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On the eve of destruction, Republicans turn against each other

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With little ammunition remaining to fend off the impending disaster to their party and candidate, Republican Trump supporters are resorting to the most specious and rhetorical of arguments. Consider, for instance, the Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn.

He’s a longtime columnist for the newspaper, which allows us to take a peek at his track record. Gay marriage? After the Supreme Court’s historic decision approving it, McGurn, an avowed Catholic, was in full poopy-pants mode: “A triump for gay rights but not for democracy,” he opined, with lip-licking malice.

Global warming? According to McGurn, President Obama—who just a week ago presided over the strongest climate-change agreement in history, the Paris accord—has “squelch[ed] further inquiry” into the science (!!!!!) of climate change, because he (Obama) chooses to believe the 99.5% of climate scientists who believe in it, not the .05% of Republican hacks who don’t.

But I digress! Onto All Things Trump! Let’s look at McGurn’s column from yesterday, entitled “The Cheap Moralizing of Never Trump.” He attempts to dismiss the anti-Trump movement by, essentially, insulting its adherents. How? First, he says that calling Trump “coarse and boorish” is only to be expected from Democrats: “It’s an old argument for the left.” But, as he’s sadly forced to concede, “Republicans are now hearing it from the right as well.”

This is an inconvenient truth. No longer can McGurn simply vilify Democrats. Now, his own party—large segments of it—has joined the anti-Trump parade. What’s a conservative columnist to do? Instead of claiming that Trump isn’t “coarse and boorish” (how could McGurn? Trump is), McGurn instead deflects the argument by focusing on the insinuation (by the anti-Trump crowd) that Trump’s supporters must be “evil…or…invincibly stupid.”

Well, I’ll give him that. There is a belief on the left (which I share) that anyone who would vote for Trump at this point is, somehow, mentally unhinged. Now, I won’t use the word “evil” because its definition is too tricky, but I do believe Trump voters are “stupid.” (“Invincibly” is a nice writer’s word but I’m not sure there are degrees of stupidity when it comes to bad political choices). Not all Republicans are stupid, and not all evangelicals are stupid; but those Christians who believe in the literal inerrancy of the bible are stupid, and I’ll tell you why.

There are different types of intelligence, according to the respected American psychologist, Howard Gardener, who, in 1983, listed them. Several aren’t relevant here (natural intelligence, musical intelligence, spatial intelligence, etc.) but the most important one, from the point of view of what makes for a good citizen, is logical intelligence. This is what fuels the process of reason; it enables people to discern the truth of things, as opposed to being misled by fantasy, superstition, ignorance and deceitfulness.

In this sense, evangelicals (and apparently Trump himself) have proven they aren’t as logically intelligent as are Americans who actually believe in science. We are blessed, in this modern era, to have the greatest array of scientific knowledge ever collected in the history of mankind; and scientific knowledge is a good thing. It helps us in every aspect of life, has resulted in the healthiest, most progressive human culture ever. (Whether we’re happier is another story…) It therefore follows that anyone who rejects scientific knowledge, as evangelicals do, has a mental problem; labeling them “stupid” is harsh, but we have to call a spade a spade. When it comes to logical intelligence, they really are stupid.

McGurn’s argument is so thin and specious, it could have been expressed in two sentences. But that’s not enough to fill an entire column, so, for the rest, he puts on his pit bull costume and goes after—who else?—Hillary Clinton, with the usual B.S.: she “lies” (no proof offered), her “public life has been a series of scandals” (courtesy of who? McGurn’s Republican Party, which has smeared Hillary for 25 years and come up with absolutely nothing), she would be “a third term for disastrous Obama policies.” Maybe someone forgot to tell McGurn that President Obama’s approval rating is consistently in the low- to mid-fifties, whereas his predecessor, George W. Bush, had an approval rating of only 34% just prior to leaving office. Americans therefore strongly disagree with McGurn: they believe in large numbers that Obama has been an excellent President. This is further corroborated by the polls, in which Hillary Clinton is poised to win red states: Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada; and even Alaska, Texas and Georgia are turning pink! Clearly, Americans do not feel like Obama has been a disaster; quite the contrary. If Hillary Clinton governs as well as Obama has, most of us would welcome it.

So McGurn is struggling. Even the arch-conservative Jonah Goldberg—son of Lucianne Goldberg, one of Bill Clinton’s nemeses, a tattling gossip who did her best to bring Bill Clinton down—assaulted McGurn in yesterday’s National Review. He did so rather anemically, but still, the fact that these two radical rightwingers, McGurn and Goldberg, are at war is further proof of how Trump has been a bomb in the Republican Party, blowing it up, turning it against itself, and exposing for all the world to see its internal incoherence.

 


When Hillary wins, who will convince Trumpsters not to wage civil war? Hint: It’s not who you think

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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.

Then who?

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


Evangelical women could hold the key to electing Hillary

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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.


For the Republican Party find its way back, it has to get rid of evangelicals

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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.


Repubs show classic Freudian avoidance behavior, try to distract from Hillary’s surge

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In Freudian psychoanalysis, there’s a defense mechanism, called reaction formation, in which emotions and impulses which are anxiety-producing or perceived to be unacceptable are mastered by exaggeration (hypertrophy) of the directly opposing tendency.” (Wikipedia) One example of reaction formation is Stockholm Syndrome: when a hostage develops intense, positive feelings for his or her captor/s. Another is when closeted homosexuals bash gays; Roy Cohn was a classic example, but so have been any number of outed Republican politicians, such as Larry “Wide Stance” Craig, the disgraced, homophobic former Republican Senator from Idaho, who was caught soliciting in a men’s room.

Reaction formation is something politicians sometimes do when they’re afraid they’re on the losing side of an election and they want/need to distract attention from their losing positions and perhaps convince themselves they’re doing okay. Such was the case in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, where the op-ed page could be used in a Psych 101 class, so filled was it with different kinds of reaction formations. But first, a little background.

Nate Silver’s highly respected fivethirtyeight.com website has had Hillary Clinton on a real roll lately. Since the first Presidential debate, her chances of getting elected have soared, from 54.8% to 78.8% as I write (Thursday afternoon). This is clearly scary for Republicans. It is information that is anxiety-producing or perceived to be unacceptable” for them, and therefore must be hidden by “the directly opposing tendency,” which is to rachet up their attacks on Democrats. The psychological hope, I suppose, is that WSJ readers (who tend to be conservatives) will be reassured that the Republican Party is sticking it to Democrats—even as that Republican Party is headed towards near-certain doom in the election.

So what do we find on the op-ed page? A deplorable basket of stuff that’s really phony, even for the Wall Street Journal. Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a bumpy ride!

Aleppo is Obama’s Sarajevo, by Daniel Henninger. A desperate smear of the President by a dreadfully partisan columnist. Henninger is actually trying to pin the Syrian war on Obama, which nobody believes except for red state ignoramuses and neocons. This is in line with Trump’s love-fest for Putin. Henninger will never admit that George W. Bush caused the Syrian war to happen when he criminally invaded Iraq and caused chaos across the Middle East.

The FBI Treated Clinton With Kid Gloves, by Noel Francisco and James Burnham. To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, “Enough with the frigging emails already!” Nobody cares. That manufactured scandal’s shelf life ended weeks ago, but here’s the Wall Street Journal, desperately reaction-formationing this smear. Sad, really sad. The atmosphere in the Journal’s editorial room must be near suicidal.

ObamaCare’s Meltdown Has Arrived, by Andrew Ogles and Luke Hilgemann. The paper could have published this two years ago, one year ago, six months ago, three months ago—wait a minute, they did! Republicans have consistently lied about ObamaCare’s success in insuring tens of millions of Americans. This “meltdown” myth is so transparently fake, you have to wonder why the Journal felt yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act is needed at this time. But then, that’s the essence of reaction formation: the actual choice of behavior doesn’t matter. What counts is coming up with something, anything to deflect the pain of something as “anxiety-producing and unacceptable” as Trump’s crash in the polls.

And here, in a way, is my favorite, from the ever-dependable Karl Rove:

Trump Sorely Needs a Debate Win. Ole Karl must have had a really bad day if this is the best he could come up with. My little dog, Gus, could have told me that!

See the pattern? The Wall Street Journal is panicking. The center is not holding. Republicans see the handwriting on the wall—the disaster they have foisted upon themselves—and the only thing they can do about it is bury their heads in the sand and come up with ludicrous avoidance behaviors to mask the pain. Unfortunately, as Freud himself warned, reaction formation solves nothing. It merely pushes the anxiety down deeper, where it can manifest itself in truly harmful ways.


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