What Happens If …

There are a number of opinion writers I greatly respect, and Charles M. Blow is in the top ten.  Mr. Blow writes for the New York Times and his work is most always level-headed and thoughtful.  Amid the many calls for impeachment to remove Trump from office, cooler heads must sometimes prevail.  In Blow’s column from December 2nd he explains why removing Trump from office is not a likely scenario, but would be the beginning of a new nightmare.

What Happens If …

The possibilities ahead in the Russia investigation suggest we are not reaching the end of a nightmare, but rather entering one.

Charles BlowBy Charles M. Blow

I no longer think that anyone in America, including Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters, can afford to put off the consideration of the central question of this administration: What if Donald Trump or those closest to him were compromised by the Russians or colluded with them?

There have always been those of us on the left who viewed his presidency as compromised, asterisk-worthy if not wholly illegitimate, because of the Russian interference.

A crime had been committed by Russia and Trump cheered the crime and used the loot thereof to advance his candidacy. That is clear.

The Russians made repeated attempts to contact people in Trump’s orbit and in some cases were able to meet with members of the team, as evidenced by the Trump Tower meeting. That is clear.

Members of Trump’s team were extremely interested in and eager to accept any assistance that the Russians could provide. That is clear.

And since assuming office, Trump has openly attempted to obstruct justice and damage or impede the investigation into what the Russians did and whether anyone in his orbit was part of the crime. That too is clear.

But for the people who support and defend Trump, this has already been absorbed andabsolved. They may not like it, but they are willing to overlook it. Indeed, they are so attached to Trump that his fortunes and his fate have become synonymous with theirs. There is a spiritual linkage, a baleful bond, between the man and his minions.

But what happens if the evidence that the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, uncovers reveals a direct link between Trump and the Russians? How do Trump’s boosters respond?

Last week, when Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline and the extent of Mr. Trump’s involvement in negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow, the political earth shifted.

If Trump was lying to or misleading the American people about his efforts to do business in Russia while running for president and the Russians knew — and presumably had evidence — that he wasn’t being completely honest and forthcoming, then he was compromised.

While it is by no means clear that the Russians ever used any information that they may have had to blackmail or otherwise pressure Trump, Cohen’s plea makes clear that they had the material to do just that.

This brings ever more clarity to Trump’s curious inclination to go soft on Russia condemnation, to take Russian President Vladimir Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence agencies, and to drag his feet in acknowledging that Russia attacked our election in 2016 and may continue to do so in the future.

How would Americans who support Trump now respond to evidence that Team Trump put their own personal and financial interests over the national interest? Would they break from their blind support and turn away from him and turn on him? How could they justify wearing the blinders for so long and countenancing so much? What language would they use to correct their complicity?

There is a precedent in the Nixon investigation. When the evidence of wrongdoing was clear and incontrovertible, people began to peel away, tails tucked and full of shame.

But that was a different time, one in which media wasn’t so fractured and partisan, before the advent of social media and our current dissociable mentalities.

Nixon had no propaganda arm. Trump has one. It’s called Fox News. There is little daylight between the network’s programming and the White House’s priorities. If Trump goes down, so too does Fox, in some measure. So the network has a vested interest in defending Trump until the bitter end, and that narrative-crafting could impede an otherwise natural and normal disaffection with Trump.

Furthermore, Trump does not strike me as a man amenable to contrition or one interested in the health and stability of the nation.

I expect Trump to admit nothing, even if faced with proof positive of his own misconduct. There is nothing in the record to convince me otherwise. He will call the truth a lie and vice versa.

I also don’t think that Trump would ever voluntarily leave office as Nixon did, even if he felt impeachment was imminent. I’m not even sure that he would willingly leave if he were impeached and the Senate moved to convict, a scenario that is hard to imagine at this point.

I don’t think any of this gets better, even as the evidence becomes clearer. I don’t believe that Trump’s supporters would reverse course in the same way that Nixon’s did. I don’t believe that the facts Mueller presents will be considered unassailable. I don’t believe Trump will go down without bringing the country down with him.

In short, I don’t believe we are reaching the end of a nightmare, but rather we are entering one. This will not get easier, but harder.

The country is about to enter the crucible. This test of our republic is without a true comparison. And we do not have a clear picture of how the test will resolve. But, I believe damage is certain.

A Shared Opinion …

There are a number of opinion writers who I read regularly, and Charles Blow of the New York Times is one.  His column on Sunday struck a chord, for much of what he says mirrors my own thoughts very closely, especially when he says, “I would love nothing more than to write about other things, worthy things, more intellectually stimulating things. But for more than two years, I have written almost exclusively about Donald Trump.”  I initially intended to only provide a few snippets from this column, but after I studied and pondered it a bit, I decided to share the entire column after all.  Give it a read … I think you’ll be able to relate to much of what he says …

You Have a Right to Weariness

The struggle for goodness and decency is an eternal struggle, not a seasonal one.

Charles BlowBy Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist

Do we have a right to weariness in an era of animus? More precisely, can we afford it, or is exhaustion a luxury reserved for those whose wealth, privilege and status insulate them from the losses the rest of us could suffer? Does patriotic defense of country require perpetual, obsessive vigilance, or is it permissible to retreat occasionally for one’s own mental and spiritual health?

These are questions I ask myself regularly, and ones that are frequently asked of me, if not in those exact words. People are trying to figure out the proper posture to take in a world riven by deceit and corruption, a world in which the leadership of the country represents an assault on decency.

This is a conundrum, I must confess.

I, as much as anyone else, feel trapped by our current predicament. I would love nothing more than to write about other things, worthy things, more intellectually stimulating things. But for more than two years, I have written almost exclusively about Donald Trump.

I feel compelled by what I view as history, fundamental and consequential, playing out right before me with nothing short of the life of the republic at stake. And yet, at a certain point, words begin to fail, or the obvious has already been stated. Once you have pointed out that Trump is a liar, you can then note only that he is telling more lies. The same goes for his racism, bullying, anti-intellectualism, corruption and grift.

At some point, it becomes clear that the abnormal, outrageous and unacceptable have become a constant, and even the rolling boil of righteous folk’s indignation reduces to a simmer.

People often ask me, “When will it end? What can we do to get him out of there?”

My answer always is, “I doubt it will end soon, and there’s very little anyone can do to change that.”

I hate to bear that message, but it is the only one I can deliver if I wish to be honest rather than popular.

As much as there was to celebrate last week, with liberals winning control of the House of Representatives, and doing so with such a diverse slate of candidates, it was also clear that Republican control of the Senate means that any hope of removing Trump via impeachment has shrunk to nearly nothing. Even if the House impeaches Trump, the Senate remains highly unlikely to remove him.

Democrats are even debating how far they can take oversight in the House without turning off people politically.

The only hope is that the Robert Mueller investigation may deliver something so damning that some Senate Republicans view it as unacceptable. But there is no evidence as of yet that anything would sway them.

Trump is taking steps to severely hamper Mueller’s efforts. Last week, he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. The F.B.I. is currently investigating corruption at a company where Mr. Whitaker sat on the advisory board.

At this point, it may be more prudent to view what comes from the Mueller probe as fodder for the 2020 presidential campaign. It may not pave the way for an impeachment conviction by the Senate, but could well pave the way for an electoral “impeachment.”

It is very likely that we are stuck with Trump until the 2020 election, and even then the Democrats can take nothing for granted if they wish to defeat him.

That is the root of people’s distress. How can Republicans in Congress abide this behavior and use it for political positioning? How can so many of our neighbors condone open hostility to minorities, the press and the truth?

Or maybe the questions are for us. How could we not have registered fully just how hostile a substantial portion of America is to inclusion and equality? How could we not have registered the full depths of American racism and misogyny? How could we not remember that American progress has always been like a dance with a disagreeable partner, stumbling backward as well as moving forward?

I remember calling my mother when Trump was elected, and she was not nearly as distraught as I thought she’d be. Her stated reason: We’ve been through worse. She is an elderly black woman from the South. Her sense of history and heartbreak are long and fraught.

Recently, I’ve delved even more deeply into this line of thinking, reading about how black people positioned themselves during both Reconstruction and Jim Crow, when the political structures were largely arrayed against them.

I wanted to know how they survived and made progress against open hostility. The recurring themes are to never lose hope in the ultimate victory of righteousness; to focus your fire on the things you are most able to change; and to realize that change is neither quick nor permanent.

The struggle for goodness and decency is an eternal struggle, not a seasonal one.

Don’t beat yourself up if you need to tune out every now and then and take a mental health break. There is no shame in it. This is a forever fight. Once you have recharged, reapply your armor and rejoin the fight with even more vigor.

The Trump Circus

I mentioned to a few people yesterday that the thing that bothered me the most about Trump’s mockery and denigration of Dr. Christine Ford at one of his rallies on Tuesday was the fact that the audience approved.  They laughed.  They applauded.  Even far-right republicans, I thought, surely couldn’t approve of this b.s. by Trump, but it appeared that they did. Even women, some of whom surely had also been victims of sexual abuse, cheered.  I find this deeply disturbing.  This morning, as I was perusing various news outlets, I stumbled across an editorial by Charles M. Blow of the New York Times.  I believe Mr. Blow has hit the nail squarely on the head with his explanations for that crass behaviour that is so often exhibited these days at Trump rallies, and I thought his ideas were worth sharing with you …

Charles BlowThe Trump Circus

By Charles M. Blow

03 October 2018

It is a scene that has become all too common, and dare I say dangerously close to becoming mundane: Donald Trump said something outrageous at one of his political rallies and his supporters, those hopelessly beguiled by the bully, cheered.

This week, Trump trekked to Southaven, Miss., where he took the degenerate step of mocking Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Trump imitated and chided her:

Thirty-six years ago this happened. I had one beer, right? I had one beer … How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.

It was a repulsively grotesque spectacle, and yet from the assemblage of thousands came applause and roars of approval for Trump.

It is at moments like these that I try to step back from the particulars, to create some distance, so that I can ask myself the larger, more profound questions. How did we as a country arrive at the point where this is even possible? And how are there so many Americans willing to accept Trump’s corrosion of our culture and our discourse, to gleefully follow him as he plumbs the depths, probing for a bottom of acceptability that, in his world, seems to have been obliterated?

There are multiple explanations, to be sure: racism, xenophobia, ethnic hostility, Islamophobia, nationalism, Fox News, reduced access to privilege, lingering anti-Obama sentiments, a pronounced distrust of media in particular and truth writ large.

But I believe there are two other explanations that are much more base: entertainment and ownership.

First, the entire Trump presidency is a show, and many Americans find it quite entertaining, viewing Trump as its antihero.

He is brash, unconventional, emotional, sometimes raging and sometimes funny.

His rock-and-rage rallies (he has held nearly two dozen since being elected) are simply an extension of that, only more raw and raucous. Trump brings the big show and the big media with their big cameras to places and people who feel forgotten and isolated, looked over by the bustling coasts and the urban centers.

He is their entree to power, a personification and articulation of anger and anti-intellectualism, a way to wrap their hatreds in humor.

The rallies are part tent revival, part circus, part call-and-response game show. Like-minded people with look-alike faces populate them. They are orgies of sameness in which crowd dynamics produce and escalate a tornado of affirmation and acceptance until it is perfectly admissible to surrender any remaining morality to the mob.

It is a religious experience of conversion and immersion, a born-again baptism in which people emerge bound to one another and bound to Trump.

Trying to pry them apart from Trump, to make them somehow see the light and turn on him, is a time- and energy-wasting exercise. Trump is wielding a Jim Jones-level of influence and control over these people, and deprogramming the members of his cult would take more effort than most are willing to commit.

Racism in Politics

Erase RacismThe organization is one I was not familiar with, and I don’t even remember quite how it crossed my radar, but it did.  The group is ERASE Racism, and they are based in and primarily serve New York, but they report on racial injustices around the nation. For example a recent entry in their blog was titled Media Attempts to Sabotage Botham Jean’s Reputation, about the attempts to discredit the black man who was shot and killed in his own apartment by a white police officer in Dallas, Texas. The organization seems to be doing some excellent work in combating racism. I first glanced the article below, bookmarked it and moved along.  I came back to it a few hours later and was impressed.  It gave me food for thought, and I decided to share it with you today.  The link to the New York Times column by Charles Blow takes us to a 2012 column Blow wrote during the republican presidential campaign that year.  It is as relevant today as it was then … perhaps more so.  I hope you’ll take an extra few minutes to read the column … it is an eye-opener, if we needed one.

I do not know the author of this article, but have included a link so that you can check out ERASE Racism’s website.


Racist Rhetoric: Good for Politics but Bad for America

Throughout the history of the United States, public officials have used the rule of law to deny equal opportunities to African Americans.  Only recently, in the 20th and 21st centuries, have laws been passed that grant equal rights to all persons regardless of race. Unfortunately, advances in racial equality, such as those brought about by the civil rights movement of the 1960s, have not been enough to erase decades of exploitation and discrimination.  More public policies that help to create racial equity are needed to assure true equal access to opportunities, such as quality public schools and economically viable neighborhoods.  But what happens if those with power and influence view the degradation of African Americans as a positive political move?  It’s scary to think about, but the Republican primaries have provided a frightening example of seemingly acceptable racist rhetoric.

A recent New York Times column by Charles M. Blow skillfully called attention to the anti-black rhetoric that has been embraced by most of the Republican presidential candidates.  Their comments about “the African American community” or “black people” in general have been so negative (and absurd) that one has to wonder whether they believe that racist rhetoric makes for good politics.  “I’m prepared, if the N.A.A.C.P. invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps,” Newt Gingrich proclaimed.  Employing the same negative stereotype, Rick Santorum assured his supporters that he doesn’t want, “to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”  Mr. Blow does a great job of refuting the fallacy that African Americans prefer to rely on government aid than to work.  He points out that a majority of all food stamp recipients are actually white (even though the rate of participation is higher among blacks), a majority are under the age of 18 or are older than 60, and 41% live in low-income households with earnings.

After the recent wave of hate crimes against the Latino community on Long Island, it should be easy to see how racist remarks have real and often dangerous repercussions.   How can we assure our black and Latino children that they can set and achieve goals and should strive for academic success when those in the spotlight, and worse, those in power, are characterizing them as lazy and dependent?  Not only are such negative stereotypes harmful, but they are wrong.  Our research, along with nearly all student performance studies, has shown that strong academic motivation and success is not determined by one’s race, but rather the resources that are made available. In other words, if black or Latino students from a failing school are placed in a high achieving school, the chances of their graduating will dramatically increase and the chances of their going to a prestigious university or college will also increase.  If you have your doubts, then take a look at the personal experiences of two Long Island students, Owen and David, in our documentary A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS: Race and Education on Long Island .

We should all be conscious of the dangerous effects of negative stereotypes, especially when they have the potential to misinform millions.   It is horrific to hear public officials spew racist rhetoric and degrade African Americans or others for their own political gain.  Regardless of party affiliation, racist rhetoric is unacceptable.