Trump and the Fundamentalists

From a Google Image Search – The New Republic

After you finish a book as meaty, as full of detail and attribution, as Shadow Network by Anne Nelson, it requires more than one take on the author’s revelations to do justice to the contents. I have not talked about the juiciest bits of this book, (which makes them sound like they are gossip, but they are real). These are the places in the book where the author talks about the fundamentalists and the moment when Donald Trump entered the campaign, and furthermore, the bits where the fundamentalists see that he will most likely win the nomination.

The Council for National Policy had its roots back in the 70’s. It began as a small group of religious leaders and pastors who were worried that the decision to end school prayer (1962) was responsible for a moral nosedive in America. This Council grew in influence and many Republicans and religious leaders have been members and past presidents, although they are not all household names. The CNP inspired many similar organizations of conservative fundamentalists and these groups began to formulate a “wish list” of laws to pass and laws to overturn and courts to stuff. They added a Leadership training program that was very effective and a long list of related groups. Once they knew what they wanted, they decided to analyze fundamentalist voters. They began to devise ways to reach out to fundamentalists and other Christians who would become “Values voters,” to make sure they registered to vote and went to the polls and voted for the candidates the fundamentalists backed.

In the 2016 elections evangelicals (fundamentalists) backed candidates like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. They certainly did not favor Donald Trump. Anne Nelson tells us that “a group of female conservatives…had sent an ‘anyone but Trump’ letter to Iowa voters, stating, “as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women in particular.” (pg.191)

She goes on to say, “as far as the movement’s key issues were concerned, Trump’s loose-cannon rhetoric had been all over the place; he was on record saying he didn’t care to challenge same-sex marriage, and he was wobbly on abortion. His religious credentials were spotty, to put it mildly.” For a coalition that depended on getting out the fundamentalist vote, these were poor optics indeed, says Nelson.

But George Barna, who had done the get-out-the-vote groundwork, an enormous investment of time and organizational strategy, technique and networking, Nelson says, could sense the “taste of victory was turning to ashes. Barna claimed his efforts were more successful for taking place, quite unintentionally, off the national radar.”

“If fundamentalists/Republicans won the presidency and kept the Senate in 2016, they would hold the power to reshape the American judiciary and real change would unfold. They could roll back abortion rights, gay marriage and gun laws, revoke environmental regulations, abolish entire federal agencies, assail the IRS restrictions on the tax free status of churches, make decisions on gerrymandering, and redistricting to set the scale for many elections to come.”

She goes on to say, “[b]ut Trump broke through, riding on his uncanny charisma, the caché of celebrity, and a powerful backlash against political business as usual…but with the disadvantages of a seat-of-the-pants organization, lack of donors and infrastructure, or any ground game.” (pg.192)

Nelson tells us that, “[i]n May, soon after Ted Cruz acknowledged defeat, Time magazine’s Elizabeth Dias reported that Tony Perkins (CNP), Ben Carson, and Bill Dallas had begun organizing a closed-door meeting for Trump and fundamentalist leaders.” (pg. 193)

She describes Trump’s speech in January, 2016 at Liberty University (founded by Jerry Falwell) sprinkled with the words ‘hell’ and ‘damn’, so “shocking to young fundamentalist ears”. This was the Two Corinthians moment, she reminds us. Nelson sums it up, “Fundamentalists measured a man’s worth by his church attendance, marital fidelity, and knowledge of the Bible, Trump came up short on every count.”

Nelson tells us that conservatives and fundamentalists did not trust Trump’s business sense either and that Charles Koch even considered voting for Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Barna, the fundamentalist vote-technician, refused to see all his hard work go to waste. He called in a fundamentalist named Ralph Reed, who had been cultivating Trump for years as revealed by Elizabeth Dias of Time magazine. Reed scheduled a dress rehearsal for Trump at a June, 2016 Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C. at which “Trump praised the right people and listed the correct goals.” (pg. 195)

Then they hosted the big event on June 21, 2016, “A Conversation About America’s Future with Donald Trump and Ben Carson” at which over 1,000 fundamentalist leaders came from all over the country to the ballroom of the NY Marriott Marquis. Ben Carson said, “this is like a chess match and God is the great grand master, sometimes he uses a pawn.” Nelson also recounts ‘Franklin Graham’s back-handed support – Was Trump a sinner? Well, Graham reminded his audience, the God of the Old Testament worked through lots of sinners, Abraham lied, Moses disobeyed God. David committed adultery and had a man killed.”

And then Trump said: “this election is about the Supreme Court. The next president will appoint 2, 3, 4, or possibly 5 life-term Justices…He said all his judges would be vetted by the Federalist Society.”

In the end, Nelson tells us about a man, James Robison in these words, “The movement had come full circle. Robison had brought Reagan to Dallas, and now he delivered the fundamentalist war council to Trump. This was a man who made history yet few Americans outside fundamentalist circles had ever heard of him. (pg. 227)

She finishes this tale about the ultimate acts of rationalization on the part of the fundamentalists and how they came to support this particular American president that, it could be argued, they bequeathed us, by saying,

“As of 2017, Republicans held all the cards, they controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, and thirty-three state legislatures. Furthermore their ranks were filled with fresh blood; the average age of the Democratic House leadership was seventy-two and the Republican was 48.”

“Now with the Republican Senate behind him and the Federalist Society nominations in hand, Trump prepared to fill the vacancies in the courts in record time.”

The Koch brothers wrote a paper called, “Advancing Principled Public Policy” which is essentially a victory lap, “the new administration had overturned the Bureau of Land Management’s Stream Protection Rule, rescinded the fracking ban on federal and Indian lands, and initiated the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate agreement. Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court.”

From the Koch point of view “it was ultimately about money, in the form of the Republican tax bill.” (pg. 228) The “victories” Republicans won as a result of agreeing to back Trump have been worth all their compromises in their eyes, but Nelson’s book tells us of the less transparent role fundamentalists played in Trump’s election, and while he may be an affliction to some us, he has not been perceived that way in religious circles to our everlasting astonishment. It’s lucky for these folks, I guess, that now the world is operating under New Testament rules.

See, I told you the story has a lot of juicy bits. All these righteous men being yanked around by want and greed. I did not want you to think that Anne Nelson neglected to write about Trump or neglected to expose hypocrisy in her book, Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right Wing.

Trump, the Senate, and Impeachment

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Senate by The Atlantic

Will the Senate of the United States of America let Trump micromanage his own impeachment trial? Since the Senate majority is in the hands of the Republican Party and since the Republican Party is in Trump’s pocket it looks like that is exactly what will happen. Trump is already trying to set the Senate rules for how his impeachment trial will be conducted. 

But the Republican Party, wants desperately to stay in power, even as it lost the popular vote for president in the last six elections. The party has been plotting for over a decade to arrange voting in America so that, as the GOP becomes the party of the minority, it will be able to stay in the majority in state governments and in, at least, the Senate. Tons of energy, hours of meetings, documents full of thousands of words, and millions and billions of dollars have been spent on ginning up a base that would reliably vote for Republicans, without weighing the candidates, just along the party line. Republicans have been very successful, and Donald Trump did not even help the Senate achieve its current position. America’s election maps have been looking redder and redder as Democrats are confined to coastal cities and larger inland urban centers. 

The Senate is unique because every state gets equal representation. Every state gets two senators regardless of population. Top five states (California, 40 m., Texas, 30 m., Florida, 21 m., NY, 19.5 m, Penn., 12.8 m) get two senators each. Bottom five ( S. Dakota, 882 K, No. Dakota, 786 K, Alaska, 737 K, Vermont, 626 K, Wyoming, 578 K) also get two senators each. This math which made sense to the founders, half of whom were farmers, makes plenty of sense to modern Republicans since they had already had influence in rural states through Evangelicals, media, and a Republican campaign to collect state governorships and legislatures to help them enact their small-government-privatize-everything agenda. The Republicans have a pretty fair hold on the Senate and it may be difficult to flip it. (We shall see.)

And although the Senate has mostly done Trump’s business, it is not only in Trump’s interests but also in the interests of Republicans to stuff the courts with conservatives. The Senate has defied Trump a few times, especially on issues of foreign policy, sanctions, etc. Trump has already tried to sideline the House of Representatives by refusing to offer any documents to assist the House in their lawful investigations and to prevent government employees from testifying. The grand jury documents from the Mueller investigation have still not been made available to the House. It was obviously a big mistake to not get a special prosecutor, a mistake to conduct the Mueller investigation under the auspices of the Justice Department (although who knew an AG would ever become so partisan).

The Republicans have already almost turned over the Senate to Trump. Are they actually going to let Trump run his own impeachment trial? Are they, despite all their hard work to turn the Senate into a Republican stronghold, going to fix the impeachment trial, make it just a show trial, and give their last stronghold to Trump? I must admit I am astonished. I’m not so surprised that they are treating the Constitution with so little respect, or that they are Trump fanatics, but I am surprised that the Senate will give up its Article I power to the president, will bargain away their hard-won and very useful position of power for this term-limited guy, a move that could affect them in perpetuity. If the Democrats can put up a fight, it is difficult to believe that the Senate will just knuckle under to an imperious president who only acknowledges the Senate as long as it is full of spineless sycophants.

White Power: Driving Force for Republicans – Revised

From a Google Image Search – NBC News

White Power: Driving Force for Republicans

Could it be that the Great American Divide is about white power? There is a lot of evidence that this may be exactly the case. This is an undercurrent in Republican politics that we should be aware of because it turns one faction of Christianity into a secretive lobbying group with an agenda that subverts the Constitution in the name of purifying it. These extra-governmental groups get their power from big money, from savvy manipulation of people’s faith, and, they claim, from God. They have been able to divide America while they carry out a campaign to control politics in Washington and in the states. 

I am reading a book called Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson who is offering evidence that there are long tentacles of connection between American Fundamentalists and the Koch Network, which also includes the DeVos family – and that white supremacy and the supremacy of the Christian religion are the doctrines around which these folks coalesce. Nelson looks at the founding of a group called the Council for National Policy, and at its past presidents who include people from just about every radical conservative group in America. 

“A century earlier the US population was close to 90 percent non-Hispanic white but by 2016 the figure dropped to 60% and was falling steadily.” (pg. 2)

In 1972 Protestants made up 2/3 of the US population, but by 2012 they had dropped to less than half.” (pg. 2)`

“[The men we are speaking of] represented an American past dominated by white Protestant male property owners. They dreamed of restoring a nineteenth century patriarchy that limited the civil rights of women, minorities, immigrants and workers, with no income tax to vex the rich or social safety net to aid the poor.” (Prologue, pg. xiv)

“If the country abided by a clear-cut democratic process, these constituencies, leaning Democratic, would consolidate their power based on majority rule.” (pg. xiv)

“Once Democratic-leaning youth and minorities reached a decisive majority – which could be as early as 2031 – there might be no turning back.” 

Perhaps this explains the conservative meme on the demise of the American nuclear family and the passionate campaign to end birth control and abortion and the constant comments that inform white folks that they are not having enough offspring, which some conservatives are wont to let slip in unguarded moments. (As in, we need more white babies.)

Thomas Edsall

Ross Douthat

Nelson says that “[t]he key players learned how to achieve minority rule through long-term strategies, which they would soon apply to the country as a whole, manipulating the electoral process and reshaping the judiciary.” (pg. 2)

E. J. Dionne, JR. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-unites-trumps-apologists-minority-rule/2019/11/24/152c5d06-0d6c-11ea-97ac-a7ccc8dd1ebc_story.html

“Two questions are asked again and again: How can white evangelical Christians continue to support a man as manifestly immoral as President Trump? And how can congressional Republicans refuse to condemn Trump’s thuggish effort to use taxpayer money to intimidate a foreign leader into helping his reelection campaign?”

“The answer to both relates to power — not just the power Trump now enjoys but also to the president’s faithfulness to a deal aimed at controlling American political life for a generation or more. Both evangelicals and Republican politicians want to lock in their current policy preferences, no matter how much the country changes or how sharply public opinion swings against them. As a party, the GOP now depends on empowering a minority over the nation’s majority.”

“Still, voter suppression and the electoral college (along with partisan gerrymandering) are not foolproof. There is, however, one part of government entirely immune from the results of any particular election: the lifetime appointees to federal judgeships, beginning with the U.S. Supreme Court. And here is where Trump has delivered big time for those willing to let him do just about anything else.”

“But white evangelicals turn out to be the premier pragmatists of U.S. politics, as the historian Matthew Avery Sutton argued last week in The Post’s “Made by History” section. They know they are losing ground in public opinion on issues such as same-sex marriage. An older group than the country as a whole, they are also in demographic decline as our nation grows more ethnically, racially and religiously diverse.

“The best defense evangelicals have against the new majority is control of the courts, which Trump is giving them. Everything else is negotiable, or ignorable.

The courts also matter to Republican economic elites alarmed by the growing support, even among political moderates, for higher taxes on the wealthy and limits on corporate power. Conservative judges are rather solicitous toward the interests of property and have historically limited the regulatory reach of government’s democratically elected branches. No wonder Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has turned the Senate — where, by the way, the most diverse and populous states are underrepresented — into an assembly line sped up to confirm right-wing judges as quickly as possible.”

“There is nothing new about established conservative interests trying to limit democracy’s reach, as a student of mine, Humza Jilani, helpfully reminded me last week in discussing his thesis topic. What ought to disturb us now is how far evangelical conservatives and Republicans (and let’s honor the Never Trumper exceptions) are willing to go to defend Trump’s indefensible behavior because they are entirely complicit in his minority-rule project.”

In Shadow Network Anne Nelson tells us that Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, outraged when the Supreme Court ended public school prayer, met in March of 1967, to discuss this and other matters and to come up with an organized response which would eventually become the Council for National Policy. Southern Baptists figured prominently in these events. Jerry Falwell was also in the loop. Paul Weyrich would become one of the architects of the CNP. “According to journalist David Grann’s account in the New Republic, Weyrich’s idea for a conservative network arose in Washington one day in 1969. In 1970 Weyrich cofounded The Heritage Foundation, the Republican Study Committee, and ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council which become the building blocks of the Council for National Policy.”

Since this movement involved the church there was already a network of Christian radio stations all across America. “Over time the media empire has expanded its reach into Fox News operations and grown to include fundamentalist television broadcasting, digital platforms, book publishing, and feature film production.” (pg. xv)

“ The ‘wallpaper effect’ of wraparound media can have a powerful effect,” says Nelson. (pg. xvi)

“The CNP set its sights on the Republican Party” (pg. xvii)

Nelson goes on to say, “the movement has also appropriated a vocabulary that it redeploys with Orwellian flair. ‘Family’ is a code word for homophobic, and ‘defense of marriage’ means prohibition of same sex unions…” (pg. xvii) hardly surprising to most of us.

Once we are versed in the history of the CNP and related organizations such as the Leadership Institute, the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, Tea Party Patriots and many more on the right, Anne Nelson begins to delineate the connections of this fundamentalist network with the Koch brothers and their network of organizations mostly connected to the oil and gas industry, very important in the states the CNP grew up in. The most famous Koch organizations include Americans for Prosperity and Donors Trust. 

I began to be aware that what was going on in the federal government and in the states was not business-as-usual sometime around 2013 when the scope of Republican obstructionism in Congress became too obvious to ignore. Saying that you plan to make Obama a one term president was a bit abstract, but the use of the filibuster and the Hastert rule to bring legislation to a virtual standstill was pretty concrete. Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham may have amused some Americans, but I found it snarky and disrespectful. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling, shutting down the government – all these actions began to look planned, strategic, ways to prevent the majority party from governing. And of course, I was not the only one who noticed. 

I’m not sure the connection to white supremacy was as clear in those years as it is today but actions like defusing the Voting Rights Act to end preclearance for Jim Crow states began to offer us a strong suspicion that white supremacy was not dead and gone in these United States. Voter ID’s, getting rid of convenient polling places and polling times and other anti-voting moves that would be likely to most affect minorities, or would echo techniques previously used to suppress minority votes, brought issues of racism back to the forefront, as did the events that precipitated the Black Lives Matter movement. And Charlottesville.

Journalists started to connect the dots among the various conservative and fundamentalist organizations that had sprung up like pernicious weeds in a garden that was unattended. In 2013 a group called Muckety traced the web of the Koch brothers influence (along with other wealthy conservative political families). Anne Nelson, finally in 2019, does her more exhaustive analysis of these groups whose goals are to steer American politics inevitably in such a way that white power will stay in charge in America regardless of what changes we see in our population.

by Muckety via Daily Kos

Small wonder how we end up with someone like Steven Miller, the merchant of white supremacy (renamed white nationalism) by the side of a president who the Republicans will not touch, because he is busy preserving the white America they have been manipulating Americans to want for an astonishing 50 years. 

Washington Post

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-creepy-racist-network-behind-trump-aide-stephen-miller

Republicans don’t blink when Trump tells Americans that Muslims are terrorists and that people from south of the border are gang members. After several terrorist bombings in America, (after 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings and more), after exaggerating MS-13 presence in America, it is pretty easy to understand why people believe the white supremacist activities of this administration are protecting them. The Muslim ban and the Wall calm Americans’ terror of these new immigrants that people have been incited to fear, who are so different from European immigrants of previous migrations. 

There is some truth to the fear. If we accept Muslim immigrants some of them could be terrorists. If we give sanctuary to people from South America or Central America some of them could be gang members. But stoking fear of these groups is wrong, it is un-American, it over-generalizes, and, because it relies on Europe to deal with the upheaval driving Muslims into Europe all on its own, it will eventually create massive anti-American sentiment in Europe if these policies outlast Trump. Europe seems to be cutting us some slack for Trump. Can we save ourselves from economic chaos in South America by building a wall? Probably not for long. 

As it turns out this is not really about immigration at all and we instinctively knew this; it is about white supremacy; it is about preserving white power. It is about wealth and who gets to keep it. It is about old energy and holding the line. It is the antithesis of globalization which would attempt to see that we all try to understand each other and get along as best we can to offer a life that meets the needs of people everywhere on the planet. 

It is about change, an end to white hegemony, and it is so frightening to some that they are willing to destroy our democracy to keep the status quo in America. The Republicans are part of this strategic program to keep America white and Christian and that has everything to do with why they back a guy like Trump who is not afraid to cozy up to white supremacists to get it done (and who insists at the same time that he is doing nothing of the kind). This is not about the base, although heaven knows they need their base. This is about white male Christian power; it is about a minority finding ways to continue to exercise power over a new majority.

Can the left come up with an equally strategic plan to counteract this right wing cabal, to peacefully wend a way to inclusion, to lifting up those who will be affected by climate shifts, and inventing a new more equitable economy? 

From a Google Image Search – Newsday

I also am  in the midst of reading the Frederick Douglass biography, Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. Douglass began his life in America as a slave but he taught himself to read, write, and speak at great hazard as reading and writing were forbidden to slaves. Once he escaped north he became a tireless member and leader in the abolitionist movement. David Blight describes Frederick Douglass’s impatience  with Lincoln in 1862. Douglass was waiting for Lincoln to emancipate the slaves and to allow them to fight on the Union side in the Civil War. Lincoln had dissenters to appeal to and perhaps that explains why he dithered. Perhaps it explains why the government in Washington pushed colonization along with freedom. Slaves who wished to be sent to found a colony, perhaps in Central America would be freed. Frederick Douglass felt that American slaves belonged in America. It was now the nation they called home. They should not be uprooted again because white people did not accept black folks as equals. 

Douglass says “If men may not live peaceably together in the same land, they cannot so live on the same continent, and ultimately on the same world -If heterogeneity could not work in America where could it. If the black man cannot find peace from the aggressions of the white race on this continent,” he reasoned, “he will not be likely to find it permanently on any part of the habitable globe.” (pg.375)

Here is General Montgomery Blair on the subject (responding to a letter Douglass had written to Senator Pomeroy), “Blair sought to assure Douglass that there ‘was no question of superiority or inferiority involved in the proposed removal.’ Blair invoked the reputation of Thomas Jefferson to underscore the necessity of racial separation. The minority race, argued Blair, must go elsewhere to initiate the civilization established by the majority race: the propriety of colonization stemmed from the differences between them…and it seems as obvious to me as it was to…the mind of Jefferson that the opinion against which you protest, is the necessary result of indelible differences made by the Almighty.” (pg. 375-76) 

So brother fought brother in a deadly Civil War and when it ended the union of states remained together, but the racial animosity also remained. Obviously there are white Americans who still feel superior to anyone with darker skin, anyone who cannot trace their history to Europe. 

Will our democracy, born in a crucible of racism, be able to survive into a brave new tolerant future? It is not looking good.

Talking to Chuck Todd About Impeachment

From a Google Image Search – Esquire

At least half of America has watched Donald Trump, our president, sworn to uphold the US Constitution, abuse our nation’s laws and act as if the Constitution needs to be rewritten according to Trumpian requirements. We have watched Trump call the media “the enemy of the people” except for any media outlets that refuse to call out his lawlessness, who praise and appease him. We have watched him hire and fire people until he found someone who he felt could be absolutely loyal to him. And these people are only there on sufferance because as soon as they defy him in any way they will also be gone. Almost all the top people on Trump’s 2016 campaign committee are in jail which suggests that the only reason Trump is not in jail is because he is the president. Now that he has William Barr as his AG, the Justice Department has been coopted and will no longer deliver justice for we the people and Trump’s power seems formidable. William Barr believes a president’s power is absolute, that patriotism requires unquestioning loyalty to the Chief Executive and that he cannot be indicted or even investigated as long as he is president. We know this is against the entire concept of our republic, we know this gives permission to monarchy or autocracy. 

We are fairly certain that Russia interfered more deeply than usual in the 2016 election by spreading disinformation and that they used data about the Democrats that they had hacked from the DNC to help Trump’s team plan election strategy. We can’t be absolutely certain because of presidential obstruction, Justice Department obstruction, and obstruction by the Republicans in Congress. We can’t be absolutely certain because the Grand Jury testimonies, which would normally be made available to Congress, are still being kept secret. These events do not represent business-as-usual in America. And all Trump’s loyal toadies can say is, “Prove it,” while they make very sure that nothing can be proven.

So, yes, Chuck Todd, we do have many more reasons to impeach this president than the Democrats are citing in their Impeachment Report, but we can’t prove them. However, for once Democrats caught Trump making a boo-boo. He lost his deniability. His coded language was not coded well enough. On the telephone with the new Ukrainian president Zelensky, he happened to say, “I need you to do me a favor though.” This request perked up a number of ears of a number of staffers, both in the White House and abroad. This single sentence reeks of bribery even if it could not be proven that $400,000 in military aid was withheld to make sure the fix was in. And all Trump expected to get from this was dirt on a political opponent. It had nothing to do with American foreign policy. He did not need to win anything for the American people. And no matter how many times Trump says it was about Ukrainian corruption, Trump was the corrupt actor in this affair. 

Even when Trump forbade testimony from his toady-peeps, America’s civil servants defied the prohibition and came forward. And while the deliberately obvious activities of Rudy Giuliani, who was all over Ukraine supposedly doing one piece of legitimate business while he was actually involved in extortion and bribery on behalf of the president, have been harder to pin down, they certainly look awful (because they are). They look clandestine and lawless to us because a personal lawyer for a president has no place in conducting the foreign affairs of this nation unless Congress is also involved, and Congress was not involved. So on this one unconstitutional presidential scheme, Trump has slipped up and he has been caught and people are willing to testify to that. 

Chuck Todd says that this is rinky-dink. He scoffs at the Democrats all the time for being too timid and he is doing that very same thing now. He is doing it tonight after the Impeachment Report has been written, when a vote will be taken. He says that the Democrats should have waited until they could get the goods on everything Trump has done that puts our democracy/republic in danger of becoming something our forefathers tried to protect it from, the plaything of a monarch or a dictator. The Democrats should wait and play hardball until they can go really big.

Well that would be very nice, Chuck Todd, but given the obstacles Democrats face; Trump, the toadies, the Justice Department, the State Dept., the Senate firmly in the hands of Republicans probably for the foreseeable future, the lawyers who back Trump’s claims of “executive privilege” and who suddenly claim absolute power for the executive; and a president whose whole life taught him how to get away with small crimes by using mafia magic, I don’t think piling on is helpful. The Democrats are being demonized by everyone who is not a Democrat and even some people who are. When the media piles on in a situation like this they do the work of the devil. Do Democrats have to stop at one Impeachment? Can’t they go again and again if they can get the goods?

White Power: Driving Force for Republicans

From a Google Image Search – NBC News

White Power – Driving Force for Republicans

Could it be that the Great American Divide is about white power? There is a lot of evidence that this may be exactly the case. I am reading the Frederick Douglass biography, Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. Douglass began his life in America as a slave but he taught himself to read, write, and speak at great hazard as reading and writing were forbidden to slaves. Once he escaped north he became a tireless member and leader in the abolitionist movement. David Blight describes Frederick Douglass’s impatience  with Lincoln in 1862. Douglass was waiting for Lincoln to emancipate the slaves and to allow them to fight on the Union side in the Civil War. Lincoln had dissenters to appeal to and perhaps that explains why he dithered. Perhaps it explains why the government in Washington pushed colonization along with freedom. Slaves who wished to be sent to found a colony, perhaps in Central America, would be freed. Frederick Douglass felt that American slaves belonged in America. It was now the nation they called home. They should not be uprooted again because white people did not accept black folks as equals. 

Douglass says “If men may not live peaceably together in the same land, they cannot so live on the same continent, and ultimately on the same world -If heterogeneity could not work in America where could it. If the black man cannot find peace from the aggressions of the white race on this continent,” he reasoned, “he will not be likely to find it permanently on any part of the habitable globe.” (pg.375)

Here is General Montgomery Blair on the subject (responding to a letter Douglass had written to Senator Pomeroy), “Blair sought to assure Douglass that there ‘was not question of superiority or inferiority involved in the proposed removal.’ Blair invoked the reputation of Thomas Jefferson to underscore the necessity of racial separation. The minority race, argued Blair, must go elsewhere to initiate the civilization established by the majority race: the propriety of colonization stemmed from the differences between them…and it seems as obvious to me as it was to…the mind of Jefferson that the opinion against which you protest, is the necessary result of indelible differences made by the Almighty.” (pg. 375-76) 

So brother fought brother in a deadly Civil War and when it ended the union of states remained together, but the racial animosity also remained. There are white Americans who still feel superior to anyone with darker skin, anyone who cannot trace their history to Europe. 

I am also reading a book called Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson who is offering evidence that there are long tentacles of connection between American Fundamentalists and the Koch Network, which also includes the DeVos family, and that white supremacy and the supremacy of the Christian religion are the doctrines around which these folks coalesce. Nelson looks at the founding of a group called the Council for National Policy, and at its past presidents who include people from just about every radical conservative group in America. 

“A century earlier the US population was close to 90 percent non-Hispanic white but by 2016 the figure dropped to 60% and was falling steadily.” (pg. 2)

In 1972 Protestants made up 2/3 of the US population, but by 2012 they had dropped to less than half.” (pg. 2)`

“[The men we are speaking of] represented an American past dominated by white Protestant male property owners. They dreamed of restoring a nineteenth century patriarchy that limited the civil rights of women, minorities, immigrants and workers, with no income tax to vex the rich or social safety net to aid the poor.” (Prologue, pg. xiv)

“If the country abided by a clear-cut democratic process, these constituencies, leaning Democratic, would consolidate their power based on majority rule.” (pg. xiv)

“Once Democratic-leaning youth and minorities reached a decisive majority – which could be as early as 2031 – there might be no turning back.” 

Perhaps this explains the conservative meme on the demise of the American nuclear family and the passionate campaign to end birth control and abortion and the constant comments that inform white folks that they are not having enough offspring, which some conservatives are wont to let slip in unguarded moments. (As in, we need more white babies.)

Nelson says that “[t]he key players learned how to achieve minority rule through long-term strategies, which they would soon apply to the country as a whole, manipulating the electoral process and reshaping the judiciary.” (pg. 2)

Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, outraged when the Supreme Court ended public school prayer, met in March of 1967, Nelson learned, to discuss these matters and to come up with an organized response which would eventually become the Council for National Policy. Southern Baptists figured prominently in these events. Jerry Falwell was also in the loop. Paul Weyrich would become one of the architects of the CNP. “According to journalist David Grann’s account in the New Republic, Weyrich’s idea for a conservative network arose in Washington one day in 1969. In 1970 Weyrich cofounded The Heritage Foundation, the Republican Study Committee, and ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council which become the building blocks of the Council for National Policy.

Since this movement involved the church there was already a network of Christian radio stations all across America. “Over time the media empire has expanded its reach into Fox News operations and grown to include fundamentalist television broadcasting, digital platforms, book publishing, and feature film production.” (pg. xv)

“ The ‘wallpaper effect’ of wraparound media can have a powerful effect,” says Nelson. (pg. xvi)

“The CNP set its sights on the Republican Party” (pg. xvii)

Nelson goes on to say, “the movement has also appropriated a vocabulary that it redeploys with Orwellian flair. ‘Family’ is a code word for homophobic, and ‘defense of marriage’ means prohibition of same sex unions…” (pg. xvii) hardly surprising to most of us.

Once we are versed in the history of the CNP and related organizations such as the Leadership Institute, the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, Tea Party Patriots and many more on the right, Anne Nelson begins to delineate the connections of this fundamentalist network with the Koch brothers and their network of organizations mostly connected to the oil and gas industry, very important in the states the CNP grew up in. The most famous Koch organizations include Americans for Prosperity and Donors Trust. 

I began to be aware that what was going on in the federal government and in the states was not business-as-usual sometime around 2013 when the scope of Republican obstructionism in Congress became too obvious to ignore. Saying that you plan to make Obama a one term president was a bit abstract, but the use of the filibuster and the Hastert rule to bring legislation to a virtual standstill was pretty concrete. Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham may have amused some Americans, but I found it snarky and disrespectful. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling, shutting down the government – all these actions began to look planned, strategic, ways to prevent the majority party from governing. And of course, I was not the only one who noticed. 

I’m not sure the connection to white supremacy was as clear in those years as it is today but actions like defusing the Voting Rights Act to end preclearance for Jim Crow states began to offer us a strong suspicion that white supremacy was not dead and gone in these United States. Voter ID’s, getting rid of convenient polling places and polling times and other anti-voting moves that would be likely to most affect minorities, or would echo techniques previously used to suppress minority votes, brought issues of racism back to the forefront, as did the events that precipitated the Black Lives Matter movement.

Journalists started to connect the dots among the various conservative and fundamentalist organizations that had sprung up like pernicious weeds in a garden that was unattended. In 2013 a group called Muckety traced the web of the Koch brothers influence (along with other wealthy conservative political families). Anne Nelson, finally in 2019, does her more exhaustive analysis of these groups whose goals are to steer American politics inevitably in such a way that white power will stay in charge in America regardless of what changes we see in our population.

Small wonder how we end up with someone like Steven Miller, the merchant of white supremacy (renamed white nationalism) by the side of a president who the Republicans will not touch, because he is busy preserving the white America they have been manipulating Americans to want for an astonishing 50 years. 

Tell Americans that Muslims are terrorists and that people from south of the border are gang members. After several terrorist bombings in America, (after 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings and more), after exaggerating MS-13 presence in America, it is pretty easy to understand why people believe the white supremacist activities of this administration are protecting them. The Muslim ban and the Wall calm Americans’ terror of these new immigrants that people have been incited to fear, who are so different from European immigrants of previous migrations. 

There is some truth to the fear. If we accept Muslim immigrants some of them could be terrorists. If we give sanctuary to people from South America or Central America some of them could be gang members. But stoking fear of these groups is wrong, it is un-American, it over-generalizes, and, because it relies on Europe to deal with the upheaval driving Muslims into Europe all on its own, it will eventually create massive anti-American sentiment in Europe if these policies outlast Trump. Europe seems to be cutting us some slack for Trump. Can we save ourselves from economic chaos in South America by building a wall? Probably not for long. 

As it turns out this is not really about immigration at all and we instinctively knew this; it is about white supremacy; it is about preserving white power. It is about wealth and who gets to keep it. It is about old energy and holding the line. It is the antithesis of globalization which would attempt to see that we all try to understand each other and get along as best we can to offer a life that meets the needs of people everywhere on the planet. 

It is about change, an end to white hegemony, and it is so frightening to some that they are willing to destroy our democracy to keep the status quo in America. The Republicans are part of this strategic program to keep America white and Christian and that has everything to do with why they back a guy like Trump who is not afraid to cozy up to white supremacists to get it done (and who insists at the same time that he is doing nothing of the kind). This is not about the base, although heaven knows they need their base. This is about white male Christian power; it is about a minority finding ways to continue to exercise power over a new majority.

Can the left come up with an equally strategic plan to counteract this right wing cabal, to peacefully wend a way to inclusion, to lifting up those who will be affected by climate shifts, and to invent a new more equitable economy? Will our democracy, born in a crucible of racism, be able to survive into a brave new tolerant future? It is not looking good.

Bringing Down an Elephant with a Mouse

From a Google image Search – Blog: MPOWR

Elephants are Afraid of Mice: The Impeachment of Donald Trump

The newest Republican/Trump argument about impeachment is that the charge is so narrow and small that it cannot possibly serve as the basis for impeachment. The president insists that he did not do anything wrong when he spoke to the new president of Ukraine, Zelensky (or Zelenskiy, or Zelenskyy). He repeats again and again that he gave the Democrats the entire transcript of the call, word for word, comma for comma and that the transcript is a “perfect” script of a “perfect phone call.” Trump never mentions his use of the phrase, “I would like you to do me a favor, though.” It is perhaps just too subtle for this theatrical guy to accept that the House could launch an entire impeachment process on the basis of what is implied in that one phrase. Of course there was more. Turns out this transcript had been stored incorrectly in a special server reserved for extremely classified materials. Oops, kind of a dead giveaway. 

This time he has not been well served by his cronies and his appointees. Rudy Giuliani agreed that he had been in Ukraine asking the new president to look into the corrupt behavior of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. I guess he thinks that there is nothing wrong with doing this kind of strong arm extortion, that a nation with a reputation for corruption must be used to it. It became clear that the Ukrainian president was being pressured to announce his findings publicly through the media. 

Mick Mulvaney in a very public news conference affirmed that there were two quid pro quos. Money (that had been promised to Ukraine to buy weapons to use against Russian troops attempting to annex part of Ukraine for Putin) was being held up, and the new president would not be invited to visit Trump in the oval office until the dirt on Biden was presented. As time went on it became clear that our AG, William Barr was also in Europe trying to find information about the DNC hacking and to try to pin it on Ukraine instead of Russia. Mick Mulvaney, acting Chief of Staff, said these kinds of quid pro quos happen all the time in politics and we should get over it. But I do not recall ever hearing any other American presidential candidate asking a foreign nation to meddle in an American election. And yet we heard Donald Trump do that twice. He asked Russia for opposition info on Hillary Clinton in the campaign, and he asked China for info about Biden and Hunter Biden while the helicopter blades whopped. Normally we do the opposite. We try to protect our elections from foreign interference. 

It is definitely wrong to bribe a foreign official by delaying military or any other aide in order to force a foreign government to do anything, but even worse when it involves election interference on behalf of the American president, and when the nation being extorted is under attack by a superior force, when delay could mean higher numbers of casualties. There has been, as we were told on MSNBC, “a parade of patriots” who are civil servants and could lose their jobs who are willing to testify about what actually happened. These loyal Americans who sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution work for the state department and Ukraine is their assignment. Trustworthy evidence is piling up, enough to allow a vote in the House to formalize the Impeachment Inquiry today, Thursday, October 31. 

Most of us know in our hearts that this is not the first time Trump has done things that are unconstitutional. We read the Mueller report and we know that while Mueller stopped short of indicting Trump, there were enough Russians canoodling with the Trump campaign staff to make it clear that there was some collusion going on. Five of Trump’s campaign staff people, all men he considered loyal to him, are now either in jail or waiting to go to trial. There were at least ten examples of obstruction enumerated in Part 2 of the Mueller report. When William Barr was placed in the Attorney General position at the head of our Department of Justice we were already aware that he believed that the office of the President of the United States was all powerful, that the president could not be indicted or tried, and that he could not even be investigated. I have read the US Constitution. That is not what my copy says. We knew that he would have control over the Mueller investigation and we despaired when he suddenly ended it. We knew his brief four-page summary was incorrect, but it stood for a month and by then the real content of the report was considered deniable by Trump’s strangely loyal followers.

Our frustration has been building as Trump has been able to wriggle out of things that seemed pretty criminal, and unconstitutional, even worse in a president. But Trump had years of practice in the private sector surrounding himself with cronies who would do his dirty work for him, often for a fee, but sometimes simply as members of some mafia-esque  happy-to-be-lawless, boy’s-just-like-to-have-fun-and-get-away-with-things club. We can see that the president does not see our constitution as any kind of rule book, as any limit at all on his absolute power. It is this lack of reverence for democracy that makes us nervous, but it is the disregard of our laws that makes us angry. We might have been able to learn more about Trump’s role in the many questionable policies  and actions we have observed, if Trump did not forbid any one who ever met him from testifying claiming that it would be against national security to tattle about the president’s business (however dubious such behavior might be). He just uttered the magic words “executive privilege” and, until now, no one would testify. Maybe he is channeling Lethal Weapon 2, where the villain’s defense was “diplomatic immunity.”

So we have been unable to pursue impeachment because the Trump has been able to cloud our minds with tactics that should not work, like flatly declaring that people we know to be reliable are lying, accusing others of doing the very things we suspect him of doing, accusing the Democrats of still trying to get revenge for 2016, doing things out in the open to suggest that there is nothing to see here, offering pardons to toadies who will lie for him or refuse to testify against him, threatening his cronies families, playing the victim, and taunting us that we have no proof and that we couldn’t use it even if we had it because an American president now has absolute power and his every action is considered sacrosanct, (as if Mr. Trump even understands the meaning of sacrosanct).

To find that Trump finally has a chink in his armor, that he may have acted on his own, thinking that the coded threats he used were too subtle to decipher, that he had no deniability because people were listening to and taking notes on every presidential call to a foreign leader, is a relief. Perhaps it is now not quite so inevitable that  we will not be able to dislodge this particular very destructive president. Perhaps this one seemingly small, but very significant error will bring down this charlatan, or at least curtail his ability to damage our republic. Our love of our country means that it is our responsibility to defend it. We know that sending this Trump packing may not be possible but he has given us an opening and we at least have to use the tools our founders gave us. We have to impeach even if it is only a way to discredit Trump’s behavior.We have to impeach even if it seems like we are bringing down an elephant with a mouse. As I understand it elephants are afraid of mice.

Mixed Emotions/ Trump/al-Baghdadi

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) From a Google Image Search – KTUU

Mixed Emotions/Trump/al-Baghdadi

It is a day of mixed emotions for me. This is the day after our troops flew into northeast Syria in 8 helicopters (so the story goes) and killed the current leader of the ISIS terrorist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. So that is good news. But with the possibility that thousands of ISIS fighters might escape or be freed from prisons in the territory the Kurds once occupied, I’m not sure it will matter in the long run. It is highly likely that a new leader will rise, forged in the furnace of war and incarceration and more radical than the older leaders we have come to know. Still it does not take away from the operation to behead jihad and take out a person who might have been a unifying figure for the caliphate to coalesce around. Perhaps these extremists will have found a longing for an end to hate and a desire to while away their future days in sweet enjoyment of children, wives, prayer, and community. Highly unlikely, but I wish it for them and for us.

Trump handled his messaging quite well this morning. He did not gloat and steal credit from the military. He was appropriately somber. Too bad there is that niggling voice in the back of our minds saying that the timing of this attack is quite serendipitous for our beleaguered president. I can see this as a gift from his cohort to help distract from his serious and unconstitutional behavior in Ukraine, from the impeachment inquiry, from his surprise withdrawal of troops in Syria, apparently at the request of world powers who may not have America’s best interests at heart, and Trump’s betrayal of our allies the Kurds. It’s difficult not to be cynical. But Trump certainly won this Sunday morning.

This tactic, if that’s what it is, certainly has better optics than grown men and women storming into a secure room to act like the Merry Pranksters with pizza. Will it win Trump the points he needs? Will it change any minds about whether or not he should be impeached? According to the reporting, Trump had cleared this with Russia, Turkey and Syria to insure that our soldiers would not be shot from the sky. And they were not shot down which is perhaps a sign that no one is interested in starting a world war right now. Hard to be cynical about that. We cannot know how close Trump is to these authoritarian leaders, but we know he admires their “strength.” We can only watch and wonder how all this will change the messaging over the next week. 

Perhaps Trump will become more the braggart as time passes. Is he trying to distract us also from the distance we have travelled from our old NATO allies (except for Turkey who probably should not even be in NATO)? Was he perhaps not subtle enough in the missteps he made in our current foreign affairs hot spots, did he tip his hand and did his strong man friends have to rein him in? Even his toadies and the so-called deep state were shocked. Did Trump’s army change the narrative and will next week’s news have to smile favorably upon him and give him some good press. Although we may breathe a sigh of relief that one more aggressor is gone from this world, forgetting Trump’s “sins” will remain a bridge too far for most of us, I suspect. As advertised; mixed emotions.