Monday, February 13, 2017

Correspondence: Resisting Trumpery

Edited by Moristotle

Thanks for occasionally sharing a live “Resistance Report” from Robert Reich, which have been very informative and inspirational during these depressing times.
    The reports seem to be a permanent archive on Professor Reich’s “Resistance Report” Facebook page, for anyone who would like to check them out.

    [Reich is a political commentator, professor, and author. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and was a Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. He is currently Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Wikipedia]

Some timely one-liners from Maureen Dowd’s February 11 NY Times article, “Trump’s Gold Lining”]:
The main way that Trump is proving that America is great is that the affronted and angered are rising up to take him on.

Donald Trump has breathed new zest into a wide range of things: feminism, liberalism, student activism, newspapers, cable news, protesters, bartenders, shrinks, Twitter, the A.C.L.U., “S.N.L.,” town halls, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Hannah Arendt, Stephen Colbert, Nordstrom, the Federalist Papers, separation of powers, division of church and state, athletes and coaches taking political stands and Frederick Douglass.

Trump has made facts great again – by distorting reality so relentlessly, he has put everyone on alert for alternative facts.

Every time our daft new president tweets about the “failing” New York Times, our digital subscriptions and stock price jump, driven by readers eager for help negotiating the disorienting Trumpeana Oceana Upside Down dimension rife with gaslighting, trolling, leaking, lying and conflicts.

The Public Theater announced it would open Shakespeare in the Park in May with “Julius Caesar,” about a populist seeking absolute power...a play, the theater said, that has “never felt more contemporary.”
This SNL sketch of Kellyanne Conway is fantastic!

“The issues all Trump foes can agree on” [E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, February 5]. Excerpt:
The movement that Donald Trump’s presidency has inspired against him is broad, passionate, engaged and determined....
    While almost everything in our politics these days has a strongly partisan cast, the anti-Trump forces cannot be defined by party or ideology....
    A disorganized, slapdash and careless approach to policymaking that turns chaos into an achievement rather than a problem should horrify Americans regardless of whom they normally vote for. It is dangerous and also disrespectful of the responsibilities power imposes.
    Party loyalty should not get in the way of insisting upon a respect for fact and evidence — or of calling out lies. Consider that when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told his department’s employees that “honesty will undergird our foreign policy,” his words could be seen, whether intentionally or not, as a rebuke to an administration that touts “alternative facts.”
    And Trump’s critics don’t have to agree on a single policy to bemoan his crude and sloppy use of language....He doesn’t just want to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which bars religious organizations from getting involved in elections. He wants to “destroy” it. He lightly threatens war with Mexico to go after “bad hombres” and undermines our relationship with Australia by recklessly accusing one of our very closest friends of wanting to export the “next Boston bombers.”
    And just this weekend, Trump showed his disrespect for the rule of law by denouncing the “so-called judge” who blocked his administration’s travel ban. In an interview for broadcast Sunday, Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly described Vladimir Putin as a “killer,” and Trump astonishingly but off-handedly replied: “Well, you think our country is so innocent?”
    As George Orwell taught us, how people talk offers a clue about how they think and what they value. Our language, he wrote, “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” He added: “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” [read more]
“Me, Me, Me, Me, Me ” [Frank Bruni, NY Times, February 4]. Excerpt:
There’s no topic that Trump can’t bring back around to himself, no cause as compelling as his own. And while I and many others have examined his outsize egomania before, its migration into his administration can’t be noted too often or overstated.
    This isn’t just some random brush stroke in his portrait. It’s his primary color. It’s everything. It drives policy. It warps diplomacy. And it badly hobbles his leadership, because you can’t inspire others if nearly all of your energy goes so transparently and unabashedly into inflating yourself. At the least you have to do a pantomime of altruism and self-effacement. Trump seldom even tries.
    Consider last week’s telephone call with the prime minister of Australia. The news accounts of this rightly focused on Trump’s gratuitous combativeness with the leader of one of our closest allies, but I was equally riveted by another detail: The president spent a portion of the call reliving and reveling in his Electoral College victory.
    He did the exact same thing at the start of his hourlong talk with about two dozen of us at The Times back in November — never mind that we were well aware of that triumph, having plastered it across our front page and atop our website.
    He did it at those bizarre postelection rallies, billed as a thank-you tour though it was really a behold-me strut. I’m told that he did it, too, during interviews with prospective members of his administration.
    By the time he got to his inauguration, his masturbatory reveries had morphed into the claim that he was the helmsman of “a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen.” The Bolsheviks might quibble, and I might point out that only 77,000 ballots in three states gave him that Electoral College win, in contrast to the nearly three million ballots by which he lost the popular vote. The math doesn’t flatter the movement.
    But that’s the smaller problem with his assessment. The larger one is that when you’re selling a revolution and convincing yourself of it, you’re obliged to scale your actions to your exaggerations. They must be as sweeping as the supposed circumstances — it’s central to the delusion, integral to the illusion. Hence the wall. Hence the immigration ban. Hence all the executive orders signed and still to come.
    The hyperbole trickles down and is taken up by Sean Spicer and, of course, by Kellyanne Conway. It is at this point that we should pause and bow our heads in remembrance of the victims of the Bowling Green Massacre. [read more]
Moristotle must be getting a ton of items for “Trumpery” – more than you could possibly excerpt. So, let me just recap a few of them by title only:
With God-the-Father as our witness, people who viscerally hated President Obama then may believe that other people’s visceral hatred for Trump now somehow justifies the hatred they harbored for President Obama.
    I don’t think so. I think their hatred for President Obama had little if anything to do with who Obama was as a man – with his character, with his intellect, with his articulateness – but mostly, if not everything, to do with the color of his skin. That is, Obama-haters hated him because of who they were as people – with their character (whatever it was), their intellect (or lack thereof), their relative inarticulateness.
    The People’s hatred for Trump is a matter of public principle, which condemns Trump as deeply un-American and dangerous – the “existential threat” that was identified well before the Election, but was paid insufficient heed then.

Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle


  1. It's happening. From today's NY Times:"The Power of Disruption," by Charles M. Blow. Opening paragraphs:

    The Trump resistance movement is stretching its wings, engaging its muscles and feeling its power. It is large and strong and tough. It has moved past debilitating grief and into righteous anger, assiduous organization and pressing activism.

    Welcome to the dawn of the fighting-mad majority: The ones who didn’t vote for Trump and maybe even some who now regret that they did.

    They are charging forward under the banner of sage wisdom that has endured through the ages: Show up, get loud and fight back. Do it with your body and words, with your time and money, with every fiber of yourself. They see what this dawning regime means and they don’t intend, not even for a second, to wait around to see what happens. “What happens” is happening right now and it’s horrific.

    Donald Trump is a vulgar, uninformed, anti-intellectual, extremely unpopular grifter helming a family of grifters who apparently intend to milk their moment on the mount for every red cent.

    Trump still hasn’t released his taxes or fully disconnected from his businesses. His wife is suing The Daily Mail because she believes the newspaper may have injured her “unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to “have garnered multimillion-dollar business relationships for a multiyear term.” When his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line was dropped by Nordstrom, Trump lashed out at the retailer on Twitter, citing Ivanka as something of his moral compass: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” This begs the question: “Why do you need someone to push you to do the right thing?”

  2. More to be well aware of, from Paul Krugman's article in today's NY Times, "Ignorance Is Strength." Excerpt:

    But let me not be too hard on the Tweeter-in-chief: disdain for expertise is general in his party. For example, the most influential Republican economists aren’t serious academics with a conservative bent, of whom there are many; they’re known hacks who literally can’t get a number right.

    Or consider the current G.O.P. panic over health care. Many in the party seem shocked to learn that repealing any major part of Obamacare will cause tens of millions to lose insurance. Anyone who studied the issue could have told them years ago how the pieces of health reform fit together, and why. In fact, many of us did, repeatedly. But competent analysis wasn’t wanted.

    And that is, of course, the point. Competent lawyers might tell you that your Muslim ban is unconstitutional; competent scientists that climate change is real; competent economists that tax cuts don’t pay for themselves; competent voting experts that there weren’t millions of illegal ballots; competent diplomats that the Iran deal makes sense, and Putin is not your friend. So competence must be excluded.

    At this point, someone is bound to say, “If they’re so dumb, how come they won?” Part of the answer is that disdain for experts — sorry, “so-called” experts — resonates with an important part of the electorate. Bigotry wasn’t the only dark force at work in the election; so was anti-intellectualism, hostility toward “elites” who claim that opinions should be based on careful study and thought.

    Also, campaigning is very different from governing. This is especially true when the news media spend far more time obsessing over your opponent’s pseudo-scandals than they do on all actual policy issues combined.

    But now things have gotten real, and all indications are that the people in charge have no idea what they’re doing, on any front.

    In some ways this cluelessness may be a good thing: malevolence may indeed be tempered by incompetence. It’s not just the court defeat over immigration; Republican ignorance has turned what was supposed to be a blitzkrieg against Obamacare into a quagmire, to the great benefit of millions. And Mr. Trump’s imploding job approval might help slow the march to autocracy.

  3. David Brooks’s suggestions for "How Should One Resist the Trump Administration?" in his column in today’s NY Times. Excerpt:

    How should one resist the Trump administration? Well, that depends on what kind of threat Donald Trump represents.

    It could be that the primary Trump threat is authoritarianism. It is hard to imagine America turning into full fascism, but it is possible to see it sliding into the sort of “repressive kleptocracy” that David Frum describes in the current Atlantic — like the regimes that now run Hungary, the Philippines, Venezuela and Poland.

    In such a regime, democratic rights are slowly eroded. Government critics are harassed. Federal contracts go to politically connected autocrats. Congress, the media and the judiciary bend their knee to the vengeful strongman.

    If that’s the threat, then Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the model for the resistance. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who became an anti-Nazi dissident. Between 1933 and his capture in 1943, he condemned the Reich, protested the persecution of the Jews, organized underground seminaries and joined the German resistance. In the face of fascism, he wrote, it was not enough to simply “bandage the victims under the wheels of injustice, but jam a spoke into the wheel itself.”

    1. In case you don't read Brooks's op-ed piece you should know his conclusion:

      The third possibility is that the primary threat in the Trump era is a combination of incompetence and anarchy. It could be that Trump is a chaotic clown incapable of conducting coherent policy. It could be that his staff members are a bunch of inexperienced second-raters.

      Already the White House is back stabbing and dysfunctional. The National Security Council is in turmoil. Mussolini supposedly made the trains run on time, but this group couldn’t manage fascism in a phone booth....

      In this scenario, the crucial question is how to replace and repair. The model for the resistance is Gerald Ford, a decent, modest, experienced public servant who believed in the institutions of government, who restored faith in government, who had a plan to bind the nation’s wounds and restored normalcy and competence.

      Personally, I don’t think we’re at a Bonhoeffer moment or a Benedict moment. I think we’re approaching a Ford moment. If the first three weeks are any guide, this administration will not sustain itself for a full term. We’ll need a Ford, or rather a generation of Fords to restore effective governance.

      When this country was born, several of the founders wanted to feature Moses on the Great Seal of the United States. They didn’t want to do it because he liberated his people from tyranny. That was the easy part. They wanted to do it because he bound his people to law.

      Now and after Trump, the great project is rebinding: rebinding the social fabric, rebinding the government to its people, and most of all, rebinding the heaping piles of wreckage that Trump will leave in his wake in Washington. Somebody will have to restore the party structures, rebuild Congress, revive a demoralized Civil Service.

      These tasks aren’t magic. They are for experienced professionals. The baby boomer establishment polarized politics, lost touch with the voters and paved the way for Trump. We need a new establishment, one that works again.

  4. The Washington Post reports this morning "Millions have protested Trump. Here’s what they plan to do next"; excerpts:

    "I am running for my local school board. My attendance at the march bolstered my motivation to be more involved in my community and to encourage others to do the same."

    "Recently, I became a volunteer with Kentucky Refugee Ministries. I set up an apartment for a Sudanese man just days before President Trump’s travel ban went into effect...."

    "I have never been politically active, but in these positively terrifying times, I feel that none of us can sit on the sidelines. I have subscribed to The Post and the New York Times as well as my local paper and Vanity Fair. I am planning to help with efforts to implement fair redistricting in Ohio. And I joined a Facebook group that is organizing action groups. I plan to assist progressive candidates in getting elected...."

    "I bought a copy of the Constitution and will buy a Gadsden flag, because I believe President Trump is already threatening our liberties and the laws and spirit of the Constitution. Holding libertarian beliefs means holding the government accountable, no matter who is in office, and Trump’s gag orders on the Agriculture Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and others don’t comply with the transparency and access to government that my tax dollars support. I’ve submitted an application to volunteer with my city’s Citizen Involvement Committee...."

    "Our county’s economy is built on small farms and small businesses, most of its citizens are in lower income brackets, and our county has relatively high unemployment. I am engaging weekly with my federal and state elected officials about the need to continue health-care benefits that many of our citizens have received through the Affordable Care Act if the law is repealed. I also participate in the group Citizens for Healthcare Access, which works at the county level to make sure our citizens have access to health care...."

    "My experience was very positive, and motivated me to do more. I have called (all numbers have been busy) and emailed my representatives and the majority leaders, and I intend to do more of that. I will definitely participate in future local protests and rallies and may visit my representatives’ local offices...."

  5. When the person who holds the office of the President of the United States behaves the way Trump did yesterday in his impromptu press conference ("In an erratic performance, President Trump shows his supporters who’s boss" [Washington Post, February 16]), it begins to appear rational to think that resistance ought to include removing him forcibly from that office. Opening paragraphs:

    The president began his Thursday news conference with opening remarks — 24 minutes of them that he appeared to read from papers at his lectern.

    He was the complainer in chief. Resentful and melancholy, he sought to assign blame for just about everything that he believes ails America.

    Not enough people feeling optimistic about his presidency? It’s the media’s fault.

    “The press, honestly, is out of control,” he said. “The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

    Companies moving jobs overseas? Wages too low? Crime in Chicago? Conflict in the Middle East? Terrorism spreading? Aggression in North Korea? It’s former president Barack Obama’s fault.

    “To be honest, I inherited a mess,” he said. “It’s a mess. At home and abroad — a mess.”

    The failure of his executive order to institute “extreme vetting” on all refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations? It’s the federal judiciary’s fault.

    “That circuit is in chaos and that circuit is, frankly, in turmoil,” he said of the 9th Circuit, where the Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that halted enforcement of Trump’s travel ban.

    In a sign that Trump intends to govern as a permanent campaign, he dismissed citizens who have been demonstrating at congressional town hall meetings to preserve the Affordable Care Act.

    “They are not the Republican people that our representatives are representing,” he said.

    It has become a trademark of the 45th president to boast about his electoral-college victory — and, in signature Trumpian fashion, he exaggerated Thursday about his place in history.

    “I guess it was the biggest electoral-college win since Ronald Reagan,” Trump said.

    NBC’s Peter Alexander confronted Trump with his misstatement, pointing out that Obama received 365 electoral votes in 2008 and 332 electoral votes in 2012, and that George H.W. Bush received 426 electoral votes in 1988.