Trump’s Grand Slam

With Biden safely ensconced in the Oval Office, the most vocal concern of the political classes is redirect the passions of the dispossessed electorate that Trump seized from the GoP in 2016. This is not principally a political concern, as factors have aligned to undermine the Republican strategy of minority rule. Trump did not certify the census, and with control of the both houses of Congress and the White House, Democrats can act rapidly to impose standards on election and apportionment procedures in the States. Power will tip to the Democratic Party, and the Republicans will confront the necessity of re-inventing themselves.

What are the forces that will define that re-branding? Politically, we focus on the ethno-nationalist minority of the party. As forgotten citizens, they – like seniors – have both motivation and time to organize politically, which brings them disproportionate power in the primary process. But they do not share the motivations that seal the loyalty of most Republican voters. For most Republican voters, the principal drivers are financial entitlement and resistance to reproductive self-determination. The latter is going to be resistant to reform, but the former is far more dangerous. They have money.

While most retrospectives on Trump’s presidency focus on his abusive manipulation of his adoring codependents, I think that we need to remember why Trump sought power in the first place. Trump’s twisted amplification of ethno-nationalism was almost a parody, but he was born into financial entitlement. That concerns provides a fairly coherent explanation for his policies while in office.

Remember that Trump did not enter the race intending to win. He wanted to build his brand. What was the nature of that brand? Trump leases his name to real estate developers around the world. Unfortunately, the brand was not compelling. Investigations of his business dealings in the Arab world showed that they were largely money laundering operations for organizations such as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. This was also true of many of the investments made by Russians in the US property market.

But it was the only game he had. Remember his nominating convention, with “TRUMP” in 90,000 point font over the stage. This was not vanity. It was a branding.

Trump’s Administration was full of people like him. Mnuchin, Tillerson, Zinke, DeVos, and Ross were all of this mold. Others, such as Ben Carson, played the sport of presidential politics largely for the speaker’s fees. Among them were those who had come under scrutiny by the Obama Administration for consumer fraud or violation of foreign trade restrictions (Tillerson in Russia).

Trump and Tillerson were unique, however, in the global scope of their entanglements. The State Department hosted investigators sent out to scrutinize their activities, and attracted nationals seeking to curry favor by reporting on a man who had made himself Obama’s enemy. At home, the Department of Justice was the principal danger, with numerous investigations in Federal Districts underway. Treasury, auditing Trump’s tax returns, was another threat. All of these institutions were eviscerated or suborned for corruption.

And finally, there was the rest of corporate America, who considered Trump a buffoon. What we saw in Trump’s Administration was lifted directly from Vladimir Putin’s playbook in the aftermath of Boris Yeltsin’s abdication. Yeltsin was abused by the post-Soviet oligarchs, but Putin used his control over the levers of justice to slowly strangle them, eventually becoming de facto owner of Russia. This was Trump’s aim as well.

He almost succeeded. The financial markets soared, and the Wall Street Journal joined FOX News in giving Trump credit. What the market manipulators didn’t count on, though, was the method seized upon by Putin. There is no honor among thieves, and behind every wealthy man are ten underlings that would be happy to take his place. Trump cultivated them, and was perfectly satisfied that the Senate refused to take action on his appointees to vacant Cabinet positions. As for those beyond his reach: Trump’s attack on Jeff Bezos was a fascinating set-piece of global character assassination, and I assume that his Saudi Arabian allies participated with the aim of securing the arms they needed for their war in Yemen.

I am working on a craft project that will eventually manifest as a “Memorial to the Abuse of Privilege.” The foundation evokes the 400,000 COVID deaths in the last year of Trump’s term. The narrowness of the Biden victory should give us pause. It was not superior campaigning or a compelling vision of the future that propelled Biden to victory. Trump’s botched COVID response carried heavy financial consequences. The Lincoln Project sprang up to lead the opposition to his second term. I believe that without COVID, Trump would still be president, and American democracy would have died.

But talk to a Trump voter and QAnon conspiracist and you might be shocked. They want to go back to work because if we don’t, small business will die in America. They are not classically ethno-nationalist; they believe that the aggrieved ethnic and racial minorities have forgotten indentured servitude and corporate towns and the labor abuses of industrialization and violent suppression of unions and fighting in foreign wars and the deflationary gold standard and corporate welfare and globalization and think “Well, if you deserve restitution and opportunities, what about us?”

In other words, they recognize that the enemy are those that abuse privilege. They bet on Obama, and felt betrayed by his lax treatment of Wall Street raiders in 2009. If the Democrats choose to expose and fight global corruption, they’d win them back, and the Republican Party would have to drag its libertarian corporate pay masters back into a sustainable social contract.

Republican Anarchy

The lack of an organized Republican response to the anarchy at the Federal Capital Building helped to bring this into focus.

While reading outside the CB&TL this morning, I overheard a Republican witnessing that he believed that “people should be free to do what they want.”

The GoP has invested money in demonizing the word “socialist,” and wields it as a tool to attack any program that attempts to protect people from the consequences of irresponsible choices by others.

For example, if your co-worker contracts COVID and continues to come to work, and you catch COVID, should you be responsible for your ICU bill? Or should they be forced to pay? Isn’t that why we have insurance, because often serious accidents can be traced to the choices made by others? For example, to drive drunk, or install slippery surfaces at entrances that are highly trafficked on rainy days, or employ unskilled labor to construct buildings, or to pay exorbitant executive salaries that destabilize corporate finances leading to collapse and loss of jobs.

It is time to call a spade a spade: most Republicans are not “conservative” in the sense that they believe in preserving institutions that serve the common welfare. Rather, they are anarchists. I would encourage Democratic policy-makers to wield that word in like a knife in policy debates. The endpoint of libertarian politics, as financed by the Koch brothers and implemented by Reagan, Rove, DeVos, and Trump, is anarchy. Resistance to common-sense social policy measures should be labelled as anarchist, and those such as Hawley, Cruz and McConnell should be tarred with that epithet.

Grievance’s Baby

Catie Edmunson at the NY Times reports on the GoP rallying against Josh Hawley, the 41-year-old senator from Missouri who – even in the aftermath of the murderous attack on the Capital grounds – insisted on disrupting the formal certification of the Biden/Harris administration.

This dance should be familiar to us. It is the same dance the cynical grandees, among them McConnell and Ryan, conducted with Donald. They are a little more practiced, but what they are doing is actually the source of the danger that we face as a nation.

Neither Donald nor Josh created the aggrieved Republican base. That base was created by decades of corporate welfare that hollowed out the American middle class, making us a debtor populace. The red states are, in fact, basically large company towns. The common man is forced to work at wages below subsistence while owners maximize profits. The cynical lie told by the GoP to these wage slaves, however, is that their predicament is the fault of government.

Read Nineteen Eighty-Four or A Brave New World. The public spaces are saturated with the lies of the ruling party. Visit a red state and notice that FOX News broadcasts from the screens in every space controlled by corporate interests. But where in the novels the propaganda raised fears against foreign enemies, on FOX News the specter is the enemy within.

Ronald Reagan instigated the war on government with his little quip “The nine most frightening words I know are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” FOX News, founded by GoP political hatchetman Roger Ailes, made that message a staple of its programming. The aggrieved condition of the Republican base has been carefully cultivated and manipulated ever since. For example, after the AHA was established, GoP governors refused to expand Medicare or form insurance exchanges, forcing the rural poor to pay for private insurance when they should have received government support.

So the GoP’s dance with Donald and Josh is simply about retaining control of the electorate that they have created. Donald wrenched it from them by unmasking the lie, campaigning against the “swamp” of Washington lobbyists. The GoP grandees tolerated him, at some level, because they believed that greed and stupidity would allow them to focus his attention. McConnell succeeded, for example, in packing the Federal court system with corporatists.

What McConnell and others didn’t remember is that – duh – they are sitting members of government. Donald actually needs the government destroyed to avoid imprisonment for decades of criminal activity. This matches the expectations of the aggrieved Republican base.

So we don’t see outright rejection of the claims of election fraud except from those previously ostracized by the party, such as Mitt Romney. Rather, we see Lindsey Graham testifying that the courts have already ruled on claims of election fraud, and “while [he doesn’t] agree with them,” the Senate has no method to challenge those rulings.

They don’t confront the lies because the lies are the foundation of their control over the rural poor. They are now trying to pre-empt Josh’s attempt to seize Donald’s standard.

The problem is that the messaging is out of their control now. The rage of the rioters in Washington was not restricted to the Democratic leadership. It embraced Mike Pence as well. The GoP base wants to see government destroyed, and the grandees appear not to be smart enough to fear the baby they have created.

The alternative is to tell the truth. The corporate elite controls the free market. They have that game rigged against us. In fact, government is the only method that allows us to organize to prevent them from grinding us into poverty. Government needs to work for us, and the most important job of a political party is to educate the people for collaboration that preserves the common welfare.

Coronavirus Lawsuit Brief

Whereas the greatly red state of Mississippi has established precedent in filing suit against China for damages arising from mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak;

Whereas the Executive Branch headed by Donald Trump has engaged in similar mishandling for political purposes, including:

  • Lying regarding the likelihood and potential severity of the epidemic,
  • Use of federal resources to promote and execute policies for Donald Trump’s personal financial and political benefit, and
  • Malignantly removing personnel essential to control of the pandemic when their honest counsel exposes Presidential incompetence and self-serving;

Whereas the Senate Republican majority did empower these acts in condoning similar conduct by President Trump as regards attempts to suborn US policy to coerce Ukraine to create a false narrative to damage a political rival;

Whereas the States run by Democratic Administrations have, through malfeasance and incompetence in the Federal Executive, suffered ten times the loss of life and economic activity than would have been endured had the Executive acted according to policies established by the prior Democratic Administration;

Therefore do these states file suit to act as follows pending control of the epidemic throughout these United States:

  1. Sequester all Federal Tax revenues;
  2. Establish Reserve Banks to ensure sufficient liquidity to allow their citizens to purchase essentials of life; and
  3. Confiscate goods, revenues, and assets in their States held by private companies chartered in States that both voted for Candidate Trump in 2016 and that failed to sanction the aforementioned conduct during the Ukraine impeachment.

Casting a Paul over the Republican Party

Obviously my continued focus on this issue reflects my sense that the GOP is no longer legitimately part of a nation that styles itself as “Under God.” They may continue to wrap themselves in the flag, but I’m going to do my best to beat them over the head with the cross.

Continuing the object lesson that “the end justifies the means” is a slippery slope to criminality, reports emerged yesterday that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan – and last-year’s chief strategist for Republican Congressional campaign efforts – made active use of information hacked by the Russians from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. These ties are under active investigation by the Mueller’s team, explaining¬† Ryan’s ongoing coordination of attempts by Trey Gowdy and Devin Nunes to undermine the House investigation of election interference, and recent smears against Mueller brought by the Republican Congressional delegation as a whole.

The singular piece of public evidence is a pre-election letter from Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to Ryan warning that use of the hacked material was to facilitate¬† Russian attempts to undermine America’s democracy

At the state level, one RNC operative that accepted DNC and DCCC materials from Russia has stated that he didn’t care where the information came from so long as it served the campaign. Clearly, the RNC is not applying its resources to ensure that its operatives are knowledgeable of and comply with election law. Winning is the only thing that matters to them, and it appears that Ryan himself was actively involved in the rule-breaking.

That Russia hacked the RNC and failed to provide the information to Democrats is a clear indication of Putin’s affinity for the Republican Party. It is now left to Mueller and his team to discoverer whether that affinity reflects criminal affiliation – and the degree to which the hacked information may make the Republican Party vulnerable to blackmail. For parity, I would hope that Ryan and others in the Republican Party would publish the hacked RNC data. As it is not national security information, it seems inevitable that it will become publicly available through the Mueller investigation.