Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why the GOP Still Hasn't Been Able To Repeal Obamacare

For seven years now, all we've heard from Republicans was how horrible the Affordable Care Act was and how they would do everything possible to repeal it. Occasionally, they would insert the word replace at the end to assuage concerns and to fool people into believing they were desirous of coming up with a genuine replacement. The fact is they never had any interest in a real replacement for the ACA and here's why: there isn't one and they know it.

Think about it: the entire thrust of the GOP argument is that Obamacare was a government takeover of the healthcare system; socialized medicine incarnate. The truth was anything but that. Though flawed, the law requires people who do not get their insurance through their employers to purchase insurance from private providers. If they cannot afford that insurance, they can either qualify for subsidies on exchanges or face a fine for non-compliance.

The winners are people on fixed incomes who have historically been priced out of the insurance market and were therefore relegated to hospital emergency rooms and overcrowded clinics for their healthcare; lower income people who now qualify for the Medicaid expansion provision in the law; and people who had pre-existing conditions that barred them from coverage or had policies with lifetime caps for the treatment of illnesses. The losers are small business owners and people who purchase their insurance on their own. Both saw their rates skyrocket since the law was enacted.

The biggest problem the ACA faces at the moment is stabilizing the exchanges, which everyone agrees are in jeopardy of collapsing altogether. Many insurers are pulling out of markets, leaving people with only one choice for health insurance. The reason for this is because the GOP blocked the funding that was going to insurance providers to compensate them for having to cover people with pre-existing conditions and debilitating diseases. That forced those providers to hike their rates to recover their losses. Simply restoring this funding would go a long way towards stabilizing these exchanges and incentivizing providers to go back into markets they had fled only a couple of years ago.

As for the rest of the problems the law has, a bipartisan approach, like the one Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Lamar Alexander were working on, could've begun to address them and deliver on the promise of affordable healthcare for all. But that effort was put on hold to allow yet another GOP hair-brained scheme to repeal the law; this one coming courtesy of Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham. John McCain's decision to vote no on the bill, along with Susan Collins and Rand Paul, who when he watches The Grinch Who Stole Christmas roots for the Grinch, means that this attempt, like the others, will likely fail.

But this failure will not deter the GOP. When you spend the better part of a decade demonizing the signature legislative achievement of your political rival, you've kinda boxed yourself into a corner. In essence, Republicans made a pledge to their base - a pledge that deep down they knew they couldn't fulfill - and now that base is holding them accountable for it.

But here's the thing: that pledge was based on a huge lie. As I started to write above, not only wasn't the Affordable Care Act a socialized takeover of the insurance industry, it was straight out of the conservative playbook, at least according to The Heritage Foundation, which in 1989 wrote a paper on what a healthcare law should look like. That paper became the boiler plate for two landmark pieces of legislation: one in Massachusetts, dubbed Romneycare after Republican governor Mitt Romney, who signed it into law in 2006, and the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare after Democratic president Barack Obama, who did likewise in 2010.

Both men sought a middle-ground solution to growing healthcare costs that ostensibly kept the private insurance market intact, while mandating that everyone purchase health insurance. The thought was that if everyone bought in, overall rates would go down or at least the rate of increase would slow a bit. It turned out to be the latter, though that slow down only applied to some. Others, as I mentioned before, saw their rates go through the roof.

How and why that happened should concern members of Congress at the moment, not spinning phony propaganda about a law that, had it been proposed by a Republican president, would've been enshrined in the annals of great legislative accomplishments. For those not familiar with the Heritage paper, I encourage you to read it for yourself. While there are some differences between the proposal laid out in the Heritage paper and the ACA, both have enough in common to conclude that far from being a revolutionary hellbent on the destruction of the free enterprise system, Obama was, as his progressive critics have been saying for years, a centrist president who when push came to shove tended to lean more to the right than his Democratic predecessors did.

And yet to listen to most Republicans, Obama was the second coming of Mao Tse Tung. It's sad how far to the right the GOP has drifted over the last twenty-five years. I remember a time when the Grand Old Party had enough room in its ranks for people like Bob Dole and Jacob Javits. Now anyone to the left of Ted Cruz is considered a traitor. I seriously doubt if even Ronald Reagan would be welcomed in today's Republican Party.

And that's why, for all their bombast, Republicans still can't repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It's not for lack of trying; it's that every time they come up with a plan, it's so far off the reservation that even governors from Red states end up rejecting it. They all agree they want a healthcare plan that gives people access to affordable insurance; they all agree - or at least most of them do - that those who can't afford to buy insurance, should be given some assistance, be it through tax credits or subsidies; they all agree that the poor or indigent should not have to rely on hospital emergency rooms as a last resort. What they can't wrap their heads around is that they already have a law in place that provides for that, and that law is the by-product of conservative ideals that are decades old.

The Affordable Care Act is not a progressive law, as evidenced by the fact that progressives dislike it almost as much as conservatives. Barack Obama knew that when it passed in 2010. His hope was that the GOP would be reasonable and work with him to improve it. In retrospect, his hope proved to be in vain. And now that he is gone, that same GOP, which had fought so long and hard to undo it, is stuck with it, warts and all.

There is ultimately only one thing they can do if they want to extricate themselves from this nightmare: work with their Democratic counterparts to fix the ACA's flaws. But to do that, they will have to admit to their constituents that they lied to them. Obamacare isn't socialized medicine after all; in fact, it's as conservative as apple pie and Chevrolet. And with a little help from both sides of the political aisle, it could become not only a serviceable law, but one which brings genuine relief to millions without being an undo burden on others.

And that's a goal worth fighting for.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Difference Between A Pipe Dream and A Strategy

Throughout the entire 2016 campaign I was very rough on Bernie Sanders, and with good reason. I thought many of his proposals, while laudable and perhaps even morally right, were completely impractical and politically unworkable. From Medicare for all to free college tuition, I never saw any path forward for any of them to see the light of day. The base may have loved his proposals, but love doesn't produce legislation, much less laws.

So it wasn't all that much of a shock that Sanders has once again dipped his big toe into the healthcare debate by introducing a single-payer bill that, not surprisingly, has the support of only one senator - Sherrod Brown of Ohio - from a swing state. The other 15 senators who stood up on that podium with him, from Kirtsen Gillibarnd to Kamala Harris, are about as safe as a new-born baby in her mother's arms.

This stunt - and it is a stunt - is eerily reminiscent of Republican attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act during the Obama years. The GOP knew full well that so long as Barack Obama was in the White House he would veto any repeal bill that reached his desk, so they were basically free to shoot for the moon as it were. The nuttier and crueler the bill, the more the base lapped it up. But when Trump won the 2016 election, Republicans had a real problem on their hands. They had to actually govern. Repeal and replace wasn't just a rallying cry anymore; it was a sobering moment in which they found out that the majority of the country really didn't support their vision for healthcare.

Now before I go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not conflating what the GOP tried to do for eight years with what Bernie is attempting to do now. What Republicans are proposing is not only morally reprehensible, it's fiscally irresponsible. If any of their hair-brained schemes had become law this year, healthcare costs for a majority of Americans would've gone through the roof. Even if you don't give a shit about the working poor - and there's little evidence that Republicans do - sending insurance markets into that kind of chaos just to make a political point is about as dumb as it gets.

No, what Bernie and his supporters are proposing is not cruel and irresponsible: it's simply a pipe dream, pure and simple. And this is where the parallels exist. Neither the GOP bills to repeal the ACA or Bernie's single-payer bill have an ice-cube's chance in hell of becoming law. And furthermore, both sides know it. Oh, you'll never get them to admit it, but what we are really seeing play out in Washington is a tug of war between the respective bases.

We know what the Right has wanted for years. Indeed, we have more than 50 examples by the Republican-controlled House attempting to mollify that constituency, to no avail. Why? Because, as it turns out, real policy is a lot more complicated than giving speeches at rallies. It involves a little bending and - dare I say it - compromise. And both are four-letter words in today's GOP.

So now it's the Left's turn to huff and puff and throw down the gauntlet. And what better champion to lead the way than the man who progressives still insist would've beaten Dr. Strangelove last November. Bernie Care is their opening salvo in an all-out offensive to remake and reshape the Democratic Party into their own image, and I have no doubt that, just like their Tea Party counterparts did in the 2010 midterms - they will make this issue a litmus test for all Democratic candidates in 2018. Their threat will be simple: support our positions or face a primary challenge.

But in the majority of states that Trump won that actually have Democratic senators running for reelection next year, things are a lot more complicated than that. If you're Joe Manchin or Claire McCaskill or Heidi Heitkamp or Jon Tester, it is a matter of flat out survival. All four of these Democrats, along with a few others, are in for the race of their political lives. At stake is the survival of the Democratic Party. At present, Republicans hold a 52 - 48 seat majority. It is quite conceivable that after next year's midterms that majority could increase by as much as five or six. Of course, it could also stay right where it is or perhaps even shrink a bit. Most political pundits, however, feel that it will be a good day for Democrats if things stay as they are after next November.

So, while Bernie was having his little shindig over in the Senate, at the White House, the two actual leaders of the Democratic Party were busy trying to secure a deal with President Shit-for-brains on DACA. There's no beating around the bush. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have now schooled Donald Trump twice in as many weeks. Last week it was raising the debt ceiling with no offsets or funding for his stupid wall; this week, a deal to rescue eight hundred thousand Dreamers from almost certain deportation next March, again with no funding for the wall.

This is how you make policy, not by pining to your base, but by going into the Lion's den without so much as a chair or a whip. We don't yet know all the details, as they are still fluid. But so far what we do know is this: Trump has apparently acquiesced to allowing the Dreamers to stay in the country in exchange for increased border security. What the hell that means is anyone's guess. But there doesn't appear to be any funding - at least not in this go around - for a border wall.

If Schumer and Pelosi manage to pull this one off, it will be the master stroke of genius for the ages, and for three reasons. One, it will give Democrats something they can actually run on in 2018: a political win. For all his lofty expectations, Sanders has never been a terribly accomplished senator when it comes to passing legislation. Virtually none of his bills have ever become law.

Secondly, this deal, if it goes through, will be yet another thorn in the side of Republican leadership. Any time you can get your bill passed and embarrass Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in the process, it isn't just a good day; it's fucking Christmas in July.

But lastly, and perhaps most importantly, what this deal does is send the alt-right into a hissy fit. I have written at great length about the racist element that was critical to Trump's success last year, and while I'm still not prepared to say it was the ultimate deciding factor in the outcome, it would be naive to believe it played no role at all. As soon as word leaked out of a pending deal, they all lost their shit like never before. Ann Coulter tweeted, "At this point who doesn't want Trump impeached?" Breitbart referred to him as "Amnesty Don." And Steve (drug mule) King went so far as to say that Trump's base is "blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair."

All throughout the country Trump supporters are burning their Make America Great caps and denouncing Trump as a traitor. Sean Hannity, who if Trump ever stopped short would be wedged in his ass for a week, got his panties in a bunch. And even Rush Limbaugh is thinking about going back to Oxycontin. It all kinda brings a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

Seriously, though, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Who knows, maybe Trump gets a call from Steve Bannon and has second thoughts, or thoughts period. As I wrote in an earlier piece his attention span is measured in seconds. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Trump did a one eighty. In fact, nothing this president has done since taking office has surprised me. Appalled, yes; surprised, no.

But that's not the point. What Schumer and Pelosi did was extraordinary, regardless of how it turns out. Both understand that simply opposing Trump won't work, anymore than opposing him in 2016 worked. They clearly have settled on a strategy that, if properly executed, could prove to be a winning formula for Democrats in purple and red states. After all, you don't get to pass legislation if you don't have the majority, a fact Bernie supporters seem unable to grasp.

Look, there's little doubt that Sanders tapped into something big in 2016. And I give him full props for sounding the alarm regrading the Rust Belt states. Perhaps if Democrats hadn't so arrogantly dismissed his warnings, things might've turned out a bit differently last November. But there's a big difference between a pipe dream and a strategy. For all his positive attributes, Bernie would never have struck that deal with Trump. It would've been beneath him.

And that's why his movement is so dangerous, not just to the Democratic Party but to the country as a whole. Their insistence on instituting a purity test for all their candidates is suicidal. Bill Maher was correct when he said the Left has to learn the difference between an "imperfect friend and a deadly enemy."

Over the last eight years we've seen what happens when one major political party is taken over by a group of extremists hell bent on sterilizing it of all imperfections. The last thing the country needs is for the remaining major political party to have the same thing done to it by another group of extremists. One hundred eighty degrees from wrong is still wrong.

Again, I'm not conflating the Left with the Right; it's clear there are substantive differences. But when both sides employ the same methods to achieve their objectives, what you are left with are two competing visions of America that are totally incompatible with each other.

The ends justifying the means, if I'm not mistaken, is how we got stuck with Trump.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mother Nature Has the Last Laugh

How fitting that on the 16th anniversary of 9/11, the state of Florida was just beginning to dig out from the worst environmental disaster to strike its shores in 25 years. Hurricane Irma swept trough the Keys before making landfall in Naples. The category 4 storm was so wide that the entire peninsula was subjected to hurricane-force winds.

On the east coast, every city from Miami to Charleston, South Carolina was inundated with a storm surge unlike any that has ever been seen. On the west coast, Marco Island was devastated, and in Tampa, owing to the tremendous counter-clockwise winds of Irma, the entire bay was sucked out into the Gulf of Mexico, only to return with a vengeance when the eye passed through. It was surreal to watch.

More than six million Floridians lost power; it might well be weeks before all of them get it back. The damage, particularly to the Keys, will likely cost tens of billions of dollars to repair. From the images we've seen, it will be months, if not years, before the state fully recovers.

Only two weeks earlier, another category 4 hurricane, Harvey, ravaged the state of Texas. The coastal city of Rockport was all but wiped off the map. Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, suffered apocalyptic flooding. Pictures of interstate highways with water up to the overhead signs looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. Congress has already approved $15 billion in relief aid, but it will take many times more that amount before Southeast Texas is made whole. Additionally, it should be noted that Harvey was responsible for Houston's third "500-year" flood in the last three years.

This is the first time in history that two category four hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. in the same year, and keep in mind we still have three months left in the season. Had it not made contact with the northern coast of Cuba, Irma would most certainly have been the fourth category five hurricane to hit the U.S.; the other three being Andrew in 1992, Camille in 1969 and the infamous unnamed Labor Day hurricane of 1935 which killed over 400 people in the Keys. If you want to know what the fury of a category five hurricane can do, take a look at the pictures of St. Maarten and St. Thomas. Both islands were virtually destroyed.

It is poor science, indeed, to attribute a single weather event to global warming, but we are not talking about a single weather event here. We are talking about two extraordinary weather events within a month of each other that collectively have destroyed thousands of structures, displaced just as many homeowners and, when all is said and done, will end up costing taxpayers over $100 billion in damages. When climate science deniers talk about the costs of oppressive environmental regulations, consider this: that above figure is nothing compared to the price tag that awaits us in the decades to come.

This is no longer an issue that we can put off for another day or a future generation. It is upon us now. We are fast approaching a point of no return. As we speak, both the Antarctic and the Greenland ice sheets are melting. When they are gone, the oceans will rise, not inches, but feet. Low-lying cities like Miami, New Orleans, Chicago and New York will be under water, forcing millions of people to relocate inland. The environment as we know it will be permanently altered and more unpredictable; storms will grow in intensity; droughts will last longer; and forest fires will be far more frequent and considerably more difficult to contain. The cost to the American taxpayer will be measured in the trillions, not billions, of dollars.

Republicans insist that talking about global warming in the aftermath of a major hurricane is akin to ambulance chasing. Yet talking about it before a hurricane apparently is alarmist. For them, there is never an appropriate time to talk about the single greatest threat to our way of life. Even with 98 percent of climate scientists in agreement that global warming is real and caused by man, they still insist the science is unsettled.

I submit it will never be settled for them. And that is the real tragedy here. Almost the entire Republican Party refuses to acknowledge a simple and basic fact: that we are slowly, but surely, cooking the planet and if we don't do something about it, our grandchildren will curse us.

If this is indeed about the economics of global warming rather than merely the science of it, then Harvey and Irma have presented us with the tab of a lifetime. And like the proverbial American Express card bill, we have no choice but to pay it. But we DO have a choice as to how much we pay going forward. Being penny wise and dollar foolish is not an effective strategy for dealing with this issue. It all but guarantees that we will bankrupt our economy and consign future generations to a world that will be increasingly inhospitable and largely uninhabitable.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Art of the Steal

It's a good thing Donald Trump doesn't play poker or he would've had five bankruptcies instead of four. Or is that seven bankruptcies instead of six? I lose track sometimes. At any rate, that hideous tower in midtown Manhattan that bares his name would would have Chuck Schumer's name on it instead.

That's because Chuck Schumer, with the assistance of Nancy Pelosi, not only outsmarted the guy who wrote "The Art of the Deal," he also managed to get him to screw over his own party leaders in the process. To paraphrase Robin, "Holy betrayal, Batman!" The Washington Post said it best: Trump got "suckered." What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan's office. Talk about a turn of events.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't for a moment believe that this deal is a harbinger of better things to come. Even if Trump were rational, it would be a stretch to see this as anything other than what it is: a one-off. But it's a one-off both Schumer and Pelosi had to take, and take it they did. And who knows, maybe it does lead to bigger fish.

Consider what just went down: Trump signed off on $15 billion in Harvey relief aid without a single dollar in offsets, which many Republicans were insisting on; he agreed to both a debt-ceiling increase AND a continuing budget resolution without any funding for his ridiculous wall; and, because this debt-ceiling deal lasts only 90 days, Trump will have no alternative but to come back to the table and negotiate with Democrats again. Can you say DACA, boys and girls? I knew you could.

And the pièce de ré·sis·tance of this whole deal came the following day when Trump called Pelosi to say how pleased he was with all the good press he was getting. That was when Pelosi told him to tweet that the Dreamers had nothing to worry about. Yes, Pelosi actually told Trump to do something and, yes, he actually did it. I damn near wet myself when I read about it. Cesar Millan doesn't have that kind of success with dogs.

Frankly, I'm fucking impressed. I didn't think Schumer and Pelosi had it in them to pull something like this off. But then I have to remember they were dealing with a man whose attention span is measured in seconds, and who has an ego the size of Texas. Based on the picture we saw of Schumer and Trump in the Oval Office, I'll bet my bottom dollar the former was in schmooze overdrive and the latter was eating it up like a love-starved puppy.

And just in case you were wondering why Schumer and Pelosi would agree to any deal with this president, there's a very good reason. Forget the debt-ceiling increase for a moment. I'll grant you that sooner or later, even the GOP would've come to their senses and realized that now that they have the reins of power, playing chicken with the nation's debt was suicidal. Inevitably they would've caved and increased it. And I'll even grant you that the Harvey relief aid would've passed, especially since the state that was devastated just happens to be the largest GOP stronghold in the country. You don't mess with Texas if you're a Republican. Period.

But here's why this deal was so huge: it pissed off the Republicans big time; in fact it was nothing short of total humiliation. What Trump did to McConnell and Ryan in front of the entire country was about as stupid a stunt as he has ever pulled, and that's saying something. With Robert Mueller breathing down his neck and three Congressional committees investigating the "Rusher" thing, the only person standing between him and a possible conviction in the Senate is, you guessed it, ole Turtle face. And Trump, by throwing down with the Dems, just told him to go fuck himself.

Do not think for even a moment that McConnell is going to forget what happened. Ryan might, but McConnell has been in Washington long enough to know where the bodies are buried. And you can take this much to the bank: he will get even. Like Michael Corelone with his brother Fredo, McConnell will bide his time and when the opportunity presents itself he will strike.

For instance, let's say Mueller sometime next Spring - perhaps sooner - starts handing down indictments of Trump officials and then recommends to Congress that there is sufficient evidence to warrant an impeachment trial of Trump himself. Maybe Ryan can delay things in the House, but what if he can't. What if by that time, the GOP decides to cut its losses. The House votes to impeach and it proceeds to the Senate, where 67 votes will be needed to boot Trump from office. You seriously think McConnell is going to stick his neck out to protect the man who screwed him, especially with Mike Pence warming up in the bullpen? The Russians are right: revenge is a dish best served cold.

It's obvious what Schumer is doing here, and McConnell knows it, even if shit-for-brains doesn't. He's capitalizing on a growing rift between the Administration and the GOP; he's also making it more and more difficult for both Ryan and McConnell to get their agenda passed. Tax reform? You can toss that into the same scrap heap with Obamacare repeal. Both are ostensibly DOA.

Look for Schumer to dangle some treats in front of Trump's nose, like maybe a couple of billion dollars for more border patrol agents in exchange for DACA. Then maybe a middle-class tax package, with a slightly less ambitious corporate tax rate reduction than the one Republicans initially wanted, and a promise to back him on his infrastructure plan. Even Bernie might be on board with that.

And while Congressional Republicans seethe over the Turncoat in Chief in the White House, Schumer, Pelosi, et al, can finally run on something positive in the 2018 midterms besides their hatred for this president. That's called leading with your head instead of your chin, which is something Democrats have had great difficulty understanding for quite some time.

Voters want action, not rhetoric. Trump may be the most polarizing figure in American politics, but Democrats are not going to beat him by simply calling him names or staying on the sidelines. To win they must become a relevant force in Washington. Chuck Schumer understands this.

And if his party has any sense left at all, they will follow his lead.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bruce Bartlett Is Right

Never let it be said that Bruce Bartlett leaves anything in the bullpen. When it comes to speaking his mind, the word ambiguity is NOT in his vocabulary. Monday afternoon, Bartlett posted the following on Facebook:
"There is no longer any doubt--ALL (100%) of Trump supporters are racists. If you don't like it, fuck you."
A couple of hours later he elaborated further by posting this:
"If I had said that all members of the KKK are racists, no one would doubt that I am right. The KKK has a long history of racism and no one would believe a person who joined in ignorance of that fact. Same with Trump. His personal record of racism is long, dating back at least to when he was sued for not renting apartments to blacks in the 1970s, to his demand that the Central Park 5 be executed without a trial (they were later found innocent), to his disgusting denial of Obama's citizenship. His xenophobia borders on racism as does his his Islamophobia. Trump has an irrational hatred of everything Obama did that I believe is motivated by racism. EVERY major racist and racist group in America supports Trump unequivocally and he has never renounced it. Therefore, it is a simple matter of logic that ANYONE who supports this asshole is a racist. I rest my case."
He then clarified his comments by posting this:
"I did not say all Trump VOTERS are racists, nor did I even imply that all Republicans are racists. What I said is that all Trump SUPPORTERS are racists. That means the people who support Trump now, today, after all his horrible racist statements and actions. Those people are racists."
So, in the spirit of being unambiguous, let me just state that the only thing I would've changed in Bartlett's original post would be to add the word core in front of supporters. Because I do believe it is important to separate those people who would - to use Trump's own words - stick by him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue from the people who support some of the things he's doing, like tax reform and appointing conservative judges to the bench. There will, I suppose, be those people who, regardless of the nominee, will vote strictly along party lines. I don't think it's fair to include them in this group.

But, apart from that, yeah Bartlett nailed it, especially his second post, which I think underscores the real tragedy here. Trump's election wasn't merely an indictment of the political institutions of this country; it was an indictment of the electorate, or at least a good chunk of it. Seven months into his administration and Trump is polling in the mid-30s. That it has not sunk any lower can mean only one thing: these are the people who are his core supporters; the very ones Bartlett was referring to.

It is nothing less than a national embarrassment to come to the realization that roughly one third of the country is comprised of racists, xenophobes, sexists, homophobes, you name it. In fact, it breaks my heart just typing out the words. While Trump did not invent any of these vices - sadly, they've been a part of the American psyche since the founding - he nonetheless amplified them in a way no politician has dared do. And he gave voice to the most depraved elements in our society in a way not seen since the Reconstruction Era.

Now before I go any further, I'm going to reiterate what Bartlett said in his third posting by differentiating between Trump's voters and his supporters. You can be a Trump voter without necessarily being a Trump supporter, but not vice versa. The distinction is not subtle. Let me explain.

Last November, Trump received about 46 percent of the popular vote. Assuming that 35 percent core was included, that meant that the remaining 11 percent he received consisted mainly of independents, blue-collar Democrats (many of them in the Rust-Belt states), and loyal (R) Republicans. That 11 percent, especially in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, gave him the White House, but that 35 percent was the reason he didn't suffer a Walter Mondale-type defeat. Even before the polls closed, Trump had approximately 40 percent of the electoral college sewn up.

Now you know why Bartlett was fuming and why what he said had to be said. For months now, the media has been dancing around this, desperately trying to pretend that what we're witnessing isn't really happening. Watching the cable news shows these days is like watching a really dysfunctional family who can't come to grips with the fact that daddy is an alcoholic who beats his wife. Yes, they've been all over the Mueller investigation, but that's only because of the leaks that have been oozing out of this administration. They simply can't or won't bring themselves to admit what deep down they know is true: that we have a racist in the White House and his core supporters are at least partly responsible for putting him there.

Think about it. This is a man who has no moral compass to speak of; who goes wherever the winds take him. Yet, since assuming office, he has bent over backwards to appease his base. Why? From his Muslim ban to his repeal of DACA, everything he has done has fit a pattern that would make any racist blush with pride. Did you see Jeff Sessions' face during his press conference announcing the repeal? The last time Sessions looked that happy he was probably getting laid. Eight hundred thousand people are six months away from being deported and our "esteemed" attorney general was about as giddy as the Grinch who stole Christmas. I'll bet the ranch that down in Louisiana, David Duke was cuming in his pants.

I don't know what's going to happen to Bartlett. Knowing how squeamish the press is, it wouldn't surprise me if he gets canned from The New York Times or The Fiscal Times or both. But a more appropriate response, not just from the aforementioned publications, but from the press and media in general, would be to finally wake up, grow a spine and call a spade a spade.

Journalists do violence to their profession when they attempt to soft-pedal issues which demand complete earnestness. Bruce Bartlett knew the truth and had the courage to speak it. If all that ends up happening is that he becomes a sacrificial lamb, the Fourth Estate will have a lot more than just his reputation to answer for.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Why the Alt-Left Isn't the Answer To the Alt-Right

Normally I don't follow the entertainment world much, apart from deciding which movie I want to see or album I want to download. For one thing, I truly don't care what any of them have to say. It's nice that George Clooney thinks that Darfur is an atrocity - and, for the record, it is - but his intervention notwithstanding, not much is likely to change there unless a concerted effort by other nations is put forth.

Secondly, in case you haven't noticed, Hollywood isn't real popular with a majority of people these days. There's a justifiable resentment that those in the industry, for better or worse, live in a bubble where they can afford to poke their heads out and cherry pick the causes they believe in. Susan Sarandon's views on the 2016 election underscore just how completely detached many of these people are. In an interview on MSNBC, she told Chris Hayes that she thought a Trump presidency might be better for the country because he "will bring the revolution immediately, if he gets in. Then things will really, you know, explode."

Real people's lives have been profoundly impacted by this man since he was elected and the fate of the Republic is hanging in the balance, but, by all means, let's sit back and wait for an explosion so we can usher in Sarandon's revolution, like it's some fucking soap opera or TV drama series. Maybe HBO can call it Game of Schlongs. I swear you can't smack the shit out of these people enough for my tastes.

But on this particular occasion, I decided to read a piece in the Entertainment section of The Huffington Post, and all I can say is my blood began to boil. It was about the flack that Jessica Chastain has been getting over the comments she made on Twitter concerning the Charlottesville attack. Chastain was trying to make what I think is a valid point that responding to hatred with violence is not the solution. Well, apparently, that didn't go over very well with a number of people, and they made their feelings quite clear.

Here is one exchange that occurred between Chastain and a certain follower:

Chastain: Returning violence for violence multiplies violence. I'm here for changing the world through peaceful protests, calling my reps, and VOTING

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yavin: If we're gonna go with MLK, Jr. 

I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

Chastain: If the color of my skin is going to cause you to generalize, perhaps you shd look back over whether or not I've been silent to injustice.

Yavin:  I am merely saying that telling people who the "alt-right" want to kill not to fight back is not helpful. If someone wants to kill me debating them isn't going to help. Calling my reps isn't going to help me in that moment. Please listen to people without your privileges.

Chastain: Nonviolent protest has NOTHING to do with self defense.

There were a few others who chimed in on the thread, some positive, most negative. I encourage you to read them when you get the chance. The point is that a perfectly legitimate argument about the counter protesters in Charlottesville was dismissed by many because it didn't fit a certain narrative that they were looking to advance.

Take this Yavin clown, for instance. First he completely misinterprets one of Martin Luther King, Jr's most famous writings, and then compounds his ignorance by suggesting that Chastain's privilege somehow disqualifies her from being able have an informed opinion about the issue of racism and how to combat it. That is the height of arrogance.

Any thinking person, regardless of race or social status, knows full well that King detested violence of any sort. His entire life was devoted to peaceful resistance to bigotry. When he wrote about the disappointment he felt towards white moderates, he was referring to people who would not take a stand against injustice, but instead preferred what King called a "negative peace" over a "positive peace." 

To put it another way, what King is really saying is that many whites who were sympathetic to what he was fighting for didn't want to roll up their sleeves and march with him. They were the consummate arm-chair quarterbacks, completely justified in passing judgment, all while having no skin in the game. 

Nowhere in this writing, or any of his others, does King call for armed resistance to his oppressors. Like Paul before him, his imprisonment was its own form of justification. "My grace is sufficient for you," it is written in Second Corinthians, "for my power is made perfect in weakness." King's admonishment to white moderates was a warning to all of us that standing on the sidelines is not acceptable. As it is written in James, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds."

My point is that Chastain has nothing to apologize for. The subsequent tearful video she released on Twitter was totally unnecessary. She was right, even if the majority of people didn't agree with her. The alternative to the alt-right, isn't an alt-left. Mind you, I'm not inferring that we should accept that there is a false equivalence here. There is a huge difference between white supremacists and those who oppose them. But one can oppose racists without employing their tactics and methods. 

Just look at what happened in Boston as a prime example. A large group of counter-protesters showed up and peacefully spoke out against the bigotry of the alt-right protesters. Not one punch was throw, or shot fired, and the entire world got to see first hand the correct way of confronting hatred. They honored the memory MLK and, by their actions, set an example for how all of us should respond.

If history has taught us anything, it's that the forces of evil will never relent. Even now, far-right conservatives are attempting to reframe this "debate" by saying it's just about statues. We cannot take the bait. It is much more than mere statues. It is about what those statues represent to a certain segment of the population, and we must never let anyone forget that.

But attempting to silence those we vehemently disagree with is not the answer. We will not be successful if we lose the moral high ground. Violent counter protests, be they in Charlottesville, Virginia or Berkeley, California, will only serve to make the ridiculous "both sides" claim offered by Donald Trump seem that much more palatable to some. As Jelani Cobb wrote in The New Yorker:
Trump exudes a malign charisma, and witnessing its appeal and the license that it grants him has been destabilizing for a wide swath of the left. Some of Trump’s opponents have said that they are waiting for a Reichstag fire—a false crisis that will be used to justify the Administration’s worst instincts. We have not yet encountered such a moment, but the clear dictate of common sense is that no one should be in the business of providing this President with matches.