In the weeks leading up to the election I tried to offer several extra- or non-partisan reasons why Clinton would be a vastly superior choice to Trump. Now that Trump will go to the White House (during the week), it is important to keep vigilant about those reasons, which still stand. Let's take the issue of freedom as an example. While people on the right like to corner the market on "eroding freedom" rhetoric, once we sit down together for an adult conversation about it, we can all freely admit that the right and left have different visions of what freedom amounts to and how best to encourage and protect it. In an election with a normal candidate to oppose Clinton, we could have then debated which freedoms are most under threat, which are most crucial to address right now, what the best way to do so is, etc. And if Clinton had lost such an election, we all could have accepted that one vision of freedom had won out for the time being, and that proponents of other visions would have to be content with seeking continued recognition of their concerns, as well as gearing up to improve their case for the next election.
Of course, Trump doesn't have a coherent vision about much of anything, let alone freedom, but he threatens it in a far more terrifying way than Clinton is constitutionally capable of. For whether or not he has genuinely fascist designs, he has the charismatic charm of a would-be authoritarian leader that woos masses of people into frenzied loyalty, and subsequently convinces seemingly smart people that Trump must be smarter and more capable than he really is. (For the record, I think Trump has little in the way of "designs" beyond self-aggrandizement, and it happens that the best way he sees of doing that requires targeting particular groups of humans. But his style is uniquely suited to bringing about the following kind of scenario: monumental failures of foreign policy leading to some kind of unprecedented attack on our national security which Trump, due to his demagogic charm, is able to blame elsewhere. He then moves for the kind of "I alone" power he feverishly dreamed of in his RNC speech, and ...... . How likely any point in the chain is to happen is partially dependent on whether the people around Trump are NOT like the advisor I discuss below). Alas, before I move to a foreboding development on this point, I can't help recalling that Clinton is not charismatic even a smidgen, and she is exactly as smart as she is deservedly reputed to be.
The frightening example of Trump's successful demagogic charm leading even the seemingly smart to lose their minds comes from this report of Stephen Moore addressing House GOP members. Moore, campaign economic advisor to Trump, is a long time conservative political insider (you know, part of the "swamp") who began championing Reagaonomics and free trade in the 80's, and didn't stop until he somehow found himself aboard the Trump train. If what is reported is accurate, he is now drunk with victory and admiration for the victor. He claims to have been converted to economic populism by meeting those who suffer on the campaign trail (fat chance). His coercive rhetoric belies: Moore employs "mandate" babble to tell GOP Reps that "Reagan's party is now Trump's party" (!!!) and that if Trump says something (like build a wall!) it should get done. Simple as that.
I hope it doesn't take more commentary to realize that the above calls for the following urgent reminders: YES, masses of "modern" democratic citizens can be wooed by a demagogue!; YES, seemingly smart people familiar with how limited power in democratic republics works can get swept up into "great movements" and aid the development of conditions ripe for tyranny!; YES, we know that outright tyranny can gradually but steadily grow under charismatic leadership! Especially when the people around the tyrant-in-embryo are dazzled by that leader's surprising success!
Here are some more reminders. Trump's only brilliance is for marketing. That combined with a craven, shameless willingness to exploit people's weaknesses and fears. That's it. His contribution to his "miraculous" victory, which also depended on some unique circumstances, is that combination of characteristics alone. There is no healthy movement here to rally around. There is no generally brilliant leader to follow, or clear-eyed vision to support. In the words of others who were clear-eyed: Trump remains a fraud, a phony, a con man. So don't believe the hype. And don't let your representatives believe it either.
Today Tallulah and I contributed to the 'Postcard Avalanche' aimed at letting Trump know that appointing Bannon breaks his promise to be a President for all Americans. At best, the sheer number of postcards arriving at Trump Tower might make the news. But Trump needs constant reminders that #WereStillHere. So #StopBannon, #StopSessions and stop all Trump's other crony capitalist appointments. If you want to join the avalanche: https://www.facebook.com/events/235432800204102/
How's this for a rationalization for procrastination: the press and our collective attentions easily move on from issues that are worth revisiting from time to time. So on occasion I'll do so on this blog.
Quite simply, I have no patience for the "whiny, overpaid athletes should stop their protests and do what they're paid to do" response to the national anthem protests inspired by 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. If people with power and a platform won't stick up for the downtrodden and oppressed, who will? It is precisely because they are where they are that they should protest. Would that more powerful people used their platforms to fight injustice.
Concerning the means of protest, people have taken to the rhetorical move of claiming that disrespecting the national anthem is something like a direct insult to military veterans. To which the reply should be that if we want to do something before sports games that directly praises and thanks men and women who have bravely served our country, we should collectively think of a way to do so and settle on one. (We should also do more to prevent our leaders from sending them to kill and die in unnecessary wars--but that topic would take us too far afield).
At least Kaepernick et al do not claim that there shouldn't be national anthems, so I'll do them one better. Healthy, free societies should not have sacred symbols, like flags and anthems, that are supposed to be above reproach and that stifle criticism and dissent. Such symbols are essentially idols demanding obeisance, which is anathema to the proper cultivation and respect for the collective use of reason that is necessary to the establishment and maintenance of free societies. There are few exercises of freedom as reinforcing and enriching of a society's "operating level of freedom" as brave dissent that calls for reform in the face of injustice. Exercises of piety and fealty toward symbols achieve the opposite.
Celebrating our ideals and historical efforts at moving closer to them can be achieved in other ways. Let there be a plethora of celebratory and thanksgiving songs, poems, stories, and works of art to be read, sung, viewed, and cheered. before public events. Let us celebrate those who fought for freedom at home as well as abroad. Let our songs celebrate our achievements rather than worship flags. Let us have moments of silence for those who have died in the struggle for freedom (again, at home as well as abroad). Let us have moments of silence for the injustices that continue to haunt our society and keep us estranged from our ideals. Let us acknowledge those whose freedoms have been denied via fear, prejudice, tradition, exploitation. These would be the practices of healthy societies actively working for the achievement of full freedom for all.
This morning brought two contrasting news items. One dumbfounding: the Washington Post reports on a new poll showing Trump with an 8 point lead on honesty. The other sane: former Republican governor and current VP Libertarian candidate Bill Weld doing an exemplary job of putting evidence and honesty ahead of partisanship, vouching for Clinton's honesty based on 40 years of personal experience with her, and simply but accurately describing what a Trump Presidency would be--chaos. This illustrates "The Gap" between how people that actually know and work with Clinton view her, and public perception that has been fueled by decades of partisan attacks. This "Gap" was investigated by Ezra Klein in Vox back in July (and has been addressed elsewhere). There are more aspects to honesty and integrity than one might presume from media oversimplification, and Klein's article relates stories that illustrate it in Clinton. As First Lady, there were several times when Clinton paid attention to detailed, technical evidence that was sent to the White House, and her attention helped change policy decisions. That is, Clinton honestly sought out contrasting evidence, paid it real attention, and allowed herself to be swayed by the balance of evidence. The Trump campaign, by contrast, makes a virtue out of doing exactly the opposite: it consistently doubles down when forced to confront clear evidence against its claims. Ignoring all the documentation that Trump rarely even cares whether what comes out of his mouth is true, for the moment, here is clear evidence that Clinton has a kind of integrity that matters to governance.
Now, I won't claim that Clinton hasn't done dishonest things. She has. But the idea that she is in the same league as Trump when it comes to dishonesty has got to be one of the greatest hoodwinks pulled on the American public in my lifetime. The best explanation for it that I can tell is a kind of hatred that is worse than the usual human frailty or bouts of irrationality. It is pathological. And, to take the gloves off, otherwise reasonable people who don't like Trump, but think that there is some kind of equivalency between Trump and Clinton, are succumbing to this pathological Hillary-Hating. To say why, I'll describe three broad kinds of Hillary-Hating: Hysterical, Hypocritical, and Historically-Blind. At the end, perhaps you'll think there is some reason I haven't touched on to justify the idea that Clinton is an exceptionally dishonest politician and even in the same league as Trump. But if you can't first bring yourself to recognize the seriousness of the phenomena I describe, then I'll doubt your reasons are serious or clear-eyed, and others should have good reason to doubt it as well.
First, the Hysterical Hillary-Haters. These are the mobs of people that attend Trump rallies armed with clothing and paraphernalia spouting lewd, explicitly misogynistic, and violent slogans aimed at Clinton. They engage in feverish "lock her up!!" chants that are often lead or egged on by their Dear Leader (who also often takes the opportunity to turn their rage at present Media). It should be obvious to everyone else that for these people there is no question of evidence or due process. Such behavior is utterly anathema to a just and peaceful democratic society, and should be condemned in the strongest terms by anyone who hopes for such a society. The fact that the Trump campaign encourages this kind of behavior should be immediately disqualifying. The fact that Republican leaders don't seem to have the decency or courage to go out of their way to condemn this kind of behavior or its leader's encouragement of it is an affront to us all. It shows, I suggest, that their own antipathy to Clinton is more pathological than reasonable. Even if one isn't engaging in this kind of behavior, an absence of concern to energetically distinguish one's own opposition to Clinton from it amounts to a kind of tacit acceptance. Compare McCain's famous correction of a supporter who asked him about Obama being an Arab in 2008. That kind of basic integrity is wholly absent from the Trump campaign and seemingly close to absent among Republican leadership (though not just them) now. We all have a strong common interest in denouncing and defeating this kind of Hysterical Hillary-Hating, and if you haven't been able to see that or still can't, your own Clinton-antipathy may be less than rational.
Next, Hypocritical Hillary-Hating from the right tends to claim that Clinton is about as dishonest and corrupt as politicians get, and so does at least one of the following: 1. refuses to acknowledge the intense amount of (Congressional, DOJ) investigative scrutiny directed on Clinton relative to officials in other administrations for similar things, or to accept their verdicts, while remaining perfectly happy with the lack of punishment for similar things in other administrations. 2. fails to acknowledge much worse criminality in previous Republican administrations, combined with continued promotion of some (e.g., Reagan) as heroes. 3. fails to confront the grossly asymmetric threat to truth and rationality in our media and public discourse posed by the company Trump keeps.
On the first, I'll just direct people to what others have documented. Much worse, in my view, is the failure to acknowledge just how criminal the administrations of Reagan and Bush II were. To focus on the conservative darling: Reagan had more officials indicted and/or convicted of crimes than any other administration. And if you think Reagan himself was clean of the corruption, I've got a bridge to sell you. If Reagan had been submitted to the kind of scrutiny that Clinton has been, he probably would have been impeached and removed from office. Now, if you're inclined to respond that Reagan still did a bunch of neat stuff, we can argue about that another time, but you're no longer entitled to use criminal abuse of political power as definitive proof that a politician is absolutely unfit for the presidency. You may instead be inclined to dispute the evidence of Reagan's and Bush's criminality, or argue that they weren't as bad as I'm portraying. To which the reply is that the same can be said of the evidence of Clinton's criminality. If you think that the worst accusations against Reagan and Bush are reasonably disputable, but Clinton's aren't and that, furthermore, that leaves her in the same boat as Trump, something has gone seriously wrong. As much as I dislike Reagan and Bush, I can readily admit they weren't nearly as dishonest as Trump. If you can't do the same about Clinton, I'm inclined to think the Hillary-Hating Pathology is at work.
On the third point, a quick look at the kind of company Trump keeps (see this on his inner circle) makes it likely that the Reagan administration will seem downright saintly by the end of a Trump administration. But what's most frightening about it is the kind of increased legitimacy that a Trump administration would immediately grant to the alt-right media (led by Breitbart and Drudge). Whatever one thinks of Clinton's 'duplicity in private', the number and kinds of lies Trump tells in public beggar belief. And they are fed to him by the bigoted, racist, misogynistic, nativist, conspiracy-mongering leaders of the alt-right media that lead his campaign, and who have no scruples for evidence or truth when it comes to advancing their agenda. Many of these people would make Rush Limbaugh blush. While I am happy to admit that there has been a mildly liberal bias in many parts of the mainstream media through much of my life, there is no reasonable comparison to the alt-right media. And I would be less concerned if Fox News weren't as powerful as it now is. While I don't like much of what is on Fox News, I'm also willing to admit that many liberals exaggerate and paint it with too broad of a brush. It isn't all Sean Hannity all the time. But Fox's support for Trump is leading to increasing signs of it being pulled in the direction of alt-right extremism, and that should scare everyone. It is either extremely shortsighted, or hypocritical, to be so concerned with the risk of corruption that Clinton poses while ignoring the threat to any semblance of honesty and reason in public political life that the legitimation of the alt-right worldview would pose. It is to ignore the damage that has already been done to public discourse by the peculiarly Trumpian brand of disdain for truth and reason. If Hillary-Hating is preventing people from clearly seeing the gravity of this threat, it is pathological.
Finally, there is Historically-Blind Hillary-Hating. This comes from the idea that Clinton's policies will be not just "bad, overall" for the country, but an utter disaster. This kind of Hillary-Hating is born of the failure to revise one's beliefs when they lead to falsified predictions. It has been a hobby of many on the (especially religious) right to predict disaster, or something close, upon election of Democratic Presidents. Yet the republic still stands and its current state, however it is judged, cannot be attributed to Democratic Presidents alone. I've been hearing predictions for nearly 8 years that Obama is going to take everyone's guns away. It's totally irresponsible to simply ignore the utter failure of those predictions and simply transfer them over to Clinton. This kind of irrationality infuses other claims about Clinton posing a threat to our freedoms.
My mother once told me about how her parents feared that a JFK Presidency would be disaster for our country. Obviously such fear was baseless. Over half a century later, similar fear has us on the cusp of electing the most narcissistic, bigoted, misogynistic, racist, erratic, impulsive, ignorant, hateful, insecure, corrupt, duplicitous, authoritarian, xenophobic, and juvenile candidate as President who brings with him an army of similar individuals. My hope is that we will recognize the Pathology of Hillary-Hating for what it is, admit that her weaknesses pale in comparison to Trump's and those of the Trump-posse, and vote in the way most likely to stop the worst threat from reaching the White House.