The thing about the Big Lie

I’ve always loved the metaphor of the Wizard of Oz where, after the Wizard has been unmasked, we can see the mechanics of his deception. That takes the power out of it.

Wizard of Oz

You would think that by now, in 2020, we would understand the mechanics of propaganda and the use of the “big lie” as one of the techniques of propaganda.

But apparently we do not.

The Big Lie

Although they are not necessarily the first or only people to concoct a big lie, the notion of the “big lie” was best articulated by – you guessed it – Hitler and Göbbels. Hitler wrote about it in “Mein Kampf,” in reference to the supposed lie that General Ludendorff was responsible for Germany’s loss in World War I, which “big lie” Hitler blamed on the Jews. This is the “Dolchstoßlegende,” or the “stab-in-the-back” myth, the belief was that the German Army did not lose World War I “on the battlefield” but was instead betrayed by the supposedly Jewish-led civilian government that overthrew the Hohenzollern monarchy in the German Revolution of 1918–19. The leaders who signed the Armistice on November 11, 1918 were branded as the “November Criminals.” 

So Hitler (of course)  turned the “big lie” on its head: the big lie is not that Ludendorff lost the war – which he certainly contributed significantly to losing – the big lie was that the Jews were responsible for promoting the notion that Ludendorff lost the war.

The idea behind the big lie is to tell a lie so “colossal,” so “impudent” that no ordinary person would believe that someone would create a lie that blatant. In the words of Josef Göbbels, “[i]f you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” 

In a psychological profile of Hitler prepared by the United States Office of Strategic Services, it was written that “[h]is primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

Which is an almost exact description of the rhetorical strategy of President Donald John Drumpf. 

Let’s look at just four of the lies told repeatedly by Donald Drumpf. What all these lies have in common is that they all have one common objective: to flatter Drumpf and “legitimize” his rule.

  1. That the 2016 election was rigged, and that Drumpf actually won the popular vote.
  2. That Drumpf had a bigger turnout for his 2016 inauguration than Obama had in 2008.
  3. That the allegations of the Drumpf campaign’s collusion with Russia was a hoax.
  4. That Drumpf won the 2020 election “in a landslide.”

The 2016 Election

Let’s face it, 2020 wasn’t the first time that Donald Drumpf claimed that a Presidential election was rigged against him. No, the first time was 2016. Drumpf kept repeating that the vote was rigged because – as has been well established by now from many sources – Drumpf fully expected to lose. When he won, he had to change his tune quite quickly.

Despite his win Drumpf was, however, gutted that he did not also win the popular vote. So he began to make completely baseless allegations, such as that millions of “illegal” immigrants voted in the election, or that Massachusetts sent “busloads” of voters to New Hampshire to vote. Drumpf eventually formed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was in existence from May 11, 2017 to January 3, 2018 and . . . wait for it . . . came up completely empty.

The 2017 Inauguration

Drumpf was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, and immediately claimed that it was the largest “largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period.” Drumpf’s press secretary Sean Spicer accused the media of reporting false crowd estimates to “lessen the enthusiasm” for the new President.

The National Park Services does not publish crowd estimates, but the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reported 570,557 passengers for that day, lower than the average weekday ridership. Crowd counting experts estimated 300,000 to 600,000 people, or about one-third the estimated 1.1 million to 1.8 million people that attended Obama’s 2009 inauguration. The Nielsen Company ratings showed a TV viewership of about 30.6 million, less than Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 (38 million) or Reagan’s first in 1981 (42 million).

Nevertheless, Drumpf would not back away from his insistence that it was the largest crowd in history.

Why begin his Presidency with such an easily refutable and completely unnecessary lie? (It was all about ego, baby.)

The “Russian Collusion Hoax”

Drumpf has (of course) consistently argued that the allegations that his 2016 campaign colluded with the Russian government was a hoax. This argument is (of course) countered by the Mueller Report, which sets forth in meticulous (and often tedious) detail of how Drumpf obstructed justice and colluded with the Russians, before concluding that (as a sitting President) Drumpf could not be prosecuted.

Drumpf’s strategy in this matter is not to argue with the merits of Mueller’s report, but rather to just keep repeating the phrase “Russian Collusion Hoax” ad nauseum until his supporters started to believe it without really knowing why.

Drumpf’s objection to the allegations of collusion with the Russians was not premised on the notion that he obstructed justice – he couldn’t give a shit about legal niceties like that – no, it was premised on the notion that he could not have won the election without Russian interference.

The 2020 Election

Which brings us(of course)  to the 2020 election and “stop the steal.” Having set up the notion that the 2016 election was going to be rigged – it was(of course)  but in his favor – Drumpf set up the same scenario at least a year before the election, at a point in time when he still had a reasonable chance of being re-elected.

Drumpf’s strategy in this matter has not been to argue with the merits of the election process, but rather to just keep repeating the phrase “stolen election” ad nauseum until his supporters started to believe it, without really knowing why. (They had no evidence for it. They just believed it because their peers believed it.)

Drumpf and his administration loyalists have made so many efforts to overturn election results in court that it has resulted in an 18-page Wikipedia article just to track them all. It’s not just the lawsuits, but also the political challenges, like the attempted objections to the certification of the electoral college on January 6th.

At some point, you would think that even his supporters would recognize the mechanics of the deception: to just repeat, ad nauseum, a pithy lie that has absolutely no basis in fact.

But clearly we are not there yet. 

The Riot Aftermath

The January 6th riots at the Capitol Building have(of course)  driven a wedge into the Republican party. Some members (like Liz Cheney) are genuinely outraged; some members (like Mitch McConnell) see for a possibility to “rid” the Republican party of Drumpf; others (like Jim Jordan) are still true believers and still think it’s to their benefit to stay loyal to Drumpf.

The problem with the “big lie” is that it is not sustainable indefinitely. This much was acknowledged by no less an expert that Josef Göbbels, who explained once that “a lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and military consequences of the lie.” It “thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent,” Göbbels continued, “for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

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Think that Trump will be indicted for Incitement to Riot? Don’t Bet on It!

With the 25th Amendment now more or less off the table, and the impeachment proceedings in progress — albeit they clearly will not be finished before Joe Biden is inaugurated — a lot of people are holding out for Trump to be indicted for inciting to riot.

Don’t bet on that either!

I’m not saying that it cannot happen, but there is a long way to go from here to there.

The Federal Statute

First of all, since the Capitol Building is a federal building, federal law is the applicable law. What does federal law say about incitement to riot? Well the answer is to be found in 18 U.S. Code §2102:

As used in this chapter, the term “to incite a riot”, or “to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot”, includes, but is not limited to, urging or instigating other persons to riot, but shall not be deemed to mean the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief, not involving advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such act or acts.                

(Added Pub. L. 90–284, title I, § 104(a), Apr. 11, 1968, 82 Stat. 76.)  
18 U.S. Code §2102(b)

For better or worse, President Bumblehead had his entire speech recorded on video. One can see the whole bloody thing on YouTube:

The President, Don Jr., Rudy Giuliano, and Congressman Mo Brooks all sad rather provocative things during the rally, including about the need to be strong, how weakness wasn’t going to get the job done, how they needed to fight, and so forth, but none of them told the rally-goers to go up to the Capitol building, break in and loot the place.

Trump’s speech in particular was rather long-winded, comprising almost 1:15, and it was mostly filled with grievance and complaint. And self-praise. The “incitement” parts of the speech were actually rather sporadic, sprinkled throughout his winding diatribe. He also said on at least one occasion in his speech that he wanted people to go up to the Capitol “peacefully.”

We now know, after the fact, that Trump was initially excited by the riots, and retreated to his office to watch it all unfold on TV. Various of his advisors — including Ivanka, Mark Meadows and Kayleigh McEnany tried to get him to put out a statement — which he eventually did. That was (of course) his one minute video on Twitter — since deleted — where he told his followers that he could understand their pain, that he “loved them,” that they were “very special,” and that they should now “go home in peace.”

The next day Trump put out a more complete statement condemning the violence, where he was reading off of a teleprompter with (as one commentator put it) “all the conviction of a hostage video.”

Brandenburg Test

The most decisive Supreme Court test on what is required to be guilty of incitement to riot is Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). A KKK member invited a television reporter to film a rally, at which members announced plans for a march on Washington to take place on the Fourth of July at which they would take “revengeance” against the blacks and Jews they claimed were oppressing “white Caucasians.” The Supreme Court reversed a misdemeanor conviction announced a three-part test in response, which required:

  1. Intent to speak;
  2. Imminence of lawlessness;
  3. Likelihood of lawlessness.

Nwanguma v. Trump

There is another case that casts doubt about the ability to convict Drumpf of incitement to riot, and that is a case that involves Drumpf himself. This case stems from Drumpf’s 2016 campaign where Drumpf asked his supporters to get rid of a bunch of protestors at a rally. Nwanguma v. Trump, No. 17-6290 (6th Cir. 2018).  At a rally in Louisville Drumpf asked his supporters to “get ’em out of here,” (speaking in reference to several protestors that were bothering him), and as a consequence several protestors were pushed and shoved, and at least one was punched in the stomach. The court found that Drumpf’s comments did not specifically advocate “imminent lawless action” and he could not be held liable for the injuries.


Keep in mind that, as long as he’s still President, Trump could literally pardon all the January 6th insurrectionists, as well as everyone who was involved with the pre-insurrection rally. He could also (of course) try to pardon himself although, for reasons previously discussed, that one is not likely to succeed.

In Conclusion

So, my friends, don’t get too excited about the notion of Drumpf getting indicted for his deplorable performance in front of the White House on January 6th. There will (and should be) some investigations, but don’t think this will get Drumpf incarcerated.

There is still the law of the District of Columbia, and the Attorney General of D.C. is apparently going to investigate prosecuting Drumpf and his followers, but I’m not sure that will bring us any further than where we can get under federal law.

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Removal through Impeachment? Don’t Bet on It!

Right now, as everyone is chattering about the need to remove President Drumpf as soon as possible in the wake of his inciting a riot on January 6th, people are getting very excited about the possibility of getting this clown out of office before Biden’s January 20th inauguration.

But hold your horses everyone.

Impeachment isn’t any more likely than removal through the 25th Amendment.

We’ve been here before, haven’t we?

And the last time we were here it took four months between the beginning of the investigation before the acquittal in the Senate.  Just to review, the normal steps are:

  1. Calls for an Impeachment and creation of special rules.
  2. An investigation by the House.
  3. Articles of Impeachment drawn up by the House (based on the investigation)
  4. A trial in the Senate

Nancy Pelosi is apparently planning to bring a “privileged resolution” to the House Floor, citing only one article relative to “insurrection.” This will allow her to skip past an investigation and make the articles as simple and direct as possible, capable of being voted on this week.

But I think she’s still going to run out of time.

The Senate, which would still have to have a trial, will be out of session until January 19th (or the day before Biden is inaugurated), so Trump will be gone a day later anyway.

Now, could they still choose to hold the trial in the Senate once Schumer is in charge?


It wouldn’t kick Trump out of office, however.

Here’s what would need to happen:

  1. After a trial (which could be mercifully short) the Senate would have to vote by a 2/3rds margin of the Senators present to convict Trump.[1]
  2. After a conviction they would have to have a separate vote – this time only by a simple majority – to disqualify Trump from holding and enjoying “any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.”

My understanding is, that if this second vote were to happen, not only could he not run again, but he would also stop getting his Presidential pension, his travel allowance, his secret service protection and maybe his Presidential Library.[2]

Would the be able to get this done?

I don’t know, it’s probably still a long shot. The difference is that now we have a 50-50 split in the Senate, and Trump endangered the lives of every legislator and especially the legislative leadership with his reckless incitement.

But are there enough Republicans willing to enrage Trump’s loyalists?

Not so sure about that.

[1] Some commentators have noted that conflicted Senators could simply not show up for the vote, so if 20 Republican Senators skip out, they would only need 54 votes to convict, with a few Republican Senators – maybe Romney, Murkowski and two others – voting to convict.

[2] The funds for these are mostly raised privately, as I understand.

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Removal through the 25th Amendment? Don’t Bet on It!

Right now, as everyone is chattering about the need to remove President Drumpf as soon as possible in the wake of his inciting a riot on January 6th, people are getting very excited about the possibility of getting this clown out of office before Biden’s January 20th inauguration.

But hold your horses everyone.

It ain’t going to be that simple. Nor is it very likely.

The 25th Amendment was set into motion by the assassination of John F. Kennedy (and a subsequent heart attack suffered by Lyndon Johnson). It was designed to deal with questions relative to the physical disability of a President.[1] The 25th Amendment was not really designed to deal with the mental disability of a President – like Reagan’s progressive Alzheimer’s – which was already beginning to affect him at the end of his Presidency.

Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, adopted on February 10, 1967, requires (among other things) that:

The Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet [2]can declare that the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

The President can subsequently declare himself fit again and resume the powers and duties of his office.

At that point the Vice-President and a majority of the cabinet can declare that the President is still unfit.

If the President and his VP and Cabinet are at odds about his fitness, the Congress then must decide the dueling declarations by a 2/3rds vote of both houses.
Process of the 25th Amendment

President Trump has been mentally deranged from the beginning of his Presidency. It started with his insane (and completely irrelevant) insistence that his inauguration crowd was larger than Obama’s.

It continued with his compulsive and uncontrollable lying ever since, including such ludicrous claims as that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama when the National Weather Service had chartered a different path for it.

Trump has repeatedly been diagnosed as a malignant narcissist (among other things), and a group of Psychiatrists and mental health professionals deemed him unfit as early as 2017 in their book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.

The difference this time around is that Trump’s craziness almost got the leadership of the Congress and his own Vice-President killed.[3]

When you literally risk the lives of the entire Congress with your incitement, you may finally have crossed that line, that “I could shoot someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue and not lose any voters” line.

People have been bailing from his administration in extraordinary numbers ever since the attempted insurrection.

One of the first was Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation, who just happens to be Mitch McConnell’s wife. Maybe she didn’t appreciate the President putting her husband’s life in danger. Others who subsequently bailed include (but are hardly limited to):

  • Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education;
  • Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former chief of staff (and now the administration’s special envoy to Northern Ireland);
  • Matthew Pottinger, the Deputy National Security Advisor;
  • Stephanie Grisham, the chief of staff for First Lady Melania Trump.

All of which is fine and good, but (as previously noted) to invoke the 25th, the Vice-President and a majority of the President’s cabinet must vote that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

And that cabinet is rapidly being de-populated, with responsibility transferring down to “Acting” Cabinet members.

Are these acting members going to want to make that call that the President is unfit?[4]

Doesn’t seem likely, does it?

[1] People realized after the fact that Kennedy could possibly have lingered in a coma for weeks, and who would then have been in charge of the United States.

[2] The Congress could technically also designate some other body, but they would have to do so by legislation ahead of time, before the issue of the President’s fitness is at issue.

[3] I guess Trump can now kiss that potential pardon from Mike Pence goodbye.

[4] A number of commentators have noted that these resignations may be less about moral outrage than about Trump cabinet members not having the courage to take a vote on the 25th amendment.

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Well that was Fun and Completely Counterproductive

Well, that was fun. The Donald invites his craziest supporters to Washington, tells them to march on the Capitol, and then is transpired by what transpires.

Eventually, after much begging from his own advisors, Trump released the following video on Twitter (see below) — which Twitter promptly removed for violating its guidelines (and which was already removed from YouTube once and may not last long here either) — which sort of told his followers to go home. In that video Trump also tells his supporters that “we love you,” that they are “very special people,” and that people will “remember this day” forever (but probably not for the reasons that he thinks).

I don’t view this as a serious attempt at insurrection, and I fear there will be a lot of hysterics and histrionics about what happened yesterday. But it does beg a lot of questions:

  1. How is it that the Capitol Police and the city of D.C. were not prepared for what happened? Trump had been advertising for weeks that he wanted his supporters to gather in Washington D.C. and protest the election.
  2. How would law enforcement have responded if this had been a Black Lives Matter protest or a Million Man March? Let’s just say that it would not have been pretty.

What Trump and the protestors did will (of course) prove to be counterproductive, as the House and Senate unify around the certification process in view of the very visceral attack on their home turf.

It finally seems to have shaken loose a few of Trump’s acolytes — like Lindsay Graham — but far too late, and after pretty much having frittered away their integrity.

I hope to wake up this morning having heard that Biden’s election has been certified.

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It doesn’t matter if Warnock and Ossoff turn out to be One-Term Senators

If Ossoff’s margins hold, then we will have two Democratic Senators in Georgia. Just like Doug Jones in Alabama, both may turn out to be one-term Senators. Who knows.

Warnock will have to run again in 2022 because the six-year cycle he is on began in 2016. Since then, the original incumbent (Johnny Isakson) resigned in 2019 for health reasons, and his replacement (Kelly Loefller), appointed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp had to stand again at the next regularly scheduled statewide election (under Georgia law).

Back in 2018 Doug Jones won a narrow victory against pedophile and certified nut job Roy Moore — who, remarkably enough, had served as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court — when Jeff Sessions‘ seat opened up after he resigned to become President Kumquat‘s Attorney General.

But Jones couldn’t repeat that victory in 2020.

We’ll see how long Georgia’s Senators can stay democratic. But it looks like we’ll have them for the next two years.

(Ossoff’s paper thin margin will surely be challenged.)

No matter. What we needed was a victory now, for a Democratic Senate, no matter how narrow the margin, in the first two years of Biden’s term.

That’s it.

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My favorite things about Trump’s phone call with Raffensperger

President Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was probably the least surprising thing about 2021so far.

The most surprising thing about the phone call is that Raffensperger had the presence of mind to record it and the gumption to release it after Trump started tweeting lies about it.

Lest we forget, Trump tried to reach Raffensperger 18 times before he finally got through.

This guy had to dodge the President of the United States 18 times.

But here are my favorite things about the phone call:

  1. After being introduced by Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump begins the phone call with a 12 minute soliloquy. Twelve fucking minutes of this guy droning on in his now familiar monotone.
  2. In fact, Trump speaks for about 80% of the time, and Raffensperger shows incredible restraint in just letting Trump drone on and on and on.
  3. Trump ends the phone call by calling himself a “schmuck” for having supported Governor Brian Kemp in his election bid, and claims that Kemp wouldn’t even have won the primary without his support.

It must really be something to be as deluded a human being as Donald Trump seems to be. This guy really can’t seem to comprehend that he might have lost Georgia to Joe Biden, of all people. He really can’t comprehend that Brian Kemp was elected because of voter suppression, not because of Trump’s endorsement.

The legalities will be a discussion for a later day. It seems pretty clear that Trump violated both federal and Georgian election law, but far less clear whether he will ever suffer any consequences. Trump could either pardon himself (of doubtful legality) or get Mike Pence to pardon him for the federal crimes, and it is far from clear that the Georgia Attorney General, who is a Republican, would ever prosecute him.

But, it’s another “perfect” phone call, just like his “perfect” phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, and like phone calls with (who knows how) many others. It also comes at the most inopportune time — a day before Georgia’s two (count them, two!) Senatorial run-off elections — that will decide control of the upper chamber in the United States Congress.

Good luck with that, Mr. President.

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Your Massachusetts State Legislature was busy at the end of the Year

This year, while the Presidential election was sucking up all the political oxygen in the nation, your Massachusetts state legislature (if you happen to live in the Commonwealth), accomplished two very interesting things:

  1. They enshrined Roe v. Wade into Massachusetts General Law
  2. They managed to successfully enact a police reform bill.

Abortion Access

At the time that Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, Massachusetts was a much more conservative and a much more Catholic state than it is today (it’s still pretty Catholic). The Commonwealth’s statutes reflected some of that conservatism, and no challenge had ever been brought before the Supreme Judicial Court — as was later done with gay marriage — to see if there is an independent right to choose an abortion to be found in the Massachusetts Constitution.

Now, with the right to choose an abortion once again in jeopardy with the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the Democratically-controlled legislature decided to (at least) enshrine the essential provisions of Roe into out General Laws. To do that, they needed to replace the provisions of GL c.112 §§12K-12U as they currently exist. The revised language, among other things:

  • Permits an abortion if a pregnancy has existed for less than 24 weeks.
  • Authorizes physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwifes to conduct abortions.
  • Permits abortions past 24 weeks in cases of lethal fetal abnormality inconsistent with life outside the uterus.
  • Repeals language requiring physicians to provide written justifications for abortions taking place in excess of 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Repeals language requiring a 24 hour waiting period.
  • Reduces the age of consent from 18 to 16.

It was this last provision, reducing the age of consent, that brought a veto from Republican Governor Charlie Baker. But that veto was overridden.

Police Reform

After the murder of George Floyd on Labor Day, 2020, and the protests that followed, there were a couple of dozen states that submitted police reform bills into their legislatures. A quick search today didn’t really reveal how many of them have managed to follow through.

But the Commonwealth was one of them that did.

Although I’m not normally a fan of back-room negotiations, this time around it allowed for some serious deal-making while getting very aggressive push-back by the Boston Patrolmen’s Union and other police unions around the state.

In the end, the 129 page bill included these as the most important of its many provisions:

  • Provides for the licensing of police officers state-wide through a Police Officer Standards and Accreditation Committee.
  • Amends provisions on qualified immunity for police officers by eliminating qualified immunity except in cases where the officer could have no reason to believe that their conduct would violate the law.
  • Places new restrictions on the use of force by law enforcement officers, including requiring the use of certain de-escalation tactics.
  • Prohibits the use of choke holds completely in policing.
  • Restricts the use of various crowd control measures including tear gas, rubber bullets, or the release of dogs, and establishes an oversight process following the use of these methods.
  • Requires officers who observe fellow officers using improper force both to intervene, and to report the incident to their supervisors.
  • Imposes criminal penalties on law enforcement officers who have sexual intercourse with anyone in their custody.
  • Restricts the issuance of no-knock warrants.
  • Makes it more difficult for cities and towns to acquire military-style equipment and vehicles.
  • Establishes that information regarding officer misconduct is not exempt from public records provisions.
  • Restricts the use of facial recognition software.

The Governor had an issue with the prohibition on the use of facial recognition — which historically has a much harder time distinguishing between black and brown faces than white faces — so they worked out a compromise under which facial recognition can still be used for now, but has to be studied intensively by a task force.

Will this make a difference?

Who knows. Sometimes legislation can make a big difference, such as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or the Massachusetts legislation that established the 51A Abuse and Neglect process.

But only time will tell whether this legislation will make a difference.

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What to make of the people who still support the Donald at this point in time?

On Sunday night, at the last possible moment that he could, President Drumpf finally signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which combined a $900 billion stimulus relief bill with a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for the 2021 federal fiscal year. This includes twelve separate annual appropriations bills, and coincidentally, prevents another government shutdown.

(What, there was the potential for another government shutdown? If you’re like me you can’t believe that these effing idiots up there in Congress are still flirting with government shutdowns. Haven’t we proven yet that those don’t work, just like “trickle down” economics?)

Recently, while Trump has been having his month-long shitfit about losing the election — while providing absolutely no evidence that it was rigged, except perhaps in his favor — there have been a number of interesting pieces written about what to make of the American citizens who still support the Donald after all of this nonsense.

I’m going to focus on three particular articles that I came across, although I’m sure that there are many more making similar points.

1. Tom Nichols in the Atlantic

An article by the author Tom Nichols in the Atlantic, entitled Engaging With Trump’s Die-Hard Supporters Isn’t Productive (whose title presents Nichols’ central argument), allows the author to argue:

There is no such thing as “Trumpism.” No content anchors it; no program or policy comes from it. No motivating ideology stands behind it, unless we think of general grievance and a hatred of cultural and intellectual elites as an “idea.” And when views are incoherent and beliefs are rooted in fantasies, compromise is impossible. Further engagement is not only unwarranted, but it can also become counterproductive.

Tom Nichols in the Atlantic

2. Mac Stipanovich in the Tampa Bay Times

An article by Mac Stipanovich, the former Chief of Staff to Florida Gov. Bob Martinez, in which he argues that A basic fact about Trumpism is now clear: it has a core myth of a rebirth of a nation of “Real Americans.” Stipanovich writes:

Trumpism is palingenetic, meaning its core myth is of a rebirth, of the redemption of an idealized nation of Real Americans from the decadence and corruption, cultural and political, of effete liberal elites and malevolent socialists.

Trumpism is a classic cult of personality, complete with fervid rallies for the gobsmacked faithful, public bootlicking by obsequious lackeys and hagiographic creations of a Trump legend from the tawdry dross of his actual life. Largely devoid of substantive content and, as a result, unsuited to actual governing, Trumpism is sustained by political theater, whether in the form of flag-waving boat parades or manufactured crises like border invasions.

Mac Stipanovich in the Tampa Bay Times

3. Rebecca Solnit in the Literary Hub

The feminist writer Rebecca Solnit authored a piece in the Literary Hub on Not Meeting Nazis Halfway (or Why Is It So Hard for Democrats to Act Like They Actually Won?).

The piece begins by noting how much Democrats fretted in 2016 to try to understand why so many presumably reasonable people voted for Donald Trump, and spent enormous energy trying to figure out what “they” wanted.

What many of them wanted, it turns out, is to continue to live in a racist society where their white privilege would not be challenged or confronted.

Now in 2020, as more than 80 million people voted for Joe Biden, there is no corresponding Sturm and Drang in the right wing universe to try to figure out what Biden voters wanted. As Solnit observes in her article:

We are told to consider this bipartisanship, but the very word means both sides abandon their partisanship, and Mitch McConnell and company have absolutely no interest in doing that.

This is a standard complaint of the right: the real victim is the racist who has been called a racist, not the victim of his racism, the real oppression is to be impeded in your freedom to oppress.

Appeasement didn’t work in the 1930s and it won’t work now. In fact the whole Republican Party, since long before Trump, has committed itself to the antidemocratic project of trying to create a narrower electorate rather than win a wider vote. They have invested in voter suppression as a key tactic to win.

Rebecca Solnit in Literary Hub

Jumping off the work of George Lakoff and his seminal “Moral Politics” (in which Lakoff argues that conservatives and liberals hold two different conceptual models of morality: Conservatives have a strict father model in which people are made good through self-discipline and hard work, whereas liberals have a nurturant parent model in which everyone is taken care of by helping each other), Solnit writes:

Years ago the linguist George Lakoff wrote that Democrats operate as kindly nurturance-oriented mothers to the citizenry, Republicans as stern discipline-oriented fathers. But the relationship between the two parties is a marriage, between an overly deferential wife and an overbearing and often abusive husband. I grew up in an era where wives who were beaten were expected to do more to soothe their husbands and not challenge them, and this carries on as the degrading politics of our abusive national marriage.

That’s why the victors of the recent election are being told in countless ways to go grovel before the losers. Lakoff didn’t quite get to the point of saying that this nation lives in a household full of what domestic abuse advocates call coercive control, in which one partner’s threats, intimidations, devaluations, and general shouting down control the other.

This is what marriages were before feminism, with the abused wife urged to placate and soothe the furious husband. Feminism is good for everything, and it’s a good model for seeing that this is both outrageous and a recipe for failure. It didn’t work in marriages, and it never was the abused partner’s job to prevent the abuse by surrendering ground and rights and voice. It is not working as national policy either.

Rebecca Solnit in Literary Hub

I subscribe to this last notion, that the relationship between conservatives and progressives (my preferred term) has taken on the characteristics of an abusive relationship, in which one side is required to appease the other side without any compromise from the other side.

That is not going to work. And as has been observed metaphorically about liberals and progressives for a while now, collectively we have to grow a pair of cojones.

This is why it will not be okay to just let Donald Trump skate, regardless of how much he tries to pardon himself, and investigate what can be investigated, prosecute what can be prosecuted, and not worry so much about whether this will antagonize Trump supporters.

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Can we put Christ back into Christian?

Today is Christmas, and this year we’ve been mostly spared the “War on Christmas” nonsense that usually rears it’s ugly head this time of year.

On the other hand, we’ve experienced a different phenomenon this year (and frankly the last four years) that has to do with the embrace by evangelist Christians of Donald Trump, by far the least Christian President that we’ve ever had.

That has been exacerbated this year by the Covid crisis, where many “Christians” refused the simple act of wearing a mask, or refused to recognize that it would be much more charitable to fellow parishioners and their extended families not to congregate in large churches so as not to create superspreader events.

This unwillingness to recognize the “Christian” thing to do led to events like the wedding in rural Maine that became a superspreader event in a part of the country that, up until that time, had almost completely avoided any infections.

  • The nuptials and reception took place in Millinocket, near Mount Katahdin, on August 7.
  • A state health inspector subsequently found that the 62 guests mingled, danced, and dined for hours. (They had their temperatures checked, but few wore masks or practiced physical distancing.)
  • As of November 12, health authorities had identified at least 178 cases connected to that wedding.
  • Of those 178 cases, at least seven people died and three more were hospitalized, although none of those people attended the wedding.

The pastor who supervised at the wedding was unrepentant when confronted with the consequences of his actions.

And this guy is a pastor.

(Now, to be fair, there are many, many Christians who have reacted to the pandemic in a caring and appropriate way, so I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush.)

So, I hope that you all can have as celebratory a Christmas as we can all manage to have this year — and let’s face it, that’s going to be a challenge this time around — but maybe we really can put the Christ back in those Christians who have clearly lost sight of him.

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