The True Cost of Trumpism

I was reading a column by Max Boot in The Washington Post a day or two ago about Trump’s decisions regarding the Middle East, and the damage he is causing to our alliances, when one sentence jumped out at me:

“It’s dangerous to have a president who truly does not know what he is talking about.”

We can sugar-coat issues and say that Trump is merely playing to his base, which is partly true, but the bottom line is that Mr. Boot is right … Trump does not know what he’s talking about and it is dangerous … very dangerous.

Freedom House is a U.S.-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.  The organization’s annual Freedom in the World report, which assesses each country’s degree of political freedoms and civil liberties, is frequently cited by political scientists, journalists, and policymakers.  The latest annual report was released on Tuesday, February 5th, and I think it’s important that we think about what it says.  The report is too long for me to replicate here, but I would urge you to read some of it, at least the section on the U.S. — The Struggle Comes Home:  Attacks on Democracy in the United States.  Meanwhile, I have included some of the most relevant points.  All highlighting is my own.

Freedom report

At the midpoint of his term, however, there remains little question that President Trump exerts an influence on American politics that is straining our core values and testing the stability of our constitutional system. No president in living memory has shown less respect for its tenets, norms, and principles. Trump has assailed essential institutions and traditions including the separation of powers, a free press, an independent judiciary, the impartial delivery of justice, safeguards against corruption, and most disturbingly, the legitimacy of elections.

So far, America’s institutions have largely honored this deeply democratic sentiment. The resilience of the judiciary, the press corps, an energetic civil society, the political opposition, and other guardrails of the constitutional system—as well as some conscientious lawmakers and officeholders from the president’s own party—have checked the chief executive’s worst impulses and mitigated the effects of his administration’s approach.

But the fact that the system has proven durable so far is no guarantee that it will continue to do so. Elsewhere in the world, in places like Hungary, Venezuela, or Turkey, Freedom House has watched as democratic institutions gradually succumbed to sustained pressure from an antidemocratic leadership, often after a halting start. Irresponsible rhetoric can be a first step toward real restrictions on freedom. The United States has already been weakened by declines in the rule of law, the conduct of elections, and safeguards against corruption. The current overall US score puts American democracy closer to struggling counterparts like Croatia than to traditional peers such as Germany or the United Kingdom.US_Democracy_Scoreboard_Resized_FIW2019.jpgWhile not without problems, the United States has enjoyed a strong tradition of respect for the rule of law. President Trump has repeatedly shown disdain for this tradition. Late in 2018, after a federal judge blocked the administration’s plan to consider asylum claims only from those who cross the border at official ports of entry, the president said, “This was an Obama judge. And I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore.”

As a candidate in 2016, he questioned the impartiality of an American-born judge with a Hispanic surname who presided over a fraud suit filed against “Trump University.” Soon after taking office, he disparaged a federal judge who ruled against his travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries as “this so-called judge.”

The president has since urged the Department of Justice to prosecute his political opponents and critics. He has used his pardon power to reward political and ideological allies and encourage targets of criminal investigations to refuse cooperation with the government. He has expressed contempt for witnesses who are cooperating with law enforcement in cases that could harm his interests and praised those who remain silent.

An array of independent media organizations have continued to produce vigorous coverage of the administration. But the constant vilification of such outlets by President Trump, in an already polarized media environment, is accelerating the breakdown of public confidence in journalism as a legitimate, fact-based check on government power. We have seen in other countries how such practices paved the way to more tangible erosions of press freedom and, in extreme cases, put journalists in physical danger. It would be foolish to assume it could never happen here.

Previous presidents have criticized the press, sometimes bitterly, but none with such relentless hostility for the institution itself. Trump alone has deployed slurs like “enemy of the people,” flirted with the idea that the media are responsible for and perhaps deserving of violence, and defended his own routine falsehoods while accusing journalists of lying with malicious, even treasonous intent.

From the outset of his administration, the president has been willing to ignore obvious conflicts of interest, most prominently with his decision not to divest ownership of his businesses or place them in a blind trust. Instead, he moved them into a revocable trust, managed by his sons, of which he is the sole beneficiary. During his presidency, his businesses have accepted money from foreign lenders, including banks controlled by the Chinese government. Trump has swept aside the norm against nepotism by having his daughter and son-in-law, both seemingly saddled with their own conflicts of interest, serve as senior White House advisers. He also rejected the tradition obliging presidents to release their income tax records.

Trump properties have hosted foreign delegations, business dinners, trade association conferences, and Republican Party fund-raising events, complete with Trump-branded wines and other products, likely arranged in the hope of earning the president’s gratitude. The Washington Post revealed that a month after President Trump’s election, lobbyists representing Saudi Arabia booked hundreds of rooms at Trump International Hotel in the capital. Indeed, a number of foreign and domestic interests allegedly sought to influence the new administration by arranging donations to Trump’s inauguration festivities, which are now under investigation.

The importance of credible elections to the health of a democracy should be self-evident. If citizens believe that the polls are rigged, they will neither take part in the exercise nor accept the legitimacy of those elected.  During the 2018 midterm elections, he suggested without evidence that Democrats were stealing a Senate seat in Arizona and committing fraud in Florida’s senatorial and gubernatorial balloting. He complained that undocumented asylum seekers were invading the country so they could vote for Democrats. He suggested that Democratic voters were returning to the polls in disguise to vote more than once.

At the same time, the administration has shown little interest in addressing genuine and documented threats to the integrity of US elections, including chronic problems like partisan gerrymandering and the fact that balloting is overseen by partisan officials in the states. But the most glaring lapse is the president’s refusal to clearly acknowledge and comprehensively combat Russian and other foreign attempts to meddle in American elections since 2016.

Trump has refused to advocate for America’s democratic values, and he seems to encourage the forces that oppose them. His frequent, fulsome praise for some of the world’s worst dictators reinforces this perception. Particularly striking was his apparent willingness, at a summit in Helsinki, to accept the word of Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies in assessing Russia’s actions in the 2016 elections.

Cambodian strongman Hun Sen consolidated one-party rule in sham elections last summer after banning the main opposition party and shutting down independent media. He acknowledged that he and President Trump shared a point of view about journalists, saying, “Donald Trump understands that are an anarchic group.” Poland’s president, whose party has sought to annihilate judicial independence and assert control over the press, similarly thanked Trump for fighting “fake news.” Saudi Arabia’s crown prince almost certainly ordered the assassination of a leading journalistic critic, apparently believing that the action would not rupture relations with the president of the United States. It seems he was correct.

All of these are things we already knew, things we have written of and bemoaned for the past two years.  But, seeing them cited by a respected bipartisan watchdog group as threats to our core principles, as a weakening of our democracy, should give us all renewed reason to sit up and take notice, to keep on fighting against these injustices.  According to the President of Freedom House, Michael Abromowitz …

The grim reality is that Freedom House now ranks the United States well below other large and long-standing democracies, such as France, Germany and Britain.

As Mr. Boot said, It’s dangerous to have a president who truly does not know what he is talking about.”

Dear Republicans, Your Dark Money Days Are About To Hit A Roadblock

In 2010, with the Citizens United decision that removed limits on how much money corporations could contribute to political campaigns, we saw the beginning of an era whereby wealthy corporations are pretty much able to buy elections. The ruling was the beginning of the end of election integrity. But this week, a small step was taken that may be a start toward returning a bit of integrity to the U.S. elections, and our friend Gronda has written an excellent, informative piece explaining it. Thank you, Gronda, for keeping us informed!

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of americans for prosperity

Could the Republican Party be in receipt for even more negative news? Yes, as many donors of dark monies, (monies they can donate for political purposes anonymously), will have the cloak of anonymity taken away. Again, the courts have stepped in to rule that many of these donors will have to reveal their names to the public, even before the November 2018 elections.

Here is the rest of the story… 

On September 18, 2018, Paul Blumenthal of HuffPost penned the following report, “Dark Money Groups Will Have To Disclose Their Donors In Time For The Midterms” (“A court order invalidating a rule that kept some election spending secret is going into effect.”)

Excerpts:

“There may be a whole lot less dark money in federal elections after the Supreme Court allowed a lower court decision to go into effect on Tuesday invalidating a key regulation that created a loophole for…

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Dear Candidate …

Political campaign ads do not have to be nasty, crude, cruel, vicious, and ugly. They do not have to be attack ads.  More and more, however, that is exactly what they are.  I do not watch television, so I am spared the worst of it and see only what flits across my radar on the internet, which is bad enough.  Take, for example, this one …

Disgusting, isn’t it?  But it seems to me that in general, candidates are making a huge mistake, because they are not focusing on themselves, rather are focusing on putting down their opponents.  This is pointless.  So, I composed the following letter:

Dear 2018 Candidate,

I sit here, some six months before the November mid-term elections, and I am assessing the candidates, not only in my own state/district, but across the nation.  In attempting this exercise, I find it very difficult to like you, and thus will almost certainly find it difficult to vote for you in November.  Please listen to what I have to say, for I believe that I speak for the majority of We The People.  You remember us, right?  We are the ones whose votes you need and to whom you will be held accountable if you should be elected, just in case you have already forgotten.

Don’t tell me why I should not like your opponent, tell me instead why I should like you!  And I don’t mean that you should be wearing a butt-ugly shirt made from a U.S. flag, for that is a turn-off in itself.  And I don’t mean that you should have a gun strapped to your belt … another definite turn-off.  You will not impress me with tough talk, or by riding your horse into town. And you do not need to raise your voice!  Yes, I am hard of hearing, but I have closed-captioning on all my devices, so I can know what you are saying without you screeching like a banshee.

Now, what would I like to hear from you?  I would like to hear your views on the issues facing the nation today:  gun regulation, immigration, taxes, education, foreign policy, poverty, health care, the economy, and a number of others.  I would like you to use your words, as we tell our children, to help me understand what your platform is.  My vote, either for or against you, will be based on how closely your views match my own, and if you don’t use your face time to put forth your views, I cannot know what you think, thus I cannot and will not vote for you.

When your entire campaign is based on criticizing your opponent(s), it indicates to me that you do not have a very strong platform, or perhaps have no platform at all.  Perhaps, rather than spend your time trying to dig up ‘dirt’ on your opponent, you should spend that time thinking about how you would improve our public schools, how you would vote on a health care bill that cut funding for children living in poverty, or how you would consider a tax bill that benefits mainly the already-wealthy.  These are the things I care about.

I also care about your own values.  I am interested in knowing where all this money you are spending on television ads is coming from.  Are you beholden to the NRA?  To the fossil fuel industry?  Are you likely to be vulnerable to blackmail for a string of past sexual affairs?  Or worse yet, are you likely to be accused by women (or men) of sexual harassment?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should just go home now, for you are not fit to sit in the Capitol. 

If you only want the votes of those who are not well-educated enough or politically savvy enough to understand a political agenda, then you are on the right path.  But if you want the votes of the thinkers, the people who understand how government works, who have read the U.S. Constitution, then you need to change your ways.  If you believe – honestly believe – that you can make a difference, that you can do some good for this nation, then please do us all a favour and set on a path to prove it.  Design serious ads, don’t mention your opposition, tell us who you are, how you think, and why you believe you are qualified for this job.

This is my advice … take it or leave it.  But be advised that I will not vote for you if the focus of your campaign is putting down another candidate.  I will not vote for you unless I have a good feeling about who you are and what you stand for.  And not only will I not vote for you, but I will do my best to discourage others from voting for you as well.

Good luck.

During the 2016 presidential election, I did have a television in my bedroom, and I turned it on first thing every morning, as soon as I got my glasses on so I could find the remote.  By the time I got dressed and made it downstairs for my coffee, I was already outraged by the inanity of the political ads on both sides of the fence.  I thought it was about time somebody tells these people that mud-slinging is not savvy campaigning.  Your thoughts?

What’s Best Way To Insure Integrity Of The Vote In 2018?/ Florida Is Vulnerable

There is no longer a question of whether the Russians interfered with our 2016 election. They did. There is hard evidence to that effect. The remaining questions pertain to who was involved in helping the Russian government ensure that Donald Trump would be elected. The bigger question is how are we going to stop the Russians from interfering in our mid-term elections this November? Friend Gronda has written an excellent post on what we, as citizens and voters, can do … must do … to ensure election integrity, and we cannot afford to waste time, for the election is in a short nine months! Please read this post and use the helpful links she has provided to do your part to help make sure our votes count as we intend them to. Thank you, Gronda, for such great information!

Gronda Morin

The only person who is denying that US state voting computer data bases were attacked with several being penetrated in 2016 by Russian government operatives is the US republican President Donald Trump because he feels to admit this reality challenges his legitimacy.

Meanwhile, “we the people” are left with doing our part to light a fire under our US legislators to take action to protect our voting systems from being vulnerable to a repeat performance by Russia in the 2018 November mid-term elections.

There should be a push at a minimum  to have no electronic machines (DRE) without a corresponding paper trail for auditing purposes. Right now there are 15 states with this status.

My State of Florida is one of them where there are DRE electronic voting machines in various counties which are not equipped with a corresponding paper trail.

Watch the full interview with former CIA Chief…

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