Trump is Innocent of the Crime of Liberalism

This is a post I didn’t desire to write but felt compelled to do so. It’s the same topic of another recent post, Trump Family And Elite Corruption. When I shared that other one with a Donald Trump voter, albeit reluctant in their not actually liking Trump, they dismissed the information as underwhelming and unconvincing, even as they admitted to only having barely looked at any of the linked pieces that were shared. So, having confirmed what they already believed without any need to look at any possible information that might disconfirm by bringing doubt, they concluded this was further proof of the liberal bias of media that unfairly attacked Trump. Fake news!

It was amazing how quickly this reasonably intelligent and highly educated person returned to this rhetorical framing of a default narrative. This comes from someone who has otherwise admitted that Trump is corrupt and so that wasn’t even a point of disagreement. Yet the response to Trump being a swamp creature is that the media is liberal, as if the accusation of being liberal is worse than being morally depraved. Sure, Trump is bad, as this person would acknowledge, but… the media is liberal! Hang them! Hang them all! Liberalism is the one unforgiveable sin, against which all else pales in comparison. Trump may be an authoritarian demagogue and narcissistic social dominator, but at least he is not a liberal. This must be that infamous lesser-evil voting I’ve heard so much about it.

Some of the links in that earlier post were just describing the allegations and investigations. Others were detailing the evidence upon which cases were being made. So, I’m not sure which articles this person read or skimmed. But if they actually wanted to know, they would have to do more than a cursory look at a few pieces among many. In covering the specifics, there has been a fair amount of investigatve reporting, such as the CREW report and a Buzzfeed piece, SECRET MONEY: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers. For even greater detail, a number of book-length exposés have been published: Craig Unger’s House of Trump, House of Putin, David Enrich’s Dark Towers, James D. Zirin’s Plaintiff in Chief, Timothy K. Kuhner Tyranny of Greed, etc. One could easily argue that Donald Trump has been the most corrupt president in American history, certainly the most brazenly and shamelessly corrupt, although the competition is steep.

From the articles originally listed, here is one example that is similar to the Ukranian One allegation that the political right latched onto against Clinton: Behind Trump’s Push for “American Steel” in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit. The evidence in both cases is about the same, and yet Clinton got hit much harder in the news media by claims of scandal than did Trump in this case. So, bias obviously can go both directions, depending. Biased media aside, the article shows the commonality across the aisle about what big biz means in this context with Putin having his hands in everything. But I still consider such accusations to be weak, no matter which side asserts them. That isn’t the kind of thing that really interests me, although I think it’s important to demonstrate how the Trump family is not particularly different than the Clinton family.

More damning and dangerous, to my mind, is the everyday corruption of profiteering and legalized bribery (Donald Trump has turned the White House into a bribe factory), which is the kind of thing I found so egregious with the Clintons. Still, in many ways, it’s much more blatant with Trump, as the Clintons at least went to the effort of maintaining formal legality and respectability by filtering money through their foundation. Trump, instead, treats almost everything openly as a business deal to be made, even admitting conflicts of interest and admitting that they influence him. From ‘An Astonishing Rate of Corruption’: Trump Has Amassed 3,000 Conflicts of Interest Since Taking Office (reporting on the CREW report):

  • “55 members of Congress have made 78 visits to Trump’s resort properties.”
  • “Cabinet members have patronized Trump properties and attended events with special interests or wealthy political donors at least 30 times.”
  • “Foreign government-tied entities have held 13 events at Trump properties, and at least 134 foreign officials have visited one of Trump’s properties—violations of U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.”
  • “Special interest groups have sponsored 117 events at Trump properties since he took office.”

Plus, there is the open cronyism that pervaded the Trump administration: “The report details several specific examples of favors given to officials and associates who visit Trump’s properties. Patrons of the president’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida have been offered chances to “shadow rule” government agencies, while other members have been nominated to ambassadorships.” Not small stuff, by any means, and all documented. Here is some details from the CREW report itself:

“Late last year, CREW discovered that one of Trump’s companies applied for two trademarks in Argentina for “real estate affairs” and building construction, suggesting that plans for a Trump Tower Buenos Aires might be moving forward. These were the first trademarks that Trump has applied for in the country since his election.A closer look showed that the timing of the applications closely coincided with Trump administration action on tariffs in Argentina. After the trademark opposition period ended, Trump lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum from Argentina and a few other Latin American countries. Soon after the application was granted Trump reinstated the tariffs, defending his actions on Twitter by claiming that Argentina had manipulated their currency.

“Trump’s international conflicts of interest span the globe to Indonesia, where the daughter of one of his business partners has assumed a high ranking role in the Indonesian government, thus directly linking Trump’s business to a foreign government. Angela Tanoesoedibjo was appointed in October to a position which gives her power over tourism in the country. Tanoesoedibjo’s father owns and operates one of Indonesia’s largest real estate conglomerates, MNC Group, which is building two Trump-branded developments in the country. In one meeting between government officials and her father’s Trump-connected company, an official brought up a property MNC Group is developing that will have Trump-branded aspects.”

There are other examples like that. Consider the many business dealings Donald Trump has had with the Saudis, including royal family and including ties to Saudi investors going back decades: “Trump has been paid tens of millions by Saudi investors and its government through a variety of business deals” (Trump said he has ‘no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.’ But his businesses have made millions from the Saudi government, and the crown prince gave his New York City hotel a huge boost.). As president, he made sure the Saudi government got a generous arms deal, including nuclear weapons — a deal, by the way, that was lobbied by a Trump fundraiser. Also, Saudi lobbyist became a Trump appointee. Then there is the massive amount of money that Trump himself ackowledges was given to him — President Trump has a massive conflict of interest on Saudi Arabia:

“Crucially, though, he and his businesses have continued to benefit substantially from Saudi customers, including the government of Saudi Arabia. Press reports have indicated that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recently paid for rooms and meals at the Trump hotels in Washington and Chicago. In 2017, Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. The kingdom itself paid $4.5 million in 2001 to purchase a floor of Trump World Tower and continues to pay tens of thousands in annual common charges to Trump businesses for that property (the total of which could be up to $5.7 million since 2001, according to one estimate). In the past year, as bookings fell overall, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported a significant uptick in bookings from Saudi Arabia. And a major factor in a recent increase in revenue for the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan was that Saudis accompanying the crown prince during a recent visit stayed there, as The Washington Post has reported.

“Trump said at a campaign rally in 2015 about Saudi Arabia: “I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” What’s notable about that statement is not just the president’s description of his significant business ties to Saudi Arabia but his stark admission that he is inclined to look favorably on those who give him business.”

It’s not just one country that we’re talking about, according to Forbes which isn’t eactly a left-wing rag or communist propaganda (Trump’s Biggest Potential Conflict Of Interest Is Hiding In Plain Sight). A bank majority-owned by the Chinese government was renting space at Trump Tower for more than an estimated 2 million a year. Between domestic and foreign companies, along with payments from foreign governments, Trump has received hundreds of millions of dollars during his presidency — $175 million a year from tenants alone. And the company payments are legally protected as anonymous. Some of his tenants have done business with or been under investigation by the government. The whole situation screams out for the Emoluments Clause (Profiting off the Presidency: Trump’s Violations of the Emoluments Clauses), which was created for this precise reason (Trump faces avalanche of conflict-of-interest troubles):

“No president has ever held a fortune that spans the globe. He has licensed his name to buildings in far-flung countries, including Azerbaijan, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Turkey. Some are allies, some are ruled by autocratic dictatorships and some are at odds with American interests. Further, he owes hundreds of millions of dollars each to the government-owned Bank of China and the privately owned Deutsche Bank. The Trump Organization has plans to continue to expand the company around the globe during its namesake’s presidential administration.Not only do these foreign holdings, debts and future deals present imminent conflicts of interest for American foreign policy, but they also create an immediate constitutional concern. The U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause states that no government official shall receive favorable payment from a foreign government, foreign government-owned company or foreign official without the consent of Congress. It is, in essence, an anti-bribery clause preventing foreign corruption.”

This isn’t being blown out of proportion. This level of conflicts of interest is unprecedented in the American presidency. It’s not only Trump himself but those he surounds himself with, such as General Michael Flynn and Thomas Barrack who had their own conflicts of interest (skim the first few pages of the following report: Whistleblowers Raise Grave Concerns with Trump Administration’s Efforts to Transfer Sensitive Nuclear Technology to Saudi Arabia, Interim Staff Report Committee on Oversight and Reform U.S. House of Representatives). There is also the extent of corporate cronyism and regulatory capture at a level probably never before seen, at least not at this level of crudeness and shamelessness (Mapping Corruption: Donald Trump’s Executive Branch). Also, reporting on this hasn’t been limited to just a few media sources and plenty of articles detail the examples and evidence, far from being wild conspiracy theories and loose accusations. Here is a small selection and really look at the powerful case being made: 

Exposing Trump’s Deals (Global Witness), A Handy List of Donald Trump’s Biggest Conflicts of Interest (Times), Tracking Trump’s Web of Conflicts (Bloomberg), 100+ Examples Of Donald Trump’s Corruption (Rantt Media), Trump’s Interests vs. America’s, Dubai Edition (The Atlantic), Trump’s global business empire raises concerns about foreign influence (Chicago Tribune), When Dirty Russian-Connected Money Saved Trump’s Ass and His Ensuing Business Disasters Helped Destroy the Global and American Economies (Real Context News), Trump’s Dangerous, Unprecedented, and Unconstitutional Conflicts of Interest – Center for American Progress (The Center for American Progress), 

Saudi Arabia Paid Washington Lobbyist to Book 500 Rooms in Trump’s D.C. Hotel Shortly After 2016 Election (Slate), Trump’s Conflict-of-Interest Problem Didn’t End With the Doral Debacle (Mother Jones), “I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.” (Politifact), Did we betray the Kurds for Trump Towers? (NJ), Trump Business Deals In Southeast Asia Raise Conflict Of Interest Concerns (NPR), Jared Kushner and the Qatar blockade: Conflict of interest? (Salon), A DONALD TRUMP APPOINTEE — ALSO A SAUDI GOVERNMENT LOBBYIST — IS REASSESSING HIS ROLES (The Center for Public Integrity), Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest (Sunlight Foundaton), 

In some ways, this is worse legalized bribery than seen among the Clinton dynasty. Some of these actions easily could be argued do cross the line of legality, not that they’re likely to ever be prosecuted. Legality aside, they are swampy corruption galore. Among the most corrupt presidents history, Trump has to be one of the top going by the available evidence of what we know so far. It’s not like anyone has ever mistaken him as a good person. He has a long history as a criminally corrupt businessman (Five times law enforcers could have arrested Donald Trump but didn’t), from cheating contractors to tax evasion schemes to bribery (Trump’s Company Paid Bribes to Reduce Property Taxes, Assessors Say), but there is also a dark history of working with organized crime, including multiple incidents of suspected money laundering. It defies credibility to think that he wouldn’t bring this corruption with him into the White House. 

The money laundering accusations and suspicions are among the most worrying. They demonstrate the global connections between plutocracy, political power, and organized crime. The highly unusual financial transactions have implicated Donald Trump many years before he decided to run for president. And it hasn’t only been a concern in the US. Foreign governments and banks have looked into potential money laundering that involved Trump and his family. It doesn’t prove money laundering did happen. But these cases have kept coming up over a long period of time, far from being limited to the reporting of American liberal media. 

The money at stake is not small, as shown by looking to our northern neighbor: “The most recent estimates of the dirty money flowing through the area’s casinos and real estate put the totals in the billions of Canadian dollars (Why Trump should be worried about Vancouver’s new crackdown on money laundering). It’s literally at least a hundred times worse in the United states. “The US Treasury estimates that $300bn is laundered annually in America. This is probably a fraction of the true number. Worse, the US government has no idea who controls the companies that channel the money because America lacks a corporate central registry” (How money laundering is poisoning American democracy). That is the total laundering, not only that of Trump and his cronies. He is just one scummy moral reprobate among many. Among the plutocrats, he is closer to the rule than an exception.

If Trump Is Laundering Russian Money, Here’s How It WorksWhat is Money Laundering and Why Has Donald Trump Been Linked to It?Is Donald Trump’s casino empire linked to money laundering? Past financial crimes may be the president’s biggest problemThe Kleptocrats’ Money-Laundering Middleman Who Did Deals With TrumpA Russian Mobster Built Trump SoHo Into Putin’s Money Laundering RacketThe Trump Family Moves Cash Around Like Money-Laundering Drug CartelsHow the Trumps kept their hands clean while taking criminals’ moneyTrump Taj Mahal Settles Over Anti-Money-Laundering ViolationsMueller Failed to Follow Trump’s Money TrailU.S. House confirms it is conducting “major” money laundering investigation involving President TrumpWhy has Congress stalled on investigating money laundering allegations at Trump properties?Can Trump Organization Executives Be Prosecuted for Money Laundering?Do Trump’s Taxes Show He’s a Failure, a Cheat, or a Criminal?Trump’s Tax Returns Are a Scandal for the President—and for America,

A Trump hotel in Panama reportedly was responsible for laundering millions of dollars in drug moneyTrump’s Panama tower used for money laundering, reports sayTrump’s Luxury Condo: a Congolese State AffairMessy web of Trump ties in Turkish mogul’s money-laundering caseA Kazakh dirty-money suit threatens to reach Trump’s business worldCalls to Probe Trump-Guiliani Money Laundering SchemeTrump OK’d business partner with alleged Iran laundering tiesDeutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner AccountsThe journalist who revealed the secrets of Trump’s relationship with Deutsche BankDid Deutsche Bank Sweep Possible Money Laundering By Trump Under The Rug?Deutsche Bank employees say leaders dismissed concerns about suspicious Trump transactionsUS probes Trump money laundering through Irish golf courseFinance Journalist: Trump’s Scotland Resort Isn’t a Golf Business, But a ‘Money Disappearing Business’Did Trump launder money through his Scottish golf clubs? Top official demands investigationTrump wealth order probe urged over Scottish golf resortsScotland inches closer to investigating Trump for money launderingScottish Leader Says Trump Should Face ‘Accountability’ In Turnberry Probe

For certain, these are not isolated cases, as the Trump family going back generations has had a well-documented history of legally and ethically questionable activities. As has been pointed out, Donald Trump originally got his earliest inheritance as part of one of a tax evasion scheme that could have been prosecuted at the time, if New York City had not been so corrupt. Some of the federal, state, and local investigations into Trump are surely false or invalid, maybe some being straight-up partisanship, but it would be naive to dismiss them all in this manner (Tracking 30 Investigations Related to Trump). Even ignoring those, one has to consider all the foreign investigations as well. Scandal, financial and otherwise, has followed Donald Trump his whole life and has plagued the Trump family since before he was born.

A recent example has to do with the notorious Deutsche Bank. “The bank was “laundering money for wealthy Russians and people connected to Putin and the Kremlin in a variety of ways for almost the exact time period that they were doing business with Donald Trump,” Enrich said. “And all of that money through Deutsche Bank was being channeled through the same exact legal entity in the U.S. that was handling the Donald Trump relationship in the U.S. And so there are a lot of coincidences here”” (Why Did Deutsche Bank Keep Lending to Donald Trump?  — “Trump, Inc.” Podcast). This is a well established pattern. After his financial troubles in the 1990s, no US bank would go near him. And ever since, his finaces have been heavily tied in with Russians who were willing to loan him money, invest in his projects, start real-estate partnerships, and purchase of Trump condos  (How Russian Money Helped Save Trump’s Business). 

That happened to be the same period of the rise of Putin’s control of Russia, along with the rise of a Putin-supported oligarchy that had money to throw around. Trump’s branding empire was built on this Russian money. “Of course, Trump’s shady dealings aren’t exclusively with Russians. He’s eclectic that way. He’s made deals with Kazakh money launderers, with corrupt businesses in India and with a shady casino operator hoping to expand his operation in Vietnam. Nor is real estate the only realm where Trump has been involved with potential money laundering. In 2015, federal authorities fined the already-bankrupt Trump Taj Mahal $10 million for violations of anti-money-laundering laws” (Trump’s Dirty Money). Let us say Trump made sure to diversify his portfolio.

The specific case that drew public attention was when “anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank had flagged “suspicious activity” on the accounts of both Donald Trump and Jared Kushner in 2016 and 2017” (DID DEUTSCHE BANK SWEEP POSSIBLE MONEY LAUNDERING BY TRUMP UNDER THE RUG?). It should have been reported to the Amercan authorities, but that bank has had close long-term financial ties with the Trump family and decded to not report it (Deutsche Bank says money-laundering reports not waived for Trump), even though it was part of a pattern. The year before, in 2015, several transactions had been flagged when “money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals,” according to anti-money-laundering specialist Tammy McFadden who reviewed the information while working there and advised it be sent to the government. Instead, a management team that had close associations with Kushner intervened by bypassing normal procedures and decided to shut down any further inquiry.

By the way, investing in property has long been a favored way of laundering money, as well as for legalized bribery when paying above actual value, the latter also being alleged when a Russian oligarch paid $100 in buying a $40 million property from Trump in 2008 during the real estate bust. “According to BuzzFeed News, one-fifth of all Trump-branded condos sold in the U.S. since the 1980s were handled in cash transactions that allowed buyers to use shell companies to obscure their finances and identities — a type of exchange that the Treasury Department considers “an attractive avenue for criminals to launder illegal proceeds while masking their identities”” (Deutsche Bank Flagged Trump and Kushner for Potential Money Laundering: Report). Much of Trump’s money from foreign sources, including Putin-related oligarchs and organized crime, comes through over-priced condos and the rental of space such as in Trump Tower —- Trump’s Russian Laundromat:

“But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.

“It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy “mark” for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.”

Look at Trump’s financial history these past few decades, as various members of the Trump family have admitted to most of their money coming from Russia (How Russian Money Helped Save Trump’s Business):

“All this history helps put into context some recent developments in the investigations by Mueller and the Southern District of New York, which have focused on supposed Trump collusion or conspiracy with the Russians. It may have seemed odd at first that during the presidential campaign the people in Trump’s orbit—including Trump’s son, daughter, and son-in-law—were contacted by at least 14 Russians, according to information emerging from the federal investigations. Or that in November 2015, according to a sentencing memo published recently, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was approached by a Russian who offered “political synergy” between the Trump campaign and Russia (adding that a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would have “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well”).  

“But in fact at least some of these encounters appear to have sprung from business contacts Trump had developed over nearly two decades.

“According to Trump’s former real-estate partner and other sources who are familiar with the internal workings of the Trump Organization, his post-’90s revival may have really begun in the early 2000s with the Bayrock Group, which rented offices two floors down from Trump’s in Trump Tower. Bayrock was run by two investors who would help to change Trump’s trajectory: Tevfik Arif, a Kazakhstan-born former Soviet official who drew on seemingly bottomless sources of money from the former Soviet republic; and Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman who had pleaded guilty in the 1990s to a huge stock-fraud scheme involving the Russian mafia. […]

“By the time he ran for president, Trump had been enmeshed in this mysterious overseas flow of capital—which various investigators believe could have included money launderers from Russia and former Soviet republics who bought up dozens of his condos—for a decade and a half. And Felix Sater was pitching Cohen on a Moscow deal as recently as mid-2016—as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination, according to a sentencing memo recently unveiled by the Mueller probe. […]

“In a 2016 interview with ABC News, Trump did allow that he’d done one Russian deal. “The primary thing I did with Russia, I bought a house in Palm Beach at a bankruptcy,” Trump said. “I bought it for about $40 million. I sold it for $100 million to a Russian.” That 2008 sale of a six-acre Palm Beach estate to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev is also reportedly being reviewed by Mueller’s team. At the time, Trump claimed that he was able to flip the house for such a high price in only four years because of renovations. But so huge was the differential in price—especially since by the time Trump sold the property to Rybolovlev in 2008, real-estate prices were plummeting in the financial crisis—that the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, has asked for an investigation into the sale.

““That deal delivered so much cash to Trump, it almost has to be seen as a campaign contribution, or the purchase of Donald Trump,” said D’Antonio. Earlier this year the buyer, Rybolovlev, appeared on a U.S. Treasury Department unclassified list of Russian oligarchs, or influential politicians and business professionals who are considered close to Putin.

“Even Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have admitted that Russians supplied the Trump Organization much of its capital needs.

“In September 2008, at the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in New York, the president’s eldest son, Donald Jr., said: “In terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. Say, in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo, and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” In 2014, his younger brother Eric—also an executive in the Trump Organization—told a well-known sports writer, James Dodson, after the latter asked him where the organization was getting the money to buy up so many golf courses: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” (In 2017, after the Mueller investigation began, Eric Trump denied making the comment.)”

I know how many feel about the Mueller probe, as even some left-wingers like Jimmy Dore have considered it partisan political theater. But there are questions that need to be answered, issues that need to be investigated — there is overwhelming evidence of multiple networks of powerful figures that have access to large sums of money to fund a variety of agendas and organizations (Following the Money: Trump and Russia-Linked Transactions From the Campaign to the Presidential Inauguration – Center for American Progress). And as I keep pointing out, there really was something fishy going on with political insiders, including Trump associate Paul Manafort, working with one of Putin’s many proxies. To be fair, the brother of one of the top DNC insiders was working with Manafort, but I already covered that issue elsewhere.

Also, keep in mind that Manafort had been doing business with Trump in the year before the campaign and had been meddling in Eastern Europe for at least a decade. And like Trump, Manafort has been caught up in financial questions involving the Deutsche Bank. There are also questions that never have been answered: “Trump actively pursued a major real estate deal in Moscow while he was campaigning for president. He worked closely with a career criminal on the Trump SoHo Hotel project before he even ran for president, a development funded in part with lots of murky money from eastern Europe” (Mueller Failed to Follow Trump’s Money Trail). Mueller, for fear of blowback, never pursued this line of investigation, although maybe he should have or else another investigator, but Congress also backed off. 

Those issues are not insignificant, especially in the context of decades of Trump’s ties to Putin along with Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia, the latter two working directly under Putin’s power (Trump’s businesses are full of dirty Russian money. The scandal is that it’s legal.). The Trump family has long been into shady business practices and business partners. In our cycicism, we shouldn’t take that so lightly. It’s not only that this kind of behavior is morally wrong and anti-democratic, whether or not legally prosecutable, but that it has become normalized. It corrupts not only goverment for it, more importantly, corrupts all of American society. And, of course, it’s bipartisan — How money laundering is poisoning American democracy:

“Donald Trump is the public face of a problem that extends into the heart of America’s system. It spans Democrats and Republicans, New York and Washington, the public and private sectors. It is a curse that dare not speak its name in the 2020 election.

“It is easy to guess why Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, goes light on it. Mr Biden helped to turn Delaware, his home state, into the most popular domicile for anonymously-owned companies. Without those, The Trump Organization would have garnered far fewer of the investors that bought its condominiums. In one of Mr Trump’s towers in Florida, more than 80 per cent of its units are owned by shell companies. The US has 10 times more shell companies than the next 41 jurisdictions combined, according to the World Bank.

“To be sure, unlike Mr Trump’s alleged transgressions, Mr Biden’s are legal. But it is “legal graft” that has seeped into all corners of US politics — and society beyond. Mr Biden has done as much as any US public figure to put such practices on the statute books. […] There used to be a bright red line between America and the world’s kleptocracies. Now they are symbiotically linked.”

Even so, there are some laws already in place to investigate and prosecute many such potential crimes, if there was political will to do so. It’s certainly not for a lack of evidence in justifying further investigation, and we don’t need to prove any specific allegation beforehand since that is the purpose of an investigation. This is quite concerning to see such corruption, to say the least. It was bad enough when he was merely a sleazy businessman, but it’s downrght demoralizing to see it continue thrughout his administration (Donald Trump, Russian Oligarchs, And A Trail Of Money Laundering).

Like the Bushes and Clintons, the Trumps have all been powerful figures in the main parties for many decades. Trump was associating with the likes of Paul Manafort going back to the 1980s. Also, the Trumps and Clintons are longtime cronies and close family friends. The whole Trump clan is swampy and the same is true of many brought in by the administration. Yet like the Clintons there almost always is plausible deniability and teams of lawyers, not that it makes corruption better when it outwardly follows the letter of the law or when it is so well hidden that it can’t be proven illegal or else when those in power have such legal protection that they are for all practical purposes beyond the prosecutory reach of the law — The Self-Dealing Administration:

“In May of 2018, China awarded Mr. Trump’s golden child, Ivanka, seven trademarks for her now-defunct lifestyle brand, right around the same time her father was pledging to save a major Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, from going belly up. Ivanka’s office said there was no special treatment involved.

“What’s good for the Trump family is, apparently, also good for the family of Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, and their business interests. In May 2017, Mr. Kushner’s sister played up her brother’s position as senior adviser to the president when pitching some of Kushner Companies’ real estate developments to prospective Chinese investors through a federal program that provides fast-track visas to wealthy foreign investors. The project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” she told them. The company denied any impropriety.

“Also in 2017, both Citigroup and Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, made large loans to Kushner Companies after White House meetings between Mr. Kushner and top executives from those firms. The involved parties insisted that the loans had nothing to do with Mr. Kushner’s position — that, in fact, his family’s business had not even come up in the discussions. The $184 million loan from Apollo came through in November. The next month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dropped an investigation into Apollo. While there was no indication that the two episodes were related, the timing was a tad unseemly. […]

“In politics, as in life, the fish rots from the head. And many members of the administration seem to have embraced the first family’s ethical flexibility. Among the top officials to depart under allegations of self-dealing or other misuse of taxpayer money were the secretary of the interior, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the secretary of health and human services and the secretary of veterans affairs. Impressively, Wilbur Ross remains the commerce secretary, despite reports of multiple sketchy financial dealings.

“Forget Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals. Mr. Trump will be remembered for assembling a world-class Team of Grifters.

“The Trump campaign world presents its own opportunities for self-enrichment. Before being ousted as campaign manager this summer, Brad Parscale had been facing scrutiny both for the campaign’s profligate spending and for the lavish lifestyle he had adopted since joining Team Trump. Following Mr. Parscale’s demotion, the campaign began an audit of spending during his tenure, according to Business Insider. (The campaign has denied that Mr. Parscale is being targeted by the review.)

“Mr. Parscale features prominently in recent allegations that the Trump re-election effort has been violating campaign finance laws. In late July, a nonpartisan watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing the campaign and a related fund-raising committee of masking $170 million in spending to vendors and Trump family members by funneling the payments through companies run by Mr. Parscale and others formed by the campaign’s lawyers. Among the outlays in question are fat salaries for Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, and Don Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The campaign has denied any wrongdoing.”

One can take that information as one will. It’s not easy to draw any specific conclusion about it in legal terms. Obviously, Trump is a bad hombre. But did he cross the line into proveable and prosecutable criminality during the past four years? All that can be said for absolutely certain is that, if all of this overwhelming corruption is not illegal, it should be. But put this in context, Trump is not the only politician and plutocrat who should be in prison. Still, justice has to begin somewhere and there is no time like the present. Not that I have any faith that justice will be served. At the very least, it would be satisfying to finally have public acknowledgement of the injustice itself. I’d settle for a truth commission that let the guilty go free if it forced truth to the surface and forced the corruption out of of the government. Punishment of the guilty would simply be a nice added benefit.

Pick Your Poison

“‘We are the United States of Amnesia,’ said Gore Vidal in 2004. These days, it’s more the United States of Dementia. In 2020, the country seems determined to choose between two elderly men who, it is fair to say, are some distance from sanity.”
~Freddy Gray, Biden vs Trump: may the craziest man win!

“A top Democrat with a prior presidential campaign predicted last year to me that the general would pit “the nice old guy with Alzheimer’s against the mean old man with dementia.””
~Marc Caputo, Twitter

“Voters are going to see Joe Biden in what I think can only be called mental decline and they are going to wonder if he should be in charge of the nuclear arsenal. And the fact that Trump is also in clear mental decline, that’s not exactly reassuring.”
~Jeremy Scahill, We Need To Talk About Joe

“The two people most likely to control the U.S nuclear arsenal, and with it the capacity to blow up civilization, through January 2025 are both well into their 70s and facing pervasive public speculation that they are becoming senile.”
~John F. Harris, 2020 Becomes the Dementia Campaign

Here we are. The presidential election has come down to two main candidates, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. They are white guys, filthy rich and very old*. They’ve spent their lives as corrupt plutocrats and now, as rapidly aging senior citizens, they are not only holding onto power over society but grasping for even more power.

Even if they weren’t morally unfit, no one could honestly argue that they’re not mentally unfit. Each has clear signs of cognitive decline, possibly dementia. I’m not being mean-spirited or ageist. There are many old people who maintain their full cognitive abilities. Elizabeth Warren, for example, comes across as someone decades younger. And Bernie Sanders, even with other health problems, remains mentally sharp. I’ve listened to old interviews and speeches of Biden and Trump. Both of them used to be capable of speaking coherently and intelligently — yes, even Trump.

If that wasn’t bad enough, each has a history of racism, calls for authoritarian law and order, and accusations against them of sexual assault — to name their greatest sins. These older generations are becoming ever more reactionary and right-wing with every passing year, and these two old white guys were already pretty damn far right decades ago — consider their support of tough-on-crime laws (Political Super-Predators). This at a time when for decades the majority of Americans has turned hard left, leaving both parties far to the right of public opinion. How do we call this representative democracy? How do we not call this insanity?

“In this upcoming election, women are very likely going to find themselves with a choice of voting for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Both of those men have been accused of sexual assault.”
~Jennifer Wright, When Will We Get To Vote For A President Who Hasn’t Been Accused Of Sexual Assault?

“Three years after the #MeToo movement told survivors our experiences were speakable, we now have the right to choose between two men accused of sexual assault and harassment — and the rumored carrot for the Democrats’ guy is that he might choose an alleged workplace abuser … who is a woman!!!! Girl power!!! Forgive me if the roars of support I’m now obliged to affect get stuck in my throat.”
~Melissa Batchelor Warnkey, Opinion: I will vote for Joe Biden in November. And it will kill me

“It looks like the only non-, sort of heavy socialist, he is being taken care of pretty well by the socialists. They got to him. Our former vice president. I was going to call him — I don’t know him well. I was gonna say, ‘Welcome to the world, Joe. Are you having a good time, Joe? Are you having a good time?’”
~Donald Trump, speech at a National Republican Congressional Committee dinner

About politics as a horse race, which of these old nags will drag itself across the finishing line first? Earlier, we would’ve said that Trump had the advantage over someone like Biden, as the economy was doing well at the time. Like many others, we assumed it all rode on the economy, as Trump bet everything on that issue. But also like many others, we knew the economy was weak and unstable, ready to take a tumble at any moment.

Eventually, the economy would fall into a depression and there would be a reset. It could happen tomorrow or years from now. The plutocrats in both parties have been trying to delay the inevitable. Even Democrats don’t want to face the economic reality, even it meant a massive slump that would hand them the election. But at some point, it will be irrelevant what anyone wants.

That is where the Covid-19 pandemic comes in. It’s also something experts have been predicting for a long time, yet another inevitability. It is hitting at an interesting time, right at the height of campaign season in the year leading up to the election. A third of the economy has shut down with a likely result of massive number of small business bankruptcies and closures, even if another great depression doesn’t hit right away. Also, among the lower class and lower working class, more than half of that population is out of work.

Suddenly, the message of the political left has more traction than ever before. Going by the polls, most Americans have long wanted major political, economic, and healthcare reforms. But the ruling elite had managed to shut down public debate with both parties working together to attack the political left. The silencing is no longer effective and the demand for change is undeniable.

Yet we are stuck with two right-wing candidates in a one-party state. It’s a strange situation. Lesser evil voting becomes more meaningless with every election, as somehow the supposedly lesser evil keeps getting more evil. How are we supposed to be certain which evil is lesser? And how is any evil supposed to inspire victory and somehow magically lead to the greater good? Promoting evil, even lesser evil, muddies the water and simply further strengthens evil — imagine that!

This helped Trump win the last election. But now he is flailing with the public health crisis. As someone who knows how to manipulate situations to his advantage, he seems to have entirely lost the narrative. And he just went on a lunatic tirade declaring himself emperor of America (Stephen Collinson and Maeve Reston, Trump rages at criticism while governors craft their own plans to reopen the economy). For all of his impotent decrees, he has no way to get the economy back up and running again. So, his favorability rating was predictably dropping. It’s likely to get even worse for him over the coming months as the full consequences of the situation become clear.

On the other hand, he is running against the weakest Democratic candidate in recent history. For all of president Cheetoh’s severe mental health issues, Sleepy Joe’s senior moments are far more extreme. For this entire campaign season, Biden has been a political non-entity, an empty suit on stage. In the middle of a pandemic and retired from public office, he has no role to play nor any way to campaign in a normal fashion.

It’s unclear if Biden will be able to remain coherent in a one-on-one debate with Trump (Catherine Armecin, Donald Trump Will Beat Joe Biden, ‘Eat Him Alive,’ Joe Rogan Predicts). If nothing else, Trump is brilliant in going after someone’s weaknesses. He also has a talent for handling the media. As for Biden, his handlers have mostly been hiding him from the public and media, afraid of what words might come out of his mouth. Eventually, Biden will have to come out of hiding and it won’t end well. Given half a chance, Trump will eat Biden alive.

To make it even more interesting, Covid-19 will further spread into the political class. One or both of these candidates is likely to become infected over this next year. Neither is close to being at peak health. Even if Covid-19 didn’t kill one or both of them which it could, they might still suffer serious health deterioration and ongoing health concerns, as is common among patients who recover from severe bouts. If nothing else, it would exemplify the risk of putting up for office the oldest candidates in American history.

It’s a complete gamble of what could happen at this point. This election might as well be decided by a coin toss. Both Biden and Trump are politically out of touch with the American people and mentally disconnected from shared reality. No matter which candidate wins, it will be a loss for the American public and American society. And in our country having become a banana republic, the political system is so rigged that more capable leaders can’t rise to the top. The demand for progressivism, kissing cousin of populism, is coming from the bottom-up and this actually gives Trump the advantage.

Strangely, Trump is more likely to offer progressive reforms than Biden, even as he is also more likely to push authoritarian measures — the two historically haven’t always been opposite and I might add that the economic nationalism, a pillar of old school progressivism, has been a position held by Trump for decades as evidenced in videos of him from the 1980s and 1990s. Biden, on the other hand, will simply be a puppet for his fascist masters, as both a war hawk and a deficit hawk. This is what has made it easy for Trump to attack Biden from the political left, in criticizing Biden for his tough-on-crime policies and his repeated attempts to cuts Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans’ benefits. It was by running to Hillary Clinton’s left on key issues that he beat her.

We are stuck with a choice of bad and worse with it not being clear which is which. Pick your poison, if you feel you must, but do so with open eyes. In either case, America will continue to be poisoned. As previously argued, we will get progressivism, one way or another. But will it be a genuine progressivism of hope or faux progressivism of reaction? Democrats can block the strong demand for justice and fairness from the progressive left. What they can’t deny, though, is the surge for progressivism across the political spectrum. Attacking the political left, as they’ve done, will only further strengthen the far right.

“There is only one choice in this election. The consolidation of oligarchic power under Donald Trump or the consolidation of oligarchic power under Joe Biden. The oligarchs, with Trump or Biden, will win again. We will lose.”
~Chris Hedges, If It’s Biden vs. Trump, This Year’s One-Choice Election Will Be for Oligarchy

“If I go out today and advocate electing as U.S. president the neocon, corporatist, safety-net slashing, longtime racist, private health insurance promoting, war mongering, emoluments taking, opponent of public college education, enemy of major wealth taxes, champion of job-destroying corporate trade agreements, opponent of any serious green new deal, . . . the first question has to be: Yeah? Which one? Which of the two?”
~David Swanson, Why You Should Never Vote for Joe Biden

“To Democrats, it may be self-evident that Joe Biden is far better than Donald Trump, and so they assume that all the bad things he has done will not matter to anyone. Any Democrat in the White House is better than Trump, I hear a lot, and I agree with it. But if you are going to make a clear and powerful case against Trump, you need to be free of the kinds of dirt that are going to muddy your case. If we’re going to point out that the president has been accused by dozens of women of inappropriate touching, we don’t want that message to come from someone who themselves has been accused of inappropriate touching (and who said they are “not sorry” for it). If we’re going to accuse the president of being reckless and warlike, we don’t want the argument being made by a candidate who pushed the most reckless war in the last several decades. If we’re going to accuse Trump of being corrupt, we don’t want a candidate who has done the bidding of the credit card companies while his son took a cushy job with them. If we’re going to call Trump out for separating families, we don’t want a candidate who deported hundreds of thousands of people themselves, and if we’re going to call Trump a racist, we don’t want a candidate who was best friends with segregationists and helped build modern racist policing and imprisonment regime. As with Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden’s record is so bad that he’s unable to effectively attack Trump on the areas where Trump is most vulnerable. This is one reason Biden has to resort to simply attacking Trump’s “character” and his “malarkey”—but as I’ve pointed out, Biden himself is of poor character and half of what comes out his mouth is malarkey! He’s exactly the sort of corrupt, sleazy insider politician D.C. is full of, and who we need to get rid of if we’re going to advance the cause of justice.”
~Nathan J. Robinson, Democrats, You Really Do Not Want To Nominate Joe Biden

“So as of right now it’s Trump versus Biden. An incompetent plutocrat president selling himself as an anti-establishment people’s champion while simultaneously advancing garden variety Republican sociopathy, versus a warmongering authoritarian who is too demented to string a coherent sentence together and who is looking more and more credibly to be a rapist.
“Needless to say, this is absolute bullshit.
“How did we get here? How did we get to the point where the electoral contest to run the most powerful government on the planet is between a racist demented right-wing authoritarian warmongering rapist and another racist demented right-wing authoritarian warmongering rapist? How in the hell did this bullshit happen?”
~Caitlin Johnstone, This Absolute Bullshit Would Not Be Possible Without Propaganda

—–

* Some argue that there has never been a president from the Silent Generation. The generations before them had members elected to the presidency. Boomers have had presidents. And even GenXers arguably had Barack Obama, although it depends on where one begins GenX and, even then, barely as he was right on the edge.

We’re not sure we’d agree with this assessment. Trump was born in 1946 and the supposed last year of Silents was 1945. But those cut-off points are arbitrary. His life experience overlaps much with younger Silents. Our father is a Silent and our mother is so close to it that she identifies as a Silent. For those who spent most of their youth in the 1940s and 1950s, it doesn’t make sense to call them Boomers.

Biden is only a few years older than Trump and he is definitely a Silent. These two, Trump and Biden, were born and grew up in the same basic historical moment. It’s probably why they have so much in common, such as their law-and-order, tough-on-crime support of a military and police state. They also both exhibit the casual racism and obtuse white male privilege more typical of that generation.

In that case, the Silents did finally get themselves into the presidency. And it is Trump who represents them. But then again, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were also born in 1946. It’s interesting that all of these first wave Boomers, first year actually, have so much in common with late wave Silents like Biden. As with Trump’s similarities to Biden, Clinton and Dubyah also were white males with that old school assumed privilege and casual racism, not to mention the whole law-and-order schtick.

Despite being from different parties, all four of these rich old white guys have more in common than not. But whatever generation one wants to call them, they came from a drastically different world than the youngest Boomers who mostly grew up with GenXers in the same post-60s culture, violent crime wave, and high childhood lead toxicity rates. So, if we accept this breakdown, the Silent Generation already has had three presidents with one more now hoping to get his chance.

—–

Biden vs Trump: may the craziest man win!
by Freddy Gray

Joe Biden is Demented Racist Shark Food
by Paul Street

Biden’s Delusion About American History
by Miles Howard

Will Joe Biden’s political record come back to haunt him?
from BBC

Joe Biden’s history of austerity
by Ryan Cooper

Joe Biden’s Long Career as a Deficit Hawk Will Come Back to Bite Him
by Jordan Weissmann

WATCH: Joe Biden Once Boasted About Wanting to Cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans’ Benefits
by Walker Bragman

Why Joe Biden’s Social Security Record Matters
by Nancy Altman

Joe Biden falsely claims he never called for Social Security cuts
by Hunter Walker

Joe Biden Can’t Outrun His Record on Social Security
by Alex Lawson

Biden Says He Won’t Cut Social Security, but His Track Record Shows Otherwise
by Sean Williams

The burden of a 40-year career: Some of Joe Biden’s record doesn’t age well
by Janet Hook

Fact Check: Joe Biden Has Advocated Cutting Social Security For 40 Years
by Ryan Grim

Joe Biden Tried to Cut Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare for 40 Years
by Branko Marcetic

Biden Says He’s the Workers’ Candidate, But He Has Worked To Cut Medicare and Social Security
by Branko Marcetic

Biden’s record on social security and Medicare is a big liability
by Subir Grewal

Campaign season means ‘law and order.’ Can we break the habit?
by Mary C. Curtis

Before He Was America’s Wacky Uncle, Joe Biden Was a Tough-on-Crime Hardliner
by Patrick Caldwell

Biden Won’t Say If He Still Stands By His Crime Bill’s Ban on Pell Grants for Prisoners
by Madison Pauly

Would Joe Biden Put His Son In Prison For Doing Coke?
by Shane Bauer

On Criminal Justice, Biden Has No Moral Standing Over Trump
by Zak Cheney-Rice

Trump Attacks Biden on Drug Policy From the Left
by Jacob Sullum

Trump Was Tougher on Crime in His 2000 Book Than Biden Was in 1994
by John A. Tures

Will Black Voters Still Love Biden When They Remember Who He Was?
by Eric Levitz

Joe Biden’s Greatest Strength Is His Greatest Vulnerability
by Clare Malone

Joe Biden is losing his glow
by Roxanne Jones

Joe Biden Is Not Helping
by Jamil Smith

Where Is Joe?
by Nathan J. Robinson

Does Anyone Remember Joe Biden?
by Dan McLaughlin

Poll: Biden’s National Lead Over Trump Disappears
by Jazz Shaw

Heretic For President!

“I’ll tell you my strategy, the power that emerges from fierce authentic truth articulated among us!”

Marianne Williamson is one among many in the Democratic field of presidential candidates. She is a popular writer and motivational speaker, a liberation theologian and spiritual teacher. She was raised Jewish, but as an adult she embraced A Course In Miracles (ACIM).* She was the leader and senior minister of the Renaissance Unity Church (formerly known as the Church of Today). Under her leadership, it grew to be the second largest Unity church in the country. She sought to make the church independent of the Association of Unity Churches, but it didn’t work out and so she left that position; she would later return to the same church as a guest minister.

She is already a fairly well known name — not as much for politics, although she previously ran as a congressional candidate. Consistently left (and often quite far left) on every major issue, she has been speaking out about social, economic, and political issues for decades, including her 1997 book The Healing of America, but public health has been a particular focus. For example, she started two organizations to support HIV and AIDS patients during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s; and also that same decade she formed a nonprofit that continues to this day in bringing meals to the seriously ill. She has founded other kinds of organizations as well, such as one teaching peace-making skills. On the more radical side, she strongly advocates reparations for slavery.

She is a social justice warrior, but does so with a light touch without attacking others. She promotes moral patriotism in emphasizing that America, though imperfect, has stood for great things throughout its history. Americans have done the morally right thing many times before and we can do so in the future. It’s a message of making America great again, just without any hint of cynicism. It isn’t empty rhetoric to manipulate supporters and win votes. If nothing else, she is sincere. That isn’t what we’ve come to expect from presidential hopefuls. Then again, maybe it is exactly what we need, if only to change the public mood and shift public debate.

Along with her time in the Unity Church, the ACIM informs her vision for humanity and America. It has shaped me as well. My grandmother read the ACIM and, when I was in high school, I read my grandmother’s copy of it. It is particularly popular in the Unity Church**, the New Thought Christianity also introduced to my family by my grandmother. Williamson was the major force behind the ACIM’s rise into public awareness, along with Gerald Jampolsky as a guest on Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power tv program (Schuller being the all time most influential prosperity preacher; certainly, my mother’s favorite). The ACIM message reached a much larger audience by way of Oprah Winfrey promoting Williamson and her writings. Some people like to portray Williamson as Oprah’s spiritual guru, but that seems more like a way of dismissing the message, whatever one may think of New Age religion (I’m personally of mixed opinion, having been around it my entire life).

Williamson will be in the second Democratic debate hosted by NBC, along with Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. She is the only candidate, as far as I know, who is openly speaking about spirituality and religion. Interestingly, as a longtime Democrat, she will be the most religious candidate in either party. I guess New Age religion is moving up in the world. She represents the most potent antithesis of everything Donald Trump stands for. As he promotes hatred and division, she speaks of love and unity: “We have to shift from a sense that we are separate to a shift that we are one. That is the only way the 21st century will be survivable. Our technology has so outdistanced our wisdom that we are a threat to ourselves.”

Public religiosity has been dominated by the Republican Party since the Fundamentalists gained a foothold in the Reagan administration, although we have to blame Jimmy Carter for introducing Evangelicalism onto the national stage and making it respectable. For many decades now, the loudest voices and most powerful forces of religion have worshipped an authoritarian demiurge of fear, hatred, and judgment. Now here is a religious leader entering the political fray with a message that declares that the God inspires our worship is of love and nothing but love, a God who speaks truth instead of lies, a God known through personal transformation and radical vision, not from institutional authority and righteous dogma. That is quite different than the right-wing ‘god’ who creates his own pseudo-truths, as do his followers, and then forces them upon the world. Williamson is part of the reality-based community, but she elevates reality to a faith in Reality, that truth isn’t a mere convenience of opinion that we bend to our preferred biases and agendas. Truth remains, as always, and it will overcome what is false like shadows before the light of the sun — I might note, according to the earliest Pauline tradition, this is the original teaching of Jesus Christ.

Even if you’re not religious and are opposed to New Agey woo, even if you’re an atheist or simply not a Christian, still understand this represents an interesting turning point and a challenge to the status quo. The Republican Party has embraced Trump, a man raised in a different strain of positive thinking Christianity, that of Norman Vincent Peale who had more of a right-wing lean. But this conflict within religion is quite ancient. It goes back to the early Church. Williamson is defending a theology that once was at the heart of Christianity before being expelled by later heresiologists. Her message of love is the return of one of the earliest strains of radical thought, at a time when Christianity was challenging another abusive power of this world, the Roman Empire. The situation isn’t fundamentally different under the American Empire (“The Empire never ended!” PKD), even if not yet reaching the same height of brutality, not quite yet. The times change, along with the ruling powers of this world, but this ancient message of hope is continually resurrected.***

– – – –

* For those unfamiliar, ACIM is one of the most popular New Age texts that uses Christian language and, according to Kenneth Wapnick, Valentinian theology. Valentinus, one of the earliest Church Fathers and in the Pauline tradition, introduced the Trinity into Christianity. According to Clement of Alexandria, his followers said that he learned under Theodas or Theudas, a disciple of Paul the Apostle. Marcion, first collector of the Pauline Epistles (as argued by Robert M. Price) and originator of the earliest New Testament canon, was another famous student of Theudas. In following the radical Pauline vision, both Valentinus and Marcion preached about a God of love, forgiveness, and mercy.

This was part of a direct lineage of wisdom, maybe more similar to Eastern traditions of mysticism and meditation or else something along the lines of the Roman mystery schools. Supposedly taught to Paul’s inner circle, this was a personal vision of the risen Christ (Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 12:2–4; Acts 9:9–10), and one might note that Paul never claimed historical literalism (and so this lends itself to a docetist interpretation) for the Christ he spoke of always was a spiritual figure that transformed the individual supplicant, akin to Enlightenment. Never once did Paul describe a physical Jesus, which is truly bizarre if such a Jesus existed for Paul converted to Christianity during the time when later Gospels claimed Jesus was still alive and yet Paul never bothered to seek out Jesus, as he apparently was fully content with the spiritual Christ. Considering no historical record of a Jesus Christ has ever been discovered, not even in the writings of the most famous Jewish historian of the era, one is forced to conclude that speculating about a historical Jesus is meaningless since it obviously held no meaning to the earliest faithful such as Paul.

It might be seen as similar to other traditions labeled as Gnostic, that is if one interprets this vision of Christ as secret knowledge of an elite or an elect. But one might argue it is more similar to the anti-elitist strain of some later Protestant or Anabaptist faiths in how Valentinianism upholds a personal relationship to God that depends on no institutional authority as mediator. His monism resonates with Eastern religion and philosophy. Evil, in this worldview, has no fundamental reality and, instead, is an illusion or error. In not understanding the monistic essence, some mistake this as dualism associated with Gnosticism. But if Valentinus and Marcion were Gnostics, then so was Paul and, with this in mind, we should acknowledge that Paul’s writings are the earliest known Christian texts. Many have argued that the Paul’s teachings were the prototype of both Christianity and Gnosticism, the two traditions maybe having originally been the same faith or else emerged from the same milieu.

Rather than the dualism of good and evil that has long plagued Christianity (as inherited from Judaicized Zoroastrianism and as incorporated from Augustine’s Manichaeanism), Valentinus’ monistic system of faith reconciled the Trinity within the one true divine source. Despite the denial of the Trinity, the closest modern equivalent to this monism would be Unitarianism, specifically in relation to Universalism as Valentinus also had a broad vision of salvation (besides the Unitarian-Universalists, the Unity Church also holds to these doctrines). Despite being called a Gnostic according to those who seized power within the Church, Valentinus was a leader in the early Church long before any heresiologists came along to slander anyone as not being a real Christian and centuries before the Nicene Council. His Christianity was original and, if anything, what came after was revisionism.

Gospel of Truth
(written by Valentinus or his followers)

“Therefore, if one has knowledge, his is from above. If he is called, he hears, he answers, and he turns to him who is calling him, and ascends to him. And he knows in what manner he is called. Having knowledge, he does the will of the one who called him, he wishes to be pleasing to him, he receives rest. Each one’s name comes to him. He who is to have knowledge in this manner knows where he comes from and where he is going. He knows as one who, having become drunk, has turned away from his drunkenness, (and) having returned to himself, has set right what are his own.

“He has brought many back from error. He has gone before them to their places, from which they had moved away, since it was on account of the depth that they received error, the depth of the one who encircles all spaces, while there is none that encircles him. It was a great wonder that they were in the Father, not knowing him, and (that) they were able to come forth by themselves, since they were unable to comprehend or to know the one in whom they were. For if his will had not thus emerged from him – for he revealed it in view of a knowledge in which all its emanations concur.”

– – – –

** Let me offer some historical context, but specifically about the United States. So-called New Age thinking began quite early. Of course, you find it rooted in the Axial Age. But you also see evidence of it in the various mystical and spiritual schools of thought that kept erupting throughout European history. Following the Protestant Reformation, the idealistic Anabaptists, Huguenots, Quakers, Shakers, etc brought a political edge to religiosity — all of which shaped England during the English Civil War and shaped the American colonies during the same period. Consider Roger Williams’ version of the Baptist faith, as radical as they came in that era and remains radical to this day.

The Enlightenment kicked this into high gear with such things as Mesmerism which would later influence not only psychology by way of hypnotism and hypnotheraphy but also positive thinking, new thought, and prosperity gospel. The American Founders were often quite radical in their views, such as many of them being Unitarians, Universalists, and Deists. Thomas Paine, like a number of others, challenged the historicity of Jesus Christ and other Biblical stories, not that he was making a docetist argument. The American Revolution might not have happened without this religious fervor and the theological challenge to the British Empire. In asserting natural law above human law, in declaring everyone was an equal before God, this moral righteousness struck directly at the heart of abusive power.

From the American Revolution to the decades following the American Civil War, there was an emerging sensibility about religion and spirituality. It was the the period of the second and third Great Awakenings, involving the spread of what was then radical Evangelicalism (giving voice to women and challenging slavery), along with Transcendentalism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, etc. This would come to shape 20th century progressivism and liberalism. The Unity Church formed in the late 19th century, having taken shape amidst the Evangelical unrest of the Populist Era. Besides offering a more positive message, they early on were advocates of vegetarianism; also, women were allowed greater participation and at least by the time I was a kid they were proponents of same sex marriage. The New Age is as American as apple pie.

– – – –

*** This isn’t limited to Christianity, of course. The same basic message was preached by all of the major Axial Age prophets. It has been the defining feature, the radical heart of all that has followed since, including the universal idealism that erupted during the Enlightenment.

This vision has been persistent in its challenge. It is unsurprising that Christians, as with the faithful of other religions, have so often failed to live up to it. But one wouldn’t mind all the failure so much if there were more believers who took the message seriously in the first place, serious enough to attempt to genuinely follow such high ideals. Instead, most failure of faith comes from a weakness or lack of faith. It is a rare Christian I’ve met in my life who has even bothered to try to live according to Jesus’ example and his simple teachings of love, as such extremes of self-sacrifice are inconvenient.

Marianne Williamson is making the humble suggestion that maybe, just maybe religion doesn’t have to be equated with heartless hypocrisy, doesn’t have to make a moral compromise with cynical realpolitik. Nor that spiritual transformation is inherently separate from political revolution, a truth that has been embodied by many visionary leaders before, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. This has been the challenge of Axial Age idealism for more than two millennia.

– – – –

Author, entrepreneur Marianne Williamson forms presidential exploratory committee, visits Iowa

Marianne Williamson, Tea Party Progressive?

How Marianne Williamson’s presidential bid is normalizing New Age spirituality

Into America’s Spiritual Void With Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson Wants Your Perception to Shift

Marianne Williamson Spreads Message Of Unity

Marianne Williamson for President! She’s a Liberation Theologian

The spiritual politics of presidential candidate Marianne Williamson

New Age Guru Marianne Williamson On Her Jewishness And 2020 Presidential Run

Marianne Williamson adds ‘meaning’ to Democratic presidential field with quixotic ‘inner’ campaign; her rivals are noticing

Marianne Williamson is Oprah’s spiritual adviser. She’s also running for president.

Meet Marianne Williamson, the motivational speaker, author, and Oprah Winfrey pal who is running for president in 2020

Marianne Williamson: Something Different

Marianne Williamson On Her Vision For Healing America And The World – Mindvalley Podcast

Integral friendly Marianne Williamson running for 2020 President: What do we know, think?

Obama’s Lack of a Legacy

This is when a president’s legacy becomes a central focus.

Barack Obama has been positioning his post-presidential role and trying to frame his legacy. This becomes much more important for the fact that Obama supported Hillary Clinton in her candidacy as the official representative of his continuing legacy. Instead, his party has faced one of the greatest losses and public shamings in living memory.

Many others have discussed the issue of how Obama will be remembered. There are those who think he will be seen as one of the worst presidents. There is an argument for this, as even many of his supporters have been severely disappointed by his weak and ineffective presidency. And no doubt the other party winning with such a pathetic and hated candidate does feel like a powerful rebuke. But it goes far beyond the loss of power by the Democratic Party in Washington and across the country.

It’s true, for example, that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has turned out badly and will make it all the more difficult for future politicians to push for genuine reform. Most Americans wanted healthcare reform that was further to the left, but instead they got yet another corporatist policy that didn’t solve the problem and for many people made it worse. This was a major reason for why most eligible voters, including partisan Democrats, couldn’t get all that excited about yet another corporatist, i.e., Clinton.

Yet I doubt Obama’s presidency will be recorded in history books as a failure. He simply wasn’t all that memorable of a president.

His signature ‘achievement’ was the ACA. But it was based on and inspired by healthcare reforms that had been pushed and implemented by both parties going back to the middle of last century. In the long term, Obama won’t get much credit or blame for the ACA. It’s not that significant by itself, just another half-assed corporatist policy. The only significance it might have is if, in its failure, future politicians are forced to remedy it with effective policies that actually ensure and make accessible healthcare for all Americans.

Even his being the first black president won’t necessarily be all that important to those looking back from a century or two in the future. Give it enough time with a few more non-white presidents and later generations won’t fully understand why it was ever a big deal. It will likely just be a footnote in the history books.

Compare this to JFK, the first Catholic president. JFK being remembered fondly by most Americans has nothing to do with his Catholicism, despite a Catholic president having been unimaginable before that time. It is hard for young people today to grasp that Catholics were once one of the most hated and feared groups in the Anglo-American world and were one of the main targets of the Second Klan.

When a norm has been shattered and a new norm established, it stops seeming all that unusual to following generations. A new normal makes nearly incomprehensible what came before. When an event passes far enough out of living memory, the world that gave it meaning can be seen as foreign and strange.

Besides, as legacies of black leaders go, Obama’s presidency will always be overshadowed by the greater legacy of Martin Luther King, jr. All that Obama succeeded in showing is that a black president doesn’t really change anything. He had no more genuine concern about poor, disenfranchised blacks than did George W. Bush. Class politics trumps all else because class privileges and class disadvantages go across racial divides. This is something MLK understood and Obama did not. Obama represents everything that MLK fought against.

The reality is that Obama was a mediocre president. He had two terms to prove his worth. But all that he proved was that he was solidly entrenched within the Democratic establishment and the political elite, that he was yet another neoliberal and neocon as all presidents have been for decades. This is emphasized by his having continued so many of his Republican predecessor’s policies on war and economics, demonstrating that the two parties in recent history have been more alike than different.

Not even his failures were all that unique and impressive. He is just another professional politician, a typical example of an all too familiar variety of political elite. In the end, he represented his party, his cronies, his class, and his corporate donors more than he ever represented the American public.

At most, his administration will be remembered as the end of an era. His legacy will be that of the last president who attempted to maintain a failing status quo, at a time when the American public was demanding change. As an individual and in his presidency, though, he isn’t that important. He won’t be remembered as either a great president or a horrible president. In his legacy, he won’t even be considered a major representative of this era now coming to an end.

The best that Obama can hope for is that Trump’s presidency will be so undeniably bad that people will feel nostalgia for Obama’s mediocrity. Maybe over time that nostalgia will make the details of his presidency so fuzzy that all of the failures and lost opportunities will be forgotten. But hoping that the next administration will lead to even worse results is not an inspiring way to end a presidency.

Democracy?

I’ve previously written about stolen elections. The first election I voted in, 2000, happened to be the most blatant stolen election in US history. It went to the highest levels of power, involving a pivotal state governed by the brother of a major candidate and a partisan Supreme Court that decided to bypass democracy itself in order to declare the new ruler.

I don’t know what to make of it all. It really is messed up. Just another thing to make me despair. And heading into the new century was a time of my life when I didn’t need more despair.

It was my mid-twenties. Depression had hit me like a ton of bricks starting in my late teens. Leaving home for the first time, I was a lost cause and a lost soul. I dropped out of college and wandered aimlessly for a number of years, having endlessly contemplated suicide and one time attempted it. I eventually settled down, having permanently returned to my childhood home. At that point, I was in a slightly better frame of mind.

The turn of the century got everyone excited, with threats of the Y2K bug. It was a new century and a new millennium. We survived that with a sigh of relief, but the worst was yet to come. The coming decade of the aughts would not be a happy time. Even so, many looked to the new millennium with optimism, the Cold War having ended more than a decade before and the intervening years having seen a tech boom. The threat of terrorists and economic recessions weren’t yet on many people’s minds. The future seemed bright and ripe for change.

I remember that moment in time. I heard Nader give a speech on his presidential campaign. He gave me hope, as naive as that may sound. I can’t explain what an amazing thing hope can be when it has been lost for so long. Listening to Nader, it was beyond refreshing. It was inspiring. He was a politician who actually gave a damn. And the cynical partisan Democrats attacked the likes of me for voting my conscience, a silly thing to do considering that I wasn’t a Democrat and neither were most of Nader’s supporters, but that is always how partisan politics trumps all else, even democracy itself.

Following the Florida fiasco, the strangest thing in the world happened. Democrats rationalized it away, as their candidate rolled over and played dead (Kerry in 2004 followed Gore’s example, handing Bush a second term). The fullest recounts ever done showed that Gore won Florida (even more troubling developments happened in 2004), but no one wanted to know, especially not Democrats. To know the truth would mean having to admit the dark reality before us. And here we are still afraid of the truth.

Maybe there were good reasons for that fear. The powers that be were nothing to sniff at. I was reminded of this in coming across Clint Curtis’ allegations about vote rigging. What really caught my attention was the ‘suicide’ of an investigator, Raymond Lemme, who supposedly was about to bring info out to the public. There was also the suspicious death of a high-level Republican consultant, Michael Connell, after having been subpoenaed in a vote rigging investigation.

I don’t know what to do with this kind of thing. To most people, this is the territory of conspiracy theorists, ya know crazy paranoiacs. It should, therefore, be dismissed from thought and banished from public debate. The problem is that I’m psychologically incapable of ignoring inconvenient and uncomfortable facts. Call it depressive realism. I just can’t turn away, as if it doesn’t matter.

The whole thing is highly plausible, even though proving specific connections is difficult. I do know that a lot of unusual activity happened in the 2000 and 2004 elections. All of this comes back to mind during this campaign season, watching all the strange things going on with the Democratic caucuses and primaries: voters being purged, voter status being mysteriously switched, exit polls not matching voting results, etc.

The failure of our system isn’t necessarily what can be proved. Rather, it’s what can’t be proved that is problematic. Our present system is designed to lack transparency and accountability, to leave few if any paper trails and any other traceable evidence. I’d be glad if we could simply verify nothing illegal or immoral happened, nothing anti-democratic was involved, but that is precisely what we can’t do. The one thing democracy can’t overcome is secrecy, as that makes corruption inevitable.

I can’t help thinking that future generations will remember the beginning of this century as one of the darkest times in American history. It will be known as the era when the enemy within became more dangerous than any foreign power.

If you are one of the rare courageous individuals who wants to know what is going on in the world, then read Democracy Undone by Dale Tavris or one of the many other books about the topic. Or if you’d rather not read an entire book, you can find some info in the videos and links below. Your mind will be blown, your heart broken, and your sense of justice outraged—the proper attitude of any freedom-loving American.

This leaves us all with one question: If we don’t have a functioning democracy, what kind of country is this? Don’t just pass over that question. Let it sink in. Let yourself feel despair, to mourn what has been lost. Stop for a moment and consider what this all means. Look at what is before you with eyes wide open.

* * *

Did Expert Witness, Activists Thwart a Rove Ohio Vote Plot?
by Andrew Kreig

Who’s Stealing Your Vote? A Documentary
by John Wellington Ennis

How to Rig an Election
by Victoria Collier

How the GOP Wired Ohio’s 2004 Vote Count for Bush to Win
by Steven Rosenfeld

New Court Filing Reveals How the 2004 Ohio Presidential Election Was Hacked
by Bob Fritakis

New Evidence Of Vote Hacking Emerges In Ohio 2004 General Election Lawsuit
by Karoli Kuns

Why Was Uncertified ‘Experimental’ Software Installed on ES&S Tabulation Systems in 39 OH Counties Just Days Before Presidential Election?
By Brad Friedman

 

Clint Curtis
Wikipedia

Tom Feeney: Clint Curtis and vote fraud
SourceWatch

Michael Connell
Wikipedia

Mike Connell
SourceWatch

Programmers weigh in on vote-rigging idea, some details confirmed
by John Byrne

Death of Democracy
by Brad Friedman

Clint Curtis Investigator’s ‘Suicide’ Case Reopened By Georgia Police!
by Brad Friedman

The ghost of rigged elections past: New revelations on the death of Michael Connell
by Bob Fitrakis

These People Kill People You Know
by zapdam

Suspicious Deaths of Those Who Knew Too Much Under Bush’s Watch
by Diana Lee

You will know them by the trail of dead
Xymphora

Investigator’s Murder Cover-Up Straw That Broke Plot
by John Caylor

Global Eye
By Chris Floyd

 

 

 

Politics On My Mind: March 1-8, 2016

March 1

There is one thing I suspect many don’t understand. It took a long time to get where we are now. Someone like Trump didn’t come out of nowhere. And it can’t be blamed just on crazy right-wing rhetoric.

Decades of lesser evil voting by Democrats made someone like Trump inevitable. It’s because the political left was unwilling to offer real solutions and reform that the American public finally has become so frustrated and angry that they are willing to take serious a ranting demagogue.

That is the problem of always being distracted by the short term results of the next election. Those in power have taken a long view. You want to see successful strategy, consider the Southern Strategy. Those who gained power didn’t do so by constantly compromising.

I understand the seeming failure of the Democratic Party is in reality a success for the Establishment. Those like the Clintons don’t want solutions to problems because, from their perspective, the status quo isn’t a problem. But what perplexes me is that average Democrats who claim to want solutions haven’t figured out this game yet, even though it keeps leading to the same sad results.

When will Democrats get as frustrated and angry as the supporters of Trump are right now? Will it take Trump getting elected before all the good liberals will finally get serious about what they claim to believe in? But when they do wake up, will it already be too late?

Another set of questions that are neither hypothetical nor idle. These are genuine concerns. People should be asking themselves these questions and taking serious the answers. The hour is getting late.

I think about earlier times in American history: American Revolution, Civil War, and Great Depression. It goes in about 80 year cycles or 4 generations. We are at such a point again. How bad will it have to get this time?

I understand the reasons.

The Democratic base consists of two groups: liberals and minorities. Liberals on average are wealthier, well educated professionals who live comfortable lives. They generally don’t experience the problems other Americans face. It’s not personally real to them. It is real for minorities. But they have a long history of getting a bad deal. They’ve come to expect that they either accept the lesser evil or else the greater evil may win and they will suffer for it.

Both liberals and minorities realize how precarious is progress in this society. And the earlier assassinations of major leaders was collectively traumatizing. For a half a century now, the American political left has been paralyzed in fear, playing dead in hope that the grizzly bear would stop mauling them.

It is changing. The divide between supporters of Clinton and Sanders isn’t race or gender. It is a generational divide. And not just the very young. Sanders has the 46 and under demographic, a large part of the population. These are the Americans who have little to no memory of the Cold War. The old fearmongering, red baiting, and culture wars don’t have as much power over their minds.

March 2

One reason it is hard to talk about politics in America is because everything has become so skewed. The political spectrum is far to the right than it was in the past.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was way more of a left-winger than is Bernie Sanders. Someone like Dwight Eisenhower is more equivalent to Sanders, at least on domestic issues. The Birchers did call Ike a commie, but back then the views of Birchers were considered radical and yet today they are part of the mainstream.

The moderate centrist position from earlier last century now looks left-wing. I suppose Sanders calls himself a socialist because it is the only way to communicate what people used to mean when calling themselves a liberal. In the rest of the Western world, Sanders would still be considered centrist and moderate.

As for Clinton, in many ways she is to the right of Nixon. Americans often forget how liberal he was, such as creating the EPA.

Back in that era, Clinton was a conservative and a Goldwater Republican. It was Goldwater who helped end the liberalism that dominated both parties back then.

There used to be a left and a right wing in each party. The liberal centrism could operate back then because the liberal framing of politics acted as a moderating force that allowed compromise and cooperation.

Without that center, American politics can’t hold.

Eisenhower made a statement that was representative of his time. He said that conservatism is good for the private sphere, in how people live their lives and in their own economic concerns. But in the public sphere, liberalism is the proper attitude for politics. This is to say liberalism should frame the public good and how society operates over all.

Lacking this liberal frame, conservatism will fall out of balance and become extremist. This is because liberalism has never actually been the left-wing to conservatism’s right-wing. Liberalism instead has always been about moderation. You still see that in how, in polls, a majority of liberals support compromise while conservatives don’t. And in how Democrats, in polls, state stronger support for the presidency no matter who is in power whereas Republicans only support when Republicans are president—although this would have been different earlier last century when the GOP was more liberal and moderate.

What we have seen in recent decades is a severely weakened liberalism. Liberals know they don’t dominate politics. They are constantly on the defense. The thing about liberalism is that it wilts like a flower when the temperature turns freezing. Conservatism can operate in a liberal frame, but liberalism can’t operate in a conservative frame. A social democratic free society simply is not possible under anti-liberal conditions. This is why even conservatives are better off in a liberal society.

I was thinking about Sanders warning about the CIA. He stated the CIA was dangerous to a free society more than four decaes ago and he still stands by that strong criticism. It is reminiscent of Ike’s warning about the military-industrial complex. Neither Ike nor Sanders were/are doves on foreign policy, but both have expressed a wariness about the radical neocon vision of military imperialism, specifically in its corporatist form. That is an old school liberalism that sought moderation between the extremes of isolationist pacfism and expansionist militarism. That view was drowned out in recent years with the post-911 revenge fantasies dominating politics and the revival of Cold War style dreams of globalization. Sanders is a calm voice of sanity in insane times, refusing to bow down to fear.

I was also thinking of Reagan. He was a union leader and a FDR Democrat. He never lost his admiration for FDR and, even after becoming a Republican, kept a picture of FDR above his desk. Like FDR, Reagan believed in an activist government, but instead of that activis being directed to the people it was directed to the military and corporations. He helped further establish what Ike had warned about. The right-wing turn for Reagan represented a right-wing turn for the entire political and economic system.

It was the Goldwater campaign that allowed the right-wingers to take over the GOP and this made possible the election of Reagan. Hillary Clinton worked in the Goldwater campaign. Even when switching parties, she remained a Goldwater conservative. Goldwater and Reagan were both quite socially liberal on many issues, but this was contained wthin a larger conservative worldview. The same goes for Hillary. The innovation of the Clintons was to bring that conservative sensibility into the Democratic Party,what came to be known as the New Denocrats who cut welfare, deregulated markets, and were tough on crime. Conservatism became the new dominant paradigm, replacing the old liberal worldview that had been in place for generations.

March 3

I don’t think Trump is quite comparable to Hitler. Born into immense wealth, Trump is invested in and a part of the system. He has always had close ties to the political establishment.

OTOH Hitler was an outsider with humble beginnings: common soldier, failed artist, poor, even homeless at one point. The same goes for an authoritarian like Stalin, another outsider who had experienced poverty and social problems: hounded by the police, imprisoned, etc.

Trump’s life is too comfortable and he has too much to lose by overturning the entire social order, along with the political and economic system. But as a highly effective demagogue, Trump could set the stage for an authoritarian movement to further develop.

March 3

There is an unusual dynamic in this campaign season. The wild card isn’t just that there are outsider candidates challenging the two main parties. A greater uncertainty is how the political establishment will respond to this challenge and what results it will lead to.

I’ve argued that some of the Democratic political elite would rather lose the election than to lose power to the Sanders campaign. They fear the threat of political reform as demanded by the political left.

A similar fear is seen among the Republican leadership. They know how easy it is to lose power. The right-wing took control of the party with the Goldwater campaign. And more recently the Tea Party seized yet more power. Fighting Trump is the GOP establishment’s last stand.

The entrenched ruling elite on both sides wants to defend their respective political machines and to maintain their respective party’s brand image. With this motivation in mind, I see a possible convergence of forces. Many Democratic leaders might rather Trump be elected than take a chance on Sanders. On the other side, many Republican leaders might prefer Clinton to either Trump or Sanders.

As such, the two party system might put its full support behind Clinton. The establishment on both sides will place defending the establishment before all else. Clinton just happens to be the only viable establishment candidate.

Trump and Sanders are pitted against the entire Washington status quo. The last thing the establishment wants to see is a contest between these two outsiders. This could mean that a Clinton presidency is more inevitable than I first thought. Trump probably could beat Clinton, if the GOP leadership doesn’t turn against him, but that is seeming unlikely at this point.

A Clinton presidency is the only way the two party establishment can guarantee nothing will really change. We might be looking at a Clinton presidency, after all.

This is something I hadn’t considered before. But it makes sense. The establishment ultimately doesn’t care about parties, except to the extent they are useful. All establishment politics is realpolitik.

I originally didn’t think Clinton had a chance aginst Trump, but if she gets the full force of the two party establisment behind her she’ll have campaign to be reckoned with. That would be a game changer for standard American politics.

Will partisanship keep the ruling elite divided? Or will they make a historical truce to fight the outside challengers? I don’t know the answer to that.

How would either Trump or Sanders defend against a unified establishment? It would be hard, not impossible, but quite challenging.

Part of the difficulty is that the populist vote is split between two candidates. There are a surprising number of frustrated Americans who could just as easily vote for either Trump or Sanders. So there isn’t a unified voice to the populist unrest.

Sanders is holding his own at the moment. He has a good chance, but it depends who ends up backing him. I keep waiting to see if the tide will turn.

March 4

What would either tank Clinton’s campaign or guarantee a victory? I was wondering about that.

If enough of the establishment supports her, even drawing some odd bedfellows from the political right, she will be in a strong position. But if something like legal issues become more central and get media attention, she might really struggle. Or if Sanders with the support of black leaders starts drawing away black voters, she might not get the nomination.

Even if she gets the nomination, can she compete against Trump? She has so many weaknesses for Trump to attack. Does it matter that Republican leaders are now trying to tear Trump down? Or will that just make Trump even more popular and make him harder to defeat?

Sanders has the best chances against Trump. He first has to win the nomination, though. If black leaders had come out earlier for Sanders, I doubt Clinton would have had any chance of winning anything. But the Clinton-supporting mainstream media has so effectively shut Sanders out that it took so long for most Americans to even learn anything about him.

There are all these factors that could shift in different directions. It’s not really a matter of the best candidate winning. The election process isn’t a meritocracy. It isn’t even a popularity contest. It’s about maintaining or gaining control of the political narrative. Trump, of course, has been a master at that.

March 4

The media and political elite obviously underestimated Trump. And so they miscalculated their strategies. This is most clear with the mainstream media. They were manipulated and played like fools by Trump.

I suspect much of the media thought that, if they gave him enough rope, he’d hang himself. Or maybe that the novelty would eventually wear off. But likely they weren’t thinking at all, beyond the entertainment value for selling advertising.

Many have watched Trump like a car race. They’ve been hoping for a crash and burn. Trump has disappointed his detractors by not self-destructing.

The guy is a media mastermind. He controls the media. He stays on message. And he dominates the competition.

Unknowingly, the maistream media helped him every step of the way. Now no one knows what to do with the monster they helped create. But it is getting late for any effective counter-measures.

The other Republican candidates are weak sauce. Clinton can’t cobble together a coherent political narrative to save her life. And the mainstream media and Democratic political machine has done everything in their power to ignore and undermine Sanders.

We are moving toward the home stretch of the nomination process. Unless Sanders can gain strong support and pull to the front of the pack, Trump could easily slide home into the presidency. More people should have backed Sanders earlier, of course.

Some maybe are still hoping that God will intervene and take Trump out of the race. But it is hard to imagine what could stop him at this point, without some amazingly effective organizing to fight back.

More Americans should have taken Trump’s challenge more seriously. Instead, too many people who could have made a difference played right into his hand.

March 4

Along with underestimating Trump, I think others may overestimate him. Or else mischaracterize him.

He isn’t just a joke or a clown. He is a smart guy. I bet he understands more than he lets on.

I do give him credit for being a media mastermind. But he is no evil genius like Hitler scheming to take over the world. Just a standard American egotistic plutocrat who happens to be a talented media personality.

He is also not really an outsider. Yes, he became a Republican candidate from outside the GOP. But he didn’t come out of nowhere. He was born into wealth and power, automatically a part of the establishment. He has been schmoozing with the political and economic elite for his entire life, both in the US and around the world, including wealthy Arabs.

Everyone wants to categorize him, as though that will help deal with him. He is many things. But first and foremost he is a plutocrat. All the rest is mere rhetoric and spectacle.

Trump represents American hyper-indivdualist capitalism. He is the dark side of the so-called American Dream.

Even though Trump’s rhetoric fits more closely to the populist ethno-nationalism of Mussolini and Hitler, I worry more about the kind of fascism has become normalized through the ruling elite. A demagogue is probably less of a threat in the present US than the oligarchy represented by the Bush family and Clinton family.

The latter is a creeping almost invisible fascism, growing like an undetected cancer. Trump is like going to the doctor and finally being diagnosed with cancer. Now that we know, are there enough Americans willing to get treatment? Or are we just hoping that the cancer will go away on its own?

March 5

Some people wonder why Hillary Clinton does so well in the South, specifically among minorities. I’d argue it isn’t centrally about the Civil Rights movement and the role of the Democratic Party.

It’s important to keep in mind that the South is extremely conservative. Even minority Democrats in the South are conservative. Hillary Clinton is a conservative Democrat. It’s why Bill won the presidency. He brought Southern conservatism back into the Democratic Party, and so was able to compete against the GOP’s Southern Strategy.

The fight between Clinton and Sanders isn’t between mainstream liberalism and radical socialism. Sanders supposed socialism is simply what used to be called liberalism earlier last century.

It is also important to keep in mind that Clinton is mostly getting support from the older demographic. This is even shown in how support is split among women and minorities. The Clintons have been strong defenders of the conservative policy of tough on crime. But older blacks also wanted this, because of the violent crime increases in their communities, no one understanding at the time that it probably was caused by lead toxicity rates.

Once you realize that Clinton is a conservative, everything begins to make sense. She isn’t a radical right-winger, like Ayn Rand libertarians and Evangelical theocrats. But she is what used to be considered a standard conservative, before the word was taken over by right-wingers.

I have nothing against conservatives, Southern or otherwise. I just like truth in advertising. Clinton is a conservative.

If she represents your beliefs and values, then embrace your conservatism openly. We’ll have more honest debate that way. Then the likes of Sanders can drop the socialist label. Let’s have a real debate about real liberalism and real conservatism.

The muddled language and thinking in US politics is the opposite of helpful.

I also understand why a certain kind of liberal finds Clinton appealing. Some of it is compromise and lesser evil thinking. But there is more to it than that.

In the South, even liberals are relatively more conservative-minded. I see the same thing in the Midwest as well. Midwestern liberals will use conservative style arguments, invoking values of community, family and work ethic.

My hometown of Iowa City is a center of liberalism in Iowa. One resident, Zach Wahls, gained public attention a while back because of his defense of same sex marriage. What was interesting was that his use of Midwestern values that much of the rest of the country would consider conservative.

Politics get messy like that. But this messiness doesn’t really effect the issue I was dealing with in my post above.

Blacks, in and outside of the South, don’t generally identify as liberal. Just because you’re a Democrat, it doesn’t follow you have to be a liberal. Minorities are among the most socially conservative and religious of any demographics in the US, far more fundamentalist and evangelical than the average white.

It’s just that we’ve forgotten about this strain of conservatism. Or rather the mainstream has ignored it, as minorities tend to be ignored, except when their votes are being considered.

March 7

It seems strange that Hillary Clinton gets so much support. From a strategic perspective, her campaign is a disaster. Many polls show her being weak against republican candidates, compared to Sanders showing as strong. She is facing major legal issues that could blow up at any moment. And if this happens, this could tarnish the party for a generation.

Last but not least, the younger demographics are against her, and this include GenXers in their 40s (not exactly youngins). Even young minorities are shifting away from mainstream politics. Hillary is heavily corporatist, something that the younger generations despise, including young minorities, as seen in polls.

The young have a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism. Of course, socialism like progressivism has largely just become a new way Americans speak of genuine liberalism, i.e., not corporatist neoliberalism. A corporatist professional politician like Clinton does not represent the world that most Americans want to live in, especially not the young.

The one demographic that Clinton should be winning are women. But the same generational divide is seen there as well.

It’s true that older people tend to vote at higher rates. Elections can sometimes be won entirely focused on the older demographic. Republicans have used that strategy for a long time, although now they are up against a demographic wall. I doubt Democrats want to emulate Republican strategy, even it would lead to short term gains for the party establishment.

For Hillary to win the nomination would mean for the Democrats to lose the future. That is not a recipe for success. Or is the Democratic ruling elite betting on that, no matter how much they fail, that the game will be won by failing a little bit less than the Republicans. Are they just hoping that the GOP will be utterly destroyed and Democrats will then be able to rule without competition?

That doesn’t seem like a safe bet. Both parties could be mortally wounded in this contest. There hasn’t been a time so ripe for a third party challenge as right now. No matter who wins this election, we might be seeing different political parties competing more strongly in the coming elections.

March 7

Most Millennials don’t believe that Social Security benefits will be there when they are old. Yet 90% of Millennials, like most Americans, see Social Security as good for America.

The moral of the story is that Americans realize that Social Security is broken. But they don’t want to eliminate it. Instead, they want it fixed.

Part of the reason is that they see how their own grandparents are being helped with these benefits. It’s the same reason Social Security was created in the first place.

The Lost Generation had high rates of old age poverty. For this reason, the Lost Generation promoted Social Security, even though they knew few of their generation would ever benefit from it. The Lost Generation believed in sacrificing for others. It’s why they promoted the younger generations to get the public education they themselves rarely had.

Sacrifice is an American value that gets forgotten about and dismissed in mainstream politics. Many Americans still believe in improving the world, no matter how cynical politicians are. Most Americans want to revive the American Dream that was created with the New Deal.

Sacrifice and the American Dream are two sides of the same coin. The more people are left behind the harder it is for individuals to get ahead. In low inequality and high mobility societies, everyone does better, both poor and wealthy. That used to be what America stood for, why so many immigrants came here.

Despite the bad times, Millennials still have hope for America.

A certain kind of person on the political right argues that Americans only vote for what benefits them personally. They say this is what inevitably causes democracy to fail. This is a view promoted by pundits and professional politicians, along with reactionary activists.

That might be true for how the most far right-wingers think, out for themselves and their own. But right-wingers might want to keep in mind that not everyone thinks like them.

In fact, most Americans, including most conservatives, are fine with sacrificing for their fellow Americans. Polls show this to be true. It’s time for mainstream politics and media to reflect this strong public opinion.

March 7

Some people have predicted that we are seeing the self-destruction of the Republican Party. It’s possible.

The Republican establishment has been tempting fate for a long time. They brought in the reactionaries and allowed them to gain power. In the process, they increasingly became disconnected from most Americans. This has forced them to rely upon an ever aging base.

In some ways, Republicans have had the more dynamic party, in how much the party has changed over relatively short periods of time. Being dynamic can be both a strength and a weakness. The Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the world and has changed more slowly over its history. Both parties used to have a left and right wing, but now only the Democrats have maintained this balance, however imperfectly.

The Democrats have an old lineage of being part of the establishment. It has roots going back to the founding generation. It would be much harder, though not impossible, for it to be mortally wounded. Republicans, on the other hand, began as a radical third party. Early on, many people referred to them as Red Republicans because of this radicalism, which included free labor, feminism, abolitionism, and Marxism.

The Republicans are at a dangerous point. Maybe the party of the Southern Strategy is doomed. There will likely have to be a new strategy that flips it in an entirely new direction if they are to survive. Maybe they should consider returning to their roots. They are already partway there by returning to populist rhetoric.

I’m not a fan of the Republican party failing. It creates a power vacuum. Democracy requires many options. Even limited to two main parties isn’t enough for a functioning democracy. A single party dominating certainly wouldn’t be desirable. I want loyal opposition—in an ideal world with multiple parties across the political spectrum. That is the only way to ensure genuine public debate and so an informed public.

March 7

There was a snippet on tv of the debate between Clinton and Sanders. It was about the gun issue. I was reminded what distinguishes the two candidates.

Sanders was interested in actually debating the topic. I could tell that he was concerned about finding real solutions. But Clinton just wanted to rile the crowd up with empty rhetoric. It really doesn’t matter what Clinton says, because it won’t change her behavior in Washington.

Sanders refused to play that game. He wasn’t scapegoating. He wasn’t trying to rally the base. Instead, he was speaking to all Americans. His view was that this is a problem that isn’t left vs right. It is a shared problem and we can only solve it by seeking a shared solution.

The thing is most Americans, according to the polls, agree with Sanders. Most Americans simultaneously support stronger, more effective gun regulation and support strong protection of gun rights. But such a unifying message of majority opinion doesn’t fit the narrative of partisan politics and mainstream media.

It is hard to communicate a message of real solutions. That is the challenge we face as a society.

Clinton doesn’t mean anything she says. She’ll attack the NRA in the campaign. But once back in Washington she will never do anything to make the NRA unhappy. It’s all a show that is put on for the public.

This is what bothers me. I realize that politicians lie and obfuscate. But the media is supposed to be a free press that challenges those lies and obfuscation.

Shouldn’t the media be doing their job by informing the American public that Sanders is giving voice to majority opinion? Shouldn’t they explain that neither the extremes of the NRA or Clinton represent more than a minority of the population?

On the gun issues, most of the political right doesn’t agree with the NRA and most of the political left doesn’t agree with Clinton. Most Americans are closer to the middle on these issues.

March 7

There is a reason why this campaign season interests me more than most.

I’ve been paying close attention to demographic and polling data (along with social science research) for a long time now. My interest goes back at least to the early years of the Bush jr presidency, although my interest in generations theory might go back to the mid 1990s. I’ve been particularly focused on the thorough Pew data, specifically Beyond Red vs. Blue.

I’ve been watching developments happen for a long time. I saw the various shifts begin to click into place years ago. Much of what we are seeing now has been predictable for a long time. For a decade or longer, the favorable opinion of ‘socialism’ has been increasing, among the youngest generation most of all.

I always wondered why most of this data has received so little mainstream attention. All of this is easily found data from respectable sources. Yet I notice how many people in media and politics act surprised at the changes finally becoming too obvious to ignore.

Even more important, I’ve stated again and again for years that the majority public opinion doesn’t fit what gets portrayed in the mainstream. A while back, I scoured the internet and books for all the data I could find. I was amazed at how increasingly liberal the public is on so many major issues, a consistent trend across decades. But I was also curious how indifferent so many Americans were about issues that were supposed to be divisive, such as simultaneously supporting gun regulation and gun rights or such as simultaneously supporting abortion limits and abortion rights.

Often, the politicians in neither party represents the views of most voters. Special interests and big money dominates nearly all public debate and the political narrative. The average American doesn’t seem to realize how deceived and manipulated they are. The mainstream media and politics leaves so many people uninformed and disinformed.

It wasn’t that long ago when outsiders like Ralph Nader and Ron Paul were being condescendingly dismissed. And their supporters were ignored or criticized for wasting their vote and not submitting to partisan groupthink. Where we are now has been a long time coming. But many in the mainstream wanted to pretend the status quo could last forever. It was naive.

No matter who wins the election this time around, the changes that have occurred will be permanent. There is no way for the establishment of either party to win this election, for even in winning they will lose. This leaves many people scared and others demoralized. But instead people should look at it as opportunity.

March 8

I must admit I have a hard time getting excited about who will get elected. It’s not that it doesn’t matter. I’ve just lost faith in the US having a functioning democracy. No matter who becomes president, it doesn’t change the larger system of entrenched wealth and power, dysfunction and corruption.

The entire government needs a complete overhaul, one way or another, reform or revolution. Elections can hardly put a dent in this problem because the whole system is rigged. But change has to start somewhere.

How do we get the leverage to make that change? How do we get the American public to realize we need real change? And how do we get people to be willing to demand change with the force of threat behind it?

Will the rising populist movement finally be enough to awake America’s conscience and moral imagination? If not, what will it take?

I know how many Americans would take these as the words of a crank or conspiracy theorist. It just doesn’t seem real and relevant to so many.

If it was really so important, wouldn’t the MSM report on it? Well, no, they wouldn’t. That is a major part of the problem. The people who understand what I’m saying are the poor, struggling, and disenfranchised. But those people have no voice or influence in our system. Yet another major part of the problem.

How do we break through the contented haze of the mainstream and the middle class? We are long past the point of pretending this problem doesn’t exist.

These are the kinds of questions I’ve been asking my entire adult life. But few people take any of it seriously, much less try to answer them. And that is why we are now at a point where someone like Trump has a real chance of becoming president. Almost no one wants to take responsibility for having helped create this situation. People act like this came out of nowhere, as if it hadn’t been utterly predictable all along.

Sanders will sometimes speak of the need for a political revolution. If and when people hear this, I wonder what they think it means. Are more people beginning to realize this state of affairs? How many people does it take to get to a tipping point?

It isn’t just that many don’t think about these problems. Even among those who are aware, informed and concerned, few are willing to speak out and to act according to what they know.

So many people feel isolated in silence, afraid of what would happen if they stood up for what is right. Others might judge them. Or it might lead to arguments and unhappy feelings. Some worry about how it might effect their relationships or their job, if others found out what they truly think.

I know many people who have similar thoughts as I have but for various reasons they don’t speak up.

Masculinity & Presidency, Sexism & Politics

Katz: Sure. Well, the first thing I think that I look at in my work, and I think it’s really fundamental and basic, is that there is a persistent gender gap in voting patterns in the United States. And among white men in particular, white men have been voting radically disproportionately for the Republican nominee for president for the last 40 years. And working class white men, and there’s different ways of defining working class, but with a high school education, men with a high school education, voted in 2000 for George Bush by something like 27 points over Al Gore, and Kerry, about 25% voted for Bush over Kerry in 2004. Barack Obama cut into that pretty significantly in 2008, although he still lost the white men’s vote.

David: That’s right.

Katz: But he lost it by like about 16 percentage points, so he made some significant inroads into the white men’s vote. But if you look at white male voting patterns, the only way a Democrat can win at the national level, in the presidency, is if they win so… such a dramatic percentage of the women’s vote that it offsets their deficit among the white male vote.

David: That’s right.

Katz: And so how can we not talk about gender? Why are white men so dramatically voting for the Republican candidate for president? Now, some people, of course, for the last… since the Civil Rights Act have been talking about race as one of the central forces subtextually at work in presidential politics.

David: And it’s being talked about looking forward also because of the increasing Hispanic population and how that will play a factor.

Katz: That’s right. And of course, Obama being an African American, that brought to the surface a lot of discussions about race and politics and such that had always been there, but they were talked about even more explicitly, would white people vote for an African American for president, etc.

My thinking is that it’s not just that white men are voting as a racialized block for the Republican candidate, although that’s a big part of it, they’re also voting in a gender sense as men because since, especially since the late 60s and early 70s, and then increasingly after the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, the way that the two-party system has been sort of shaken out, if you will, in the gender binary is the Republican Party is the party of real men…

David: Right.

Katz: And the Democratic Party is the party of women and feminized men, and that has heterosexist implications as well.

David: Sure.

Katz: Because the party is seen as, the Democratic Party is seen as the party of gay rights, if you will, in addition to the men in the Democratic Party feminized in the national discourse. And I think this is a cultural/political analysis, right? I think that this is an incredibly important reason why lots of white men, including working and middle-class white men, vote against their economic interests, at least as some of us understand those economic interests.

David: No question about it.

Katz: Right. So this complicates the analysis of, say, Thomas Frank and others who have been trying to figure out why so many Americans, especially white Americans, have voted against their economic interests for the past generation.

David: You mentioned the issue of gay rights, and we saw that really incredibly directly and just at the forefront in the discussion of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I mean, I interviewed people who said the reason we shouldn’t have homosexuals serving openly in the military is because the American military is manly. And implicit in that, even though it’s not discussed, is that there’s something bad about, you know, femininity and women in the military. And when I challenged some of those people directly, it was made very clear that that is involved in that subtext, just barely underneath the surface. But other than that particular issue, what else is it that has driven this white male voting block towards the Republican candidate?

Katz: Well, in my book that I’m working on and just about to complete, I look at three issues. There’s so many issues, and so you have to really narrow it. But…

David: Yeah. Well, the major ones maybe are…

Katz: Yes. Yeah, sure. I looked at three issues that all involve violence, and they all involve important political issues over the past 40, 50 years. The first one is the cold war, the second one is the rise of street crime as a domestic political issue in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, and the discussion about, you know, violent crime, street crime, has a definitely racialized undertone to it, and then the rise of terrorism as a political issue in the late 20th century and into the 21st century.

All three of those issues, cold war, domestic crime, and terrorism, have to do with violence, and the president is a stand-in, in a certain sense, the symbolic leader of the country. He embodies, if you will, the national masculinity in a very important sense. People talk about the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the mourner-in-chief when national tragedy happens, the first family, the… I mean, he’s the one who everybody salutes to and everybody stands when he enters the room. He really does, in a certain sense, represent the country.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/teachable-moment-in-tucso_b_809963.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/rush-limbaugh-and-the-mob_b_279696.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/white-men-and-the-gop-mas_b_124136.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/the-hidden-race-and-gende_b_88580.html