Thursday, June 28, 2018
These last couple of weeks in June may be marked as the time our government crossed the red line from a flawed democracy to a dangerous autocracy. The time to ask “Can It Happen Here?” is past. It Is Happening Here.
Despite the fact that most Americans view him unfavorably and that many fear and despise him, Trump is making headway. The Supreme Court, which was further rigged by the GOP’s sabotage of Obama’s nominee and Trump’s addition of Gorsuch, gives Trump a reliable 5-4 majority. That majority has now given a green light to Trump’s most abominably racist immigration policies and practices. In the bargain, that majority simultaneously sanctioned extreme rightist policies against abortion rights, for voter restriction via gerrymander, and for the financial crippling of labor unions. Thus the high court, which some viewed as the ultimate defense against an American dictatorship, gives a bow to Trump’s claims of unlimited power. With Justice Kennedy’s resignation, Trump can further cement his hold on a Supreme Court majority.
A tyrant cannot rule without without violating human rights and cracking down on dissent. Be warned. The “zero tolerance” assault on immigrant families, the saga of brutal and inhuman separations, the scattering and incarceration of young children, the complete denial of democratic norms— all this viciousness reveals how Trump, Giuliani, and Sessions might plan to deal with a democratic opposition, especially those dissenters who are black or brown. Trump’s anti-immigrant hysteria parallels the targeting of Jews from the earliest days of the rise of fascism in Europe.
Against this backdrop, blaming Rep. Maxine Waters and other angry dissenters for a “climate of incivility” is shamefully misplaced. The bully relishes playing the “victim”. No doubt protest, however reasoned or emotional, can be twisted to evoke backlash. But what kind of people would we be if no angry voices were raised when families and helpless children are abused by our own government, or when unarmed black men are so often shot dead by police?
The fact is that only an aroused majority can secure democracy and save America. No majority can speak and act as one. But a lot is going on around the country, There is diverse and ever growing resistance, both in forms of protest and bold electoral activity. New energy rising from women and youth, from people of color, may yet move mountains. Persistence and unity of purpose have pulled us through dark times before. It can happen again.
Friday, July 27, 2018
The President of the United States should communicate directly and often with the heads of state of Russia and China. The problem is that the President of the United States is Donald Trump. A majority of Americans, with good reason, don't trust him or Putin.
The inevitable frenzy over Trump’s strange interaction with Putin is itself muddying the waters. It could provide seeming support for extended cold war and the ultimate risk of nuclear war. That peril is almost totally ignored in the flood of warranted criticism of Trump’s disastrous European trip and joint news conference with Putin.
Salvaging our eroding democracy and creating conditions for peace surely requires ending Trump’s reign before it’s too late. Required also is the need to see complex issues in a context bigger than Donald Trump. Prospects for preventing a nuclear third world war have been on shaky footing since the end of World War II. The behavior of the leading world powers did not become benign, less driven by imperialist ambitions that led to World War I and fueled the rise of fascism that brought on World War II. Rather, the fear of “mutually assured destruction” kept the ultimate war of nuclear annihilation at bay, although it wasn’t enough to prevent an ongoing plague of regional wars, most of them involving our military. And Trump now threatens to start a new war against Iran.
We are not yet close to a peaceful “world order” in which governments cooperate on priorities of human and planetary survival, especially ending the threat of nuclear annihilation and coping effectively with climate change. It’s hardly possible to conceive such a turn of events without striving to achieve fundamental economic and social changes in society, but let’s stay with the subject at hand: how to view and respond to the outrage over the Trump-Putin performance.
In brief, here’s my take:
1. Putin hacked our 2016 election in favor of Trump. We have a right to be angry and alarmed and to try to prevent any repeat in 2018 and 2020. The Mueller investigation may thoroughly expose Trump’s corruption and contribute to bringing him down. We don’t have reason to be “shocked” when it’s noted that undercover and overt interference to undermine other governments (including coups, assassinations and direct military intervention) has been SOP in US foreign policy and intelligence operations. Whatever the differences in the nature of governments, neither Russia nor the US has a valid claim on respect for the sovereignty of other nations.
2. What we can’t afford is to have hawks call the tune, be they conservatives or liberals. The risks are too great to permit self-righteous nationalist fevers to dominate foreign policy. Never has it been more important to maintain communications and seek mutual efforts to reduce tensions between the world’s great nuclear powers.