by germs or viruses or accidents; it is a self-inflicted mental sickness. But humans have free will. Nobody can force somebody else to be rational.
There’s probably a rock-solid 20%-25% of the American public that’s evangelical and isn’t about to change. What the Republican Party has to do, if it wants to live, is clean house, and the first thing to get thrown out must be evangelicals. This will cause an uproar, for sure, especially in the reddest of the red-state Bible belt: Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, etc. The preachers will go insane and so will their pet congressmen. Limbaugh will be foaming at the mouth, and fox “news” will go on a rampage, especially the Vaticanistas like Hannity and O’Reilly. David Gergen’s “civil war” might just erupt for real and manifest itself in riots. But it has to be done. These evangelicals are a cancer on the Republican Party, as they are on the country, and as with any cancer, the only way to help the patient survive is to excise it.