mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“A Reflection Of The Ugliness Within Us”: Defeating Trump Won’t Erase The Forces That Made Him Possible

We should probably start thinking about what we’re going to do after Trump.

Of course, if the nation decides it really does want a vulgar, narcissistic bigot with the impulse control of a sleep-deprived toddler as its 45th president, the options left to thinking Americans will be few, but stark:

Either curl up in a fetal ball for four years or jam the pedal to the metal on the northbound interstate and don’t stop till you see moose. Try to get there before the Canadians build their border wall.

If, however, the more likely scenario prevails and the electorate rejects Donald Trump, we will face a different set of options. The first is to finally take a stand against the forces that brought us here.

Those forces — economic insecurity, ignorance, bigotry and fear — are hardly new. Many observers, this one included, have bemoaned them for years. Trump’s innovation has been to drag the last three into the light, to render dog whistles and codes obsolete with his full-throated, wide-open embrace of all that is ugly and shameful about us.

Assuming his rebuke in November, the natural tendency will be to mop the brow and sigh in relief at the bullet we just dodged. This would be a mistake. Defeating Trump would not erase the forces that made him possible. As the last few years have shown, those forces, like some virulent cancer, tend to redouble after setback and return stronger than before.

You thought George W. Bush was a piece of work? Meet Sarah Palin. You think Sarah Palin was scary? Meet Trump. It would not be a good idea to wait around and see who trumps Donald four years from now. So after Trump, there are things we must do:

  1. Confront economic insecurity. We need to elect leaders who understand that corporations are not people; only people are people and they are struggling. Their wages are stagnant, their finances precarious and the wealth that is supposed to trickle down from the grotesquely overfed money pigs at the top always seems to evaporate en route. It is time for this to change.
  2. Confront ignorance. It is no coincidence Trump is especially popular among the less well-educated. The less you know, the more fearsome and confounding the world can seem, and the more susceptible you are to the authoritarian figure who promises to make everything all right again. Education must be rescued from the anti-science, anti-history, anti-logic, anti-intellect agendas of conservative school boards around the country. Knowing things is important. Facts matter.
  3. Confront bigotry. Stop pretending it doesn’t exist, stop making excuses for it, stop acting as if it will go away if you only ignore it. In our schools, civic groups, mosques, churches and synagogues, we must evolve some form of truth and reconciliation that allows us to walk through disparate pain up to common ground. Only in this way can we diminish the power of bigotry as a cudgel.
  4. Confront fear. Fear is bigotry’s firstborn child. Both are heightened in an era wherein the majority feels itself, its position and prerogatives, under siege by the ascendance of various minorities — racial, religious and sexual. So it becomes ever more important to find strategies that help us to locate in one another our shared humanity.

And oh, yes…

  1. Confront apathy. Vote.

This is how we can change the paradigm, cool the temperature, drain the swamp.

Or we can pretend this temper tantrum, this national nervous breakdown, means nothing once Trump is gone. But to embrace that option is to miss the point. Donald Trump is a reflection of the ugliness within us, but only that. The ugliness itself is ours and we are long overdue to face it.

The day after he is gone would be an excellent time to start.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 13, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Fearmongering, GOP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump’s Thuggery Is Inexcusable”: One In The Same, The Bullying Thug And The Self-Pitying Victim

As he edges closer to winning the Republican nomination, it is possible to discern, at intermittent intervals and in trace amounts, an instinct in Donald Trump to act presidential. There was Trump in Thursday’s debate with a paean to the relative civility of the encounter. There was Trump in his Super Tuesday victory lap pronouncing himself a “unifier.”

But Trump being Trump, the presidential urge can never proceed very far before being overtaken by his real self: Trump the bullying thug and Trump the self-pitying victim.

Both aspects of Trump’s personality have been on rampant display over the past several days, as the protests at Trump’s rallies have spun dangerously, predictably out of control.

Trump, reaping a whirlwind of his own creation, could have risen to the occasion. He could have dialed back the taunts. He could have, unlikely as it sounds, expressed just a tinge of un-Trumplike regret.

Instead, in a development as disappointing as it was unsurprising, Trump ramped up. “Go home to mommy,” he told one protester in Missouri on Friday. “Get a job,” he told another. “These people are bringing us down, remember that,” he told the crowd. These people. How presidential.

Trump took no responsibility — zero — for the anger his divisive rhetoric has generated among the demonstrators, nor for the violence it has incited among his supporters. He was only sorry the protesters had to be treated so delicately. “They’re being politically correct the way they take them out,” he said. “There used to be consequences.”

To be clear, protesters have a right to be heard — but in an appropriate place and manner. Hecklers are a fact of political life, yet no candidate should have to contend with a campaign event so constantly disrupted the candidate cannot share his own message. The scene of Secret Service agents swarming around Trump after a protester broke through the security barrier at a rally in Ohio on Saturday was an unsettling reminder of the lurking potential for tragedy.

But candidates bear responsibility, as well — for the tone of their rhetoric and for the way they respond, and encourage their supporters to respond, to dissent. Not Trump, though, at least according to Trump.

He says things that are hurtful and divisive, then is surprised when his language provokes a counter-reaction. At that point, he sees freedom of speech as a one-way street — Trump’s freedom to speak — and lashes out at those who would dare to interrupt.

“The organized group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment rights in Chicago, have totally energized America!” tweeted the man who recently vowed to “open up” libel laws so he could sue critics in the media.

And when Trump’s supporters turn, inevitably, violent, his response is more empathetic than condemnatory.

“People come with tremendous passion and love for their country, and when they see protest — you know, you’re mentioning one case, which I haven’t seen, I heard about it which I don’t like,” Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper at Thursday’s debate, responding to videotape of a Trump supporter punching a protester in the face.

“But when they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger. They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals, they don’t like seeing higher taxes, they don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. . . . There is some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.”

No, nor egg it on. This is a candidate who says of protesters things like, “I’d like to punch him in the face.” Or, “In the good ol’ days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast.” Or, “Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously, Okay just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise.”

Trump, characteristically, regrets nothing. On Friday, accepting the endorsement of Ben Carson, a man he once described as “pathological” and likened to a “child molester,” Trump reaffirmed his inclination to meet violence with violence, citing the example of a protester who was “swinging” at the audience.

And the audience hit back,” Trump said, approvingly. “And that’s what we need a little bit more of.”

Not actually. But it is, I fear, what we will be getting much more of, with Trump at the top of the GOP ticket. He is not a unifier, he is an igniter. The fuse is short and the electorate flammable. The match in Trump’s hands is a dangerous weapon.

 

By: Ruth Marcus, Columnist, The Washington Post, March 11, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Trump Supporters | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP Is More Ayn Rand Than Strom Thurmond”: Donald Trump Is Bad, But Karl Rove And David Brooks Are Worse

Few serious observers of American politics would dare to suggest that Donald Trump’s emergence as the Republican frontrunner is having a salubrious effect on America. The violent racial tensions at his rallies are enough to make many of us fear for the health and safety of our fellow citizens, and the prospect of his potential victory in a general election make us fear for the future of our democracy. His policy proposals range from vague (tax cuts that pay for themselves!) to impossible (make Mexico pay for a border wall!) to monstrous (waterboarding is for girly men too weak for real torture!)

Even despite all this, however, we can still thank Donald Trump and his supporters for doing the country a service. There is little Trump or his backers could do that would outweigh the blessing they are providing by disempowering and humiliating the traditional Republican establishment. No matter how uncomfortable Trump’s crowds may make us, they pale in comparison to the disgust we should feel at the politics of Karl Rove and David Brooks.

It’s not just that Rove, Ailes, Krauthammer, Podheretz and even ultimately Buckley himself laid the economic, social and media foundations for Trump’s racist nationalism. It’s that unless carried to its farthest extreme, racist nationalism isn’t as damaging as corporatist objectivism.

Bigotry is ugly and it can be deadly. But it is also ultimately a sin of ignorance. Prejudice has existed in many forms, it will continue to exist in the future, and there are no doubt many assumptions we take for granted as normal today that will be seen as forms of prejudice by future generations. As the human race becomes more educated, as cultures collide and the world shrinks, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain institutionalized discrimination. Progress on this front is slow, but it is also mostly constant. When we say that the moral arc of the universe is long but bends toward justice, we generally understand this to mean in terms of social justice rather than economic justice.

But while modern conservatism depends politically on the prejudices of large swaths of the public, its controlling donors and legislators enforce an agenda of ruthless objectivist philosophy. When one looks at the laws it actually passes, the Republican Party is in truth far more Ayn Rand than Strom Thurmond. Its prejudiced public policies are less for their own sake than in the service of ensuring that the super-rich take an even greater share of the wealth. Its policies toward the poor are less a function of institutional racism than of an ideological sickness that assumes the poor simply lack adequate threats of desperation and starvation to work harder to survive. It is a form of economic royalism and just world fallacy that explains the injustices of the world by asserting that they are not injustices at all, but rather that the strong dominate the weak by virtue and right.

Unlike simple prejudice, that worldview isn’t a sin of ignorance. It’s a sin of moral corruption. Given the choice between Strom Thurmond and Ayn Rand, Rand is by far the greater evil. By extension, Donald Trump is a lesser evil than Karl Rove and the kinder, gentler faces of corporate conservatism like David Brooks.

The supposedly respectable conservatives of the National Review and the Washington Post editorial pages see themselves as of a nobler and purer disposition than those they dismiss as the mouth-breathing yokels who back Trump. But it’s actually the reverse. Trump’s supporters are more interested in the advancement of their own tribe than in the promotion of an ideology of pure greed. Neither are laudable, but the former is at least morally understandable within the context of fearful ignorance. The latter is a deep seated character flaw. It’s no surprise that in more morally advanced social democracies, the conservative parties tend to be more nationalist than overtly objectivist.

In the end, the victory of the nationalists over the corporatists in the GOP will likely be beneficial to our character as a nation.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 13, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Ayn Rand, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The American Fascist”: Why Donald Trump Presents Such A Profound Danger To The Future Of America And The World

I’ve been reluctant to use the  “f” word to describe Donald Trump because it’s especially harsh, and it’s too often used carelessly.

But Trump has finally reached a point where parallels between his presidential campaign and the fascists of the first half of the 20th century – lurid figures such as Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Oswald Mosley, and Francisco Franco – are too evident to overlook.

It’s not just that Trump recently quoted Mussolini (he now calls that tweet inadvertent) or that he’s begun inviting followers at his rallies to raise their right hands in a manner chillingly similar to the Nazi “Heil” solute (he dismisses such comparison as “ridiculous.”)

The parallels go deeper.

As did the early twentieth-century fascists, Trump is focusing his campaign on the angers of white working people who have been losing economic ground for years, and who are easy prey for demagogues seeking to build their own power by scapegoating others.

Trump’s electoral gains have been largest in counties with lower than average incomes, and among those who report their personal finances have worsened. As the Washington Post’s Jeff Guo has pointed out, Trump performs best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest.

The economic stresses almost a century ago that culminated in the Great Depression were far worse than most of Trump’s followers have experienced, but they’ve suffered something that in some respects is more painful – failed expectations.

Many grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, during a postwar prosperity that lifted all boats. That prosperity gave their parents a better life. Trump’s followers naturally expected that they and their children would also experience economic gains. They have not.

Add fears and uncertainties about terrorists who may be living among us, or may want to sneak through our borders, and this vulnerability and powerlessness is magnified.

Trump’s incendiary verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants and Muslims – even his reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan – follow the older fascist script.

That older generation of fascists didn’t bother with policy prescriptions or logical argument, either. They presented themselves as strongmen whose personal power would remedy all ills.

They created around themselves cults of personality in which they took on the trappings of strength, confidence, and invulnerability – all of which served as substitutes for rational argument or thought.

Trump’s entire campaign similarly revolves around his assumed strength and confidence. He tells his followers not to worry; he’ll take care of them. “If you get laid off …, I still want your vote,” he told workers in Michigan last week. “I’ll get you a new job; don’t worry about it.”

The old fascists intimidated and threatened opponents. Trump is not above a similar strategy. To take one example, he recently tweeted that Chicago’s Ricketts family, now spending money to defeat him, “better be careful, they have a lot to hide.”

The old fascists incited violence. Trump has not done so explicitly but Trump supporters have attacked Muslims, the homeless, and African-Americans – and Trump has all but excused their behavior.

Weeks after Trump began his campaign by falsely alleging that Mexican immigrants are “bringing crime. They’re rapists,” two brothers in Boston beat with a metal poll and urinated on a 58-year-old homeless Mexican national. They subsequently told the police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”

Instead of condemning that brutality, Trump excused it by saying “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

After a handful of white supporters punched and attempted to choke a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his campaign rallies, Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

There are further parallels. Fascists glorified national power and greatness, fanning xenophobia and war. Trump’s entire foreign policy consists of asserting American power against other nations. Mexico “will” finance a wall. China “will” stop manipulating its currency.

In pursuit of their nationalistic aims, the fascists disregarded international law. Trump is the same. He recently proposed using torture against terrorists, and punishing their families, both in clear violation of international law.

Finally, the fascists created their mass followings directly, without political parties or other intermediaries standing between them and their legions of supporters.

Trump’s tweets and rallies similarly circumvent all filters. The Republican Party is irrelevant to his campaign, and he considers the media an enemy. (Reporters covering his rallies are kept behind a steel barrier.)

Viewing Donald Trump in light of the fascists of the first half of the twentieth century – who used economic stresses to scapegoat others, created cults of personality, intimidated opponents, incited violence, glorified their nations and disregarded international law, and connected directly with the masses – helps explain what Trump is doing and how he is succeeding.

It also suggests why Donald Trump presents such a profound danger to the future of America and the world.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, March 8, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, White Working Class | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Completely Ridiculous Fear-Mongering”: Stop With The Zombie Lies: No, Social Security Is Not ‘Going Broke’

Even though last night’s Republican debate featured precious little discussion of the size of the candidates’ hands, there was plenty to be disappointed and angered by. The moment that perturbed me the most was when CNN’s Dana Bash, who ought to know better, said that “Social Security is projected to run out of money within 20 years.”

The discussion about America’s most successful and beloved social program had some interesting implications for the general election. But before we get to that, I need to say this slowly and clearly, so there’s no misunderstanding:

Social Security is not going to “run out of money.”

The idea that the program is going to “run out of money” or is “going broke” is a zombie lie, one that deserves to have its head lopped off with a quick slice of Michonne’s katana.

We’re going to have to get a little wonky for a bit, but I’ll try to make this as painless as possible. The short version: under the worst-case scenario, meaning that a poor economy in coming years deprives the system of money and no changes to the program’s financing are made, then Social Security recipients will find themselves getting smaller checks than they ought to. And that would be a bad thing — if you rely on Social Security as your main or only source of income, it would be terrible to get only 77 percent of what you should (I’ll reveal why I’m using that number in a moment).

But if the program were only able to deliver 77 percent of its benefits, it would not be “broke” or have “run out of money.” When the entitlement doomsayers use those words, they want everyone to believe that the program will be, well, broke, which would mean it would be able to pay nothing to the recipients. And that’s a lie.

Let’s remind ourselves how this program works. Workers pay Social Security taxes, which are then distributed to today’s recipients as benefits. But when the taxes (and the interest the program earns on the bonds it holds) exceed the benefits, what’s left over goes into a trust fund, commonly known as the “Social Security surplus.” According to the latest report from the Social Security Trustees, in 2014 the program took in $769 billion and paid out $714 billion. The extra $55 billion went into the trust fund, which at the end of that year contained $2.729 trillion.

We’re going to need the trust fund, because the very large Baby Boom generation has just started to retire, meaning more people are going to be drawing benefits. The Trustees’ projections say that starting in 2020, the program will take in less than it’s paying out, and the trust fund will be exhausted in 2035.

Now this is important: the whole point of the trust fund is to be there when that year’s taxes aren’t enough to pay that year’s benefits. When we take money out of the trust fund, it isn’t some kind of crisis, it’s the system working as it was intended.

But won’t the system be “broke” in 2035? No. Under these projections, in 2035 we’d only be paying out to recipients what we take in through taxes. At that point, recipients would get paid only 77 percent of their promised benefits.

As I said, this would be a very bad thing. But is it going to happen? It’s important to remember that the trustees make projections, so there’s a good deal of uncertainty around the numbers. It all depends on what kinds of assumptions you make about the future, particularly on what you think the economy will look like. If the economy is stronger, that means more tax revenue coming in, and the program can pay more benefits; if the economy is weaker, the program has more challenges.

Because of that uncertainty, the Trustees actually make three sets of projections, what they call high-cost, low-cost, and intermediate. It’s the intermediate one that everyone reports, and that’s where the date of 2035 and the figure of 77 percent of benefits come from. Without going too deeply into it, everything depends on how optimistic or pessimistic you want to be about America’s economic future, in terms of things like economic growth, productivity growth, and unemployment. Many people argue that the Trustees are unduly pessimistic about the future, and the most realistic projection is not the intermediate one but the one they call low-cost. And under that projection, the surplus never runs out, and we have plenty of funds to pay all benefits essentially forever, or at least for the next 75 years, which is how far out they attempt to project.

We aren’t going to settle that right now, but there’s an important piece of this to understand, which is that here in Washington, the opinion of Very Serious People is that Social Security is headed for disaster (along with Medicare, which is its own story), and the only thing to do is to either make people wait longer until they retire or cut their benefits. Indeed, proclaiming that you want to do one of those two things (or both) is in some circles how you demonstrate that you’re Very Serious about this issue. There is an entire mini-industry of think-tanks and advocates devoted to convincing lawmakers and the public that entitlements are a disaster in the making, so we need to cut them.

But there are other ways you could solve the problem, if it indeed turns out to be a problem. You could increase the cap on Social Security taxes — right now you only pay them on the first $118,500 of your income, which means that someone earning below that pays 6.2 percent of their income in Social Security taxes, while a hedge fund manager making $11.8 million pays only .062 percent of his income. You could also increase the tax itself, say by a tenth of a percent per year over ten years, which people would find imperceptible. In other words, you could maintain (or even increase) benefits by bringing in more money.

In last night’s debate, Marco Rubio said: “Social Security will go bankrupt and it will bankrupt the country with it.” This is the kind of completely ridiculous fear-mongering that gets you rounds of applause from those who want to cut the program. He then explained that he wants to raise the retirement age from 66 to 70 and reduce benefits (but of course, he says these things will happen in the future and not affect current retirees, who vote in such high numbers and are rather protective of their benefits). Ted Cruz said that he wants to slow the rate of growth in benefits (they’re adjusted for the cost of living) and convert some part of them to stock market accounts. But it’s what Donald Trump said that’s genuinely interesting:

“The Democrats are doing nothing with Social Security. They’re leaving it the way it is. In fact, they want to increase it. They want to actually give more. And that’s what we’re up against. And whether we like it or not, that is what we’re up against.

“I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is; to make this country rich again; to bring back our jobs; to get rid of deficits; to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is rampant in this country, rampant, totally rampant. And it’s my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is. Not increase the age and to leave it as is.

“You have 22 years, you have a long time to go. It’s not long in terms of what we’re talking about, but it’s still a long time to go, and I want to leave Social Security as is, I want to make our country rich again so we can afford it.”

Strip away all the Trumpian bluster, and what you have is 1) a pledge not to cut benefits or raise the retirement age; and 2) the assurance that the program’s cost will be covered because the economy will perform well. Trump sounds an awful lot like…a liberal!

When Trump says, “that’s what we’re up against,” he seems to be saying that because the Democrats want to increase benefits, they’ll be able to present themselves as the program’s protectors and criticize Republicans for trying to undermine it (unless he’s the nominee). And about that, he’s right. Democrats will do that, because that’s what they almost always do. It’s usually an effective attack, both because Americans love Social Security, and because it’s true.

So how does Trump compare to the Democrats, and what is the debate on this issue in the general election going to look like? Bernie Sanders’ position is that benefits should be expanded, particularly since so many Americans lack retirement savings. He has proposed keeping the cap, but having the tax kick in again above $250,000, essentially inserting a “doughnut hole” in the tax; he has also suggested applying the tax to wealthy households’ investment income, and not just wages as it is now. Hillary Clinton has a similar, though less detailed, position: she rules out increasing the retirement age or cutting benefits, and wants to raise the cap to some unspecified level in order to increase some benefits.

Trump has broken with Republican orthodoxy in a few areas where Republican orthodoxy is deeply unpopular, and this is one of them. He probably has the political calculation right: it will be hard for Clinton or Sanders to go after him on Social Security when he’s pledging to protect it without any changes. They’re not going to move to his right on the issue, and while they’ve staked out a position somewhat to his left, he’ll be offering much the same result, without having to pay for it. A tax increase, he’ll say, won’t be necessary because when I’m president gold will practically fall from the sky.

Is that going to work? Frankly, I suspect it will, at least in taking Social Security off the table as an issue of contention between the two party nominees. But don’t worry — the Democrats will have plenty of other things to criticize him for.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 11, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, General Election 2016, Social Security | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: