Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Political essays Page 1 of 9

Connie’s 2-book series “Obama’s Odyssey” plus observations on the current political scene.

George Will’s Remarks on Inauguration Day Address

Remarks from George Will, abridged, Washington Post of 1/22/2021

Re Joe Biden’s presidency:

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

“There’s some things that I’m going to be able to do by executive order,” Biden said, “and I’m not going to hesitate to do it…but I am not going to violate the Constitution.  Executive authority that my progressive fans talk about (e.g., banning assault weapons) is way beyond the bounds.”

Fifteen days later, resisting pressure to unilaterally erase billions of dollars of student debt, he said, “I’ve spent most of my life arguing against the imperial presidency.”

Progressives yearning for New Deal 2.0 will notice that Biden did not speak, as Franklin D. Roosevelt did in his first inaugural address, of perhaps seeking “broad Executive powers” as great as he would need “if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

Biden is an adult. 74 million voters voted for 4 more years of infantilism…

Why are strange people proliferating in government?

 President of the United States

One reason, Ben Sasse (R, Neb.) said, is “America’s junk food media diet,” the underlying economics of which involve “dialing up the rhetoric” to increase “clicks, eyeballs and revenue.” (*Note: See the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix).

Another reason is “the digital collapse” as “the digital revolution erodes geographic communities in favor of place-less ones. Many people who yell at strangers on Twitter don’t know their own local officials or even their own neighbors across the street.”

Biden’s Inaugural address, the essence of which was to stop the shouting and lower the temperature and end the “exhausting outrage” had the unadorned rhetoric of a teacher telling disorderly students to sit down and shut up. In tone, it was pitch perfect for intimating to his dissatisfied fellow countrymen that they should not be self-satisfied.

 

 

Who Is Scott Perry, and What Are They Saying About Him?

The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Who is Scott Perry, and why are people calling for him to resign?

Scott Perry (R, PA),s a retired Pennsylvania Army National Guard brigadier General. He served for nearly 40 years and had multiple deployments, including combat in Iraq.

Perry was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature in 2012, a Republican from York County in Pennsylvania.

Perry made Donald Trump aware that Jeffrey Clark (“a relatively obscure Justice Department official”), acting chief of the civil division, supported Trump’s “the election was stolen” propaganda. The president would have been unaware of Clark, if not for Perry.

Says the New York Times in a new article:  “As the date for Congress to affirm Mr. Biden’s victory neared, Mr. Perry and Mr. Clark discussed a plan to have the Justice Department send a letter to Georgia state lawmakers, informing them of an investigation into voter fraud that could invalidate the state’s Electoral College results. Former officials who were briefed on the plan said that the department’s dozens of voter fraud investigations nationwide had not turned up enough instances of fraud to alter the outcome of the election.”

It is interesting that, in the same issue of the Austin American-Statesman, there is a story about Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s bounty, offered for any proof of voter fraud, which was a cash award of $25,000. Patrick—who is a bit of a loon—said the incentive was necessary to ferret out potential illegal voting and to “restore faith in future elections.”

Interestingly enough, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, is demanding that Patrick pay up after 3 Republicans in Pennsylvania were arrested on charges that they voted illegally. One of these tipsters, a Pennsylvania poll worker, told police he witnessed a Republican vote 2 times in one day.

Eric Frank told the Morning News, “I don’t know what avenue to take in order to request the reward.” He is not optimistic that Patrick will pay up.

Hereford cattle on LBJ Ranch.

Patrick famously told the press that older citizens should be willing to die during this pandemic. He later reversed this cavalier attitude for all legislators in the Texas Congress, requiring that they wear masks and have testing to join that august body.

Patrick, in a press release, announced the rewards and said the money would be available to “anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and final conviction of voter fraud.” He set aside $1 million for the rewards, in total, but it does not appear that he is paying up. Is this all bull s***? Ask Dan Patrick.

Relief Mingled with Rage, from Black Writer Charles M. Blow

[Thoughts for today from New York Times writer Charles M. Blow,  1/22/2021, Abridged]

“I had many feelings as I observed the Inauguration, a pageant of customs.  The first was the feeling of having—remarkably and improbably—survived a calamity, like stumbling out of a wrecked car and frantically checking my body for injuries.

Trump taught us, the hard way, that what we took for granted as inviolable, was, in fact, largely tradition. And traditions are not laws…

There is a feeling of deep patriotism and awe for the country itself.  Trump did everything he could to break this country, but, in the end, America remains.  Biden was sworn in at the Capitol that Trump’s insurrectionist supporters had stormed two weeks before.

But then there are also the lingering feelings of disappointment, betrayal and loss of faith.

How is it possible that enough Americans voted for Trump in the first place, sending him to the White House? Donald Trump is a racist and a white supremacist.  And yet millions of Americans either agreed with his views or were willing to abide them.  I know that there will be those who warn that I should just let this go, that holding onto it is “divisive.

To them, I say, “Hell no!”

There must be acknowledgement and accountability.  There must be contrition and repentance. It is not enough to simply let the co-conspirators and abettors of a white supremacist president quiet down and cool off, biding their time, waiting for the next opportunity for their riotousness and wrath to be unfurled and unleashed.

There are many transgressions of the Trump presidency.   Some, like the mishandling of the pandemic, have even been far more deadly than the handling of migrant families at the border.  But there is something particularly cruel and inhumane about what Trump did to those children in the name of the United States government.

I will never forget that.  And I will never forget that tens of millions of Americans were willing to accept that and give Trump a pass on it.

I am happy that the Trump administration is now behind us and a new, more normal one is before us, but my relief still mingles with my rage.”

Today’s Thought of the Day from the Letters to the Editor in Austin, TX

From Renee Potenza (of Austin, TX)

“Get Off the Trump Train and Admit Your Mistake”

To those friends and family members who voted for Donald J. Trump:

Perhaps you are a life-long Republican.  Maybe you have deeply held beliefs about those values for which the Republican Party used to stand. Maybe you got on the Trump train early on, and your enthusiasm in being part of a popular group carried you along.

I ask you now:  Please get off the Trump train. He’s not worthy of your trust.

Disengage your identity as a follower of the Donald, and think critically, questioning everything.  Utter those three little words, which are the hallmarks of honest, healthy communication:  “I was wrong.”

(A Letter to the Editor from the Austin American-Statesman of Wednesday, January 20th, 2021.)

January 13th is Historic Second Impeachment of Donald J. Trump

“Never trust politicians.

They are craven.

It’s an occupational attribute.”

So began Charles M Blow of the New York Times in his essay today.

I could relate to Mr. Blow, an African American essayist.

I wrote this poem, entitled “Words” when I was 16 years old, in Independence, Iowa:

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said,

If deeds alone were the mark of a man,

Not the ‘catch’ of an eloquent pledge.

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said,

If, for all the fake forensics, there were simple words instead,

And a man stated just what he started to state,

Without false fuss or further ado.

If you weren’t a politician,

I’d probably listen to you.

So, I’m in agreement with Charles M. Blow as he continued:

“Sure, there are some politicians who are good people, who tell the truth most of the time and choose careers in politics for the right reasons—public service rather than political aggrandizement.

“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)

But power, as a genre, is about power. And power corrupts. (*And absolute power corrupts absolutely).

Generally speaking, the higher up the political ladder a politician climbs, the more vicious they have had to be, and the more viciousness they have had to endure.”

As a young girl, going around with my Democratic father to help put up yard signs, I remember him saying to me, a then elementary-school-aged child, “Stay away from politics, Con. It’s a dirty business.”

Charles Blow continued:  “Politicians have had to shake more and more hands to raise the obscene amounts of money now needed to run campaigns, and they have likely had to make unsavory compromises in order to protect their own advancement.

I do not seek to draw a false equivalence between the political parties in America. While I find all politicians suspect, the utter moral collapse of Republican conscience and character under Donald Trump still stands out as an outrageous aberration.

Republican politicians, by and large, knew how lacking in every aspect Donald Trump was, not just in experience, but also character, morality and intellect.  Many said as much before he was elected.

Ted Cruz called Trump ‘utterly amoral,’ a ‘serial philanderer,’ and ‘a narcissist at a level that I don’t think this country has ever seen.’ He also said of Trump:
‘This man is a pathological liar.  He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies.  He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.’

Lindsey Graham said:  ‘He’s a race-baiting xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party.  He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.’

Marco Rubio said: ‘We’re on the verge of having someone take over the conservative movement who is a con artist,’ and called Trump, ‘the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency.’

All of this was true  When these people were Trump’s opponents in the quest for the nomination, none of them shied away from telling the truth about him.  Now they have been cowed into obsequiousness.

Trump didn’t change, but his relationship to power did: when he won he had it, and the Republicans swarmed to him like moths to a flame, [or more like vultures to a corpse].

Power, in politics, changes everything.  Politicians are desperate for power the way a drowning person is desperate for air.  But in politics, there are levels of proximity:  The closer you are, the stronger you are  You can possess or be in proximity to it.

Republicans in Washington turned their backs on everything they believed.  Trump created a mob.  He recruited traditional conservatives into it.  He was in full control of it.

To a politician, a mob can look like a movement.   It can look like power. So, they caved to that which they could consort with: they feigned ignorance of the ways they had accurately derided Trump so that, one day, they might harness the white nationalist throngs he unleashed.”

 

I attended a rally for Jeb Bush back in Davenport, Iowa at St. Ambrose University, accompanied by a Republican friend, and we listened to Jeb Bush (in 2016) say, “You can’t insult your way to the White House.” As it turns out, Jeb was wrong, and you actually CAN insult your way to the White House and remain there for 4 long years insulting friends and foe alike! And some of those insults were aimed at our long-time allies, which is even more damaging.

Republicans put their personal ambitions over the preservation of America.  Maybe they thought that whatever damage Trump did would be easily repaired, so they would simply trudge through it until his time in office was at its end.

Well, it is now at its end, and he seems to be doing more damage than ever—or as much damage as ever.

The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a shocking thing to behold.  But so much of what has occurred during  the Trump presidency has been shocking.

There is no telling what Trump might attempt to do in his final days in office.”

 

“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” sixth book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).

For those of us who have read his niece, Mary Trump’s, book “Too Much and Never Enough” or have viewed “Unfit,” Dan Partland’s fine Amazon documentary, we realize that there is nothing this man, this criminal, will stop at. Nothing.

“Even if Trump leaves office without further damage, the damage he has done is lasting and many of the people who blindly support him will persist. (The militias, the Proud Boys, QAnon, the white nationalists, are not going away).

We may be getting rid of Trump. But we are not getting rid of “Trumpism.” The aftertaste of this toxic presidency will linger.

Now we have to ask a very serious question:  What do we do now as a society and as a body politic?  Do we simply turn the page and hope for a better day, “let bygones be bygones”? (It seems, to me that most Republicans speaking on the floor today want to simply sweep aside what has occurred, punish the common street flunkies who are being rounded up, but ignore the head of the serpent, DJT.) Or do we seek some form of justice, to hold people accountable for taking this country to the brink? (And let it be known that this extends to those at the very top.)

I say that we must prosecute all people who have committed crimes and punish all those who have broken rules.  The rule of law can’t simply be for the common man. It must also be for the exalted man.  Because only then will the ideas of fairness and justice for all have meaning.

 

January 6th: How Lying to the U.S. for 4 Years Can Create Chaos

The Austin American-Statesman Editorial Board (Austin, TX) posted this on Sunday, January 10, 2021:

“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)

Politicians stretch the truth all the time. Some lies, though, are so big that they can pull at the seams of a nation, pit its people against one another, leave a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood in the halls of the U.S. Capitol, and render a police officer and a rioter dead.

President Trump’s wild-eyed claim of a stolen election is just such a lie. And a lie doesn’t grow that big or that dangerous being tended by just one man. Eager to flatter Trump or afraid to displease him, much of the Republican Party leadership repeated this lie for the better part of the last two months, giving it oxygen and a glint of legitimacy in the eyes of Trump supporters.   Belief in that lie—that their country needed saving—led to rioters assaulting the Capitol on Wednesday, as members of Congress undertook their Constitutional duty to finalize the election results.

Repairs are underway at the ransacked Capitol, the backdrop for President Biden’s January 20th Inauguration. Repairs for our divided nation will prove more difficult. The events of this past week, indeed, of the past four years, remind us how powerful words and lies can be, and how fragile our democracy is.

This moment calls for accountability and truth. Both seem in perilously short supply in today’s Republican party.  It is unclear whether Trump will be dislodged before Biden takes office. But the doubts and conspiracy theories Trump has sown will not expire with his term.  They will fester and poison the body politic unless GOP leaders heed the words of Senator Mitt Romney (R, Utah):  “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth! That’s the burden, that’s the duty of leadership.”

Too many of our leaders have shunned that burden. They prefer to chase the adulation of their political base, to stoke the manufactured controversies that animate fundraising e-mails, than do the tough work of governing. They have forgotten that public service is about service.

Unfit for office since Day One, Trump has been the worst offender, but hardly the only one.

Senator Ted Cruz fueled Trump’s election lie, leading the charge Wednesday to block certain states’ election results, knowing that Congress had no authority or justification to disenfranchise millions of voters. If he had any shame, he would resign, but we know Cruz has no shame.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also fueled that lie, filing a spurious lawsuit last month asking the Supreme Court last month to toss four states’ election results, then returning to Washington on Wednesday to tell Trump supporters, “We will not quit fighting.”

After that crowd laid siege to the Capitol, our state’s (Tx) chief law enforcement officer shielded their sedition with another lie, claiming on social media that those who stormed the Capitol were not Trump supporters, but members of the left-wing Anti-Fa movement.

If he had any shame, Paxton would have resigned years ago, when he was indicted for securities fraud, or months ago when the FBI began investigating charges of bribery and corruption.  But we know Paxton has no shame.

The list of Trump’s abettors runs deep.  Governor Greg Abbott cheering on Paxton’s election lawsuit. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick offering cash rewards for claims of voter fraud. Central Texas Representatives John Carter of Round Rock, Pete Sessions of Waco and Roger Williams of Austin, who returned to the Capitol after Wednesday’s insurrection, tear gas residue still clinging to the walls, and voted exactly as the rioters wanted. All of them lent credence to an alternate reality of rampant voter fraud, knowing full well that multiple voter recounts, dozens of judges, and Trump’s own cyber-security chief and his own attorney general had affirmed the election results were valid.

Mitt Romney: Presidential Front-runnerVoters will deliver their verdicts on these officials in due time. In the meantime, we all need for our leaders to pull back from the brink, to dispense with the lies that incite lawlessness

We need hearty debate, of course. Discussions on tax policies and environmental policies and most crucially the path out of the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to kill a record number of Americans each day. But we cannot have those debates, and reach some resolution, if we don’t accept the legitimacy of the elections that put those leaders in office.

Once the recounts and court rulings have upheld an election, we cannot allow the lie of a stolen election to persist.  Republican officials have an obligation now to tell the truth, to accept the presidential election didn’t go their way, and to recognize it was a free and fair election all the same.

No doubt that will infuriate those who steadfastly believe the lie: Feed the lie, legitimize the mob, watch our democracy burn.

 

 

 

AntiFa Activists Not Responsible for the Insurrection at the Capitol

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

Immediately after the breaching of the Capitol by Trump supporters, I experimented and checked to see if Fox was covering it (A: No, at that time). I went out on Twitter and Facebook to see what was being said. (A: “It was AntiFa!“)

Let the truth go forth.

To steal a line from the Austin American-Statesman editorial page, “This moment calls for accountability and truth.”

The truth is that Antifa is not to blame for the insurrection of January 6th. Here are some excerpts of the article that a Texas paper, the Austin American-Statesman, ran, proving that conclusively:

Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, addressed the large “Save America” rally (which disgraced radio D.J. Alex Jones says his company paid for) saying, “Those who stormed the Capitol yesterday were not Trump supporters. They have been confirmed to be Antifa.” He cited a tweet by Paul Sperry, a right-wing journalist, and a “Washington Times” article, stating that, “Facial recognition firm claims antifa infiltrated Trump protesters who stormed the Capitol.”

There was an incorrect Tweet that said a bus of Antifa thugs had infiltrated the peaceful demonstration.

The truth? NO….there was no bus of Antifa thugs and the “Washington Times” article, published about 8:15 p.m. by opinion writer Rowan Scarborough, has been debunked. The “Times” article cited some unnamed retired military officer, who cited a firm called XRVision, which, he said, used its facial recognition software to I.D. Antifa members

The newspaper has since retracted the erroneous report. However, Matt Graetz (R, FL) cited it later that day on the House floor, saying it was true when it was not, much like the accusations about the fraudulent election.

XRVision, a facial recognition technology company based in Singapore, has announced to PolitiFact and BuzzFeed News that it sent a cease and desist letter to the Washington Times, asking for a retraction and an apology. They did acknowledge that SRVision software identified 2 members of a neo-Nazi organization and a QAnon supporter, but not members of Antifa.  The company said that the imagery was distributed only to a handful of company members for private consumption, only. The results announced by the media (and Matt Graetz) were erroneous.

XRVision said: “XRVision takes pride in its technology’s precision and deems the Washington Times publication as outright false, misleading, and defamatory.”

A correction was issued by the newspaper about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. PolitFact submitted this statement:  “The Washington Times erroneously reported late Wednesday that facial recognition technology backed up that speculation and identified 2 Antifa members.  In fact, XRVision has not identified any members of that far-left movement as being part of the attack.”

The pro-Trump channel OAN showed a head shot picture (amongst a crowd) of a dark-haired man they said was a member of Antifa. They gave his name as John (something). It is probable that this mis-identification from that station hinged on the erroneous story.

This is a typical Trump tactic. Always blame someone or something else. I’m just surprised that they haven’t brought up Hillary’s e-mails.

Kamala Harris Profiled by “Los Angeles Times”

Kamala Harris official photo (cropped2).jpg

Kamala Harris official portrait (2017, Wikipedia.org)

I picked up a copy of the Los Angeles Times’ publication that profiled Kamala Harris. I plan to gift it to my granddaughters on their twelfth birthday this Monday, to show them that women can succeed at the highest levels of our society and that they must work hard to succeed, which Kamala’s entire family has done.

Kamala Harris, our first female Vice President, is 56. Her younger sister, Maya, is often described as being like RFK was to JFK, as she is an attorney active in Civil Rights.

I have reprinted some abridged comments from Ms. Harris’ acceptance of the Vice Presidential spot on the Democratic ticket, which were made before the campaign began. I wanted to share an abridged version of some of her remarks, especially in light of January 6th’s insurrection, incited by Donald J. Trump. After the usual introductory remarks about her early childhood, upbringing, and education, she talked about our country right now.

Here are (some of) those remarks:

*****

“This is a country where we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect.

Today, that country feels distant.

Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.

If you’re a parent struggling with your child’s remote learning , or you’re a teacher struggling on the other side of that screen, you know that what we’re doing right now isn’t working.

And we see a nation that’s grieving.  Grieving the loss of life, the loss of jobs, the loss of opportunities, the loss of normalcy.  And, yes, the loss of certainty.

And while this virus touches us all, let’s be honest. It is not an equal opportunity offender.  Black, Latino and Indigenous people are suffering and dying disproportionately. This is not a coincidence. It is the effect of structural racism…

This virus has no eyes, and yet it knows exactly how we see each other—and how we treat each other. And let’s be clear—there is no vaccine for racism.  We’ve got to do the work…

We’ve got to do the work to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law.  Because none of us are free until all of us are free.

We’re at an inflection point.

The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid.  The callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot.

And here’s the thing.  We can do better and deserve so much more.

We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work.A president who will bring all of us together—Black, white, Latino, Asian, Indigenous—to achieve the future we collectively want…

Joe will bring us together to squarely face and dismantle racial injustice, furthering the work of generations.

Joe and I believe that we can build that beloved community, one that is strong and decent, just and kind. One in which we can all see ourselves. That’s the vision that our parents and grandparents fought for. The vision that made my own life possible. The vision that makes the American promise—for all its complexities and imperfections—a promise worth fighting for.

Make no mistake: the road will not be easy.  We will stumble.  We may fall short.  But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly.  We will speak truths.  And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us…

We believe in our country—all of us—will stand together for a better future.  We already are. We see it in the doctors, the nurses, the home health care workers, and the frontline workers who are risking their lives to save people they’ve never met.

We see it in the teachers and truck drivers, the factory workers and farmers, the postal workers and the poll workers, all putting their own safety on the line to help us get through this pandemic.

And we see it in so many of you who are working, not just to get us through our current  crises, but to somewhere better.

There’s something happening all across the country.

It’s not about Joe or me.

It’s about you.

It’s about us.  People of all ages and colors and creeds who are, yes, taking to the streets, and also persuading our family members, rallying our friends, organizing our neighbors, and getting out the vote…

You are patriots who remind us that to love our country is to fight for the ideals of our country.

In this election, we have a chance to change the course of history. We’re all in this fight.

You, me and Joe—together…

Years from now, this moment will have passed.  And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high?

They will ask us, what was it like?

And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.

Thank you, God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”

 

How Did We Get Here? What’s Happened to the GOP?

I don’t know how many of you reading this digital page still get a REAL newspaper (i.e., paper) and, if you do get one, is it the Quad City Times?

Since I am (currently) reading the Austin American-Statesman, a 150-year-old newspaper that was named Texas Newspaper of the Year 3 times and won national reocognition for investigative reporting from the National Headliners, the Online News Association, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors, in addition to hundreds of state awards, I’ve been sharing some of the editorials highlighted in that paper.

Let me be clear: these are “the best” of the editorials I read on a regular, daily basis, and, if you, like me, find that many of the newspapers whose editorials you would most like to read are behind a “pay wall,” this is a service to those who really want to be informed.

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote this editorial entitled “HOW DID WE GET HERE?  WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY?” and you won’t face a pay wall to read it (below):

HOW DID WE GET HERE? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GOP?

“Don’t touch the chair arms!” (say with spirit). Me, in Sydney, Australia, for my dedicated Australian reader! (All one of you!)

“There have always been people like Donald Trump:  self-centered, self-aggrandizing, believing that the rules apply only to the little people and that what happens to the little people doesn’t matter.

The modern GOP, however, isn’t like anything we’ve seen before, at least in American history.  If there’s anyone who wasn’t already persuaded that one of our 2 major political parties has become an enemy, not just of democracy, but of truth, events since the election should have ended their doubts.

It’s not just that a majority of House Republicans and many Republican senators were backing Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss, even though there is no evidence of fraud or widespread irregularities. (*If you watched into the wee hours—3, 4 a.m., as I did, on Wednesday—you know that there were still substantial numbers of Republicans who argued against confirming Pennsylvania’s counted electoral votes.Look at the way David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler campaigned in the Senate run-offs in Georgia.

They weren’t running on issues or even on real aspects of their opponents’ personal history.  Instead, they claimed, with no basis in fact, that their opponents are Marxists or “involved in child abuse.” That is, the campaigns to retain Republican control of the Senate were based on lies. (*Fortunately, the GOP efforts based on blatant lies, failed and Ossoff and Warnock were elected, but, still…)

On Sunday, Mitt Romney excoriated Ted Cruz and other Congressional Republicans’ attempts to undo the presidential election, asking, “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”  But what principle does Romney think the GOP stood for in recent years?  It’s hard to see anything underlying recent Republican behavior beyond the pursuit of power by any means available.

So how did we get here?  What happened to the Republican Party?

The party’s degradation has been obvious for those willing to see it, for many years. (*As the child of a Democratic office-holder in the 30s and 40s, I’m old enough to see how the Republican party has changed since the days of Bob Dole, Ike, and other admirable GOP leaders.)

Way back in 2003, I wrote that Republicans had become a radical force hostile to America as it is, potentially aiming for a one-party state in which “elections are only a formality.” (*Think Ted Cruz’s remarks on the Senate floor just before all Hell broke loose in that august body, where he was proposing appointing a 10-day investigatory commission a la the Hays-Tilden election of 1876, to circumvent the will of the people in voting).

In 2012, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein warned that the GOP was “unmoved by conventional understanding of facts” and “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

If you’re surprised by the eagerness of many in the party to overturn an election based on specious claims of fraud, you weren’t paying attention.

But what is driving the Republican descent into darkness?

Is it a populist backlash against elites?  It’s true that there’s resentment over a changing economy that has boosted highly educated metropolitan areas at the expense of rural and small-town America. Trump received 46% of the vote, but the counties he won represented only 29% of America’s economic output.  There’s also a lot of white backlash over the nation’s growing diversity. (*”The Browning of America”).

The past 2 months have, however, been an object lesson in the extent to which “grassroots” anger is actually being orchestrated from the top.  If a large part of the Republican base believes, groundlessly, that the election was stolen, it’s because that’s what leading figures in the party have been saying. Now politicians are citing widespread skepticism about the election results as a reason to reject the outcome—but they, themselves, conjured that skepticism out of thin air.

And what’s striking if you look into the background of the politicians stoking resentment against (so-called) “elites” is how privileged many of them are.  Josh Hawley (R, MO), the first senator to declare that he would object to certification of the election results, rails against elites but is, himself, a graduate of Stanford and Yale Law School.  Ted Cruz has degrees from Princeton and Harvard.

The point isn’t that they’re hypocrites.  It is that these aren’t people who have been mistreated by the system. So why are they so eager to bring the system down?

I don’t think it’s just cynical calculation, a matter of playing to the base (*and potentially bolstering their own chances for a race in 2024).  My best guess is that we’re looking at a party that has gone feral—that has been cut off from the rest of society.

People have compared the modern GOP to organized crime or a cult, but, to me, Republicans look more like the lost boys in “Lord of the Flies.” They get their information from partisan sources (*Fox, OAN, Parler) that simply don’t report inconvenient facts.  They don’t face adult supervision because, in a polarized political environment, there are few competitive races.

So they’re increasingly inward-looking, engaged in ever more outlandish efforts to demonstrate their loyalty to the tribe.  Their partisanship isn’t about issues, although the party remains committed to cutting taxes on the rich and punishing the poor. It’s about asserting the dominance of the “in” group and punishing outsiders.

The big question is how long America as we know it can survive in the face of this malevolent tribalism. (*Note: It’s not surprising that in the wake of a woefully mishandled pandemic, 400,000 dead citizens that Trump’s neglect of duty and poor example make him complicit in their demise, the resulting cratering of the economy, and long lines of Americans out of work and waiting literally hours in food lines, there is a sense of urgency and despair that is surfacing. The unbelievable thing is  the misguided belief that “more of the same” is the cure.)

The attempt to undo the presidential election went on far longer and attracted much more support than almost anyone predicted.  And unless something happens to break the grip of anti-democratic, anti-truth forces on the GOP, one day they will succeed in killing the American experiment.

Our Wounds Are Deep: Let’s Bind Them Up!

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

On the heels of the data from the state of Texas that the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine is not set up in an equitable fashion (so far, nobody knows how, when, or where to get a shot), I read Eugene Robinson’s essay about Donald J. Trump’s attempt to overthrow our democracy. It originally appeared in the Washington Post.

Texas, where I currently am, is supposed to receive a total of about 200,000 doses of the vaccine next week. An Austin American Statesman review of the state’s online map of COVID-19 vaccine providers found that all but a handful of local providers are west of I-35. For decades, being east or west of I-35 has represented a racial and class divide in Austin.

None of the vaccination sites are in the city’s lowest-income and ethnically diverse neighborhoods, while there are 16 distribution sites in an area bounded by I-35, MoPac Boulevard, Lady Bird Lake and FM2222. Hmmmmm.

A record number of Texans are hospitalized: 13,784 across the state, setting a new record for the 5th day in a row. In Texas, only 552 beds remain available. The number in Travis County had dropped from 34 ICU spots to 24 in one day recently. These statistics are for those back in Illinois, where we also spend half our time.

On Thursday, the state health agency reported 19,598 new COVID-19 cases here in Texas.

Back in Illinois, there were 9,277 new cases, to bring the Illinois total to 1, 017, 322 known infections and 17,395 deaths, with 126 of those deaths occurring just today in Illinois.

“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” sixth book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).

Democrats are urging that all doses of the vaccine be administered now, rather than holding back doses for the second round of shots, which is in contrast to the Trump plan.

Against this tumultuous backdrop of a pandemic that has killed more people than died during WWII, against the backdrop of January 6th’s insurrection attempt by Donald J. Trump to wrest control of the presidency from the duly-elected president, came this insightful essay by Eugene Robinson, a Black American and an eloquent writer.

Eugene Robinson’s essay for the Washington Post was entitled “Trump Has Wounded Us.  It Will Take Time to Recover.” Here it is:

“Let’s be clear:  What happened Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol was an attempted coup d’etat, egged on by a lawless president desperately trying to cling to power and encouraged by his cynical Republican enablers in Congress.

It was perhaps inevitable that President Donald Trump’s chaotic and incompetent tenure in office would end with riots and tear gas.  Not since British Major Gen. Robert Ross set fire to the president’s residence and the Capitol building in 1814 have we seen such a scene at the hallowed citadel of our democracy, as an angry and disillusioned mob—whipped into a frenzy by Trump himself—forced its way into the Capitol to disrupt the official certification of Trump’s electoral defeat.

Images from this shameful day will endure forever:  Crowds storming the security barricades, overwhelming outnumbered and seemingly unprepared Capitol police, and breaking windows to pour into the seat of American power.  Police officers inside the House of Representatives chamber, guns drawn and aimed at the main doors, where protesters threatened to force their way inside.  A scarf-draped rioter sitting smugly in the chair where, an hour earlier, Vice President Mike Pence had presided over the Senate.

The central act of our democracy—the peaceful and orderly transfer of power—was not allowed to take place.  Blame the rioters themselves, who must take responsibility for their own actions.  But blame Trump above all.

And blame the Republican members of Congress who sought to boost their own political fortunes by validating Trump’s self-serving paranoid fantasies.

I mean you, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.  And you, Sen. Ted Cruz.  And you, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.  And all the rest who thought that the way to succeed in GOP politics was to pretend to believe Trump’s lies rather than tell the nation the truth.

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

Trump told his MAGA legions that he didn’t really lose the election, that, in fact, he could not possibly have lost, and that somehow he would manage to remain their president for a second term.  First, various recounts would save him—until they all confirmed Joe Biden’s victory.  Then, it was going to be the certifications of the vote totals, but all the states certified their results. Then, it was going to be the courts that rode to the rescue, but courts at every level, including the U.S. Supreme Court, tossed out his frivolous lawsuits like so much scrap paper.

Finally, on January 6th,— or perhaps Pence, acting alone,— would surely throw out the electoral votes from states that Trump falsely claimed to have “won,” thus giving him the glorious victory he deserved.  He urged his followers to come to Washington to “Stop the Steal,” to keep Congress from doing its constitutional duty in counting the electoral votes.  And Hawley, Cruz, Scalise and scores of other congressional Republicans went along with this ridiculous fairy tale so as to not anger the president or his supports.

But then January 6th arrived.  Pence issued a statement early in the day making clear that he would obey the Constitution, not Trump’s autocratic wishes.  And the many thousands of Trump supports who had gathered on the Ellipse to hear Trump give a long and angry rant, and who obeyed his order to march on the Capitol, became a guided missile aimed at the heart of U.S. democracy. (*Note: was the “fix” in on guarding that heart? How did these thugs gain access to our most hallowed building, especially on the west side of the Capitol, where film exists of guards opening the barricades and welcoming the domestic terrorist hordes.)

They were like a doomsday cult when the appointed day arrives and the foretold asteroid does not strike.  Trump had convinced them he could not possibly lose, yet inside the Capitol he was losing.  They decided to prevent the transfer of power by force.  Shots were fired, and one person—a 14-year Air Force female veteran—was struck and killed (*Note: 5 have, so far, died in the riot). Tear gas was deployed.  The scenes were like those I saw in places like Paraguay and Peru as a foreign correspondent, and nothing like we’ve ever seen in the United States. (*Imagine how the rest of the world must regard us now!)

Future President of the United States?

President Biden gave a televised address calling for an end to the ‘insurrection’ and the restoration of ‘decency, honor, respect, the rule of law.’ Trump posted a desultory video statement on social media urging rioters to ‘go home’ but repeating his claims that the election was ‘stolen’ (and saying ‘we love you.’)

It is possible to see better days ahead.  Biden is a good man and a lifelong public servant.  Inauguration Day is just a little under 2 weeks away.

But somehow our damaged nation has to make it through those next 2 weeks.  Police and the National Guard are more than capable of re-establishing order in the streets. 

The wounds Trump has inflicted upon the nation, however, are ragged and deep.  We will be paying for the mistake of electing this bitter, twisted man as president for a long, long time.****

***

Finally, a suggestion:  If you have not secured your copy of either “Bee Gone: A Political Parable” or the youth-oriented version (available in both paperback and hardcover, but in hard cover only by contacting me), “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” this one book is going to be the best “memento” of the end of DJT’s reign of terror.

The books were written over 2 years of time, in rhyming fashion, to serve as Tina Fey-like humor aimed at defeating the man in the White House who had proven himself dangerously unstable early on. Humor is a powerful weapon, and Gary McCluskey and I spent 2 years putting the story of the Donald’s run against Hillary Clinton into verse—adding coloring book pages and puzzles to the end of the 6-book Christmas Cats in Silly Hats.

These books (with the exception of the hard cover version of “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee”) are available on Amazon and you can read more about the entire Christmas Cats 6-book series at ConnieCWilson.com. The series was intended to be a gift for my twin granddaughters and meant to teach young elementary-school aged children (ages 3 to 11) how to behave.

It has been extremely difficult, during Donald J Trump’s 4 years in office, to teach young people how to behave, because Trump does not know how to behave appropriately. He never has known how to behave in a responsible manner, and many books on his life prove this. My XmasCats.com series would end when the girls (scheduled to celebrate their twelfth birthday this coming Sunday) were too old to believe in Santa Claus. It ended with a book about a bee who tries to seize control of the hive from the Queen Bee, and was prophetic in its worker bee refrain about the rise of the insurrectionist, who dethrones the Queen Bee, causing the worker bee to say, “Oh, no!” said the worker bee, after his rise. “This really is awful. Our whole hive might die!”

As we close in on 400,000 deaths in this country, caused by incompetence and dereliction of duty at the top since January of 2020, the worker bee’s cry seems almost prophetic. In over 100 years, we have not seen a human tragedy as great as the pandemic and much of our status as the country affected the worst by the pandemic was caused by the poor stewardship of the ship of state.

And so the Christmas Cats series ended. But the series ended with a book that is a small microcosm of what was going on in our country when written. The entire Christmas Cats series is a wholesome, entertaining series, beautifully-illustrated by Gary McCluskey, but this final book in the series is the memento, the time capsule of our time. Order up a copy from Amazon and see for yourself. If you want a beautifully bound Ingram Spark hard cover version of the children’s version (“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee”) drop me a line. [My stash of such books is back in Illinois, but I’ll happily take orders for the hard cover version (that is NOT advertised on Amazon) and get them to you by next Christmas.]

There were 4,000 deaths yesterday (January 7th) and we lost 145,000 jobs. I support President Joe Biden’s efforts to avert catastrophe and to bring this country back to a semblance of calm and normalcy. I hope that all patriotic citizens are reading widely [and not just swallowing the one-sided, often false versions of various news organizations.]  Now, more than ever, we need to stick together and try to become informed members of our democracy, the United States of America.

 

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