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Civil War, Hannity-style

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If Sean Hannity wants a civil war, he’s welcome to have one. He ranted on his radio program that, if Mueller indicts Trump, “[Mueller] is going to ignite a battle that we’ve not seen in this country before.” Hannity was talking directly to his white supremacist base when he called the Special Counsel “pompous…arrogant…power hungry and corrupt.”

 Wow. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. I suppose Rupert Murdoch believes a civil war will be good for Fox’s ratings.

I wonder just how Hannity expects his “civil war” to unfold. Let’s assume for the moment (a wonderful assumption!) that Mueller levels criminal charges against Trump for, say, obstruction of justice, which is an impeachable offense. You would have roughly one-third of the country furious about that; Trump’s ringleaders, including Hannity, Alex Jones, Wayne LaPierre and the evangelist rabble-rouser, Franklin Graham, would egg their credulous listeners on with charges of “deep state,” “Crooked Hillary” and “rogue F.B.I.” There would be fire and fury across the Right; the survivalist-neo-nazi types would stock up on canned foods and dust off their camo clothes.

And then what would happen? Nothing. Some paintball games in the woods, some meetings, lots of theats on social media. I mean, what is the Right actually going to do, form illegal militias and storm state capitols? In their dreams. Within weeks, I predict, their little movement will run out of steam.

Because an indictment, after all, would not be the end of the story. In itself, an indictment means nothing. The only thing that would really mean anything is for impeachment hearings to begin in the House Judiciary Committee—a distinct possibility less than a year from now, when Democrats retake the Lower House (and possibly the Upper House as well).

Hearings would take weeks, at least; during that time, the neo-nazis likely would cool their heels (along with the rest of us), to see how things develop. The Judiciary Committee could vote not to adopt Articles of Impeachment against Trump, in which case the entire affair would fade away. Even if they voted for one or more Articles, the case would then have to be turned over to the Senate, for trial. And, as we’ve seen in our history, the Senate has never voted to convict and remove from office the only two Presidents who have been impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. There’s thus very little reason for the Right to overly-worry about the fate of their President.

Even if Trump manages to escape the hangman’s noose, the damage to his credibility will be profound. The media will not stop asking how he can govern with such a black cloud of embarrassment hanging over his head. His reputation will be tainted as the man who “got away” with colluding with the Russians. His presidency will forever be marked by an asterisk: “elected with the help of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.” It’s difficult to imagine how he could get anything accomplished; harder still to imagine him getting re-elected in 2020.

So I’m not taking this nonsense about a “civil war” seriously. Hannity is just being the jerk that he is: throwing red meat to the Pabst Blue Ribbon-guzzling ammosexuals who listen to him. We should treat these people like the immature men-children they are: let them throw their tantrums, let them do a little shooting to get it out of their systems, let them brood and whine all they want. It’s all sound and fury signifying nothing. What I am concerned with, and have been for some time, is that Trump’s flouting of the law will mushroom into an authoritarian regime that will be resisted by Democrats, but not by Republicans. The Trump family is mad for two things: money and power. Our democracy is fragile. As we’ve seen in countries as different as the Philippines, Turkey and Russia, one-man rule seems to be making a resurgence around the world. Donald J. Trump sees the same thing. What rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Have a lovely weekend!


Where the Mueller probe stands

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So Trump is a “subject” but not a “target” of Mueller’s investigation.

Trump’s most radical supporters are celebrating the news. On Breitbart, the comments are crazy, and entirely predictable: open complete exoneration investigation closed,” writes Zulu1. “This country on Edge and Distracted for almost a year—-
over this PHONY INVESTIGATION—–THANKS To Hillary, her Mob Syndicate & their Undeniable Corruption,”
writes Concern.

It’s Hillary Derangement Syndrome all over again!!!

Of course, it’s impossible to know if these Breitbart “commenters” are real human beings or Russian bots and trolls. Ultimately, there’s not much difference: Russian bots are created on Moscow bot farms to mimic real people in order to further the aims of the Trump family, the Republican Party, and Putin, all of whose goals overlap. Real, actual Breitbarters may technically be human, but years of unrelenting rightwing lies and propaganda have wrecked their minds. In a certain sense, they are no longer human, but mere reflecting pools for the Hannitys, Limbaughs and Alex Joneses of the neo-nazi alt.right.

More realistic voices aren’t quite as optimistic as Breitbarters. “If I were the president,” says Princeton professor Keith Whittington, “I would be very reluctant to think I’m off the hook.” Adds a former federal prosecutor, “If Trump’s lawyers know what they’re doing, they’ll tell him he’s still under great risk.”

Let’s hope so. The Mueller investigation, or what we know of it, is like a Rorschach test: one sees what one is predisposed to see. If you’re a real journalist, instead of the fake kind propagating on rightwing media, you have to remove your predispositions, as best you can, in order to perceive reality. And what we know of the Special Counsel’s probe, at this time, is that it continues to zero in on Trump, personally, his son, Donald Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as current or former aides, like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn and who knows how many others. We know, also, that the presence of smoke doesn’t necessarily prove the existence of fire, but where there’s so much smoke, it’s only logical to assume that there’s a big fire producing it.

So Trump is a “subject” of the investigation. In common criminal jargon, that makes him a “person of interest.” The cops or prosecuting attorneys believe that the person committed crimes, but they don’t currently have enough evidence to make an iron-clad case, so they keep digging away, looking for more evidence, hoping to “turn” co-conspirators. That’s the way the legal system works. It’s the way Mueller is working.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to stir the pot with nonsense. The Mexican caravan! Getting out of Syria! Lifting fuel standards on cars! Crooked Hillary (aren’t you getting tired of that slur?) Putting the Army on the southern border! And that’s just one day’s worth of distraction. Everybody with half a brain knows what he’s up to: smokescreens, red herrings, shiny objects, anything to divert America’s attention away from the probe.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter what Trump does. As relentlessly as erosion wears down mountains, Mueller continues to uncover, unearth and penetrate deeper into the heart of Trump’s suspicious activities, which increasingly look treasonous. So let Trump have his brief moments of phony celebration; let his enablers crow, the way the Breitbart bots are; let Trump continue to miscalculate that, by opposing and insulting Mueller and the Justice Department, he’s removing the rope from around his neck.

He isn’t. The more he jabs at it, the tighter it gets. Eventually, he won’t be able to breathe. That’s when we’re going to see what @RealDonaldTrump is capable of, when he’s fighting for his life. It’s not going to be pretty.


The Resistance: Our next step

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Trump is said to be emboldened. Rasmussen has his approvals ticking upwards (although Gallup doesn’t). After all the firings, he’s said to finally be feeling comfortable with his team, because they kiss the ring instead of speaking truth to power. He has a few victories in his pocket, including Gorsuch and the tax cuts, and a few impending, including what could be a very big story: a deal with Kim to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, which would put Trump into the history books.

Meanwhile, the Mueller probe hasn’t touched him, yet. That Dutch lawyer, van der Zwaan, just got thirty days in jail, and while Trump will scream “So what? No collusion! No obstruction!” this looks like Mueller’s test case for what is sentenceable. Van der Zwaan is small fry; Manafort et. al are the big fish leading to you-know-who. Still, Fox “News” will argue that van der Zwaan has nothing to do with Trump, and the red state simpletons will agree.

Yes, every once in a while there’s another mass shooting—yesterday’s, at YouTube, wasn’t far from where I live. But Trump doesn’t give a damn about them because he’s a sociopath, and his NRA fans don’t give a damn about them. So what if people are shot? Second Amendment! Second Amendment!

So Trump is feeling his oats. He’s been president now for going on fifteen months; he’s learning the ropes. He’s a natural optimist anyway: when things aren’t going well, he fights, but he always believes things will work out for him, because they always have. Donald J. Trump, in his own mind, is not a loser.

How do we deal with an authoritarian narcissist? One answer: The Resistance must continue. It’s not always easy. We’re in the same boat as those wonderful Parkland schoolkids. I just hope they have the stamina to outlast the relentless bullshit the rightwing is throwing at them. I think they do, and will. For the rest of us, being part of The Resistance has become part of our everyday lives. We do what we can. Contribute money, talk to our neighbors, stay active on social media. Trump’s strategy is to plow right through us. We can’t let him.

Why is it so important? Take it from me, an almost 72-year old man–born the same day and year as Trump–who’s seen a lot of U.S. history. We have a very good country, but it occasionally makes mistakes. Interning the West Coast Japanese during World War II was big mistake. Slavery and Jim Crow were insane. The institutional homophobia supported by both parties was wrong. The Iraq War weakened us in ways we can’t even fathom. The glorious thing about America is that, eventually, we see our errors, and do our best to correct them. I’m proud of that progress we’ve made in women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, environmental rights, workplace safety and at least trying to provide healthcare to all Americans through the Affordable Care Act.

But now we have this thing in the White House seeking to undo all that. There’s no way around the fact that he’s a nasty, deplorable human being. If you’re reading this, you know that. Paul Ryan knows it. Mitch McConnell knows it. Every single Republican in the U.S. Congress knows it. Their complicity is criminal, and one can only hope to see them someday sitting in the docket, before the judgment of History.

It is important to resist. Trump will have big moments when he and his crowd can crow about how great he is. But don’t take your eyes off the prize. The man is a danger, an embarrassment, the worst president in history. His moral failures, which Republicans give him a pass on, are indefensible. Spiritually, he is a catastrophe. Most of us wake up every day and try to be better human beings. Trump seems to wake up every day—if he even sleeps—determined to find new ways to insult, degrade and bully. You wouldn’t want him in your family (although you might want his money in your family!). You wouldn’t leave your teenaged daughter alone with him. You know he’s depraved.

This is America! It’s the only country we have. America is the light of the world, the city on a hill, the hope and prayer of humanity—or used to be, before the Trump era smeared it with wickedness. We can rescue our country, but only if we energize ourselves, and refuse to give in. This is an important moment. It’s a time to renew your commitment to fight this rogue regime and everything it stands for. Perhaps more importantly in the immediate future, it’s important for us to signal to Mueller that we, the American people, have his back.

More tomorrow.


Christianity saved Medieval England. It’s ruining modern America

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In the chapter called “English Monasticism,” in her little book, “England Before Elizabeth,” the Harvard and Cambridge scholar, Helen Cam, celebrates the “renaissance…of arts and letters” the Christian monasteries brought to Dark Ages Britain, starting with the Roman monks who came to Kent in 597, and culminating in the 12th century, when “the monastic impulse reached a force never known before or since.”

Prior to the coming of Christianity and the monks, the scattered kingdoms of the British island—Northumberland, Kent, Wessex, Mercia, Wales, Anglia—were more or less continually at war; as pagans, they had inherited the fading remnants of the Roman occupation, which ended in 407, when Constantine III removed his garrisons forever and returned to the Continent. Without Roman protection from “barbarians” such as the Danes and Swedes, villages and towns became fortified enclaves, isolated from one another behind walls and moats. Christianity was slowly spreading, but in arts and letters, the British isles remained laggards, compared with their distant relatives in Normandy, Italy and Spain.

The monks lit up the British skies with an amazing burst of creativity. “In the pagan and barbarous England…[monasteries] became…centres of learning, art and culture.” This period—from the seventh century onward—saw the rise of Gregorian chants, Christian poetry, the Lindisfarne Gospels (715-720, among the greatest illuminated manuscripts),

the gold and silver crafts of the monks of Ely, and of course the beginnings of the great cathedrals. “The story of monasticism in medieval England is one of high achievement,” Cam concludes.

How fortunate Europe was to have communities of Benedictines, Cistercians, Carthusians, Dominicans and other orders, who, while conservative in their Catholic beliefs, liberalized learning throughout the isles. Contrast that with today’s evangelical Christians in America (and abroad). From them, we see no advances in art, in music, in literature, in architecture, or in any other creative, humanistic endeavor. We see, instead, the opposite: a shutting down of learning. The medieval monks always were eager to expand their knowledge. Modern evangelicals are eager to censor knowledge, preferring instead to use the straitjacket of religious ideology to misinterpret the world.

It’s sad, very sad, how a religion as progressive, creative and extraordinary as Medieval Christianity has degenerated. Perhaps it’s inevitable: all things follow an arc of birth, ascendancy and decline. Christianity, of course, went on, in the Renaissance, to contribute some of the greatest artistic creations the world has ever known: the Sistine Chapel, the music of Bach, the paintings of Leonardo and Raphael. This was still a living, breathing, vibrant Christianity, one that yearned to express God’s mystical love through the physicality of beauty.

Alas, modern Christianity, at least in its evangelical form, has thrown all that away. Could anyone seriously describe evangelicism’s role in America as fostering “a renaissance in arts and letters”? What is the opposite of “a renaissance”? A “dark age,” I suppose, which is what fundamentalist Christianity is seeking to impose on our once thriving liberal democracy.

Religions, let us remember, do indeed die: gone for the most part are the beliefs of the Egyptians, Sumerians, Romans, Greeks, Celts, Aztecs and Incas. Gone, too, is the People’s Temple, Jim Jones’ disastrous cult in the jungle. American evangelical leaders understand that their movement is on its last legs; religions of superstition cannot survive in nations of education, prosperity and creative culture. This is why the evangelicals are turning to new founts of ignorance and poverty, particularly in Central Africa, to keep their cult alive. Only where the people are deprived of knowledge can demonstrably false beliefs be propagated.

Christianity will not fade away anytime soon; even the Catholic faith may experience a burst of growth, under the remarkable leadership of Pope Francis. But American evangelicism seems doomed, despite its last flickerings in the trailer parks and mega-churches of red states. Our arts and letters will continue to come from liberal, fair-thinking creators who—let’s face it—tend to be Democrats.


Trump and “Manliness”: A toxic brew

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“[A] startling masculine eruption in the White House” is how the Wall Street Journal editorialist, Tunku Varadarajan, describes the Trumpian testosterone that’s sloshing around the Oval Office.

Varadarajan, reviewing Harvey Mansfield’s book, “Maniliness,” argues that hyper-masculinity, of the sort he professes Trump to embody, is a good thing. No more “politically correct” Obama, as Varadarajan repeatedly called him. Finally, a tough, red-blooded, bare-knuckled American man in the White House!

At the same time, he, and Mansfield, are forced to acknowledge that there’s a powerful reaction against “the male patriarchy” in this country, a reaction that was already underway before Trump installed his version of masculinity to the presidency.

So Mansfield asks, “Is manliness [now] taboo?” His answer—and Varadarajan’s—is, “Yes, and more’s the pity.”

There’s background to this. The revolution in our culture since the liberation movements of the 1960s—women, gay, Black, Native American—has indeed harmed traditional male values, if by “harm” we mean “forcibly changed” and by “male values” we mean what even Mansfield calls the “rough and gross and discourteous” behavior of the kind Trump exhibits every day, and which his base adores.

But are we really supposed to mourn the downfall of “gross discourtesy,” of “baseness” and “belittling” behavior (both are Mansfield’s words) as illustrated by Trump’s juvenile insults (Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Low Energy Jeb, Crooked Hillary)? Are we to shrug off Trump’s “lamentable sexual reputation” (again, from Mansfield)? I don’t think so. I would argue that America is better off without these displays of “toxic masculinity” (Mansfield), which gets off by bullying women, gays, minorities, non-jocks, artistic types, intellectuals and foreigners, and now has finally achieved its apotheosis in Trump’s elevation.

As a gay man who came of age during the in-the-closet era, I can assure Varadarajan and Mansfield that America is far better off now that “toxic masculinity” has been summoned into the defendant’s docket. I’m not a big believer in bashing straight white males, most of whom are just poor schleps trying to get through this world unmauled. But there is a certain justification in the calls to “smash the patriarchy,” by which I mean an end to what Gloria Steinem calls “supremacy crimes” that run the gamut from a man beating his wife, to the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, to the schmuck who attacked a Muslim woman in an emergency room for wearing a headscarf, to the glass ceiling that even now prevents women in Silicon Valley from achieving pay parity with males.

For sure, straight white men are feeling the heat. They invented “History,” dominating the world for millennia, only to see their top-dog role eroding. Increasingly, they’re no longer allowed to be bullies, to prop themselves up by putting others down, to achieve through repression and violence what they cannot through persuasion. “Political correctness,” which the right hates, in this case means that the dominant class finally must assume a share of meekness of the sort they have historically demanded of their “inferiors.” Turnabout is fair play.

The end of bullying, the termination of “gross discourtesy” are developments to be celebrated. It is a puzzle to me that Mansfield laments the passing of “toxic masculinity.” It is with even vaster disgust that I see Varadarajan worshipping the crude, bullying vulgarity of Trump and his ilk. Does Varadarajan really believe that America would be better off if more men were chest-beating, assaultive thugs? Is there really something awful about a new type of man who is considerate, respectful, compassionate, liberal, thoughtful and tolerant? (If Barack Obama comes to mind, there’s a reason—the same reason Trumpists hate him.)

Apparently Varadarajan and Mansfield do believe that America would be a better country if all men were like Trump. But then, consider whom Tunku Varadarajan is. He works at The Hoover Institution, the West Coast’s premier bastion of rightwing, conservative ideology. Although his is a politer form of conservatism than, say, Breitbart’s or Hannity’s, it is no less cringe-worthy. Varadarajan, who was born in India, began his career at—where else?—the Wall Street Journal, the print equivalent of Rupert Murdoch’s rabidly reactionary Fox News. He does not seem to have started out as a doctrinaire tea party conservative. But, perhaps because of the rightwing circles in which he runs, or out of deference to the men who pay his salary, he has becoming increasingly illiberal.

He was heavily criticized for coining the phrase “going Muslim” (a play on “going postal”) after the Fort Hood shooting; some called his remarks “normalizing hate speech.” Varadarajan also dodges the legitimate question of whether Trump himself is an unrestrained bigot, or if, as seems obvious, the president stokes racism and xenophobia in his rural, poorly educated, white followers. In another op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, Varadarajan wrote, “I don’t propose to examine whether Mr. Trump’s America is more racist than the America that preceded it.” This surely is a dereliction of journalistic duty that suggests Varadarajan is afraid of what he would find were he truly to examine the question objectively. Of course Trump has unleashed bigotry in America. Charlottesville, where his supporters propounded the most awful anti-semitic, racist and xenophobic views, will eternally redound to Trump’s shame.

Trump’s elevation has empowered “toxic masculinity” in all the wrong people: the kind who used to lynch Blacks in the South, who refused to integrate Boston’s public schools, who murdered Matthew Shepard, who posted cartoons of the Obamas as monkeys, who put Hillary Clinton’s face on a gun target. Donald Trump may not have performed those misdeeds himself, but he egged on the people who did, who feel empowered by his tacit (and sometimes overt) encouragement. These people are “rough, gross and discourteous.” Far from being admirable, as Mansfield and Varadarajan allege, they are canker sores on the American body politic, and Donald Trump is the virus that caused them.


Girls’ Night Out

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It’s a little-known fact, but once a month, on a Friday night, a certain group of prominent women in Washington, D.C. gets together for drinks, eats and gossip.

The group, who call themselves “The Girls,” is non-partisan. It consists of Kellyanne Conway, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kamala Harris, Jane Harman, Sonia Sotomayor, Tammy Baldwin, and, occasionally, Rachel Maddow, if she’s in town.

The Girls usually get together at a local restaurant. Some of their favorites are Chef Goeffs, Le Diplomate and Blackfinn (whose Yin Yang Shrimp The Girls are addicted to).

Don’t ask me how I managed to get a tape recording of their latest gathering, last week, at Blackfinn. Let’s just say I have friends who have friends. Here’s how it went down.

All of The Girls, except for Melania and Ivanka, were already seated when Ivanka rushed in. “Sorry I’m late, ladies, but traffic was horrible!”

“Where’s Melania?” Sonia asked.

“She’s really bummed,” Melania replied. “All this business with Stormy Daniels and that other one, what’s her name, the Playboy bunny–?”

“McDougal,” Sarah said, arching a disapproving eyebrow. “Karen McDougal.”

“Yeah,” Ivanka said. “Melania just sits around all day and night in her snuggly-wuggly watching T.V.”

“Sad,” Kamala said. “She should snap out of it. No man is worth putting yourself through that much depression.”

“I know,” Ivanka said. “Anyhow, I need a drink! André?” André, the maître d’, came running up. The Girls are among his favorite and most important clients. “André, a Manhattan. Make it a double.”

When Ivanka had her drink, Jane clinked on her glass—of Chardonnay—and proposed a toast. “To us,” she smiled. “The Girls.”

“Here, here,” Tammy said. She was drinking a Molson, straight from the bottle. Kamala was working a Margarita, Sarah a bourbon Old Fashioned, Rachel a Hemingway (with her favorite Cuban rum), Sonia a triple sec. Kellyanne, who doesn’t imbibe, sipped a Shirley Temple.

They began with shared appetizers: Yin Yang Shrimp, deviled eggs, fish tacos, tuna poke, and Buffalo chicken flatbread. Rachel always insists on the Portobello quinoa, which she loves, but none of the other girls care for it. Kellyanne, who watches her weight, ordered a pear, blue cheese and arugula salad. The ritual after appetizers is always the same: a lively debate about entrées.

“Ooh, let’s split the pan-roasted chicken,” Sarah said, scanning the menu. Sarah loves chicken.

“We had that last time,” Tammy observed. “How about fried chicken?”

“I’m bored with chicken,” Ivanka said. “What do you ladies say about the New York strip steak?”

Sotomayor frowned. “I don’t know, Ivanka. I’m trying to watch my cholesterol.”

“Me, too,” said Sarah. “The doctor told me to limit my red meat.”

“Is your doctor Ronny Jackson?” asked Kamala, referring to the White House physician.

“Yeah,” Sarah said.

“He’s soooo hot,” Ivanka said. All The Girls giggled.

“No wonder your Dad loves him,” Jane said.

“He’s made for T.V.,” Ivanka said. “Dad loves good-looking people to work for him. That’s why he liked Rex.”

“Too bad that didn’t work out!” Kamala chimed in.

Around 10:30, The Girls were feeling good. Jane proposed that they order a final drink: Champagne. “If we split the bottle—without Kellyanne, of course—it’s only another glass.”

“Dad would kill me if he knew, but sure, let’s do it,” said Sarah. André brought the bottle: Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label. After André poured, Tammy clinked her glass, and said, “I want to toast us again. Even though we’re on different sides of the aisle, we can leave our differences behind and have a good time.”

“Girl power!” said Jane.

“True enough,” Ivanka said. “Too bad the men in this town are such testosterone victims.”

“Like your father?” Kamala asked. Ivanka didn’t answer for a while. Then, she said, “God, Kamala, you had to spoil a perfectly lovely evening with that bitchy remark.”

“What, your father isn’t a testosterone case?”

“It’s totally inappropriate for you to talk about him that way,” Ivanka replied. “He’s my father.”

“So what?” Sotomayor interjected. “Does that mean you have to stick up for him no matter what he says or does?”

Kellyanne, who was agitated, said, “Sonia, you have no right to criticize Ivanka for defending her father.”

There followed some loud arguing. The rest of the customers stopped their conversations to witness this bizarre altercation between some of the most famous women in Washington. Poor André didn’t know what to do. He just stood by, wringing his hands, when, all of a sudden there were Ooohs and gasps, and in through the front door burst Melania Trump, looking gorgeous in a white mini-dress by Gabriela Hearst.

“Better late than never!” she smiled to The Girls. “What did I miss?”

“Nothing,” Ivanka said. “We were just leaving.”

The Girls stood and gathered up their purses and cell phones. There were Ubers waiting outside, limos, and Secret Service SUVs. As they were leaving, Rachel turned to Melania and said, “Call me.”

Melania smiled wanly. “I will. I need someone to talk to.”

Rachel: “Don’t we all. Have a lovely weekend, Mrs. First Lady. And don’t let the bedbugs bite” And with that, The Girls disappeared into the warm, Spring Washington night.


Republicans and “the deep state”: What they really want

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The term “deep state” is the perfect image for a manipulative, secret and all-controlling bureaucratic-dictatorial government-within-a-government that might come straight out of an episode of “Homeland.”

The term is said to derive from the Turkish “derin devlet,” a “secretive…network…founded in 1923…with the purpose of undertaking clandestine acts to preserve the current governmental structure.” Its American version includes intelligence agencies, such as the C.I.A., F.B.I. and Homeland Security, and other governmental entities, such as the Cabinet and its various departments and bureaucracies; it, “controls state policy behind the scenes, while the democratically-elected process and elected officials are merely figureheads.”

Such a notion fits in well with the conspiratorial paranoia that lards through rightwing America, as evidenced on Breitbart, Fox News and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. It’s nonsense, of course: since the beginning of history, people have complained about “Government” being unaccountable to The People (indeed, that was the Jews’ complaint against Rome in the time of Jesus). Indeed, every revolution and civil war, including our own, made such claims. Republicans in particular say they loathe Big Government, except, of course, when it’s on their side. Twentieth century American politics can largely be explained as the struggle between a Democratic Party pledged to help the poor, the working class and minorities, and a Republican Party hopelessly in thrall to the billionaire class. Let’s not forget that it was Ronald Reagan—the Right’s modern god—who famously declared, “Government isn’t the solution, government is the problem.”

As I said, for Republicans, government isn’t a problem when it seeks to outlaw abortion, stomp on gay and minority rights, demolish unions, stop minimum wage laws, support polluting industries, lower taxes on the superrich, crush campaign finance laws, repress voter turnout, and allow Christian conservatives to run things, in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. These are the acts of government Republicans love; whenever they have the power, they enact laws that enable those ends. Still, the GOP can conveniently pretend that it is against “Government” and thus appeal to their muddle-headed, low-information supporters in red districts, whose resentments find a ready outlet in denunciations of government.

Any Republican with substantial experience in governance—Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are perfect examples—knows that “the deep state” is a cynical fiction. Yet it is a useful fiction. Political issues are complicated; tariff policy, for instance, takes experts to understand, and the last thing Republican voters are known for is their interest, much less expertise, in the wonky aspects of issues. Thus, “the deep state” is a convenient hot button for Republican propagandists: it stokes their voters’ pent-up anger and jealousy, and doesn’t ask them to understand anything: just to hate. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page is a classic example of this sleight-of-hand. Its editors are educated enough to understand the details on most issues, but their job isn’t to explain things to readers, it’s to drum up support for Republican politicians and preserve their—and Rupert Murdoch’s–hold on power.

So here comes the latest example of how the Wall Street Journal promotes a Breitbart lie about “the deep state.” From yesterday’s paper, it accuses “the bureaucracy” of being “unchecked,” and urges Trump to get rid of government employees who don’t care about “constitutional and limited government” and replace them “people [the administration] can trust.” It also calls for “term limits” on “electorally immune…bureaucrats.”

Can we call this what it really is, a rightwing purge? I mean, Trump should fire all government employees he doesn’t “trust” and replace them with devoted loyalists? Wow. Perhaps Trump can orchestrate his own Night of the Long Knives.

The op-ed’s author, J.T. Young, was a hack who worked for George W. Bush at O.M.B. and now writes for The Daily Caller, a rightwing online publication; in a recent piece, he bashes, Breitbart-like, the notion of “diversity,” suggesting that those who are concerned about the equitable representation of genders, sexual orientations and ethnicities in America are guilty of “absence of thought”!! In another screed, Young tows the predictable rightwing line by excoriating Obamacare (which has given more people health insurance than any modern insurance program in U.S. history), calling it “abysmal” and accusing “the media” (another rightwing target) of being “a relentless apologist” for reporting on the Affordable Care Act’s success.

It’s always amusing when a media writer like Young bashes “the media,” but let’s put that irony aside and get back to “the deep state.” There is none. Many government workers may indeed dislike and fear Trump, but what’s wrong with that? Government employees, like the rest of us Americans, are free to have whatever political views they want. Republican complaints about a “deep state” are in actuality attempts to disenfranchise government employees who happen to lean Democratic.

There are millions of federal, state, and local government employees, and they are your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister, your friends, possibly you. These people are not mindless, faceless bureaucrats, organized by Hillary Clinton to communize America and drive God from our shores. They are working-class folks; the government is us, and We are the government.

Surely part of the Congress’s job is to make government more efficient and effective. But to tell lies about a “deep state” to unstable people who already have trouble thinking rationally is merely to stoke the simmering embers of Red State America and fan them into a wildfire. Perhaps that’s what the Far Right and its heavily-armed N.R.A. members really want. The question is, Why?

 


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