A View From An Evangelical

Our friend Jeff has a new post that simply must be shared. He has connected with a member of the Christian evangelical community, albeit one who, unlike the rest, sees quite clearly what Donald Trump is, but tries to explain how his fellow evangelicals see him. This is well worth reading and pondering, for if we understand the thought processes of those who would make Trump king, perhaps we can counter them. Thank you, Jeff, and Jerry!

On The Fence Voters

A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to have an article of mine published at The Culture Crush digital and print magazine. It was called Under The Influence. Alongside my piece, another article was published by Jerry Gramckow entitled Against Interpretation. While mine dealt with how snake oil salesman have been wreaking havoc in our society for generations, Jerry’s went deep into the mind of the modern day evangelical. He should know, because he’s been in that community for 47 years. Today, I’m proud to publish a provocative post from Jerry that dives into Trumpworld from his own unique perspective. 

Jerry graduated from Multnomah University, a conservative evangelical institution, and served as an editor at two prominent evangelical Christian ministries. 

Thank You Jerry!

When The Right Thing To Do Is Wrong

By Jerry Gramckow

“There’s nothin’ you can do to turn me away, Nothin’ anyone can say. You’re with…

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Considering Michael Bloomberg And A Worry For Another Time

Greg is the other half of On the Fence Voters, though for a number of reasons, he has been unable to post for several months. But, yesterday he wrote a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post about Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy, and he brought up some points that I think we must all be willing to consider. Please take a few minutes to read this excellent post and let Greg know your thoughts! Thank you, Greg, and it’s great to hear from you!

On The Fence Voters

I’ve heard a lot of disapproving talk about Michael Bloomberg trying to ‘buy’ his way into the Presidency, and it’s certainly understandable.  It’s true that electing our president should only be about finding the best man or woman to lead our country.  It shouldn’t be about who can outspend all the others, but unfortunately that’s what it’s come to in America.  In this election year, however, our top priority must be in nominating whichever candidate seems most likely to defeat Donald Trump. We should be thinking of almost nothing else. Money in our politics is definitely a problem but I think this time around, it’s a worry for another time.

It doesn’t bother me so much that Bloomberg has unlimited funds to spend in his campaign because I think there are simply too many other pressing concerns.  I admit I’m looking for a savior.  Most people I talk to are…

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Is it time for The Office of Public Prosecutions?

The nation … at least those of us who aren’t drinking Trump’s toxic concoction, is aghast at the breech of protocol in the Department of Justice regarding the Roger Stone case. Our friend Jeff has done some research into the way some other nations have gone about ensuring that the Department of Justice is not influenced by the government, but rather remains independent in order to maintain the rule of law. I hope you’ll take a minute to read Jeff’s piece, for this is something that will affect us all for years, perhaps decades to come. Thanks Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

In the age of Trumpism, it’s time to look how other countries ensure an independent Justice Department

During the Trump era, it’s rare that I agree with anything Alan Dershowitz says. The 81-year-old ‘TV’ lawyer has gone off the deep end it seems, especially when you consider his ridiculous performance during the recent impeachment trial.

But once in a while, he gets it right. A few nights ago on CNN, he was debating his former pupil, Jeffrey Toobin, concerning the recent intervention of Bill Barr into Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendation from federal prosecutors. Dershowitz, of course, first sided with Trump on the issue, saying that he did have the ‘legal’ right to intervene in that particular case. There was nothing in the law that says he couldn’t do it.

But then he also explained that it wasn’t right for him to do so. Because of the long understood norms and…

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Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension Part I Intro

Discord & Dissension Part II (a) How Did We Get Here?

Discord & Dissension Part II (b) How Did We Get Here?

Discord & Dissension — Part III — Where Do We Go From Here?

Discord & Dissension Part IV(a) Voting & Voters

Discord & Dissension Part IV (b) Voting & Voters

Discord & Dissension Part IV (c) Voting & Voters

Discord & Dissension Part V Corruption

Discord & Dissension — Part VI — Disinformation

Discord & Dissension Part VII Engagement

 

Discord & Dissension — Part VI — Disinformation

This is the sixth installment of mine and Jeff’s project, and in case you’ve missed any of the previous posts, we will also be publishing a Table of Contents in just a few minutes that we will keep updated and link to at the end of each future post.  As I mentioned last month in the introduction to the project, as situations change, we will roll with the punches and adjust our focus.  The last 9 days have brought about great change … Trump was acquitted by the Senate, basically being told that whatever he chooses to do, they have his back.  He turned the State of the Union address into a three-ring circus, fired a military hero and a devoted ambassador for no reason other than they did their duty by speaking the truth under oath, has interfered with the rule of law in the sentencing of Roger Stone, has proposed a budget that rewards the wealthy while punishing the disadvantaged, and who knows what tomorrow brings.

The point being that … in the hundred or so comments I answer each day, I sense your frustration, your discouragement, and believe me … Jeff and I have both been there in the past several days.  But we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the negativity, cannot allow ourselves to lose hope or lose sight of the goal.  If we stop fighting, then we lose automatically, without ever knowing if we might have made a difference.  So, join us in picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and going on to fight the good fight for just short of nine more months.

A few weeks ago, I tried to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”  I concluded that the goal is two-fold:  vote Trump out of the Oval Office and begin to heal the ‘great divide’.  Neither of these goals are going to be easy, folks, and the GOP and others’ propaganda machines are going to make it even harder.

The GOP, or Republican Party, has been actively working to skew the odds in their favour since before the 2016 election.  The Russian interference that triggered Robert Mueller’s investigation was not, as Trump would have you believe, a ‘hoax’ nor a ‘witch hunt’, but was rather a coordinated effort on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch a propaganda machine demeaning and denigrating Hillary Clinton, while giving rise to Donald Trump.  The Russian propaganda machine has not taken a break since the 2016 elections.  According to FBI Director Christopher Wray …

“That is in some ways an even more challenging area, not the least because it never stopped. It happened in 2016 and it’s been continuing ever since then. It may have an uptick during an election cycle, but it’s a 24/7, 365-days-a-year threat.”

Election security bills were passed by the House of Representatives, but have since languished in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to even bring them to the Senate floor for consideration.

But it isn’t only foreign influence that we have to worry about, for much of the propaganda comes directly from the GOP and a plethora of conservative groups.  Consider this example:  The day before the February 3rd Iowa caucuses, Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group, put out a report claiming that “Eight Iowa counties have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to register.”  It was a lie, one quickly debunked by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, but not before the lie had been spread via Fox News’ Sean Hannity and other right-wing media sites.

Iowa-Hannity Iowa-Facebook

Voter fraud is a recurring myth favored by right-wingers, but there are other tactics, such as finding a chink in a candidates armour, real or made up, and using it repeatedly, embellishing on it, to denigrate that candidate.  Of the top candidates, we’ve already seen what Trump’s accusations against Joe Biden … accusations that have long since been debunked … have nonetheless played a role in Biden’s polling plunge.  Bernie’s chink, of course, is that he is a democratic socialist, which will play well with those who do not even understand the concept of democratic socialism.

Politics has always been a dirty game … smear campaigns, mudslinging and outright lies are certainly nothing new.  But, with the rise of social media, these tactics are magnified a million-fold, and every time you log onto Facebook or Twitter, you are likely to be exposed to some form of disinformation.  Facebook collects data on you, based on your friends, what you post, what you comment on, and any personal data you include in your profile, and then they use that data to target what advertisements you see.  My advice is to include nothing in your personal profile, and to use a strong ad blocker at all times, but especially when spending time on any social media site.  There is an app called Facebook Purity that will quite effectively block any and all ads, along with other annoying things Facebook throws in your face.  I highly recommend it.

While, after the fiasco that was the 2016 election, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook promised to do a better job of monitoring political ads and false accounts, he backtracked last year when he plainly said he would allow false and misleading ads to continue on the platform, arguing that his company shouldn’t be responsible for arbitrating political speech.  Facebook-trump-adsMy earliest memories are of political advertisements in newspapers and on television in the early 1950s, and more recently social media has become the platform of preference, but this year there’s yet another venue … your cell phone.  Yep, folks, this year, according to Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale, texting will be at the center of Trump’s reelection strategy.  I highly recommend you install a call blocking program if you don’t wish to be disturbed multiple times a day.  Mine is set to block all calls that don’t come from a number on my contact list, and since my contact list includes only 4 people, I no longer get many such calls.  I do, however, see a list of the ones blocked, and I notice the number has increased of late.

Besides being a major annoyance, though, the disinformation campaign, the propaganda machine, poses a significant hurdle to a fair and honest election.  You are savvy enough to know, if you see an ad or what appears to be an actual news story saying that Elizabeth Warren has a harem of young males she keeps locked in the attic of her home for her personal pleasure, it’s fake.  But some will believe it.  Remember Pizzagate, where the rumour was spread that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a human traffiking and child sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong?  Someone believed it enough to go shoot the place up!

Remember my post from yesterday with the Founding Fathers singing a song to the tune of American Pie?  Creative use of technology, wasn’t it? Well, that was harmless, but some aren’t.  Take a look at this simple, doctored photo of Stacy Abrams that was used by her opponents in the Georgia 2018 gubernatorial race …

Just as social media has increased the spread of disinformation, technology has taken it to a new level.  I would ask that you take just a few minutes … 8 of them, to be precise, to listen to this interview on NPR radio (there is a transcript attached, if you prefer to read the interview)  with McKay Coppins, a writer for The Atlantic, about an article he published earlier this week on the topic of the GOP propaganda machine.  It is very enlightening, and if you would like to read his entire article, which is lengthy, but well worth the time, you can do so here .

As Mr. Coppins said in the interview, even he found himself questioning what was real and what wasn’t, so I think it’s important … nay, crucial … for us all to be hyper-aware of the information that bombards us from all directions most every waking moment these days.  If something sounds off … check it out, don’t just assume it’s correct, even if it’s from a credible source.  Let’s all help stop the flow of propaganda … this election will be enough of an uphill battle, without people being manipulated.

Next week, Jeff will be back with Part VII of our project … stay tuned!

Democratic Jitters

As always, our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters is spot-on in his assessment of the current Democratic candidates and their campaigns. He has also drawn a scenario about Michael Bloomberg that, while it doesn’t please me, I certainly cannot argue otherwise. The goal that we must not lose sight of is to topple the bully-in-chief, for another four years under Trump, who has been handed the keys to the kingdom, is unthinkable. Good work, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

It’s time to state the obvious: Beating Donald Trump must be the main objective in the 2020 election. While we all may have our personal favorites, and should proudly vote for that person in the primary, when it comes to November 3, whoever is the Democratic nominee deserves all of our support.

No matter who it is.

I know this upsets a lot of people. Ideological purity tests are running rampant all over social media. “But wait, he’s too far to the left.” “Hold on. We need to excite the base and increase the turnout. Only a real progressive can do that.” I’ve heard and seen them all. Everyone’s nerves are frayed. We know what the King is doing to our democracy, and none of us want to see what another four years of Trump will do to our beloved country.

Right now, the bane of all of the hand-wringing…

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Discord & Dissension – Part V – Corruption

Today, Jeff tackles corruption in our political system — what and where, why and how — and reminds us why it is going to be so important that we vote in November to remove the most corrupt politicians ever from office. Thank you, Jeff, for this very comprehensive post!

On The Fence Voters

Continuing the project that Jill and I started a few weeks back, I’d like to take a look at a subject that encapsulates so much of what is wrong with our politics today.

What is corruption? According to Merriam Webster, corruption is dishonest or illegal behavior by powerful people, such as government officials or police officers; an inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (such as bribery).

Sound familiar? The fate of our politics in 2020 has never been more perilous. We’re now in the midst of perhaps the most corrupt administration in history, whose leader was impeached by the Democratically controlled House of Representatives, but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

It seems every time you turn around, someone in power is doing something he or she shouldn’t. When folks obtain a level of power in our society, especially in the Washington D.C. political world, the lure to keep…

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Under The Influence

A few weeks ago, I shared a piece by Jeff about religion from a personal perspective. Today, I would like to share a piece he wrote around that time for an online publication that I think you will find quite interesting! Thank you, Jeff, for this post and your permission to share!

On The Fence Voters

I’d like to share with you an excerpt of a piece I wrote for the online and print publication, The Culture Crush. I’m an occasional contributor to the magazine and the subject matter is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

A few weeks back, I wrote a piece called, Religion–A Personal Perspective. In it, I asked you to share some of your own personal experiences as it pertained to religion. I was struck by the wide variety of opinions and life-altering effects of early indoctrination. It was clear to me that religion is, and remains, an important, yet divisive subject in our society.

Around the time I was writing my post for this space, I was also working on a piece for The Culture Crush. But instead of religion in general, this particular piece deals with the history of snake oil salesmen and how we’re…

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Discord & Dissension — Part III — Where Do We Go From Here?

Where do we go from here?

Last week Jeff did a marvelous job explaining much of what has led us to where we are today, a place I call The Great Divide.  This nation is divided more than at any other time since the end of the Civil War in 1865.  The divide is complex … not just white vs non-white, but Christian vs women, LGBTQ, & non-Christian, even once again male vs female.  And perhaps most notably, conservative vs liberal.  Those who are for smaller governments with fewer powers, for unlimited wealth, for uber-capitalism, versus those whose values are all about people, about using tax monies to help those in need, to reduce the ever-widening income disparity, to educate the nation’s youth, to provide such things as health care, housing and food for those who cannot provide for themselves.

Trump was able to rise to power largely because of those divisions.  He played them, he pitted one against the other, he instilled in his supporters a ‘fear of other’.  Since 9/11, people in this nation have worked to quell their fear of Middle-Easterners, and then along came Trump and fanned the flames of fear.

Today we stand at a crossroads, a place where we must decide to either accept the rifts, to allow a madman to divide and conquer, or to move past the things that divide us and search for common ground, to find ways to heal this nation.

So, Jeff answered the question, “How did we get here?”, and I must attempt to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”  My inclination is to answer with three words:  to the polls.  But, while that is obviously the short answer, there must be more.  We must find ways to reach out to that 40% I mentioned in our introduction two weeks ago … the 40% who did not bother to vote in 2016.  We must find ways to remind ourselves that we are all in this together and that if we don’t make some serious changes, we will all go down … together.

To those of us who are displeased with the corruption, greed, and lack of integrity in Trump’s administration, it is clear that we must vote him out of office.  No doubts there.  But, my friends, that is not the end of it, for Trump is not the entirety of the problem.  I have long said, and I still believe, that Trump is but a symbol of a greater problem.  Some 40% of the people in this country still, despite massive corruption and ineptitude among Trump and his cohorts, support him.  Even if Trump leaves the White House on January 20th 2021, those 40% are still out there, and they are going to be mightily displeased.

So, the problem is multi-fold.  First, we need to vote Trump out of office, for it is the opinion of this writer that he presents, as our friend Keith has often said, a clear and present danger to the future of this nation.  But then what?  How do we heal the ‘great divide’?  How do we find a middle ground, some common cause?  When I was doing graduate work back in the 1980s, one of my jobs was as a research assistant for a professor of Political Science, Joe Scolnick.  At the time, Joe was writing a paper on conflict management, and I well remember the theme.  According to his research, when the people of a nation are so seriously divided, often a threat from outside the nation is the only thing that will bring them together.

In our lifetime, we have seen how this works, albeit briefly.  Remember in the days and weeks following 11 September 2001, aka 9/11?  New Yorkers, notorious for their callousness and stand-offish personas (which is somewhat of a myth anyway) came together, they helped their neighbors, they volunteered both time and resources.  All around the nation, people were kinder, more human.  It didn’t last for long, but it was there … it was palpable.

I experienced this on a personal level.  I live in a neighborhood that is comprised of about 30% Middle-Eastern refugees.  They are all truly wonderful people, generous to a fault, kind and caring.  A couple of days after 9/11, a woman from down the street, a Pakistani woman, brought me flowers, a card, and said that she just wanted me to know how sorry she was.

But back to my point.  Governments have, at some points throughout history, created an external threat to bring about internal cohesion.  Think about that one for a minute.  Do we really need to have a threat from outside, whether real or perceived, to bring the people of this country together for the common good?  I don’t think so, but if we don’t find ways to heal ourselves, we leave ourselves open to that very real possibility.

I like to think there are more things that we have in common than there are things that divide us, though sometimes it certainly doesn’t seem that way.  For one thing, we are all humans with shared needs of family, food, clothing, shelter, jobs, friends … and love.  This is our country, our home.  All of those are basic human needs, far more substantial and important than the things that divide us.  Among those things that divide us, I think there are three that rank at the top of the list:  religious beliefs, income disparity, and bigotry.

So, our first goal must be the November elections, not only the presidential, but also the congressional and gubernatorial elections.  And, in the interest of staying focused, keeping our eye on that ball, we will focus most of our attention in this project toward that end, but keep in the back of your mind, that the problem does not end when Donald Trump walks out of the White House.

Now, beyond going to the polls on November 3rd, we have other things we need to do.

Every day, states are working on ways to disenfranchise minority and lower income voters.  Some of their tools are gerrymandering, voter ID laws, closing or reducing the hours of polling stations, purging voter registration rolls, making registration harder, and the list goes on.  Most of this we have little voice in, but there are things we can do.  The most important thing, I think, is … talk.  We need to work toward convincing people how imperative it is for them to vote.  And, we need to have conversations about the reasons Trump must be voted out of office.  This is the tough one, folks, but … we have been going about it all wrong, I think.  A few of you may remember my post from August 2017 about Daryl Davis,  a black man who befriended members of the KKK by listening to them, talking to them, reasoning with them, and had convinced more than 200 KKK members to lay down their robes.  He didn’t call them names, didn’t belittle them … he tried to understand them, and to help them to understand him.  This, I think, is the approach we must take, this is how we will help some Trump supporters understand what it is we want for this nation.

We have our work cut out for us, my friends.  There are just under 10 months until election day, just 286 days.  Right now, if I had to lay odds, I would say that if the election were held tomorrow, Donald Trump would get another 4-year term, for he has played the victim card on the impeachment issue, and played it well.  His fan base are typically single-issue voters, and the two most important issues to them are immigration and religious ‘rights’, including an abortion ban.  Let’s put our heads together, let’s try to find common ground with those who view the world through a different lens than we do.  In the long run, it will be worth our effort.

*Note to Readers:  This project will be ongoing for … some time, we’re not sure how long yet, but we would like to keep up the momentum through election day, at least.  In keeping with that, we will cover various topics once a week for (with an occasional break) the next ten months, including how to motivate voters, the lifetime appointments of the judiciary, where we go from here, the role of the U.S. in the larger, global world, and more.  After the Democratic National Convention, when there is a final Democratic nominee, we will move more into the area of platforms and ideologies.  We hope you’re enjoying this project as much as we are and really would welcome any ideas or suggestions you may have.


Table of Contents to Project Discord & Dissension

Discord & Dissension — Part I — Introduction

Discord & Dissension – Part ll – “How did we get here? – Part 1”  

Discord & Dissension – Part ll – “How did we get here? – Part 2”