The Republican Party: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

 

          The latest polls have President Trump’s approval rating at a dismal 36%. That is the lowest rating any president has had six months into his presidency in at least 70 years. Given the current state of affairs, there’s a good chance it will sink even lower before it gets better, if it ever does. Yet, among Republicans, 88 percent still “approve” or “somewhat approve” of Trump’s performance. Nevertheless, few Republican officials are jumping to support him.

            Every week, if not every day, more information is revealed about Trump and his closest associates’ possible collusion with the Russians to help him get elected. While Trump and his die-hard supporters call it “fake news,” Republicans in Congress are getting more worried with each day’s revelations. Like many Americans, they wonder why the Trump team’s narrative is constantly changing if the administration, in fact, has nothing to hide. With how many officials and on how many occasions did Trump and/or his close associates meet with the Russians? And, for what purpose? Will we ever know the whole truth?

            Congressional Republicans are in a race against time. They desperately want to pass as much of their legislative agenda as possible, e.g. repeal and replace ObamaCare and provide tax cuts for their wealthy donors, before the Trump administration completely implodes. Of course, Trump could still pull out of this mess (though the odds don’t seem to be in his favor at the moment) and help his party succeed.

            But the main reason Congressional Republicans are sticking with Trump is not their attachment to an agenda that a great majority of Americans oppose. Rather, it’s their fear of his base. With the 2018 election less than 16 months away, they do not want to rock the boat. Trump’s strong supporters, that 36% of the American electorate, could ruin the chances of re-election for any Congressional Republican who turned against him. As a result, they are holding their tongues and their noses, for the time being.

            Still, this could be a losing strategy for the Republicans. If the Trump administration does crash and burn, many will blame their party for not impeaching him or forcing him to resign, much like Republican pressure forced Nixon to do over 40 years ago. People will shame the Republicans for not putting country before party, as some observers are already doing, and allowing Trump’s corrupt administration to go on for so long at the expense of the welfare of the American people.

            You might conclude that the Republican Party is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They are betting against the odds and hoping Trump can turn his fortunes around. Meanwhile, the American people are left high and dry. The fact that nothing is getting done to help the people doesn’t seem to be their concern, though we may very well be better off if the Republicans continue to have their hands tied by the investigations of Trump and their own internal divisions.

            With all the problems in the Republican Party, where are the Democrats? Their party is also divided and unable to provide any uplifting, positive vision for our country. Bernie Sanders seems to be the only politician willing to speak out about how to move America forward. While he has a strong following, the Democratic Party can’t, or is unwilling to, listen to him.

            It’s hard to imagine that our country has come to this. We have a president who lies regularly and only cares about himself and his wealthy friends. Our two major parties are practically void of leadership. And, most of the rest of the world is dumbfounded by the state of our nation. One overriding question remains: Given all that, who will stand up for the American people and fight to restore our democracy? It looks like it just may be up to you and me.

 

“Fake News” and the Struggle for the Heart and Soul of America

If anyone had any doubts that the Trump administration is bringing fascism to our country, last Friday’s news should put an end to that uncertainty. In a strong-arm attempt to punish the media, the White House barred several major news outlets from attending the February 25 White House press briefing with Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary. The New York Times, the L. A. Times, USA TODAY, The New York Daily News and CNN were among the news media blocked from covering the press briefing.

This extraordinary, vindictive step by President Trump, which was probably Steve Bannon’s idea, is much more than the latest missile in the administration’s feud with the media. Rather, it is an effort to further Trump’s claim that the media, or at least that which he calls “fake news,” is the enemy of the American people. Of course, any news criticizing Trump automatically becomes “fake news” to his way of thinking. And, since a great deal of the news has been critical of him, Trump denies much of it as “fake.”

One of the tenets of totalitarian regimes is that the government has a monopoly on the truth. Labeling all dissenting views as “fake” is a deliberate strategy to discredit the media and destroy a vital protection against authoritarian rule. At the same time, the media becomes a whipping boy for Trump’s ardent supporters to rail against. It’s a means of diverting attention from issues that really matter, such as, did Trump collude with the Russians to steal the election. Or, is Trump violating the public trust by not releasing his tax returns and the Constitution by using the presidency for his private gain? Nevertheless, to his loyal followers these questions hardly matter. Trump has saved them from Hillary Clinton and the Establishment, and he will “make America great again.” To them, he can do no wrong.

Another tenet of totalitarian regimes is they target scapegoats to blame for the people’s hard times. Just like Hitler used the Jews as his scapegoat, Trump has targeted the “bad hombre” Mexicans and Muslim immigrants. These foreigners also become whipping boys for Trump’s ardent supports as they chant, “America First.” It’s all part of Trump and Bannon’s strategy to establish authoritarian control through a white national populist message.

Then today (February 27), the White House apparently was caught trying to ruin a reporter’s reputation, another tactic of totalitarian rulers, for writing a story about Press Sectary Spicer’s attempt to discover the source of leaks coming from the White House. POLITICO’s editor Carrie Budoff Brown “accused the White House of planting a story to smear (its reporter, Alex) Isenstadt, after they were pissed off with claims made in his original story.” As much as Trump condemns “fake news,” the White House seems fine with employing it as a weapon against a reporter they don’t like. And, that raises the question: who is the real purveyor of “fake news”? See http://bipartisanreport.com/2017/02/27/white-house-caught -trying-to-ruin-politicos- reputation-in-shadiest-way-report/.

I believe we ignore these clear signs of authoritarian rule at our peril. Trump and Bannon are laying the foundation for the United States to become a fascist state. The longer we try to deny this reality, the more likely they will succeed.

Consequently, it is up to each and every one of us: Are we going to stand by and allow Trump’s fascist regime to destroy our democratic way of life, the heart and soul of America? Or, are we going to come together as patriotic Americans, Republicans, Democrats and Independents; build a grassroots, mass movement to overcome this horrendous threat to democracy; and restore our right to self-governance?

An Open Letter To President-Elect Trump

Dear President-Elect Trump,

I hope that you have noticed the rising level of animosity and fear in our country since your election. Many of your supporters as well as your detractors are very upset. Ironically, I doubt it would have been much different had you lost, perhaps even worse.

Your supporters have threatened violence and call those who opposed your election “sore losers.” Your detractors are plotting how to resist and derail your presidency. While I must admit that I fall in the latter camp, my intent here, which I hope you will share, is to help reduce the tension in our nation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked over one thousand acts of bias intimidation and harassment targeting Muslims, blacks, Latinos, immigrants, and LGBTQ people since Election Day. (See https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch.) This state of affairs does not bode well for our country.

As the soon-to-be president of all Americans, you are in the best position to take constructive action to ease our national anxiety. Consequently, I respectfully urge you to consider taking the following steps:

1. In the spirit of the holidays, go on national television and express your good will toward all Americans. Tell them that you want to understand their anger and fear, but violence and intimidation will not be tolerated. Explain that you intend to be the President of all Americans.

2. Be a gracious winner and make an offer of reconciliation. Don’t just go to areas of the country that supported you. Reach out to Americans who opposed your candidacy. Show them that you are interested in their issues and want to address their concerns as well. Keep in mind that the majority of the electorate did not vote for you. Dialogue with Americans of all persuasions.

3. Expand your cabinet choices so that all Americans will feel represented in your administration. To date, your appointments appear to favor a small, elite segment of the population. You need to include people who can empathize with a much greater portion of the American people. More than one Republican served in President Obama’s cabinet. You can and should include Democrats in yours.

4. Make some policy proposals that demonstrate you really are listening to people with different viewpoints. Most Americans have nowhere near the wealth and privilege that you and those you’ve chosen for your cabinet have. You are their President too. It is your duty and responsibility to serve their needs as well. And, finally,…

5. Listen to your critics. You don’t have to agree with them, but they do have a right to their opinions. Remember the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Belittling those who oppose you does not become the President of the United States. Being open to criticism is a positive trait that will make you a better president.

Clearly, these are difficult times for many Americans. If you heed these suggestions, I feel you will make it a bit easier for yourself as well as for the rest of us. May God bless America.