Happy Holidays to Trump Voters Everywhere

Donald Trump has been president for almost one full year.  To those who voted for him: You must have a lot to be thankful for.

Those of us who supported the candidate who lost in the Electoral College have been admonished frequently since then to try to understand your point of view and your grievances. We are told that if only Hillary Clinton had paid more attention to you and your concerns, the election outcome might have been different.

Maybe so.  Public opinion polls continue to show that you have no regrets about your vote last November, that you continue to strongly support Trump’s performance as president. It’s obvious that those of us who are so opposed to what his Administration is doing are missing something.

In that spirit, I’ve been examining what the President has accomplished to retain your support and loyalty. What have been the benefits for you of having Donald Trump as president of the United States? To deepen whatever understanding we can glean from the record of the first year, it’s also worth examining your attitudes on key issues of the day as reflected in public opinion polls.

Most observers agree that the president’s biggest victory this year was the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to be the newest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.  While he owes much of that win to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–who prevented a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 and then changed the Senate rules to allow confirmation by a simple majority in 2017 –a win is a win.  Additionally, the Administration is on a near record pace to fill federal judgeships, in part because so many vacancies were held over from the previous year.

The Trump Administration has rolled back a lot of regulations, particularly in the area of environmental protection.  As long as you don’t care about climate change or the quality of the air you breath or the water you drink–and polls suggest that you don’t–everything is good.

The President hasn’t done quite so well with other executive actions.  Courts  have rejected a number of his orders, beginning with his “Muslim ban.”  No funds have been appropriated for the “big, beautiful wall” between the United States and Mexico.  These were two of the issues that got the most boisterous applause during the campaign.  The polling seems to indicate that you are content with his efforts on these promises, regardless of the results, and maybe that you didn’t really take them too seriously in the first place.

Meanwhile, Trump’s appointees to the Federal Communications Commission have indicated that they will roll back the previous Administration’s rules on “net neutrality.”  Sounds like a pretty technical issue, doesn’t it?   The new rules may increase your cable bill, decrease the speed at which you can download and limit the sites you can access, but don’t worry because all the big cable companies are delighted with the change.  You like big cable companies, don’t you?

What about  other priorities?  Republicans have been trying all year to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.  After several failed efforts to “repeal and replace”, they are now trying instead to sabotage it.  Should they succeed, these attempts would, as judged by independent assessments, lead to millions of Americans either losing their health insurance or having to pay much more for it.

As Trump supporters during the campaign, you roared your approval whenever the candidate attacked “Obamacare.”  Now, you may be getting your wish.  Your continued support for the President suggests that either you approve of the trashing of the Affordable Care Act or you don’t  understand the impact it will have on you personally.

The other big item on the Republican agenda this year, one with strong vocal support from Trump, is tax “reform.”  The current versions, one passed by the House of Representations and another still being crafted in the Senate, would bring the largest benefits to corporations and the country’s wealthiest individuals.

Most non-partisan assessments conclude that the middle and working class are likely to lose out as the result of proposed tax legislation.  Democrats have been confounded by the apparent willingness of working class Trump backers to act against their own economic self-interest.  What is most likely in this case is that those supporters see the reports that they will be harmed by the Republican bills as “fake news.” In any case, you don’t seem troubled so far by the newest give-away to those who need it the least.

The controversy over the Republican candidate for the Senate from Alabama, Roy Moore, offers additional insight into the Trump coalition.  Even before the President all but endorsed Moore last week, polling showed that a plurality of Republicans were willing to support Moore despite the multiple allegations that he pursued teenage girls while in his early 30s.  As Trump said explicitly, you view it as better to have a Republican sexual pervert than any Democrat.

The unholy alliance between Trump and Moore reveals other disturbing patterns as well.  Moore has demonstrated over and over again that he has no respect for the rule of law.  He has been removed from office twice for failing to uphold the U.S. Constitution.  Both Trump and Moore readily employ racist dog whistles, openly display their homophobia and generally appeal to people’s worst instincts.

Frankly, these examples make me wonder if my efforts to better understand Trump supporters are doomed to failure.  Support for a thoroughly discredited person like Moore represents the most egregious sort of  partisan tribalism.  It seems to be yet another demonstration that Trumpism has taken control of the “soul” of the Republican Party.

Maybe that is what you wanted all along.  In that case, this whole effort to find common ground may just be a big waste of time.  The only thing that makes sense at this point, if you are determined to keep supporting a president who is so damaging the country–which is,  after all, your country as well–is to start organizing for the next election.

Let’s get together next November and see how having Donald Trump and Roy Moore as the voices of your party works out for you.

 

 

 

Dealing with Political Overload

The political news these days comes barreling at you in relentless waves, and so much of it is depressing, discouraging and scary.  And, of course, some of it is merely a distraction, bright shiny objectives that have little or no real importance.  Worse yet, some of it is fake.

If you are a person who feels a responsibility to keep up with current affairs, to be knowledgable about what our government and its leaders are doing, you can’t just shut yourself off or bury your head in the sand.

To take an example, how does someone sift through the torrent of news items from the past couple of week?  Roy Moore and teenage girls.  A Republican tax bill that threatens to exacerbate the income and inequality gap in this country.  Continuing Congressional efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.  Mass shootings followed by Congressional “thoughts and prayers.”  Jeff Session’s incredible shrinking memory.  Donald Trump’s foreign travels that emphasized his high esteem for dictators.  More revelations about Trump campaign officials meeting with Russians during the presidential campaign.  The threat of a nuclear war with North Korea.   Further dismantling of environmental protections by the EPA.

And the surprisingly positive results from the 2017 election.

I’ve only scratched the surface, but even this list is more than most of us can absorb.   Yet, our in-baskets are filled with countless news summaries and updates.  Some of us start the day with “Morning Joe” and make sure we are still up to date by evening by checking in with Rachel Maddow.

The challenge is finding the happy medium between being constantly outraged and being disengaged.  How do you fulfill your responsibility to be an informed citizen without driving yourself crazy?

I certainly haven’t figured out a foolproof approach, but looking back at recent events may help develop some rough guidelines.  In any cases, here’s my best shot.

Robert Mueller is going to figure out whether there was collusion or improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.  Neither the additional public revelations nor the continuing denials will change that.  Until the investigation fingers the President or people really close to him, it’s not important to follow the day-to-day drama.  That should free up a lot of time and emotion.

Roy Moore is a Republican problem.  That party is now in a lose-lose situation of its own making.  We already have enough information to confirm without doubt that Moore is a slimy hypocrite and sexual predator.  Additional disclosures will only be further confirmation.  Other than the priceless material he is providing to late night comics, Moore isn’t worth much of our attention.

When the Alabama election results are in, one of two things will happen, either of which is significant.  Democrats may pick up a Senate seat which would cut the Republican majority to one.  That would be important.  On the other hand, a Moore victory would mean that every Republican office holder for the foreseeable future would have to answer questions about the Party’s association with him, a prospect none of them will relish.

Both Donalds, the original and Jr., are going to continue their vaudeville performances.  Much of it is tweets and stupidity signifying nothing.  We know Jr. is a lightweight who has stumbled into incriminating acts, but his antics are only worth Mueller’s attention, not ours.

President Trump is obviously a more complicated category.  He draws a lot of attention for his erratic behavior, his buffoonery, his endless lies that often have no point and his stunning lack of a moral compass.  While we shouldn’t ignore those characteristics, neither is it worth obsessing about them.  He is what he is.

On the other hand, his actions should get our attention.  In foreign affairs, he has already done great damage to this country’s national interests and seems eager to do even more.  Pulling out of the international climate agreement.  Shredding trade deals.  Calling into question our collective security treaties.  Engaging in irrational taunting of North Korea.  Acting as if Vladimir Putin is our friend rather than a deadly enemy.

Trump has sacrificed our leadership position in the world, has made us a less reliable partner to our allies, has failed to understand much less respond to the serious threats that this country faces.  Our attention and activism should be focused on these areas, not on his idiotic tweets.

Similarly, the tax bill now under consideration by Congress, the efforts to dismantle the health care system and the relentless attacks on environmental regulations should have all of us up in arms.  Public opinion and political pressure have already contributed significantly to the many failures of the Trump legislative agenda.  This is no time to stop.

Nor  should we ever accept the level and frequency of deadly gun violence in this country as normal, as just another day in America.  Rather than periodic upswings of attention when another massacre occurs, we need to push every day for sensible gun laws.

With all the time that my suggestions have freed up from your day, the best way in which you can change the political landscape and at the same time enhance your mental health is to get involved in state and local elections in 2018.  As the results of last week’s elections demonstrate, there is a real opportunity to make significant gains in state legislatures.  The political winds are shifting and may even lead to a change in party control of both houses of Congress.

The winds aren’t enough however.  Volunteering, organizing, and making campaign contributions are essential if the light is to be restored to American politics.

 

Not a “Gun Situation”

 

Aren’t you sick and tired of the bullshit? Some white kid–not a Muslim, not a terrorist from the Middle East, not even some urban bad guy–walks into a church in a small Texas town and kills 26 people, but it’s not a “gun situation”? How did he murder all of those people? Was his weapon some sort of laser beam, or a Koran or polluted air?

In fact, as is pointed out every time there’s a mass shooting in this country, it’s never a “gun situation.” We either have enough guns laws in place already or laws won’t stop bad people.

And certainly we shouldn’t do anything to make guns less lethal. However many rounds they can fire, however rapidly they can discharge their deadly cargoes, wherever they can be carried either openly or in secret, none of those considerations causes or contributes to the epidemic of deadly violence in the United States. It won’t be long, in all likelihood, before gun advocates slip a provision into some piece of Congressional legislation that allows silencers to be put on guns without restriction or limitation.

We are told that when the fault doesn’t lie with religious fanatics–and, actually, it usually doesn’t–it’s because some person with mental health problems went off on a killing spree.  The logical implication of that argument–not that logic has ever had much to do with the arguments of gun advocates–is that we should be strengthening our programs for the mentally ill and increasing the funding for those efforts.  You can scour the federal budget in vain for any signs of increased funding. The mental health explanation is merely a dodge to change the subject from any consideration of gun regulations.

Have you ever heard Donald Trump, any representative of the NRA or the Members of Congress who they own put forth a serious proposal about improving mental health services in this country?  No sign of it in the President’s agenda.  No indication that Paul Ryan has included something in the tax bill.  Republicans have about as much interest in mental health services as they do in health care generally.

And certainly don’t resort to facts.  Comparisons with the records of other developed nations apparently are irrelevant because the United States is “exceptional.”  Unfortunately, the reality that stands out most clearly as exceptional is our addiction to gun violence.

Meanwhile, you might be tempted to feel better because of the press accounts of the hero with a gun who chased the killer from the church.  His presence will be argued by gun advocates as proof that if only all of us were fully armed all of the time, there would be no mass killings.  Only  that guy arrived too late, after 26 were dead.

You’re going to tell me it could have been worse. Perhaps, but there’s never been any indication that Second Amendment “true believers” actually care about the magnitude or horror of gun deaths.  Newtown, with its massacre of school children, changed nothing.  Concert goers in Las Vegas being mowed down are already far in the rear view mirror for most gun supporters.

Other people’s deaths become merely the cost of freedom, as long as you define freedom solely as the right to possess as many guns as you want with few–preferably no–limits.

Maybe we need to go back to an Originalist interpretation of the Second Amendment.  I’m sure the late Antonin Scalia would approve.  What if we let everyone own a single-shot musket as long as they are members of a local militia?  How’s that for trying to find common ground?

To borrow from one of the President’s favorite phrases, we are the laughing-stock of the world because of our stance towards guns and gun violence.  If people weren’t blinded by their ideology and their fanaticism, if they only opened their eyes and the minds, they would clearly see that we are facing a public health crisis.  In so many other ways, we are a nation that has identified problems, worked together to find solutions and then whole-heartedly implemented them. Just not about guns.

Instead, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.  And the head.  And everywhere else.