Unfit for Office

People may joke or roll their eyes about this election cycle, and I get that it’s ridiculous, but I hope enough people realize this turn of events is no joke. A plurality of Republican voters has tossed aside the party leadership, and as well the ideals of this nation, and nominated a man unfit to serve in office. The Republican nominee is a self-avowed authoritarian – a demagogue with zero respect for the Constitution or the established tenets of representative democracy. He has said he will torture terrorist suspects and kill their families, contrary to law. He has said he alone will decide who can enter the U.S. based on religion, contrary to law. He has said he will “go after” journalists who portray him unfavorably. (This is already happening to reporter Julia Ioffe, who wrote a perfectly legitimate profile of Trump’s wife. She now receives death threats from Trump’s anti-Semitic white supremacist supporters, or “brown shirts in training” as I like to call them. It’s a disgusting affront to the First Amendment and a sobering reminder of historical episodes of fascist media suppression as a precursor to seizing power.)

Here’s a news flash for the burgeoning KKK wing of the “new” Republican party – your nominee does not necessarily believe anything he says, including the veiled promises he’s made to all you fearful racists. He calls Mexicans “rapists” and “drug dealers” because that’s what YOU believe. He says “no Muslims” because that’s what YOU want. He smiles and shrugs as his supporter/thugs beat up black protesters because YOU like it. He is using you and does not actually respect your twisted views (not that anyone should). In fact, you should know by now he respects no one, not one person, who is not himself. All of his positions are pre-polled to reach an audience the rest of us thought was dying out like bitter Confederate war widows. But no – it turns out ignorant nativist white trash xenophobes are the largest contingent of the Republican Party now, and a populist demagogue has corralled them all into his pro-wrestling-style campaign. Together, he and his “new GOP” supporters represent the very worst of America, the scum at the absolute bottom of the political barrel.

But it gets worse – now that he is the presumed nominee, the rest of the party is putting on a creepy side show aimed at “unifying” under this petulant man-child. With the “pragmatic” support of a party establishment that not-so-secretly loathes him, a pathetic, pathologically insecure half-man, a man the entire media industry laughed off as a joke, now has a very good chance of becoming the next Republican “president”.

The Republican Party, up to now the target of his lowbrow tactics, is converting itself from a pathetic victim into a simpering national embarrassment by adopting him and his non-philosophy, his non-agenda that is whatever he whims it to be on a given day or at a given moment. The party is trying to pretend this is just another election cycle and their guy is just another candidate.

But this is not a political movement hoping to reshape a national party. It’s a white nationalist populist revolt attempting to hijack a democracy (albeit one severely weakened by a corrupt oligarchy). If this country were true to its stated ideals, the Republican nominee would get 0% of the vote and we’d be having a real political contest instead of this national farce, this cheap media circus/reality show/train wreck of a political cycle. The fact that an ignorant bigot will be the choice of approximately half of Americans is a national disgrace that threatens (as it did in 1964) our very existence as a democracy. Anyone who votes for him does not understand what this country is about or the principles it was founded on. (And I am well aware they are probably proud of their ignorance – you know, because it’s not “politically correct” like those sissies in Washington.)

We are turning out to be a much dimmer beacon of freedom than we thought we were, much less intelligent, and now we are flirting with moral bankruptcy. The rise of this know-nothing populist freak, this profoundly uninformed man-baby, means we risk being extinguished altogether by an uncontrollable monster that half of this nation has created in order to destroy the other half. But it won’t work that way. We’ll all burn in that mindless wildfire of fear and loathing.

And when the nation finally realizes to its collective horror that it has elected a self-worshiping demagogue – one who blithely quotes Mussolini and has his followers perform a “Seig heil” salute at his tense, violence-tinged rallies – when we see him dividing the country into “loyalists” and everyone else, as he destroys what’s left of foreign relations, and as he scuttles the world’s most important economy to the point of collapse, our newly elected playground bully will simply shrug and say, “I’ve said all along that this is what I was going to do.”

Or, as the Orange One himself said when asked recently if he was going to “play nice” now that he’s the presumptive nominee: “You win the pennant and now you’re in the World Series — you gonna change?”

Socialism Part 4: Time to Choose

In spite of where we are now, we still retain one great power: the power of the vote. Yes, this power is being attacked and undermined as we speak, with Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and a plethora of anti-democratic voting restrictions being instituted by the oligarchy’s Tea Party foot soldiers in state legislatures across the country. But for now we still retain that power, which, at least in theory, can change our destinies.

Enter Bernie Sanders. The self-described Social Democrat (or “Democratic Socialist”) has ‘berned’ through the 2016 presidential primaries with a highly focused message to the country: Wall Street is running the show. Government will continue working for the 1% — and will continue ignoring the rest of us — until we fundamentally change the system.

It’s the right message, and though I would not have believed it six months ago, I now feel it may be the right time, or close to it. The idea of a 74-year-old socialist, a secular Jew, a political outsider, an atheist whose only child was born out of wedlock, who honeymooned in Russia, who has praised Castro’s Cuba – the idea that this man could beat an establishment Republican in a general election heavily financed by the Koch machine? That’s a crazy idea.

But look over there! All of a sudden the GOP is imploding, rocked by a slow-motion civil war with its Tea Party wing and devolving at this moment into a chaotic brawl between the racist supporters of runaway front runner Donald Trump, who is channeling proto-fascist populism a la Vladimir Putin, and the party establishment. It appears very likely that the GOP will not have a “safe” candidate to run. They will have instead a racist, xenophobic, amoral blowhard fascist at the top of the ticket.

So the question now becomes a legitimate one: Can we actually transform this hijacked society into a social democracy? Can we quit shooting ourselves in the foot – quit starting oil wars for Wall Street, quit propping up oil-and-blood-soaked dictatorships, quit disparaging our own government as if it were our  enemy, quit scaring everyone with exaggerated threats of “Islamist Terror” by Syrian war refugees, quit denigrating these same refugees for fleeing from real terror, quit the “unlimited guns and ammo for everyone” 2nd amendment fetishism, quit meddling in women’s private health care issues, quit bashing and hobbling the unions that built the middle class the oligarchy is trying to destroy, quit pretending taxation is evil and that opposing taxation is a legitimate reason to stick it to the poor and the elderly, quit gunning down unarmed African-American citizens in the streets with impunity – can we really quit all that nonsense and start to move forward?

Can we really be more like the smart countries?

It seems too good to be true. But because of this moment — the sheer unlikely madness of this moment — Bernie has crashed the national conversation and Social Democracy has entered the exciting realm of the possible. One is tempted to think that perhaps this moment is pre-ordained, as if the GOP’s distracting crisis were some kind of divine “opening” of the system’s seemingly monolithic barriers to fairness and equality, an opening that would allow us to infuse humanity and dignity into the political process and, like grown-ups, put an end to the endless era of so-called “partisan gridlock” (AKA planned government malfeasance engineered by the plutocrats who want it that way).

People are excited about this! – And especially about the Messenger, Bernie Sanders.

But we don’t need a “revolution” — whatever that means — we just need to get out, and vote, and win, for the principles that already bind us, for the values we obviously share and have for decades. This has nothing to do with the Democratic Party, and everything to do with government of the people, by the people, for the people – which truly is in peril of perishing from the earth.

Bernie alone cannot do it — as he says over and over, it’s not about him. It’s about us. Hopefully, a sizeable number of the young ‘Berners’ transform into political activists, willing to not only post memes on Facebook but to vote, then to stand up and fight for a government that truly works for the people, and to keep fighting when the oligarchs hit back with the usual scare tactics, patriarchal bluster, and anti-citizen legal maneuvers.

And by that I mean if Bernie does not win this primary — and it appears that he will not due to the vestiges of party influence and cold delegate math — giving up is not the way to go. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld: our entrenched, co-opted political establishment is like a Coke machine — you don’t just walk up and tip it over, you’ve gotta rock that thing back and forth a few times.

If it’s Hillary, vote for Hillary. I don’t care how you feel about her, there is no way you will convince me that Trump is the preferable choice. No way in Hell. Do not even try. And definitely don’t tell me that if it can’t be Bernie, we need to elect Trump in order to create the “crisis” that will usher in the “revolution” – that’s Leninist bullshit. It didn’t work for social democrats in post-Weimar Germany, and it won’t work here. A sour grapes “none of the above” in November is also as good as a vote for President Trump. You know this. Let the Republicans stay home and nurse their embarrassment. Liberals need to get out there. A President Hillary can have coattails – a friendly Senate — with your help. She will choose at least one (and probably several) Supreme Court Justices. So if it goes that way hold your ego in check and help her out — help her help us continue down a progressive path rather than the path of cynical fascism and national ruin. We can get there eventually, but not if the president destroys the nation first.

Stick with your principles. Don’t give in to despair or jaded indifference or, worst of all, defeat. Use your vote, and your voice to tell your story, and keep telling it – why you object to the dismantling of your democratic government, the co-opting of politicians by the corporate oligarchy, why you deserve a voice and a share in the great promise of the American economy, why you will no longer stand for a government in the service of corporations rather than its own citizens.

You will be able to say it under Hillary, by the way, to hold her feet to the fire. You will be ignored, and will very likely land on an enemies list, or perhaps leave with a few bruises, or perhaps worse, saying that to a president Trump.

All of it needs to happen, and to be sustained by your millions of advertising-immune votes competing with billions of dollars in advertisements. We must wrest this nation away from those who seek only, as the GOP’s dictatorial “tax activist” Grover Norquist puts it, to shrink the federal government until it’s small enough and weak enough to “drown in the bathtub.”