The Great GOP Dumpster Dive

Welcome to the first heat of the Great GOP Dumpster Dive.  As you know this is the first in a series of contests to determine who will qualify for the Great Debate in just a little over a week. Each heat will provide the candidates the unique opportunity to gather all they can from the bottom of the dumpster.  We have been informed by reliable sources that the dumpster contains a particularly toxic brew of half-truths, outrageous accusations, slanderous characterizations, lies, misinformation, hyperbolic rhetoric, hate, scientific denial and historical revisionism. We can see the excitement on the faces of the candidates as they prepare themselves for this all important dive. It’s almost time for them to take the big plunge.

While we have a few minutes before the starting gun I’d like to describe some of the contestants to you. On the far right I can see an impeccably adorned Donald Trump in his formfitting wet suit. He seems to be wearing a blond cap, oh my mistake, his hair is slicked down to make his plunge resistance free. Standing very close to Trump, seemingly trying to edge him out of position, is Ted Cruz. He is all decked out in a black wet suit and he seems to have some sort of scoop attachment on his hands. I guess he’s going to try to scoop all he can from the bottom of the dumpster. Moving down the line we can see Marco Rubio. He appears ready to jump right in, but he seems to have a bottle of water attached to his belt. I suppose that’s in case he gets parched in the process of gathering his toxic brew.  Further down the line, but still pushing to the far right is Mike Huckabee.  He seems a little old for this kind of contest, but don’t let appearances fools you.   He is as motivated and excited as the others.  In fact, he is more experienced at this kind of contest given his past efforts.  He may not be as quick as his younger compatriots, but he knows more about the contents of the bottom of the dumpster than they do.  I see Jeb Bush standing in the corner trying to hold his position. He seems a little off-balance and contemplating just how deep to dive.  Yet he knows he has to make sure he gets his share or he might not score high enough for the Big Debate.  There to the left of Bush is Chris Christie.  Everybody keeps telling him not to try to simply make a big splash with a cannon ball.  He knows he has to dive deep, but at the same time appear to be staying on the surface where the mix isn’t as toxic. There are others getting ready on the sidelines but this is the first heat.  The group is now stepping up to the edge of the dumpster.

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They are being instructed by the officials to wait for the starter’s pistol or they will call a false start.  Anybody with two false starts will be disqualified.  Trump is yelling that he doesn’t care about the rules, he’ll jump when he wants.  Not to be outdone by Trump,  the others start to complain about the rules as well.  All of a sudden Trump just yelled ” Okay guys, follow me to the depths, let’s all jump.” They all just jumped following Trump.  It will be a while before we see what they  come up with.  But rest assured, the next few days will provide us with much of what they have been able to grab onto.

Don’t you just love how the GOP gets involved in sports?

Did The GOP Laboratory Create A Monster?

They’ve been working on this project for almost seven years.  They have carefully honed the components one at a time.  They tested them in their media lab at Fox.  They used internal polls to adapt to regional tastes.  They thought they had achieved success in 2012.  However, much to their disappointment all of their efforts were for naught.  For a brief period it appeared that they were going to return to their roots and go legit.  They even presented an “autopsy” to base such a decision upon.  However, they couldn’t fake it.  In time the true nature of who and what they are once again came to the surface.  The xenophobic, anti-science, anti-women, anti-education, anti-healthcare, anti-minority, anti-social program, pro-war, pro-business, anti-union, anti-voter rights, anti-gun control, anti-government regulation and anti-immigration character of the GOP was once again predominant.  While going through this intense effort to distinguish itself from the Democrats and attract what they perceived to be the vast discontent body politic, a new face began to show itself.  Donald Trump listened attentively and even tried to take the lead on the birther issue.  He was a high-profile personality ready to be the face of the hateful agenda of the GOP.  All of their hard work in the laboratory had paid off.  He was the personification of all they hoped to create.  But something went wrong.  Somebody forgot to stop feeding him the Kool-aid, because he got over done and nobody can de-juice him.  The GOP laboratory apparently inadvertently created a monster.

There are now 16 candidates vying for the Republican Presidential nomination. They represent all points of the GOP political spectrum from semi-rational to right-wing lunatic.   Yet 15 of those 16 are all the targets of the craziest of them all and they don’t know how to handle it.  Trump, has unapologetically and aggressively, attacked  all of the candidates with total disregard for fact or the ultimate good of the party.  He has presented himself as a single-minded, self-centered, self-serving egotistical  bore on a mission.  What exactly that mission is has not yet become clear.  He has alienated the party establishment, the key funders and anyone who dares to disagree with him.  It seems that his chances of building the kind of delegate support necessary to win the nomination are remote at best.   It’s not that he will run out of money or venues to scream his poison.  His masterful use of the media and his fellow candidates will keep him front and center for as long as he wants.  The big question, however, is what is this guys endgame?  As I noted, he is not going to get the GOP presidential nomination.  Is his goal to simply elevate himself and diminish all others just for the fun of it?  I think not. 

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I think he is ultimately seeking to threaten to run as a third-party candidate.  The very possibility of such a run is the prime cause of insomnia and heartburn among the GOP faithful and gives him incredible leverage in the GOP.  It is clear that in the general election the big losers with a Trump third-party run will be the GOP.  All of those years of that intense lab work gone to hell.  What will it cost the GOP to get him to reject a third-party run?  He is at heart a businessman who has achieved his success through the art of negotiation, or at least has worked hard to create that image.  At this moment he seems to be holding all of the cards.  Yet, it is very early in the game and things can change at the flash of the next poll.  But my guess is that Trump is in it for the long haul regardless of what the polls say. He smells blood in the water and he likes his odds of becoming a major power and opinion broker in the GOP.

The Democratic future is looking very bright.  Thank you Mr. Trump!

The Iranian Nuclear Deal: A Test Of The Candidate’s Political Maturity

I freely admit that at this moment I don’t know whether or not I support the Iranian nuclear deal.  After all, it is an extremely complex and nuanced 100 page document.  Before making my decision I will need to read the agreement, perhaps more than once, as well as additional explanatory and opinion material. This is not an issue to be taken lightly as it impacts the security of our country, as well as Israel and the rest of the world.  Most importantly, it should not be viewed through a political or partisan prism, but rather the clear lens of honesty and objectivity.  This is the kind of decision that requires strength, maturity, intelligence, wisdom, experience, perspective, knowledge and integrity.  Are those in whose hands we have placed this responsibility up to this task?  Have they illustrated through their behavior and decision-making that they are capable of reflecting these characteristics as they move through the process?

Ask any Senator, past or present, and they will tell you that they are honored to be a part of the “greatest deliberative body” in history.  Talk about looking through rose-colored glasses, I don’t know what they are seeing.  I see 100 men and women who spend their time raising money, planning their next Sunday show appearance or figuring ways to hinder the other side.  I see little or no deliberation and nothing constructive coming from this “great deliberative body”.  That is twice as true for the House.  When we combine these realities with the fact that we are now in the Presidential primary season, it appears that any hope of keeping the decision-making process regarding the Iranian nuclear deal on track is wishful thinking. We have already heard comments from senators, world leaders and candidates regarding this treaty.  Is it really possible that they have given this document the necessary serious study that would enable them to make an informed comment?  This isn’t the time for sound bites.  It is a time for thoughtful, cautionary and informed remarks.  This isn’t a time to score political points.  It is a time to take service to our country and all its obligations seriously.

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While I have great concern with the way in which the congress will approach this deal, the fact that this is a presidential primary season portends additional problems.  Of the candidates that have presented themselves to us, who is capable of true leadership on this issue?  Remember, leadership is not a sound bite.  It requires more than just bluster and the knowing of which words to use to excite a crowd.  It requires strength, maturity intelligence,wisdom, experience, perspective, knowledge and integrity.  It is particularly concerning that Mr. Trump, an individual who lacks virtually all of the these characteristics is rapidly moving up the Republican primary polls.  He has replaced the hatred symbolized by the Confederate flag with his own brand of xenophobia.   However, so far, the other GOP candidates have not shown themselves to be any stronger when it comes to these characteristics.  Though it appears that the Iranian deal issue has come at a very inopportune time due to the hyper-political environment created by a presidential campaign, it might, in fact, become somebody’s opportunity.

While I am doing my own “due diligence” on the Iranian nuclear treaty, I will be watching members of the Senate and House as well as the Presidential candidates to see what they do.  Will they find it necessary to make uninformed strictly partisan comments, or will they take their time and speak with caution, maturity and wisdom?  Will they act in a purely self-serving political way, so typical of what we have seen these past years, or will they adhere to the obligations they swore to in their oath of office?  Will they follow the lead of Trump and other hateful self-serving egotists, or will they understand that it is service to nation and not themselves that should be their guiding principle?  This is a test.  Will any of them pass?

The GOP Primary Season: Alice In Wonderland Meets George Orwell’s 1984

At an early age we learn the power of words.  We are warned against the use of certain invectives when describing our siblings.  We are told in no uncertain terms that certain words have no place in our house.  And most importantly, we learn how to use words to plead our case when we want something from our parents.  Words, we learn, are one of the primary currencies of power.  When combined with wealth they are an exceedingly formidable adversary.  The use of wealth to promulgate words can create “new truths”.  Sometimes these “new truths” have no connection to fact.  Rather, they are rooted in opinion and wishful thinking.  Listening to the “new truths” spouting from the mouths of the GOP candidates is like looking through Alice in Wonderland’s looking glass and hearing George Orwell’s Newspeak.

Orwell

Let’s look at just a few of the more troublesome examples. The passage of laws in dozens of states that restrict access to abortion are always couched in terms that imply concern for and protection of women’s health. As we experience steady and positive economic growth, following the Bush disaster, we hear the candidates describe an economy that is in shambles.  As state after state passes laws that limit access to the ballot box, they are described  as protection against voter fraud.  The ACA has created the lowest level of uninsured Americans in our history and has slowed the growth of healthcare cost at record rates.  However, the candidates refer to this law as a disaster that is destroying healthcare in our country.  As the candidates decry the chaos in Iraq and call on President Obama to do something, they abhor the thought of a major American military commitment that would include “boots on the ground”.  The candidates are shocked by the gun violence that we seem to experience too regularly, but see no connection to easy access to guns and a lack of background checks.  In a rather interesting twist, the candidates are opposed to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage on the grounds that it is an encroachment on religious freedom. It is not even worth dealing with the nonsense that Trump has been shoveling for the past couple of weeks.  However, what they all have in common is the lack of facts and truth.

Our attitudes are based on our values and our life experience. It is therefore possible to view an event or a problem and see it from two entirely different perspectives. But it is necessary to base those perspectives on fact, not fiction.  Honest differences of opinion can and do exist.  But the basis of those opinions must be anchored in the same sea of facts.  To deny the facts and create a “truth” that is entirely based on opinion is fundamentally dishonest. It creates a fantasy land in which anything is possible as long as it conforms to the opinions of the land’s creator.  The danger in this is twofold.  First, it takes advantage of the ill-informed and keeps them ill-informed.  What kind of electorate does that create?  Second, it presents solutions to fictional problems and sustains Washington’s ability to remain incredibly irrelevant.  For example, we know that the ACA is successful and providing healthcare and protection to millions.  Yet the entire 2016 GOP class of candidates talks about the need to repeal it.  This is, of course, after some 50 unsuccessful votes in the House over the past few years to achieve this.  It is a solution based on fiction supported by the ill-informed electorate.

The role of money in today’s campaigns combined with the power of the word allows the candidates to present a looking-glass perspective using Orwell’s Newspeak.  It is dangerous and corrupts our system of elections and governance.

Demographics and the Supreme Court Doom The GOP

Any parent can recall a time when despite irrefutable logic and undeniable facts you couldn’t win the argument with your child.  At that point we all retreated to the old standby, ” because I said so”.  Children, because they are developing physically and physiologically, can challenge us to our very core.  However, despite this, as parents, we understand that children require our guidance and protection because they are our children.  We are much less forgiving when we observe an adult behaving as a child.  We assume that there is something “wrong” with him and at most feel pity.  When groups of adults act inappropriately we fear them and call upon authorities to take control and protect us.  However, when an official institution such as a political party acts with total disregard for the facts around them, we must question their relevance, their leadership and most of all their future.

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The facts are irrefutable.  While for its entire history the US had been a majority white and Protestant nation, in the very foreseeable future that will change.  The fastest growing minority voting block is Latino.  The fastest shrinking voting block is white and 55 or older, a group the GOP could always count on.  The numbers are easily available.  Article after article has been written about these changing demographics.  Yet the GOP continues to support policies that are repugnant to not only the Latino population, but all minorities and progressives in the country.  Their attitudes towards immigration, education, healthcare, gun control, a minimum wage increase, pay equity, taxes and the growing gap between the “haves” and  “have-nots” are contrary to the interests of all but the very wealthy, the ideologically right-wing, or the religious right.  Combining these groups in a Presidential election does not a victory bring.  This is an irrefutable fact proven during the last two elections.  Thus, the demographics and the empirical experience of the last two elections prove that GOP behavior is self-defeating.  Yet, if we listen to the words of the current presidential candidate crew of GOP misfits, they are like petulant children who simply ignore the facts around them.

While this behavior, if it continues, guarantees that the GOP will likely not see a White House victory for the foreseeable future, another factor has come into play that places their very future in jeopardy.  Last Monday, in a little noticed decision handed down by the Supreme Court, the GOP’s hold on its majority in Congress was placed in question.  In that 5-4 decision, not surprisingly split along ideological lines, the Court ruled that a bipartisan commission established to oversee redistricting in Arizona was, in fact, constitutional.  By doing so, they took the politics out of this redistricting  process and plunged a fist into the gut of GOP Congressional control.  As an increasing number of states adopt this process the practice of gerrymandering, which has worked at different times for both Democrats and Republicans, will no longer be possible.  congressional districts will be drawn in a logical and rational way to reflect the real demographics of the state. With the demographics drastically changing in all but a handful of states this must raise a red flag for Republicans.  Yet, this childish petulant group of misfits that calls itself the GOP continues to behave as if nothing has changed.

While I abhor what the Republican Party has come to represent, I do feel that we are all well served by the existence of two political parties.  Just as our system of government was created with checks and balances, I feel that the parties, in an environment without partisan gerrymandering, serve to check each other and reflect voter preferences.  Today’s Republican Party is reflective of what is worst in America.  If it continues unabated down this route it is writing its own death warrant and I will say good riddance.  If that occurs, I hope another party, more reflective of the real hopes and dreams of America comes into existence to compete honestly with the Democrats.

Is Charleston The Straw That Breaks The Solid South?

During our lives we have experienced events that have altered the way in which we see the world and our place in it.  Most often they are traumatic occurrences that shake us to our very core and cause us to question the things we have taken for granted and accepted as normal our entire lives.    During my lifetime the moon landing, the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam War and 9/11 impacted on me and my generation in ways that changed our perception of the world and indeed the universe in which we live.  For many of us, these events stimulated a new-found appreciation of both life’s offerings and its obligations.  Additionally, it has been shown that traumatic events impact on voting behavior and personal ideology.  In so doing they cause a realignment and reconfiguration of party loyalties and institutional behavior.  The question for us to ponder at this time is whether the brutally racist killings of nine innocent victims in a Charleston church is such an event. Further, if it is, what impact will it have on what has been known for a political lifetime as the “Solid South”?

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The current call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State Capitol has begun to give us a clue.  Remember that this flag was first flown over the South Carolina State Capitol Building in 1962 as a symbol of resistance to integration.  A few years ago, in a compromise with those calling for its complete removal, it was moved from the Capitol Building to the capitol grounds.  Support for keeping this flag flying was strong and relentless.  It was a symbol of the “old south” and garnered great nostalgia.  The supporters have denied that it is a symbol of hate, but to a growing majority it has come to symbolize the kind of behavior that took the lives of nine worshippers in a Charleston church.

I did a good part of my growing up in Asheville, North Carolina.  It was not the Asheville of today with its openness and artsy environment.  The Asheville I lived in was a segregationist dream with school segregation and housing and job discrimination.  We used to sing Dixie at school football games.  The Confederate flag was a normal and accepted part of life.  Asheville was no different from towns throughout the South.  The Civil War, known in the South as “the War Between The States”, was still being fought.  The flag was, in fact, a symbol of white superiority and still is to this day.  While South Carolina has been blatant in its support of this symbolism, it is a fact that five Southern states have some element of the Confederate flag contained within their state flags.

The shooting  in Charleston seems to have awakened people from their nostalgic dreams of the “old South” and helped them to see what that mindset created.  A “son of the South”, a 21-year-old man who had grown up amidst the traditions of hatred and white supremacy that have prevailed for so long, felt it was just fine to brutally kill nine black worshippers in church.  He felt it was his “mission” as part of an effort to save the traditions of segregation.

The movement to remove the Confederate Flag has grown with incredible speed.  It has placed State government officials, including the governor, in a position in which they felt it necessary to concur and call for its removal.  It has placed pressure on Presidential candidates, some of whom had the courage and conviction to also call for its removal.  This symbol of hatred, a symbol of the old and Solid South is now hanging by a thread.  National retailers have announced an end to the sale of any Confederate symbol or clothing.  What will be next as we watch these symbols crumble?

The Southern states are no longer homogenous.  There are many who have moved into such cities as Charlotte and Atlanta from outside of the South.  Will what we have come to expect as Southern political behavior be altered by the events in Charleston?  If it does, it will be incredibly healthy for the country, but most importantly for the millions who call the South their home.

Trump, The Clown King Joins The Circus

I will be the first to admit that I am delighted that Trump has thrown his big hair and floppy shoes into the Republican Presidential ring.  Aside from the shoes and the hair I am particularly pleased that we will be hearing uncontrolled and uncensored words coming from his mouth. He will, no doubt, add great entertainment value to the Republican debates and the campaign in general. In recent years he has presented himself as undisciplined and unpredictable. Additionally, unlike most of us, he feels no need to base his statements and assertions on fact.  If he says it, it must be true.  After all, modesty aside, he has proven himself to be beyond reproach just by virtue of his wealth.  It is clear that he is absolutely convinced that he has the attributes, experience and intelligence, unmatched by anyone else, that make him the only viable choice to lead our country.   While I am not surprised that this egomaniac perceives himself in this way, I am concerned that others might come to agree.

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Like many of you, I look forward to Trump’s brash and unapologetic accusations of naiveté, ignorance and just plain stupidity focused on his rivals. Yet I do feel the need to pull back and regain some perspective.  He is surely unpredictable and undisciplined, as I noted above, but he is also not beholden to anyone for financial support. This combination makes him particularly dangerous.  He can legitimately claim to be a Washington outsider, while at the same time show himself to be completely immune to pressure from any special interest.  His wealth, as did Ross Perot’s in 1992, allows him to present himself as a pure and independent candidate.  At a time when Americans are increasingly fed up with Washington and its inability to fulfill its obligations to govern this country, Trump may be more attractive to many than we would like to think.

There is no doubt that his statements are aimed at the right-wing base of the GOP.  The problem is that the GOP has moved so far to the right that Trump represents the attitudes and fears of a significant portion of that base.  He feeds those fears with his remarks about immigration and fed them with his off the wall campaign regarding Obama’s birth certificate and his legitimacy as both an American and a President.  He speaks to them regarding the economy and America’s role in the world.  His success in business and his worldwide notoriety provide him with legitimacy in these areas in the eyes of the very frightened and very ill-informed GOP base.  Fox, we must remember, is the primary source of news and information for this group.  Trump couldn’t ask for a more “perfect storm”.

Because he is not dependent upon anyone for financial support, he is free to say whatever he wants as he stands on the debate stage beside his fellow candidates. Combine this with a complete lack of concern with facts, and he has an incredible advantage over all of them.  After all, he can simply target rivals with assertions and accusations at will, whether they are fact or fiction.  As we all know, once you are placed in a position of trying to deny an assertion, you own it.  Trump can take control of the debate stage by simply throwing bombs in all directions and watching as they all try to defend.  Debates are about sound-bites, and Trump has become a master of this contemporary excuse for news. A sound-bite doesn’t have to be fact based, it just has to be titillating.

There is no doubt that the entry of Donald Trump into the GOP primary season will make for great entertainment.  However, while enjoying the entertainment, we cannot lose site of the fact that he represents a significant portion of that base. Strange things can happen in a Republican Party that is hungry for a White House victory and turned off to its establishment.