Totally Tuesday Reads: Mounting Trump TroublesPosted: May 23, 2023 Filed under: Republican politics, U.S. Politics, Women's Rights | Tags: Clementine Hunter, Reproductive Health Care, stolen documents, Trump Foreign Business Dealings 24 Comments
Good Day, Sky Dancers!
I’m still trying to recover and finish up with the usual end-of-term things. I took some time last night to catch up with some of the headlines. I thought I’d share the work of Black American Folk Artist Clementine Hunter with you since the Juneteenth holiday is approaching. It’s always a good time to remind Republicans that Black Americans have made unique contributions to our country.
The Stolen Documents Case is heating up for Donald Trump. We learned last night that “Prosecutors Sought Records on Trump’s Foreign Business Deals Since 2017. The special counsel scrutinizing the former president’s handling of classified documents issued a subpoena to the Trump Organization seeking records related to seven countries.” Is that the sounds of chickens coming home to roost I hear? It’s just the feral roosters wandering the canal behind my house crowing their little beaks off, but it seems like an appropriate sound effect. This is reported by the New York Times.
Federal prosecutors overseeing the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified documents have issued a subpoena for information about Mr. Trump’s business dealings in foreign countries since he took office, according to two people familiar with the matter.
It remains unclear precisely what the prosecutors were hoping to find by sending the subpoena to Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, or when it was issued. But the subpoena suggests that investigators have cast a wider net than previously understood as they scrutinize whether he broke the law in taking sensitive government materials with him upon leaving the White House and then not fully complying with demands for their return.
The subpoena — drafted by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith — sought details on the Trump Organization’s real estate licensing and development dealings in seven countries: China, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, according to the people familiar with the matter. The subpoena sought the records for deals reached since 2017, when Mr. Trump was sworn in as president.
The Trump Organization swore off any foreign deals while he was in the White House, and the only such deal Mr. Trump is known to have made since then was with a Saudi-based real estate company to license its name to a housing, hotel and golf complex that will be built in Oman. He struck that deal last fall just before announcing his third presidential campaign.
The push by Mr. Smith’s prosecutors to gain insight into the former president’s foreign business was part of a subpoena — previously reported by The New York Times — that was sent to the Trump Organization and sought records related to Mr. Trump’s dealings with a Saudi-backed golf venture known as LIV Golf, which is holding tournaments at some of his golf clubs. (Mr. Trump’s arrangement with LIV Golf was reached well after he removed documents from the White House.)
Yes. Indeed! That’s the sound of Donald’s Karma ripening. Here’s more. This is from CNBC. “Trump faces $10 million defamation claim by E. Jean Carroll after CNN town hall remarks.” The power of narcissism compels him!
E. Jean Carroll filed court papers Monday seeking “very substantial” monetary damages from Donald Trump for making scathing remarks about her at a CNN town hall a day after the former president lost a $5 million lawsuit to the writer.
Carroll now is seeking no less than $10 million from Trump in damages in her original lawsuit in light of what he said May 10 on CNN.
The move came as her lawyers asked a Manhattan federal court judge for permission to amend that first defamation lawsuit, which she lodged against Trump in 2019, to reflect his new statements on CNN about her, which they say also are defamatory.
“Trump’s defamatory statements post-verdict show the depth of his malice toward Carroll since it is hard to imagine defamatory conduct that could possibly be more motivated by hatred, ill will, or spite,” the proposed amended complaint said.
“This conduct supports a very substantial punitive damages award in Carroll’s favor both to punish Trump, to deter him from engaging in further defamation, and to deter others from doing the same,” the complaint said.
Carroll’s second lawsuit, filed in late 2022 and alleging rape and defamation, ended with a jury in that court after less than three hours of deliberations finding Trump liable for sexually abusing her and for defaming her last fall when he denied her allegations.
Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday, filed a notice of appeal of that verdict.
While we’re on the topic of that CNN “town hall” and Karma, let’s look at this headline! This is from Justin Baragona, writing for The Daily Beast: “Here’s How Bad CNN’s Post-Trump Town Hall Ratings Have Been.”
More than a week after CNN’s disastrous town hall with former President Donald Trump, the negative impact the fiasco had on the network’s ratings is coming into clearer focus. Last week, the cable news pioneer suffered its lowest-rated week since June 2015, averaging just 429,000 total daily viewers from Monday-Friday. CNN was also down double digits compared to the same week last year in both total viewership and in the key advertising demographic of viewers ages 25-54. MSNBC more than doubled CNN’s daily audience, drawing 976,000 total viewers, while Fox News averaged 1.4 million. Fox News was down 41 percent in the key demo year-to-year and 24 percent in total viewers, having seen its ratings plummet as angry right-wingers flee after Tucker Carlson’s shock firing. In fact, Fox’s post-Tucker weekday demo audience is the lowest its been since the first week of September 2001. Ratings data shows that primetime is where both Fox and CNN are suffering the most. Since the town hall, CNN has seen several of its weeknight hours—including Anderson Cooper—fall behind Newsmax, the fringe-right channel that has surged since Carlson’s ouster. And on Friday night, the channel’s much-hyped interview show hosted by Chris Wallace averaged only 224,000 total viewers at 10 p.m., drawing 60,000 fewer viewers than Newsmax’s offering. While Fox News still led in both total and demo viewership in weeknight primetime last week, the conservative cable giant’s overall audience was down 38 percent and the demo viewership dropped an eye-popping 60 percent. MSNBC, on the other hand, saw its demo audience shoot up 44 percent.
Way to divide the country even more, you idiots! The fallout from the overturn of Roe v. Wade continues. This is from NPR. It’s written by Julie Rovner. “Abortion bans drive off doctors and close clinics, putting other health care at risk.” This doesn’t sound “pro-life” at all to me.
The rush in conservative states to ban abortion after the overturn of Roe v. Wade is resulting in a startling consequence that abortion opponents may not have considered: fewer medical services available for all women living in those states.
Doctors are showing — through their words and actions — that they are reluctant to practice in places where making the best decision for a patient could result in huge fines or even a prison sentence. And when clinics that provide abortions close their doors, all the other services offered there also shut down, including regular exams, breast cancer screenings, and contraception.
The concern about repercussions for women’s health is being raised not just by abortion rights advocates. One recent warning comes from Jerome Adams, who served as surgeon general in the Trump administration and is now working on health equity issues at Purdue University in Indiana.
In a recent tweet thread, Adams wrote that “the tradeoff of a restricted access (and criminalizing doctors) only approach to decreasing abortions could end up being that you actually make pregnancy less safe for everyone, and increase infant and maternal mortality.”
Thank goodness my daughter’s practice in Seattle, Washington, is safe from this nonsense. Still, it is certainly creating horrid problems in my state and the surrounding states where Republicans have hurried to end access to reproductive care. Michelle Goldberg writes this Op-Ed for the New York Times today about the lives of 13 women in Texas. “You Cannot Hear These 13 Women’s Stories and Believe the Anti-Abortion Narrative.”
It’s increasingly clear that it’s not safe to be pregnant in states with total abortion bans. Since the end of Roe v. Wade, there have been a barrage of gutting stories about women in prohibition states denied care for miscarriages or forced to continue nonviable pregnancies. Though some in the anti-abortion movement publicly justify this sort of treatment, others have responded with a combination of denial, deflection and conspiracy theorizing.
Some activists have blamed the pro-choice movement for spooking doctors into not intervening when pregnancies go horribly wrong. “Abortion advocates are spreading the dangerous lie that lifesaving care is not or may not be permitted in these states, leading to provider confusion and poor outcomes for women,” said a report by the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute.
Others have suggested that doctors are deliberately refusing miscarriage treatment, apparently to make anti-abortion laws look bad. “What we’re seeing, I fear, is doctors with an agenda saying, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do’ when, in fact, they do,” the president of Ohio Right to Life said last year.
A new filing in a Texas lawsuit demolishes these arguments. In March, five women represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights sued Texas after enduring medical nightmares when they were refused abortions for pregnancies that had gone awry. Since then, the Center for Reproductive Rights says it has heard from dozens of women in Texas with similar accounts. And this week, eight more women, each with her own harrowing story, joined the suit, which asks a state district court to clarify the scope of emergency medical exceptions to Texas’ abortion ban.
Other Republican Culture War Craziness continues throughout the country. Texas and Florida continue to lead the insanity. “Miami-Dade K-8 bars elementary students from 4 library titles following parent complaint.”
A K-8 school in Miami-Dade County last month issued restrictions for elementary-aged students on three books and one poem after a parent objected to five titles, claiming they included topics that were inappropriate for students and should be removed “from the total environment.” The move — which allows for middle school students at the school to access the titles — is the latest example of districts and schools across the state restricting or removing books from libraries in recent months. For Stephana Ferrell, the director of research and insight at Florida Freedom to Read Project, it underscores a growing trend to redefine what is considered age appropriate, “especially regarding books that address ethnicities, marginalized communities, racism or our history of racism.”
“Books written for students grades K-5 are being pushed to middle school [libraries and] out of reach for the students they were intended for,” she said. The books aren’t being banned from the district, she argued, “but they’re banned for the students they were intended for.” In March, Daily Salinas, a parent of two students at at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes, challenged The ABCs of Black History, Cuban Kids, Countries in the News Cuba, the poem The Hills We Climb, which was recited by poet Amanda Gorman at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, and Love to Langston for what she said included references of critical race theory, “indirect hate messages,” gender ideology and indoctrination, according to records obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project and shared with the Miami Herald. In an interview with the Herald on Monday, Salinas said she “is not for eliminating or censoring any books.” Instead, she wants materials to be appropriate and for students “to know the truth” about Cuba, she said in Spanish. Get unlimited digital access.
This brings questions. How illiterate do they want our children to be? How disenfranchised do they want them to feel? Can they actually read?
As recently as 2020, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was one of the most frequently challenged books nationwide, largely because of its use of racial slurs, according to the American Library Association.
Today, members of the same political coalition that once mocked progressives for demanding “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” wish to shield children from the potential trauma of reading “Heather Has Two Mommies.” Those who once admonished students for being snowflakes now apparently believe children are too fragile to mount a musical with a gay character — or access reference books on puberty.
Butamid debates about how children will process texts invoking racism or sexual identity, a much more basic question plagues our educational system: whether children can process texts, period.
Parents around the country generally think their children have recovered from disruptions to schooling during the pandemic, surveys show. They haven’t. As of last spring, students were on average half a year behind in math and one-third of a year behind in reading, according to research from a team at Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins and the testing company NWEA.
Not that the U.S. educational system was so impressive relative to thosein our peer countries pre-covid, either.
In Oklahoma, which ranks 49th in education nationwide, the state’s top school official is devoting energy to banning use of the word “diverse” in computer science curriculums because it is too “woke.” In a telling Florida incident, a science teacher was investigated this month for showing her students a Disney film. Her transgression, apparently, was featuring a movie with a gay character — not, as you might imagine, screening a fictional film as an ecology lesson. (I speak as a product of the Florida school system, where my seventh-grade physics unit revolved around a screening of “Flubber.”)
It is dishearteningthat the culture wars have come for not just lesson plans but librarians, too. Librarians are instrumental in promoting literacy. They guide students toward texts that will absorb and engage them. They nudge kids toward books, films, periodicals and online resources that will answer burning, sometimes embarrassing questions.
So, what motivates a 19-year-old Asian-American from Missouri to do this? “19-year-old arrested on multiple charges after crashing into barriers near the White House. The suspect, identified as Sai Varshith Kandula, made threatening statements about the White House at the scene of Monday night’s incident, a law enforcement official told NBC News. A Nazi flag was seized by authorities at the scene.”
A 19-year-old Missouri man, accused of driving a truck into barriers near the White House, made incriminating statements that have led investigators to believe he was seeking to harm the president, officials said Tuesday.
The driver was Sai Varshith Kandula of Chesterfield, U.S. Park Police said Tuesday morning.
The charges against Kandula for allegedly “threatening to kill, kidnap, inflict harm on a president, vice president, or family member,” stem from statements he made to multiple law enforcement agencies, according to a Secret Service representative.
The suspect was interviewed by Secret Service investigators Monday night, the agency representative said, during the ongoing probe that also involves United States Park Police, the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police.
Kandula was further charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle and trespassing.
My next question is, why this guy identifies with NAZIs? That’s an Indian surname. This hate stuff is just freaking confusing.
I think I need a nap and food or both. Have a great week!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Wednesday Reads: Fuck IanPosted: September 28, 2022 Filed under: 2022 Elections, abortion rights, Climate change, COVID19, Depp-Heard Trial, Discrimination against women, Donald Trump, failing infrastructure, fetus fetishists, Foreign Affairs, Iran, Italy, January 6 Committee Public Hearings, misogyny, morning reads, open thread, Political and Editorial Cartoons, Reproductive Health, Reproductive Justice, Reproductive Rights, Republican politics, Russia, Russia-Ukraine War, special master, the GOP, Trump Documents Scandal, Violence against women, Women's Rights | Tags: Hurricane Ian 18 Comments
The latest on Hurricane Ian, click on the NOAA link:
NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER and CENTRAL PACIFIC HURRICANE CENTER
I will post updates in the comments as the day progresses.
Now the cartoons via Cagle:
My family is in the path of Hurricane Ian…my aunt and uncle are refusing to evacuate…the live in Citrus County. Fortunately, it looks like they may be in for some bad storms…for now.
As you can see, it is so frustrating sometimes.
From Mona Eltahawry: Dear White Women Cheering Irainian Women
Take it easy and be careful…this is an open thread.
Wednesday Reads: DumbbellsPosted: August 10, 2022 Filed under: 2024 Elections, abortion rights, Black Women Lead, Discrimination against women, Donald Trump, FBI raids, hate crimes, morning reads, open thread, Political and Editorial Cartoons, QAnon Queen Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rape Culture, Reproductive Rights, the GOP, The Trump Family Crime Syndicate, White Christian Nationalism, white nationalists, Women's Healthcare, Women's Rights 18 Comments
Hello…and so we begin with the cartoons, via Cagle:
This is an open thread.
Wednesday Reads: Will No Win? Hell yes!Posted: August 3, 2022 Filed under: 2022 Elections, 2022 Primaries, abortion rights, birth control, black women's reproductive health, child sexual abuse, children, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, court rulings, Crimes against Children, Democratic Politics, Discrimination against women, Domestic terrorism, Donald Trump, Feminists, fetus fetishists, fundamentalist Christians, morning reads, open thread, Political and Editorial Cartoons, Reproductive Health, Reproductive Justice, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS, The Biden/Harris Administration, the GOP, Women's Healthcare, Women's Rights | Tags: abortion rights, Department of Justice, Kansas 5 Comments
Fuck yeah!!!! Kansas votes No to save Abortion Rights!!!!
Let’s hope this is a sign of what will come in November…
What a lady…
I’m going to end with this cartoon from 1969/1970:
Find the latest primary results here:
This is an open thread…
Monday Reads: A bit of this and that!Posted: July 25, 2022 Filed under: abortion rights, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Crimes against Children, Discrimination against women, Domestic terrorism, Donald Trump, religious extremists, Reproductive Health, Reproductive Justice, Reproductive Rights, Republican Code Words and Concepts, Republican presidential politics, right wing hate grouups, Treason and Sedition Republican Style, Trump Trash, white nationalists, Women's Rights | Tags: The Great Replacement Theory and Racism 24 Comments
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
There are a lot of long-form articles up today that are worth a read. I’m going to start with a few on the abortion issue since Kansas has a significant vote today. Kansas is the first state to have a Post-Roe vote. This is from The New York Times: “‘Everybody Is Dug In’: Kansans Fiercely Debate the First Post-Roe Vote on Abortion. The Aug. 2 ballot question will decide whether the State Constitution will allow legislators to ban or further restrict the procedure.”
Kansas voters will decide next week whether to remove protections of abortion rights from their State Constitution, providing the first electoral test of Americans’ attitudes on the issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The election could give the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature authority to pass new abortion limits or to outlaw the procedure entirely, potentially reshaping the map of abortion access in the nation’s center. The vote, which has been planned since last year but took on far higher stakes after the federal right to abortion was eliminated, is expected to send a message far beyond Kansas as politicians nationwide weigh new abortion measures and watch for signs of how the public is reacting.
“Kansas is the bull’s-eye of the United States in terms of its geography, but it’s also the bull’s-eye where all the energy that has emerged from the Supreme Court decision has now focused,” said Pastor Randy Frazee, who leads a large church in suburban Kansas City, and who like many clergy members supports giving legislators the power to restrict abortions.
A good deal of my family is still in the Kansas City area. One of my great grandfathers was a Methodist circuit rider back in the day when Kansas had a healthy abolitionist movement. We’ll see if the old Kansas idea of Christian social justice is still there. FiveThirtyEight discusses “How The Fight To Ban Abortion Is Rooted In The ‘Great Replacement’ Theory.” It’s also firmly rooted in the idea that men own women and whatever activities they can do. This analysis was written by Alex Samuels and Monica Potts.
Throughout colonial America and into the 19th century, abortions were fairly common with the help of a midwife or other women and could be obtained until the point that you could feel movement inside, according to Lauren MacIvor Thompson, a historian of early-20th-century women’s rights and public health. Most abortions were induced through herbal or medicinal remedies and, like other medical interventions of the time, weren’t always effective or safe.
But the dynamics surrounding the procedure changed by the mid-19th century, as America’s elites began to fear a rising tide of immigrants from Ireland, Italy and other European countries (people often viewed as “inferior”), suffragists seeking new freedoms and recently freed Black people, whom these elites feared were reproducing at higher rates than the white population. Laws limiting abortion, it was believed, would ultimately force middle- and upper-class white women — who had the most access to detect and terminate unwanted pregnancies — to bear more white children.
“There were concerns that these other groups were demographically outpacing white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant women. And so they thought to limit the bodily autonomy of white women and limit access to contraception in order to force them to have children. That they felt would keep up with the demographic birth rate,” said Alex DiBranco, the co-founder and executive director of the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism.
It took time for the anti-abortion movement to attract supporters, and unlike today, religious groups were not originally an active part of it. Still, momentum built as a small but influential number of physicians began arguing that licensed male doctors — as opposed to female midwives — should care for women throughout the reproductive cycle. In the late 1850s, one of the leaders of the nascent anti-abortion movement, a surgeon named Horatio Robinson Storer, began arguing that he didn’t want the medical profession to be associated with abortion. He was able to push the relatively new American Medical Association to support his cause, and soon they were working to delegitimize midwives and enforce abortion bans. In an 1865 essay issued by order of the AMA, Storer went so far as to say of white women that “upon their loins depends the future destiny of the nation.”
There’s a lot more in the article if you can stand to read all the misogyny, racism, and basic WASP nationalism. From Cameron Joseph, at VICE we learn exactly how deep the Republican Party’s hatred of women has become. “JD Vance Suggests People in ‘Violent’ Marriages Shouldn’t Get Divorced. The Ohio Republican Senate nominee claimed people “shift spouses like they change their underwear,” and that it had damaged a generation of children.”
“This is one of the great tricks that I think the sexual revolution pulled on the American populace, which is the idea that like, ‘well, OK, these marriages were fundamentally, you know, they were maybe even violent, but certainly they were unhappy. And so getting rid of them and making it easier for people to shift spouses like they change their underwear, that’s going to make people happier in the long term,’” Vance said.
“And maybe it worked out for the moms and dads, though I’m skeptical. But it really didn’t work out for the kids of those marriages,” Vance continued. “And that’s what I think all of us should be honest about, is we’ve run this experiment in real time. And what we have is a lot of very, very real family dysfunction that’s making our kids unhappy.”
Vance was responding to a moderator who referenced his grandparents’ relationship before asking, “What’s causing one generation to give up on fatherhood when the other one was so doggedly determined to stick it out, even in tough times?” And those comments came immediately after he brought up his grandparents’ relationship and how it differed from his parents’ generation. He described their marriage as “violent” in his best-selling book “Hillbilly Elegy,” though they’d reconciled by the time he came along and helped raise him, giving him a sense of safety and stability his mother was unable to provide.
“Culturally, something has clearly shifted. I think it’s easy but also probably true to blame the sexual revolution of the 1960s. My grandparents had an incredibly chaotic marriage in a lot of ways, but they never got divorced, right? They were together to the end, ’til death do us part. That was a really important thing to my grandmother and my grandfather. That was clearly not true by the 70s or 80s,” he said.
How about once women actually get choices, where they can take care of themselves and their families, that makes the horrid man in their life irrelevant? I endured one marriage of 20 years and believe me, never again. He’s working on his third btw.
So, one more topic I want to cover today is how the Republicans are trying to form a new kind of servitude on everyone but white Christian men and billionaires. First up from The Daily Beast: “The Four Stages of Republican Misinformation. The right has a tested formula to brainwash its base. From the Big Lie to attacking a 10-year-old rape victim, here’s how they do it.” This is written by Wajahat Ali.
The entire right-wing ecosystem unleashed its full arsenal to discredit the 10-year-old girl as a liar, intimidate her physician, demonize liberals, and continue its march backward, undeterred, in its quest to make Handmaid’s Tale cosplay a reality—in an America that subordinates and punishes women for having the audacity to control their own bodies.
To achieve its goal, the right uses a now familiar four-part strategy.
First, Republicans use any means necessary to achieve power and promote their unpopular, extremist, counter-majoritarian agenda.
Second, they create and promote disinformation and lies to frighten their base and Jedi mind-trick them into believing they are being oppressed by the actual victims.
Third, they create a specific villain, target them, and then attack them through scapegoating, smearing, and intimidation.
Fourth, they never apologize or back down once their lie is exposed, but instead, they double down, and in times of doubt, always pivot towards racism and fear-mongering.
To illustrate the strategy, look no further than the GOP’s rationalization of the Jan. 6 insurrection and embrace of the Big Lie—which gave them the successful blueprint to promote their hateful anti-abortion policies.
First, Donald Trump deliberately promoted lies and conspiracy theories about election fraud conducted by Democrats. Instead of accepting his defeat, he unleashed a premeditated, coordinated strategy to engage in a failed coup, which eventually resulted in thousands of his supporters overtaking the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn a free and fair election.
To get to the point where a 10-year-old rape victim has to cross state lines for an abortion, look to the GOP’s four-decade effort to kill Roe v. Wade. Republicans finally got their wish by packing the Supreme Court with right-wing extremists in black robes handpicked by the Federalist Society. Sen. Mitch McConnell stole Merrick Garland’s seat by refusing to hold a confirmation hearing, citing the need to wait until after the 2016 election. Then, he went against his own bullshit precedent and bum-rushed Justice Amy Coney Barrett on to the Court after millions of votes had already been cast in the 2020 election. That’s how they got a right-wing majority to dutifully overturn Roe, which led to Republican-controlled states imposing draconian laws that are punishing women and their health-care providers.
Second, the right-wing media ecosystem continues to amplify the Big Lie and fuel conspiracy theories, which has since resulted in a majority of GOP voters falsely believing Biden was not fairly elected. More than 100 Republicans who have won their recent primaries support the Big Lie, which has transformed into a MAGA litmus test for aspiring GOP candidates.
There’s more. It’s a brutally factual and honest assessment. This leads to a story sent to me last night by BostonBoomer. This is from The Atlantic: “America’s Self-Obsession Is Killing Its Democracy. The U.S. still has a chance to fix itself before 2024. But when democracies start dying—as ours already has—they usually don’t recover.” It’s written by Brian Klaas. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but we must wake everyone up to all of this.
American democracy is dying. There are plenty of medicines that would cure it. Unfortunately, our political dysfunction means we’re choosing not to use them, and as time passes, fewer treatments become available to us, even though the disease is becoming terminal. No major prodemocracy reforms have passed Congress. No key political figures who tried to overturn an American election have faced real accountability. The president who orchestrated the greatest threat to our democracy in modern times is free to run for reelection, and may well return to office.
Our current situation started with a botched diagnosis. When Trump first rose to political prominence, much of the American political class reacted with amusement, seeing him as a sideshow. Even if he won, they thought, he’d tweet like a populist firebrand while governing like a Romney Republican, constrained by the system. But for those who had watched Trump-like authoritarian strongmen rise in Turkey, India, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Venezuela, Trump was never entertaining. He was ominously familiar.
At issue was a classic frame-of-reference problem. America’s political culture is astonishingly insular. Turn on cable news and it’s all America, all the time. Other countries occasionally make cameos, but the story is still about us. (Poland is discussed if Air Force One goes to Warsaw; Iran flits into view only in relation to Washington’s nuclear diplomacy; Madagascar appears only in cartoon form, mostly featuring talking animals that don’t actually live there.) Our self-obsession means that whenever authoritarianism rises abroad, it’s mentioned briefly, if at all. Have you ever spotted a breathless octobox of talking heads on CNN or Fox News debating the death of democracy in Turkey, Sri Lanka, or the Philippines?
That’s why most American pundits and journalists used an “outsider comes to Washington” framework to process Trump’s campaign and his presidency, when they should have been fitting every fresh fact into an “authoritarian populist” framework or a “democratic death spiral” framework. While debates raged over tax cuts and offensive tweets, the biggest story was often obscured: The system itself was at risk.
Even today, too many think of Trump more as Sarah Palin in 2012 rather than Viktor Orbán in 2022. They wrongly believe that the authoritarian threat is over and that January 6 was an isolated event from our past, rather than a mild preview of our future. That misreading is provoking an underreaction from the political establishment. And the worst may be yet to come.
This is another long read, but please check it out! I think I’ve saddled you with enough angst and anxiety for a while. Oh, and sorry, but I am on a Queen binge recently. So enjoy the killer lyrics and solo guitar by Brian May, the Freddie vocals, and the artwork that is this video.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
While the sun hangs in the sky and the desert has sand
While the waves crash in the sea and meet the land
While there’s a wind and the stars and the rainbow
‘Til the mountains crumble into the plain
Oh, yes, we’ll keep on tryin’
Tread that fine line
Oh, we’ll keep on tryin’, yeah
Just passing our time
While we live according to race, colour or creed
While we rule by blind madness and pure greed
Our lives dictated by tradition, superstition, false religion
Through the aeons, and on and on
Oh, yes, we’ll keep on tryin’
We’ll tread that fine line
Oh-oh, we’ll keep on tryin’
‘Til the end of time
‘Til the end of time
Through the sorrow, all through our splendour
Don’t take offence at my innuendo
You can be anything you want to be
Just turn yourself into anything you think that you could ever be
Be free with your tempo, be free, be free
Surrender your ego, be free, be free to yourself
If there’s a God or any kind of justice under the sky
If there’s a point, if there’s a reason to live or die
If there’s an answer to the questions, we feel bound to ask
Show yourself, destroy our fears, release your mask
Oh, yes, we’ll keep on trying
Hey, tread that fine line
Yeah, we’ll keep on smiling, yeah (yeah, yeah)
And whatever will be, will be
We’ll keep on trying
We’ll just keep on trying
‘Til the end of time
‘Til the end of time
‘Til the end of time