Friday, July 21, 2017

Like father like son: Donald Trump Jr. is a traitor who may have committed treason

The maelstrom of chaos, apparent confusion, and political effluence that is emitted by Donald Trump’s White House on a near daily basis is overwhelming. Partly by design from Trump’s handlers and also as a function of coincidence. It is a near impossible task to fully document each of those moments and to put them in proper context. Disorientation and confusion are one of the primary weapons of a fascist; Trump and his inner circle have mastered those techniques.

As the truism suggests, the news media is obsessed with what is “new.” The 24/7 cable news cycle has only amplified that tendency. As such, the Trump treadmill continues unhindered. Too many important details about Trump’s many scandals — as well as his vision for the country (contrary to liberal schadenfreude and mocking glee he has actually enacted many extremely harmful and dangerous changes in public policy by fiat) — have not received sufficient commentary or analysis.

Consider the following example.

Donald Trump is a master liar. By comparison his son is a bumbler who has not yet tamed the dark arts of expert mendacity. This is not for lack of trying. Donald Trump Sr. just has many decades more practice.

Last week, Donald Trump Jr. publicly released emails in an effort to preempt The New York Times and its story about his meeting with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. There he was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton’s. This meeting is the clearest example so far of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia.

In response to the initial rumors and eventual “revelation” about this meeting, the Trumps responded in a predictable pattern. First, there were denials that any such meeting took place. Then the narrative shifted to suggest that the meeting took place but the topics discussed were innocuous and trivial. The lies would develop to now emphasize that a meeting did take place between Trump Jr. and Russian representatives but that nothing came of it so no harm (or crime) was committed. As more details emerged — including how senior members of Trump’s campaign were present including Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner (both of whom are under investigation for their highly suspect connections to Russian interests) — the lies evolved again to focus on how collusion with a foreign power to win an American election is somehow not illegal. Now it is known that this previously secret meeting was also attended by a former Russian spy as well as a Russia-connected financier who has been investigated regarding his involvement with money laundering.

Often lost in this story are the 12 words included in Trump Jr.’s emails regarding the information to be offered at his Russian meeting. They are: “but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hearts and Minds: Donald Trump's Supporters are in Love With Him

Donald Trump is amazing. At this early point in his tenure, Trump is one of the most unpopular presidents ever. Political scientists and other experts will most certainly rank him among the worst presidents in the history of the United States.

Donald Trump’s “accomplishments” as president are legion. He has surrendered America’s global leadership to China, Germany and Russia. He has also made America much less respected around the world. He is a plutocrat billionaire with fascist leanings who may have allied with Russia and Vladimir Putin to undermine American democracy and steal the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton and her voters.

Trump is boorish, ignorant, bigoted, sexist and violent. He has encouraged such values among the American people. He and the Republican Party want to destroy the country’s already meager social safety net as a means of punishing the “useless eaters.” For example, their “health care” plan will potentially kill tens of thousands of Americans each year and leave millions more sick, in pain, homeless, financially ruined and otherwise miserable. Meanwhile Trump, his family and his closest associates are using the presidency to personally enrich themselves. They view it as a personal ATM and not as a means of serving the public good and the general welfare. Except for what he can force by fiat, Trump has accomplished none of his major campaign promises — and in the case of building his “amazing” wall and “draining the swamp” he has all but admitted such promises were snake oil and outright lies to con the rubes.

Nevertheless, Trump’s voters still enthusiastically support him. According to new polling data from the Economist and YouGov, Trump has an 88 percent approval rating among those people who voted for him last November — a higher proportion than supported him a few weeks earlier.

How is this possible?

American politics is highly polarized because of the Republican Party and right-wing media’s disregard — if not utter contempt — for consensus and compromise. Conservatives are also extremely tribal and authoritarian. Trump is their leader. He is not to be betrayed or abandoned.

The average American is not politically sophisticated. Moreover, Americans in general do not have high levels of engagement with or interest in politics and public policy. The average American also reasons backwards from conclusions he or she has already made about political matters, in essence selectively finding and processing information to justify decisions. Many Americans are also “siloed”: they self-select into groups and communities of like-minded people. This echo-chamber effect is especially pronounced among American conservatives and right-leaning independents.

Donald Trump and the Republican Party have mastered the use of white racism, white victimology and white grievance-mongering to win elections and shape public policy. Trump simply amplified the Republican Party’s “dog whistles” into an air raid siren. Republican voters are trained to follow its beckoning.

There is an additional explanation for the slavish devotion shown by Trump’s followers toward their Great Leader that is often overlooked by more traditional types of political analysis. Trump’s followers may actually be in love with him.

Sociologist Jeff Shantz explores this troubling dynamic in his recent essay “On the Messy Psychology of Trumpism”:
It has been well remarked that Trump shows a contemptuous regard for truth or facts. He is appealing to the constrained who do not want to be hemmed in or constrained by facts either, as they are by so much else in their lives. This is related to the wish to win that Trump so effectively conjured during his campaign (with his repeated emphasis on America winning again, winning huge, etc.). 
Primacy of the wish to win is related to the sense to which one feels dispossessed.
Trump tells an emotional truth for his supporters even if he is widely seen to be lying. This truth is his anger and the affirmation of his followers’ anger. This is the truth that comes to matter, a point rational critics generally overlook or misread. Omnipotent fantasy cannot be told the factual truth. There is a turn to emotional truth. Trust is based not on his truth claims but on the sense that he will do what really needs to be done. His supporters trust his promised power. 
There is a libidinal investment of the masses in the leader. They have fallen in love with him. The crowd enjoys vicariously through the leader. Trump, on their behalf will restore the lost narcissistic idea of the nation. He will “Make America Great Again.”
Shantz continues by connecting this one-way love affair between Trump and his followers to the long tradition of anti-intellectualism in American culture:

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Conversation About How Best to Resist Fascism and White Supremacy in the Age of Donald Trump

This week's very special episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show focuses on how to resist white supremacy and fascism in the Age of Donald Trump. There are four guests on this week's show.

The first guest is Ryan Lenz. He is an investigative journalist and researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Ryan provides some context for the rise of the extreme right-wing under Donald Trump, voter suppression, and violence by the so-called "alt right" and their affiliated groups.

The second guest is Walidah Imarisha. She is an expert on the white supremacist origins of Washington and Oregon as well as the broader Pacific Northwest. Walidah provides some local context and historical background on the recent white supremacist murders of two white martyrs in Portland that occurred several weeks ago.

The final segments features two representatives from the antifascist labor organization the Chicago General Defense Committee Local 3. Mike and Andy share their thoughts on how best to resist fascists and white supremacists in the Age of Donald Trump, offer some insights on working class identity and organizing, free speech and the role of self-defense, non-violence, and corporeal politics in this moment.

During this week's episode, Chauncey DeVega laughs at how Fox News brought in Superman to complain about his recent essay on flying the American flag upside down as an act of protest against Donald Trump and continues to mock how easily the mainstream media and the public are hustled by Trump's Twitter game.

This special episode on resisting white supremacy and fascism in the Age of Donald Trump can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes, Spotify and at Stitcher.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How Frederick Douglass's Speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” Resonates on This First Independence Day Under Donald Trump's Regime

Every year on this day I read Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” This apex of American words and letters is a demand for citizenship and freedom. It is also a searing indictment of a so-called democracy in which white-on-black chattel slavery was the rule of the land.

More than 150 years after it was first delivered, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” still resonates because the color line remains one of America’s great contradictions and unresolved projects. In today’s America, white supremacy is like a ghost or shade that still haunts our democracy: Its ominous shadow looms over voting, the policing of black and brown communities, disparities in wealth and income, the labor market, housing, education, the courts and a society where a person’s skin color still impacts how they are marked as deserving full and equal dignity.

Douglass begins by delivering an extended tribute to the courage and spirit of the American Revolution, one tinged at many moments with rueful irony. He compares America’s Independence Day to the Jewish holiday of Passover, a parallel whose significance would have been lost on no one in the 1850s. He describes the birth of the American nation as a scene “simple, dignified and sublime.” He observes, “I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic,” while adding that “the point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable.” Then he shifts to his central theme.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Then comes the gut-punch to the hypocritical character of America’s supposed democracy.

Fellow-citizens! I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie.

For those of us who are the children of the Black Atlantic, Douglass’ words are like a voice in our ears across time. His words inspire us; his words are also a caution and a warning.

Today is also the first Fourth of July under Donald Trump as president of the United States. He is a racial authoritarian and plutocrat who yearns to “Make America Great Again!” by waging a war on the civil rights of black and brown Americans, women, gays and lesbians, Hispanics and Latinos, Muslims and any other people who do not fit his far-right Herrenvolk nightmare. Trump is not the president of all Americans, but rather the leader of white conservatives and other backward-looking revanchists.

Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” resonates with peculiar strength in the age of Donald Trump.

Frederick Douglass was a black American born into the racial terrorism and tyranny of chattel slavery. He later self-manumitted, escaping to “freedom” in the North. Because of those experiences, Douglass intimately understood what it was like to be viewed as an internal enemy or as an alien other and pollutant within the country of your birth.

To survive as a “nation within a nation,” black Americans could not afford to be politically naive. By comparison, political naiveté is one of the great luxuries afforded by white privilege. This naiveté helps to explain why so many white Americans were totally unprepared and shocked by the election of Trump. Alas, entirely too many white people were in denial about the threat posed by this indigenous form of “soft fascism,” meekly wondering whether it could really happen here. Black Americans (like First Nations people, Japanese-Americans and other people of color) always knew it could, because for centuries we have been victims of the country’s anti-democratic impulses, laws and traditions.

For many white Americans, it must be an odd and frightening feeling to no longer have the comfort of assuming that the president and the punitive, punishing, and potentially cruel power he commands will not be directed against your community.

I wonder whether the election of Donald Trump, and the terror and fear he inspires in many people of all races and backgrounds, could force white Americans to seek out a reciprocal and equal alliance with black Americans and other people of color?

Maybe the white racism that propelled Trump to the White House can be abandoned in favor of fighting for a social safety net, a humane society and a true “We the People” democracy that protects all Americans equally.

Likewise, the “white working class” about which we have heard far too much could perhaps have an epiphany, in which it realizes that ruling elites have for centuries turned lower-income whites against people of color with the goal of serving their own greed and narrow self-interest.

I am doubtful that such revelations will occur. The psychological and material wages of whiteness remain too great.

Nevertheless, I hold out hope that on this Independence Day above all others many white folks will read “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” and experience a transformative awakening, where they decide to betray “whiteness” and ally with their fellow Americans of color to make possible a better country, and a better world. Such dreams and hopes are radical and resistant acts in a country where the color line still dominates and a would-be fascist dictator is our president. By themselves such actions do not defeat the powerful or remedy social injustices and political wrongs. But they can be a start.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Conversation With Sociologist Joseph Baker About Bigfoot Researchers, Ufologists, and Ghost Hunters

In my best NPR fundraising voice, I would like to thank all of you who have donated to the June fundraiser to support The Chauncey DeVega Show and my other projects. This is the last week of the fundraiser any support is greatly appreciated.

There have been some very nice acts of generosity and kindness to get the fundraiser to this goal. Thank you emails are forthcoming. If you can and are willing--and have the means to do so--any donation into the virtual collection plate that can be found via the Paypal link on the right-hand side of the screen would mean a great deal

****

Joseph Baker is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is a professor of sociology at Eastern Tennessee State University and the author of the book Paranormal America.

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Joseph and Chauncey discuss alternative knowledge systems and conspiracy theories, the rise of Donald Trump, Infowars, and fantastical thinking, as well as how those people who believe in UFOs, Bigfoot, and ghosts construct reality. Joseph also shares some great stories about searching for Bigfoot and spending time with ghost hunters.

In this week's episode, Chauncey DeVega calls out the foolishness that is America's obsession with Donald Trump's Twitter feed, tells a story about how he may have told too much truth during a recent radio appearance in San Francisco, and asks listeners if he should soften his approach to talking about the horrible reality that is America under Donald Trump. In the spirit of this week's episode, Chauncey also shares some stories from The Weekly World News.

This episode with Joseph Baker can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes, Spotify and at Stitcher.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mika and Joe? Who Cares. The So-Called "Resistance" Needs to Stop Retreating to the Fainting Couch Every Time Trump Says Something Stupid on Twitter

Earlier on Thursday, in response to criticism from MSNBC personalities Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Donald Trump took to Twitter and offered up the following missive:
I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!
His comments received the expected and designed outcome. The online commentariat, members of the professional chattering class and others responded with anger at his mean-spirited, childish, sexist and misogynist comments about Mika Brzezinski.

Trump is as Trump does. His comments about Brzezinski are a reflection of who he actually is. They should not surprise anyone. Donald Trump has bragged about sexually assaulting women by grabbing their vaginas without permission. He insulted Hillary Clinton during the campaign by making allusions to her menstruation. He has talked publicly about finding his own daughter sexually attractive and he overtly views women primarily as sex objects.

Later in the day, the White House doubled down on Trump’s comments. Trump mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was a victim who was just defending himself against the “liberal” media. She added, “You can’t expect for that amount of attack and intensity to come on a president and he can never respond.” Sanders added that voters “knew what they were getting when they elected Donald Trump.” Melania Trump’s press secretary also chimed in: “As the First Lady has stated publicly, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.”

Trump’s professional sycophants are paid very well to defend the Great Leader. He can do no wrong.

Again — as he does on an almost weekly basis — Donald Trump reminds the American people that he was elected because of his sexism and misogyny, not despite it. Likewise, Trump was elected because of his racism and bigotry, not despite such traits. The mainstream media’s many failures enabled Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. One of the greatest was normalizing Trump’s racism and sexism by presenting them as coincidental to his appeal rather than traits central to his political brand. This miscalculation (and denial of reality) still informs how the media remains largely unable to understand Trump’s almost cult-like control over his supporters in White America.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Philando Castile Verdict is a Reminder That in America Black People are the True Walking Dead

In my best NPR fundraising voice, I would like to thank all of you who have donated to the June fundraiser to support The Chauncey DeVega Show and my other projects. This is the last week of the fundraiser any support is greatly appreciated.

There have been some very nice acts of generosity and kindness to get the fundraiser to this goal. Thank you emails are forthcoming. If you can and are willing--and have the means to do so--any donation into the virtual collection plate that can be found via the Paypal link on the right-hand side of the screen would mean a great deal.

****

In America, driving while black can be a death sentence.

Last summer Philando Castile was driving his car in the suburb of Falcon Heights, outside St. Paul, Minnesota, when he was stopped by a police officer over a broken taillight — and also because Castile’s big, black, wide nose made him “look like a suspect” in a felony case. Castile calmly and politely answered Officer Jeronimo Yanez’s questions and then volunteered, per the requirements of the law, that he was a registered gun owner and had the weapon in his possession.

Following Yanez’s directives, Castile then tried to show the officer his identification. At that moment, Yanez was apparently overcome by Negrophobia and shot Castile five times. Castile’s girlfriend and child were in the car when this happened. Diamond Reynolds recorded the killing of her boyfriend and father of their child in real time, transmitting the images of his violent death via Facebook Live so millions of people could bear witness to the de facto lynching of another innocent black man by American police. Reynolds was then handcuffed and put in the back of a police patrol car, along with her child.

Where was the National Rifle Association? It does not care if a black gun owner is killed by the police.

Where is the FBI and the Department of Justice? Under Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the police are encouraged and protected in their violence against black and brown people.

Where is the outrage from White America? There is none or at any rate not enough. The police are enforcers of the color line and in that role protect “good” white folks from “bad” black and brown people. If innocent black and brown people are killed in the process, such an outcome is merely an inconvenience. Given America’s bloody history along the color line, it would not be the first time that the suffering and death of black people has been used to pay the psychological and material wages of whiteness.

Where are the bloviators who shouted, “All Lives Matter!” Of course they are silent — if not actually celebrating the killing of Castile and the exoneration of Yanez. “All Lives Matter” was always just an updated and more polite version of saying “White power!” or perhaps “Sieg Heil!”

Where are the “white allies” who oppose racism? There are a few but not enough. As has been true from before the founding of the republic to the present, white people of conscience are rare in America.

Last week a jury found Yanez not guilty for his killing of Castile. Like so many other police officers, Yanez had mastered a simple phrase that almost always exonerates them for killing a person of color. All an officer ever has to say is some version of “I was afraid for my life,” and murder by cop becomes legal.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Conversation with Comic Book and Graphic Novel Writer Jason Aaron About Storytelling, "Southern Bastards", and the South

In my best NPR fundraising voice, I would like to thank all of you who have donated to the June fundraiser to support The Chauncey DeVega Show and my other projects. We are making progress towards the goal and because of some very kind donors are now almost there.

There have been some very nice acts of generosity and kindness to get the fundraiser to this goal. So appreciated. Thank you emails are forthcoming. If you can and are willing--and have the means to do so--any donation into the virtual collection plate that can be found via the Paypal link on the right-hand side of the screen would be very much appreciated.


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Jason Aaron is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. Jason is the writer of such great comic book and graphic novel series as Star WarsThorSouthern Bastards, and The Goddamned. Jason has also written The Punisher as well as Scalped.

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Jason and Chauncey discuss their love of graphic novels and comic books, rejection of religion, reflect on personal codes of honor and masculinity, and of course the greatness that is Star Wars. Jason and Chauncey also talk about "Southern culture" and identity, the Confederate flag, "diversity" and "representation" in comic books and graphic novels, as well as creating authentic stories and real characters.

In this week's episode, Chauncey DeVega explains how the Republican Party's so-called "healthcare" bill in the Senate is actually a way to kill those Americans they view as "useless eaters", corporate news media malpractice, and how the Georgia special election reveals the likelihood that Trump will win another term as president in 2020. Chauncey also reviews the amazing and powerful new film Okja which he saw at an early screening last week.


At the end of this week's episode of the podcast, Chauncey explains how the Republican Party is comprised of political sociopaths and cannibals like the notorious Albert Fish who want to eat poor and working class people in order to given rich people more money. 

This episode with Jason Aaron can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes, Spotify and at Stitcher.

The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on iHeartRadio.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Steve Scalise May Have Been a Victim of Political Violence But That In No Way Excuses Away His Bigotry

In my best NPR fundraising voice, I would like to thank all of you who have donated to the June fundraiser to support The Chauncey DeVega Show and my other projects. We are making progress towards the goal and because of some very kind donors are now 95 percent of the way there. 

There have been some very nice acts of generosity and kindness to get the fundraiser to this goal. So appreciated. Thank you emails are forthcoming. If you can and are willing--and have the means to do so--any donation into the virtual collection plate that can be found via the Paypal link on the right-hand side of the screen would be very much appreciated.

****

The universe has a logic all its own.

Last Wednesday in an act of politically motivated violence, James Hodgkinson targeted a group of Republican politicians at baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, using a high-powered rifle.

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority whip, was severely injured by Hodgkinson’s bullets. He was in critical condition for several days in a Washington-area hospital, but he is now in fair condition. It appears that he will recover. Two U.S. Capitol police officers on special detail to protect Scalise were also struck by Hodgkinson’s fusillade. Undeterred, David Bailey and Crystal Griner returned fire and killed the gunman. They likely saved Scalise’s life, as well as those of other people present there that day.

David Bailey is a black man.

Crystal Griner is a black lesbian.

Steve Scalise is a white Republican man. He has also long been associated with racist movements and causes. As reported by Salon, in 2002 Scalise was an honored guest at a meeting of a white supremacist group founded by David Duke. Scalise reportedly went so far as to describe himself as being like “David Duke, without the baggage.” He eventually offered a tepid, obligatory apology for attending the conference.

Steve Scalise is also a bigot who does not believe that lesbians and gays should have full rights and equal citizenship in America. As the Washington Blade recently reported, “Scalise has built over the course [of] his tenure in Congress since 2008 among the most anti-LGBT reputations of any lawmaker.” The Blade further detailed:
Earning a “0” on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard, Scalise voted against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and hate crimes protection legislation. In the last Congress, Scalise was among the 130 co-sponsors of the First Amendment Defense Act, a federal “religious freedom” bill seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination. 
As a member of House Republican leadership, he’s responsible for the lack of votes on pro-LGBT legislation on the House floor. When Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment upholding President Obama’s 2014 executive order against anti-LGBT workplace discrimination, Scalise was reportedly among House leaders who convinced seven Republicans to switch their votes to ensure the measure would fail. 
When a federal judge upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage as constitutional in 2014, Scalise hailed the decision during an appearance on the anti-LGBT Family Research Council’s radio program as “an important win for marriage.”
Some observers have argued that highlighting such facts is inappropriate, mean, untoward or overly insensitive behavior toward a man who is lying in a hospital bed, trying to recover from life-threatening injuries. Others say that Scalise’s voting record is irrelevant and the focus should instead be on healing the country’s rancorous political atmosphere. Many of these same voices, I would suggest, ignore how this situation has been caused almost exclusively by Donald Trump, the Republican Party and the right-wing media. And undoubtedly some observers would rather avoid the inconvenient facts about Scalise’s personal politics, throwing them down the memory hole, as though his injuries and baptism by fire offer some type of absolution.

These objections are misguided.

In a democracy, questions about how elected officials view the public — and their obligations as well as relationship to them — are always relevant. Policymakers do not operate in a vacuum; their actions and decisions have real-life implications. Values such as empathy, sympathy and respect for human dignity ought to be central to proper governance and its goal of crafting a more just and good society. In the aftermath of a crisis or another challenge, these questions become more important, not less so.

As he recovers from his injuries, will Steve Scalise experience a grand epiphany about his beliefs and how they hurt people like David Bailey and Crystal Griner, as well as their families and their broader communities?

Will the Republican Party and its leadership reflect on how David Bailey and Crystal Griner risked their lives to save Steve Scalise and his colleagues and reject the racism and other types of bigotry that drive their party’s agenda?

The answer to both these questions is most likely no.

Conservatives do not practice systems-level thinking. Modern conservatism is also extremely anti-intellectual. As a movement, today’s version of American conservatism — as well as the Republican Party — is divorced from reality and drunk on conspiracy theories and other hallucinogenic beliefs. This nurtures a willful blindness to how macro-level political decisions about public policy actually affect individual people on a day-to-day basis.

In addition, today’s Republican Party could be called sociopathic. American conservatism has become increasingly authoritarian and tribal. Consequently, its followers have little if any sense of linked fate and empathy with those they consider “the other,” including people of color, gays and lesbians, the poor or Muslims.

Ultimately, this is not an after-school TV special from the 1980s where the racist or bigot realizes the error in his ways and becomes a changed person because a stranger came to his aid. Steve Scalise, like other white conservatives, may have affection for an individual black person or perhaps feel love for LGBT children and family members, while still maintaining deep animus and hostility toward both black people and gay people collectively.

After the shooting in Alexandria, President Donald Trump issued a statement where he proclaimed, “We are strongest when we are unified.” Those words should turn into ashes in his mouth.

Given the politics of Trump and the Republican Party, that “we” cannot possibly be read as including black people, immigrants and gays and lesbians. Trump’s comments serve as a neat summary of how the American right wing is willing to weaponize the Alexandria shooting to serve its own narrow, divisive and dangerous goals.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Mad King Donald Trump's Court of Sycophants

In my best NPR fundraising voice, I would like to thank all of you who have donated to the June fundraiser to support The Chauncey DeVega Show and my other projects. We are making progress towards the goal and because of some very kind donors are now 85 percent of the way there. It is the beginning of the third week of the fundraiser and we need a push to get over the finish line. If you can and are willing--and have the means to do so--any donation into the virtual collection plate that can be found via the Paypal link on the right-hand side of the screen would be very much appreciated.

****

On Monday, June 12, the 143rd day of his presidency, Donald Trump convened his first meeting with all his Cabinet members. As they sat in the West Wing of the White House, Trump first complimented himself before asking them to praise his accomplishments as president.

Trump’s Cabinet members dutifully responded, one by one. But White House chief of staff Reince Priebus’ groveling was perhaps the most pathetic: “On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people. And we’re continuing to work every day to accomplish those goals.”

This is not funny. This is not normal.

Trump is vainglorious, a personality trait that can be compelling for a character in a Shakespearean tragedy or a Greek play, but disastrous when channeled by the leader of a country.

Trump’s actions last Monday are but one more reminder that he is a plutocratic authoritarian with no regard or respect for basic norms of democracy or human decency. He leads a cult of personality whose members will not abandon him; he is backed by a political party that worships power and will abandon American democracy in order to advance its goals.

And Trump has repeatedly shown that loyalty to him should supersede loyalty to the Constitution. As such, it appears more likely than not that Trump committed impeachable offenses when he potentially obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey for refusing to stop an investigation of whether Trump’s inner circle had been infiltrated by Russian agents.

An independent judiciary and a democracy where the branches of government are separate from one another is a dire threat to an autocrat who wants unlimited power.

If so empowered, Donald Trump would rename the calendar in his name. Like any other petty dictator, he would festoon himself with medals and ribbons for imagined feats of bravery and strength. He would also order his own personal state-sponsored media in the form of Fox News, Infowars and Breitbart to play an endless loop of footage highlighting the Great Leader’s wondrous abilities and all the ways he is a gift to the American people and the world. There would be military parades at home and spectacles of violence abroad to distract the public from the country’s problems.

In the near-daily tsunamis of lies, cruelty, rumors, obfuscation and political theater that surrounds Trump’s administration, there are important developments that the American people and news media often do not fully appreciate. This is understandable given that one of the primary tactics of an authoritarian is to bend reality to his or her will and by doing so to confuse the public so it is less able to resist.