The vast rightwing conspiracy, 2016-style

 

Back in the 1990s, Hillary Clinton famously referred to the “vast rightwing conspiracy” that formed to take her and her husband, President Bill Clinton, down. That conspiracy was led by conservative radicals who today have morphed into what is known as the alt-right, a branch of the Republican party that, twenty years ago, was considered fringe even by senior Republicans like Bob Dole, but has now taken over the party, and may be about to take over the United States of America.

This conspiracy always has been comprised of white nationalists, eccentric Christians, and under-educated rural blue collar workers, mostly men, whose resentments were easy fodder for the conspiracy’s leaders to stoke. The players over these twenty years have changed, although some of them—Rupert Murdoch’s minions, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, remain—but they are all cast from the same mold. Why did Hillary call it a “conspiracy”? Because it was hatched in darkness and anonymity. It remains there today, fueled by dark money, only its leaders now are the foursome of Donald Trump, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin and James Comey.

This requires some explaining on my part. Trump is, of course, the latest leader of the conspiracy. With his insults, smears, bullying, racism, misogyny and xenophobia (have I left anything out?), he perfectly articulates the hatred and anger of the alt-right, elevating it to undreamed of rancor. Wikileaks has joined the parade, as I pointed out last week when I showed that Julian Assange is hoping a President Trump will release him from the awful exile he is suffering within the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, a fate he brought upon himself. Putin, who has renewed the Cold War with America and brought it to its most dangerous level in decades yet is admired and even courted by Trump, has joined the conspiracy by having his security forces hack into Democratic emails and then send them on to Wikileaks. And then we come to the most interesting suspect of all, James Comey, the director of the F.B.I., an avowed Republican, lifted to power by George W. Bush. Why did Comey take this particular moment, on the eve of an election Hillary Clinton was bound to win, to drop this phony bombshell? Because he, like Putin and Assange, wants Trump to be President. His motive? We can only speculate, but let history be our guide.

Back in the 1920s, after Germany had lost the First World War and the country was filled with rightwing resentment—as America is today–a conspiracy arose to undermine Germany’s legitimate, democratically-elected government. This conspiracy was between two groups: (1) unofficial, secret, armed rightwing partisans, known as the Freikorps, which were much like today’s tea party-inspired open-carry rightwingers (think of Cliven Bundy and his gang); and (2) the official expression of German power, the German Army. We can think of Comey, and the F.B.I. in general, as the official branch of U.S. armed security power. We thus have, in this unholy alliance, a tacit agreement for the seizure of power by unofficial and official groupings, come together to undermine the Democratic Party and its candidate.

This conspiracy troubles me a great deal, and it should trouble you too. (The German conspiracy, after all, led to Hitler and World War II.) It now looks like Hillary Clinton may lose this election. As you know, I hope not, but if she does, so be it: life goes on, and Democrats will live to fight another day. But I hope, and expect, and will demand, that Democratic leaders, from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on down, will examine this bizarre and troubling gang-up with all the power they have at their disposal. There may be little they can actually do about it, if Trump is elected and the House and Senate remain Republican. But Republicans themselves should want an explanation, even in the delirium they will undoubtedly have should their candidate win. The combination of foreigners—Putin and Assange—and rogue government officials, undermining and influencing an American Presidential election, is unprecedented. It represents a huge threat to the legitimacy of our country. For the director of the F.B.I. to be associated with a plot to bring down a Presidential candidate is treacherous, if not treasonous, and demands explanation. A Democratic Senate or House subcommittee, even in it be in the minority, simply must hold hearings; and the American media simply must pay attention.

No matter who wins this election, we Democrats cannot sing Kumbaya, join hands with a tea party that hates and wishes to destroy us and our values, and let Republican hegemony go unchallenged. We will have to go to the mattresses. If Hillary does indeed win, Republicans will pull out every dirty trick they have, and they have a lot of ugliness in their toolkit, as Trump has shown. If Trump wins, that event should be seen for what it actually is: a calamitous event in the history of our nation. Either way, fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

That upcoming Trump University trial: Trump doesn’t want jurors to hear the evidence

 

Imagine you’re a juror at the upcoming class action trial against Trump University, scheduled to begin Nov. 28 in San Diego federal court. The now-defunct Trump University, you’ll recall, was the phony “real estate school” that promised to teach students “the secrets of real estate success.” It bilked hundreds of them out of tens of thousands of dollars each by claiming to reveal “Trump’s secret insights into how to make money in real estate.” Of course, it was a scam—which has prompted the class action suit. The presiding judge, you may also recall, was Gonzalo P. Curiel, the same judge Trump called “a hater” who was “unfair” to him because Curiel is “Hispanic,” and because Trump is building that infamous wall along the Mexican border.

Trump couldn’t prevent the lawsuit from going forward, but he wanted Curiel thrown off the case. It didn’t work, but the judge did kindly allow the trial to be postponed until after the Nov. 9 Presidential election.

Now there’s another twist. Trump’s lawyer now is demanding that Judge Curiel not allow the jury to hear  important evidence, including any of Trump’s remarks about Curiel—or about Trump’s taxes, or his numerous bankruptcies,, or even the videotape of Trump bragging about grabbing women’s “pussies.”

Trump’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli—who represented Fred Goldman in the wrongful death suit against O.J. Simpson and won the Goldman family $8.5 million—said he wants the above information banned from the jury because the trial should not be a test of Trump’s “character,” which even Petrocelli by this argument apparently concedes is horrible, but of Trump’s “management of the university.”

That’s what we call chutzpah in my family.

So if you were a juror in that trial, would you want to hear about Trump’s decades of bad behavior, questionable business practices and other instances of ripping people off, like not paying vendors? On the other hand, it’s almost inconceivable that any of the prospective jurors have not heard all that stuff by now, given the amplitude of media coverage. I would imagine Petrocelli, during voir dire jury selection, will look for the most ignorant, uninformed citizens he can find, incurious, uneducated yahoos who don’t pay attention to current events. After all, that’s Trump’s base, isn’t it?

By the way, if you’re still undecided—which, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not—here’s one reason to turn the House of Representatives blue. Republicans are already planning to impeach President Hillary Clinton. WTF you say? But it’s true. She hasn’t even been elected yet, and these Tea Partiers are sharpening their pitchforks and oiling up their torches. Isn’t it depraved?

Trump and Goebbels: “Ve Vill Vin!”

 

March, 1945 was not a good time for Hitler’s Nazi government. The war was essentially lost: Russian troops pouring in from the East, British and American troops from the West. Allied air power had reduced scores of German cities to rubble: Berlin, the capital, had no electricity, no transportation, and no food. The German people themselves were so demoralized, they were hoisting white flags from their windows in anticipation of being liberated by Americans. Germany had lost millions upon millions of soldiers, and more were falling every day. The whole world knew that Germany had lost the war—except for the most fanatical of the Nazi leadership, who believed against all odds that “a miracle” would save the day.

Those fanatics were led by Hitler himself. But just below Hitler was the number two man in Germany, Hitler’s Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. We are fortunate, from a historical point of view, to have his personal diary, which contains a day-by-day account of almost the entire war period. (The diaries were recovered by Allied troops. Some pages had been burned in an obvious attempt to destroy them, but most survived. The diary is housed at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.)

Goebbels understood on some level that the cause was lost, but he could not admit it. He wrote, on March 14, “…the German economy can [only] hold out for another four weeks…”. His own ministry headquarters had just been bombed to smithereens; by his own admission, Germany was “defenseless” against Allied bombing. “A vast number of worrying problems now come before me,” he writes. “One wonders where on earth a way out of this terrible war dilemma is to be found.”

There was, of course, no way out. Within six weeks, Hitler was dead, by his own hand. Goebbels killed himself, too, along with his wife, who before she took poison gave cyanide capsules to their six young children. Germany signed the act of surrender the first week of May. The war in Europe was over.

But Goebbels lived in his fantasyland until the last moment. Despite the wedge closing in on Berlin, “…it is essential to keep a cool head and not to lose one’s nerve,” he wrote. Armed with books about Frederick the Great and the Punic Wars—metaphors for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat–Goebbels convinced himself (and tried to convince everyone who would listen to him) that a miracle would occur. “One must accept defeat after defeat in order to emerge victorious,” he wrote, adding: “There is no question of any doubt in my mind regarding the possibility of victory…”. All it takes is “the will” to see things through.

Doesn’t that sound like Trump? The refusal to recognize reality, the threat to fight on and on regardless of the consequences, the grim determination that even though everything is collapsing, will power alone will seize victory from the ashes of defeat—it’s all so Goebbelsian, or should I say Trumpian. As Germany’s collapse became increasingly clear in April, Goebbels still refused to give up; he formed so-called “Werewolf” squads, assassins and terrorists who would continue to battle, guerilla-style, even as the German Army and Air Force vanished. He vowed to fight on, to contest the results of the war, which Germany was losing through “treachery.” Germany had been “sold out” by “traitors,” not because she was a loser.

And here we have Trump, in basically the same position. He will lose, badly. As with Goebbels, on some level he knows it. But he’s living in a delusion. He will never give in, never concede defeat, never be gracious, as every prior losing candidate for President has been. His “traitors” are the media, Hillary Clinton, crooked election officials. If he loses, it’s because the election was “rigged.”

When he loses, will Trump have his own Werewolves? If there are recalcitrant die-hards who cause trouble, they’ll come from the Trumpistas we see on television, in their Trump hats and red, white and blue Trump costumes, the defiant ones, open-carrying firearms, who snarl about revolution and civil war. Their chant isn’t “Heil Trump,” it’s Jail her!” Will Trump’s Werewolves form a sort of Fifth Column—sleeper cells of violent partisans, fighting for a lost cause, like those Japanese soldiers who refused to admit they’d lost the war in the Pacific, and hunkered down in caves on remote islands for decades, getting crazier and crazier?

We’re about to find out.

When it comes to gays, Christians should be apologizing

 

Some of my readers, especially on Facebook (where this blog also appears, as well as on Twitter and Huffington Post) have accused me of hating on Christians. Well, that’s a serious allegation, so please allow me to defend myself.

As a gay American, I’ve been told my entire life by Christians that I, and everyone like me, was immoral, unnatural, perverted, hated by God, would burn in hell. Growing up, as I did, in the 1950s and 1960s, before the gay rights movement had really started, I took these messages in; it was very painful, to me and everyone like me. We went into the closet for self-protection, and most of us stayed there for a long time.

By the 1980s, when I’d moved to San Francisco and developed a political consciousness that included gay rights, I saw the hypocrisy, hatred and sheer stupidity of homophobia. But the anti-gay movement was just getting started. People like Anita Bryant, Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell were given prominent status by the Republican Party, and Ronald Reagan adapted their homophobic rhetoric. We had Falwell telling us San Francisco’s 1989 earthquake was sent to the city by God because it was filled with fags (as if every time a Baptist church is destroyed by a tornado it’s because God hates Christians!). We had a politician here in California, John Briggs, who put an initiative on the statewide ballot, Proposition 6, to fire all gay or Lesbian public school employees and their supporters from their jobs. (Fortunately, the people voted that down.) With the coming of the Clintons, the anti-gay Christians doubled down on their hate talk, now joined by the likes of Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, Richard Viguerie, Karl Rove, Michele Bachmann, Bob Jones, Paul Weyrich, Rick Santorum, William Dannemeyer, James Dobson, Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Michael Savage, Fred Phelps, Ralph Reed, Antonin Scalia, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and let’s not forget the Boy Scouts of America. Every single one of these homophobes claimed that their hatred of gay people was based on their Christianity. I put that sentence in italics to emphasize it: These people didn’t just stumble into homophobia. It was instigated by Christian preachers.

For my entire life, I have heard those preachers and their followers tell me that I was a horrible, doomed person, not worthy of respect or even the basic perquisites of citizenship. They were allowed to indulge in their hatefest without opposition because of their Christianity: no one wanted to bash a Christian, much less a famous one. You might think that this sort of homophobia has gone away now that gay marriage is legal and gays are part of the mainstream, thank God. But that’s not true. We still hear these hideous voices of hatred emanating from certain preachers, and even the Catholic Church—despite Pope Francis’s “Who am I to judge?” remark—still officially classifies homosexuality as intrinsically disordered.

So put yourself in my shoes, friends: a lifetime of unrestrained, vile hatred from Christians. I have long wanted to have my say, but I had to be careful, because I had a job (a very public one, at that), and I couldn’t risk getting fired for offending certain powerful groups. So I kept my mouth shut. But I’m retired now. Free at last! So I can say what I want to, and damn the consequences.

Therefore, don’t talk to me about hating on Christians. Take the beam out of thine own eye. Look, I know it’s not all Christians who hate gays. I have an Episcopal church on my street and they’ve flown the rainbow flag for years, and even had a gay minister. So when I criticize homophobic Christians, it’s not aimed at these more liberal Christian sects. I guess that not even all evangelicals are homophobic. But most of them are. (Prove me wrong, if you can.) So why would I not criticize them, in the strongest possible language? They have attempted to disenfranchise me and people like me of our civil rights and freedoms. They have inspired haters to attack us, maim us, even kill us (R.I.P. Matthew Shepard). They have caused heartbreak, emotional pain, families to break up; they have left a trail of tears in their wake. And even today, they aren’t finished. Remember that ridiculous clerk in Kentucky who wouldn’t issue marriage licenses to gays because it was against her Christian religion? Mike Huckabee supported her. And how about that Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice who told all of the state’s judges they couldn’t marry gays even after the United States Supreme Court said that could? He did that in the name of Christian values, too. As long as one gay person lives, there will be a Christian somewhere attempting to destroy him.

So please! Enough with this hating-on-Christians stuff. If you are a Christian and your particular church still preaches homophobic nonsense, then you have a problem, not me. You may not like to hear it, but the Christian church—going back as far as the Dark Ages and the Inquisition—has wantonly witch-hunted and murdered gay people. And you want me to apologize to Christians? I think not. You need to drop to your knees, beg for forgiveness from your God, and apologize to us.

On the eve of destruction, Republicans turn against each other

 

With little ammunition remaining to fend off the impending disaster to their party and candidate, Republican Trump supporters are resorting to the most specious and rhetorical of arguments. Consider, for instance, the Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn.

He’s a longtime columnist for the newspaper, which allows us to take a peek at his track record. Gay marriage? After the Supreme Court’s historic decision approving it, McGurn, an avowed Catholic, was in full poopy-pants mode: “A triump for gay rights but not for democracy,” he opined, with lip-licking malice.

Global warming? According to McGurn, President Obama—who just a week ago presided over the strongest climate-change agreement in history, the Paris accord—has “squelch[ed] further inquiry” into the science (!!!!!) of climate change, because he (Obama) chooses to believe the 99.5% of climate scientists who believe in it, not the .05% of Republican hacks who don’t.

But I digress! Onto All Things Trump! Let’s look at McGurn’s column from yesterday, entitled “The Cheap Moralizing of Never Trump.” He attempts to dismiss the anti-Trump movement by, essentially, insulting its adherents. How? First, he says that calling Trump “coarse and boorish” is only to be expected from Democrats: “It’s an old argument for the left.” But, as he’s sadly forced to concede, “Republicans are now hearing it from the right as well.”

This is an inconvenient truth. No longer can McGurn simply vilify Democrats. Now, his own party—large segments of it—has joined the anti-Trump parade. What’s a conservative columnist to do? Instead of claiming that Trump isn’t “coarse and boorish” (how could McGurn? Trump is), McGurn instead deflects the argument by focusing on the insinuation (by the anti-Trump crowd) that Trump’s supporters must be “evil…or…invincibly stupid.”

Well, I’ll give him that. There is a belief on the left (which I share) that anyone who would vote for Trump at this point is, somehow, mentally unhinged. Now, I won’t use the word “evil” because its definition is too tricky, but I do believe Trump voters are “stupid.” (“Invincibly” is a nice writer’s word but I’m not sure there are degrees of stupidity when it comes to bad political choices). Not all Republicans are stupid, and not all evangelicals are stupid; but those Christians who believe in the literal inerrancy of the bible are stupid, and I’ll tell you why.

There are different types of intelligence, according to the respected American psychologist, Howard Gardener, who, in 1983, listed them. Several aren’t relevant here (natural intelligence, musical intelligence, spatial intelligence, etc.) but the most important one, from the point of view of what makes for a good citizen, is logical intelligence. This is what fuels the process of reason; it enables people to discern the truth of things, as opposed to being misled by fantasy, superstition, ignorance and deceitfulness.

In this sense, evangelicals (and apparently Trump himself) have proven they aren’t as logically intelligent as are Americans who actually believe in science. We are blessed, in this modern era, to have the greatest array of scientific knowledge ever collected in the history of mankind; and scientific knowledge is a good thing. It helps us in every aspect of life, has resulted in the healthiest, most progressive human culture ever. (Whether we’re happier is another story…) It therefore follows that anyone who rejects scientific knowledge, as evangelicals do, has a mental problem; labeling them “stupid” is harsh, but we have to call a spade a spade. When it comes to logical intelligence, they really are stupid.

McGurn’s argument is so thin and specious, it could have been expressed in two sentences. But that’s not enough to fill an entire column, so, for the rest, he puts on his pit bull costume and goes after—who else?—Hillary Clinton, with the usual B.S.: she “lies” (no proof offered), her “public life has been a series of scandals” (courtesy of who? McGurn’s Republican Party, which has smeared Hillary for 25 years and come up with absolutely nothing), she would be “a third term for disastrous Obama policies.” Maybe someone forgot to tell McGurn that President Obama’s approval rating is consistently in the low- to mid-fifties, whereas his predecessor, George W. Bush, had an approval rating of only 34% just prior to leaving office. Americans therefore strongly disagree with McGurn: they believe in large numbers that Obama has been an excellent President. This is further corroborated by the polls, in which Hillary Clinton is poised to win red states: Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada; and even Alaska, Texas and Georgia are turning pink! Clearly, Americans do not feel like Obama has been a disaster; quite the contrary. If Hillary Clinton governs as well as Obama has, most of us would welcome it.

So McGurn is struggling. Even the arch-conservative Jonah Goldberg—son of Lucianne Goldberg, one of Bill Clinton’s nemeses, a tattling gossip who did her best to bring Bill Clinton down—assaulted McGurn in yesterday’s National Review. He did so rather anemically, but still, the fact that these two radical rightwingers, McGurn and Goldberg, are at war is further proof of how Trump has been a bomb in the Republican Party, blowing it up, turning it against itself, and exposing for all the world to see its internal incoherence.

 

When Hillary wins, who will convince Trumpsters not to wage civil war? Hint: It’s not who you think

 

Last Friday I blogged about the possible response by the Trump party after he loses the election. My post was, of course, pure fantasy, a scary dystopian hallucination of societal breakdown and violence. Over the weekend, however, just such a scenario has been increasingly considered by many others.

I Googled “trump election civil war” and got 15 million hits! The very first is typical. It appeared in the [British] paper, The Guardian, on Saturday, and was headlined “Life after Trump: Republicans brace for betrayal and civil war after 2016,” and if it went a little overboard with references to Adolf Hitler and the bunker, it captured well the sense of “siege” that is quickly racing through Trump’s increasingly angry and distraught supporters as they sniff defeat.

The online publication, Economy & Markets, headlined its article, “If Trump Loses, Expect Civil War.” This publication is, admittedly, a madcap heap of rightwing conspiracy theory, but it’s important because it represents the angry, uneducated white male perspective that fuels the Trump movement, and that will constitute its spearhead if in fact there is violence. It predicts “a wave of civil unrest” and expects “a large part of the southeast, southwest and Rockies [to] secede from the country,” just as my post last week presciently did.

Similarly, one of the worst, most vulgar rightwing talk radio hosts in the country, Michael Savage, predicted (in fact, basically encouraged) the Trumpsters to begin loading their guns now. “If Hillary is elected,” he told his listeners, “the country devolves into civil war.”

One of Trump’s top advisors is Roger Stone, a longtime Republican bagman who founded [in 2008] an anti-Hillary Clinton group called Citizens United Not Timid (whose acronym was a deliberate misogynistic insult to Ms. Clinton). Stone has been traveling the country warning of a “bloodbath following a Clinton victory, and he showed his cards on the justification Republicans will use for violence: “widespread voter fraud,” which has been a consistent bugaboo in the minds of the paranoid right wing despite the fact that “voter fraud” is non-existent in the U.S. The independent publication, The Hill, which reports on the U.S. Congress, quoted a Trump supporter at a Trump rally in New Mexico: “If Hillary Clinton wins the election…there is going to be a civil war…”.

Finally, perhaps the most alarming, there’s the Republican Sheriff of Milwaukee, David Clarke, a Trump surrogate, who told a Trump crowd on Saturday that if Trump loses, “it’s pitchforks and torches time.”

A Sheriff, mind you!!!

I could go on and on citing the worst of those Google hits, but you get the idea. Clearly, I’m not the only one entertaining thoughts (or fears) of chaos when Hillary Clinton wins (and she will; I think we all know that, except for the most delusional among us). So the Big Question becomes: What or who is to stop such an alarming development?

Two possibilities. First, diehard Trumpettes have three weeks to get used to the fact that they’re going to lose, and badly. Three weeks is a long time. They could use it to reflect on how they got to where they are now; reflection can lead to a renewed sense of perspective, which is precisely what the Republican Party has been lacking. The Christians who count themselves among Trump’s fans could do what they claim they do so well: pray. They could ask their God for enlightenment, for peace, for balance and calm, and perhaps their God will bestow upon them those very qualities, all of which are antithetical to the massive anger and rage it would take to fuel an armed uprising.

Beyond Trump’s supporters, there remains a shrinking core of adults within the Republican Party: people like the Bush family, John Kasich, John McCain, Mitt Romney. Granted, these are the very Republicans who have been chased out of the party, chiefly by the insulter-in-chief, Trump; they’ve been vilified and effectively purged from Republican ranks…for now. If bad things do start happening after the election, if not before, these are the politicians who will have to stand publicly and aver their allegiance to law and order, their willingness to compromise with President Hillary Clinton, and declare their absolute opposition to the worst of the evangelical-tea party cabal that wants to take their losing cause to the streets. They will have to do so with no ands, ifs or buts…no distracting disparaging of Hillary Clinton…just a forceful j’accuse! against the tea party and its evangelical enablers.

Unfortunately, these Republicans I named—the Bushes, Kasich, Romney, McCain–are totally out of favor among rightwing radicals, who will not listen to them, and would in any case accuse them of treason were they to say anything remotely critical of the Trump movement. Then who else is left to talk to the radical right and get them to calm down, to put away their guns and work within the system?

Well, it’s not going to be the current Republican leadership in the Congress: McConnell, Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, all of whom have proven that they’re craven midgets who lack the cojones to stand up to the crazies in their party. Nor is it going to be the diminishing crowd of intimate advisors surrounding the beleaguered Trump—people like Giuliani, who has finally emerged from years of out-of-power white male resentment into full-fledged fascism. Nor the hapless Chris Christie, who still hopes, in his fantastical heart-of-hearts, to be in some never-to-happen Trump Cabinet (but has far more of a chance to land in jail for perjury concerning Bridgegate). The sad fact is there are no top Republicans in a position to stop the impending mess, because they abandoned their moral moorings (and their credibility) long ago.

Then who?

The Republican clergy. Yes, that’s right, the Christian pastors, and especially the evangelicals. They appear to be the only ones who retain any credibility among that crowd. Although they’re the exact ones who have been among those most responsible for whipping up this insane fury against Hillary, against Obama, against Democrats, in the first place, they could ironically prove to be the peacemakers. Nixon, the arch anti-Communist, went to Red China, met with Mao, and changed the course of history. Likewise these evangelical preachers could be the first to talk to their flocks and tell them that they cannot shed blood—God will not allow it—they will go to Hell if they fire upon their brothers and sisters. (It’s “render unto Caesar” time, Christians!)

That would be a huge stretch for these preachers. They’ve not been known for courage, or truthfulness—quite the opposite. But the rubber is hitting the road, my friends, and it may be time for rightwing clergy to throw the balm of common sense onto the incendiarism they helped spark. If, that is, they have any hope for saving their own souls.

TOMORROW: Why is Wikileaks going after Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump? An analysis

Evangelical women could hold the key to electing Hillary

 

An evangelical preacher and a conservative billionaire walk into a bar…

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but there’s no punch line, really, just a sort of nostril-pinching stench to the whole affair. The preacher would be Dr. James Dobson, founder of “Focus on the Family,” who said that gay marriage signals “the fall of western civilization,” who called Obama “one of the worst presidents in American history,” a “tyrant…reckless and defiant,” who said that women who suffer from domestic violence from their male spouses “deliberately bait [their] husbands until they hit her,” who caused a university professor to be fired for teaching evolution, who sided with Jerry Falwell that the issue of global warming “is a tool of Satan being used to distract churches”–this same Dobson now claims to know personally that Trump recently [has] come to accept a relationship with Christ and [is] now a baby Christian.”

Trump as born-again Christian? Look, anything is possible. Perhaps Saint Donald really did have a road-to-the-White-House moment, falling to to his knees, renouncing the rampant sexual rage that has fueled him all his life, and accepting Jesus into his heart. Perhaps—or maybe he simply realized that pretending to be a Christian was his only conceivable chance.

Do you believe him? Even if it’s true, is that really a recommendation to vote for him—or a reason not to? Personally, I think Trump is the most devious and manipulative candidate I’ve ever seen in American politics, including Richard Nixon. He will say anything, no matter how ridiculous, no matter how easily disproved, in order to gain the slightest advantage in this election. He has no core beliefs, no diehard principles, except to advance the cause of Donald J. Trump—which cause apparently includes the right to grab a pretty girl’s pussy.

In truth, the rock-solid evangelical wall of support for Trump isn’t as firm as it was just a week ago, before the “pussy” video was released. Yesterday there were scattered reports of defections by evangelicals from the Trump campaign. The editorial director of the major Christian publication, Christianity Today, even conceded that Christian “enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus Christ is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us…”.

Count me in as one of those doubtful neighbors! It is patently clear that Trump is the antithesis of everything that evangelicals claim to believe in. It’s also patently clear that this hypocrisy doesn’t bother most of them in the least. Why not? Their “deep aversion to Hillary Clinton” is stronger than their aversion to Trump’s character. Well, to begin to fathom this, you might re-read my blog from yesterday, but really, there is no fathoming, no logical or rational understanding, to explain how allegedly God-fearing Christians can vote for a man so obviously devoid of moral character. There is, however, late-breaking evidence that evangelical women finally are seeing Trump’s true character and are “waking up” to the horror of his “locker room banter.”

We can only hope that increasing numbers of such evangelical women will whisper into their husbands’ ears that Trump really is a truly awful human being, and that even if they—the husbands—are inclined to support him, the wives are asking for a big favor this one time: please, honey, don’t.

For the Republican Party find its way back, it has to get rid of evangelicals

 

Political parties in America are remarkably hardy. They have proven themselves to be adaptable to the most far-ranging circumstances. The Republican Party has gone through many crises since its founding (in 1854). It has enjoyed periods of near-monopolistic control (1860-1912) and periods when it seemed like an endangered species (1932-1952). The party has swung from far right to moderate and back again, depending on the exigencies of the moment. Currently, it’s undergoing what David Gergen calls “a civil war” between its rightwing extemists and more “moderate” traditionalists. Democrats are enjoying this particular battle—I certainly am!—but before we break out the champagne we should keep in mind that this GOP is wily and will likely regroup after Trump’s defeat.

My younger readers might not understand how the Republicans got into their current predicament, so let me tell you about the last 45 years. When Richard Nixon ran for re-election in 1972, he realized he had no hope of winning the Black vote, which is essential to capturing the big cities of America. Therefore he developed “the southern strategy,” a thinly-disguised appeal to racism below the Mason-Dixon line. It worked; the Solid South, formerly Democratic, turned Republican, and remains that way.

The appeal to whites, particularly white males, continued throughout the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. The latter was not an especially conservative Republican, although he had to play nice with evangelicals (whom he disliked personally) and anti-abortion types (with whom he and his wife, Barbara, disagreed). Around this time—the late 1980s and early 1990s—the Republican Party made a fateful decision: it cast its political lot with evangelicals, to put together the coalition that elected George W. Bush twice. But in so doing, it empowered the fringe Christian right, who actually raised to power insane men such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee.

These people, the most extreme rightwingers, were emboldened enough during Bill Clinton’s presidency to impeach him. Fortunately, the American people—even many Republicans—realized that the right had vastly overreached. They continued to support Clinton by great majorities, which is why the Senate eventually failed to convict him. But the rightwingers had proven their power; they were just getting started. For the last twenty years, they’ve been busy little bees, taking over state houses and state legislatures; and their consistent message has been one of hatred against Democrats—a hatred that went on steroids with the election of our first Black President, Barack Obama.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the biggest problem with the Republican Party is that it doesn’t have the courage to stand up to the evangelicals. Many if not most clear-thinking Republicans believe that evangelicals are nuts. Donald Trump, for example, knows that the world was not created 6,000 years ago. He knows that Adam and Eve didn’t play with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden, and that the Grand Canyon was not created by Noah’s flood. He knows that the world with all its marvels wasn’t made in six days, and that science is the best way to explain and understand the universe. In his private moments (and perhaps a tape recording will surface), he, like most wealthy New Yorkers, thinks that evangelicals are redneck rubes he would never invite to his and Melania’s parties.

And make no mistake, it has been evangelicals who have driven the Republican Party off the cliff. They’re ignorant, yes, and stubborn as mules, and they celebrate their own lack of education. But they vote, and have provided the tipping point in electing Republicans for several decades now, so they have to be courted. People like Donald Trump have to pretend to respect them. But this merely emboldens the evangelicals even more: it makes them think they’re more powerful and numerous than they really are. That, in turn, causes them to raise the stakes: no on abortion, no on gay rights (despite what the Supreme Court says), no on a separation of church and state, no on taxes for billionaires, no on science, no on climate change, no on diplomacy—no on the very things that, if enacted into law, would actually benefit them and their families. It’s been a question on the Left for years: how come these Republicans vote against their own interests and the interests of their parents and children?

The answer is simple. Their thinking process is so messed up, by the superstitions and malice of their religion, that they’re no longer capable of sane decision-making. That’s a terrible thing to accuse them of, I know. I have evangelicals in my family. They are wonderful people—they’d give you the shirt off their back. They give to charity, they generally are good parents, they are loyal patriots who love their country, they are law-abiding citizens. Let’s give them their due.

But when it comes to intellectual clarity, they are a most diseased demographic. Their rejection of science indicates something seriously wrong with their frontal lobes. This is not a disease caused by germs or viruses or accidents; it is a self-inflicted mental sickness. But humans have free will. Nobody can force somebody else to be rational.

There’s probably a rock-solid 20%-25% of the American public that’s evangelical and isn’t about to change. What the Republican Party has to do, if it wants to live, is clean house, and the first thing to get thrown out must be evangelicals. This will cause an uproar, for sure, especially in the reddest of the red-state Bible belt: Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, etc. The preachers will go insane and so will their pet congressmen. Limbaugh will be foaming at the mouth, and fox “news” will go on a rampage, especially the Vaticanistas like Hannity and O’Reilly. David Gergen’s “civil war” might just erupt for real and manifest itself in riots. But it has to be done. These evangelicals are a cancer on the Republican Party, as they are on the country, and as with any cancer, the only way to help the patient survive is to excise it.

Repubs show classic Freudian avoidance behavior, try to distract from Hillary’s surge

 

In Freudian psychoanalysis, there’s a defense mechanism, called reaction formation, in which emotions and impulses which are anxiety-producing or perceived to be unacceptable are mastered by exaggeration (hypertrophy) of the directly opposing tendency.” (Wikipedia) One example of reaction formation is Stockholm Syndrome: when a hostage develops intense, positive feelings for his or her captor/s. Another is when closeted homosexuals bash gays; Roy Cohn was a classic example, but so have been any number of outed Republican politicians, such as Larry “Wide Stance” Craig, the disgraced, homophobic former Republican Senator from Idaho, who was caught soliciting in a men’s room.

Reaction formation is something politicians sometimes do when they’re afraid they’re on the losing side of an election and they want/need to distract attention from their losing positions and perhaps convince themselves they’re doing okay. Such was the case in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, where the op-ed page could be used in a Psych 101 class, so filled was it with different kinds of reaction formations. But first, a little background.

Nate Silver’s highly respected fivethirtyeight.com website has had Hillary Clinton on a real roll lately. Since the first Presidential debate, her chances of getting elected have soared, from 54.8% to 78.8% as I write (Thursday afternoon). This is clearly scary for Republicans. It is information that is anxiety-producing or perceived to be unacceptable” for them, and therefore must be hidden by “the directly opposing tendency,” which is to rachet up their attacks on Democrats. The psychological hope, I suppose, is that WSJ readers (who tend to be conservatives) will be reassured that the Republican Party is sticking it to Democrats—even as that Republican Party is headed towards near-certain doom in the election.

So what do we find on the op-ed page? A deplorable basket of stuff that’s really phony, even for the Wall Street Journal. Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a bumpy ride!

Aleppo is Obama’s Sarajevo, by Daniel Henninger. A desperate smear of the President by a dreadfully partisan columnist. Henninger is actually trying to pin the Syrian war on Obama, which nobody believes except for red state ignoramuses and neocons. This is in line with Trump’s love-fest for Putin. Henninger will never admit that George W. Bush caused the Syrian war to happen when he criminally invaded Iraq and caused chaos across the Middle East.

The FBI Treated Clinton With Kid Gloves, by Noel Francisco and James Burnham. To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, “Enough with the frigging emails already!” Nobody cares. That manufactured scandal’s shelf life ended weeks ago, but here’s the Wall Street Journal, desperately reaction-formationing this smear. Sad, really sad. The atmosphere in the Journal’s editorial room must be near suicidal.

ObamaCare’s Meltdown Has Arrived, by Andrew Ogles and Luke Hilgemann. The paper could have published this two years ago, one year ago, six months ago, three months ago—wait a minute, they did! Republicans have consistently lied about ObamaCare’s success in insuring tens of millions of Americans. This “meltdown” myth is so transparently fake, you have to wonder why the Journal felt yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act is needed at this time. But then, that’s the essence of reaction formation: the actual choice of behavior doesn’t matter. What counts is coming up with something, anything to deflect the pain of something as “anxiety-producing and unacceptable” as Trump’s crash in the polls.

And here, in a way, is my favorite, from the ever-dependable Karl Rove:

Trump Sorely Needs a Debate Win. Ole Karl must have had a really bad day if this is the best he could come up with. My little dog, Gus, could have told me that!

See the pattern? The Wall Street Journal is panicking. The center is not holding. Republicans see the handwriting on the wall—the disaster they have foisted upon themselves—and the only thing they can do about it is bury their heads in the sand and come up with ludicrous avoidance behaviors to mask the pain. Unfortunately, as Freud himself warned, reaction formation solves nothing. It merely pushes the anxiety down deeper, where it can manifest itself in truly harmful ways.

Dear Mike Pence: Take your Christian homophobia and shove it!

 

This is what Pence said in the early 1990s: “Homosexuals are not as a group able bodied. They are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity which is a hallmark of their lifestyle.”

And this is what he said as recently as last year, when as Indiana’s governor he tried to ram through the nation’s most discriminatory anti-gay law, which he lied about with Orwellian doublespeak when he pretended it was designed to guarantee “religious freedom” rather than its true purpose, pure-and-simple Christian gay bashing in that red Bible belt state.

Look, the real “high rates of disease” in America are found in the Republican Party—where the disease of homophobia has assumed epidemic-like proportions and represents a clear danger to our health and freedom.

And not just homophobia: its handmaiden, misogyny, also has swept through the GOP. The reason the two sicknesses are so often intertwined is because the men (mainly white, uneducated and angry) who hate gays also believe in a Biblical place for women: barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. They are threatened by strong, progressive women (like Hillary Clinton). There are, unfortunately, many women who hate gays too. They tend to be Bible-thumping Christians, like Mrs. Pence, and do not have the intellectual capacity to understand that their Bible stories are largely myths that, however inspiring, never happened, and have no place in a secular, Constitutional democracy, which is what America is. These same women who hate gays tend also to subscribe to their husbands’ views that women should be subjugated to men: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord,” it says in Colossians 3:18, which goes on to add:

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of every woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God….”.

Onward Christian soldiers! And for all those Sharia-fearing Christians who are so intolerant of the burka, here is the New Testament’s rule for women when the Rapture comes: “…any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head …For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair.”

They said it in the Bible, folks!

Pence’s homophobia is lifelong and stubbornly resistant to cure. His master’s homophobia is of more recent acquisition. Trump never had the reputation as a gay basher, and he’s downplayed gay issues in this campaign—at least, from his own lips. But that hasn’t stopped him from making whoopee with homophobes like Pence and the crowd at Liberty University and all the other haters. What causes a heretofore tolerant New Yorker to come down on the homophobic side of the fence? Trump looked around, realized that in order to get elected President he needed the support of a group of people he had mocked all his life as redneck rubes—evangelical Christians—and suddenly discovered his inner homophobe.

So much for principles!

Incidentally, it’s not only Christians who have a medieval attitude towards women and gays. So do many Orthodox Jews. I once made friends with a young Chasidic man, of the Lubavitch persuasion, who introduced me to his friends in Berkeley. I got to know their chief rabbi and actually studied with him. After a year or so, I became troubled with their group’s reputation as being virulently anti-gay, so I had a little chat with Rabbi. I asked him what he thought about all the “death penalties” in the Old Testament, of which there are dozens.

For instance, Exodus  21:!7: “’Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death.”

“So, Rabbi,” I asked, “does that mean that if a little kid has a temper tantrum and says to his father or mother, ‘Fuck you!’ that kid should be murdered?”

Of course not,” Rabbi smiled indulgently. “It’s a metaphor.” And “a metaphor” is how he described every death penalty I described to him—some two dozen in all. Until, that is, we came to the most infamous Torah death penalty of all, Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” And being “an abomination,” of course, it is punishable by death: preferably stoning in the public square.

“So do you agree with that, Rabbi?”

Here, Rabbi seemed a little uncomfortable. Instead of calling it “a metaphor” he shifted in his seat and tried to change the subject, but intrepid journalist that I was, I wouldn’t let him.

“So, Rabbi, again, does that mean you believe gay people should be killed?”

“Look,” Rabbi finally said. “It’s not going to happen until Moshiach” [the Jewish Messiah] “returns to Jerusalem and institutes Jewish law. So nobody has to worry about such things for a while.”

Well, the problem here, of course—as it is with radically religious Christian Republicans—is that “the thought is father to the deed.” I for one don’t want to keep my fingers crossed and hope that the Messiah never comes, so that gay people will not be executed. Nor do I want Christian homophobes to come anywhere close to the levers of power, for haters like that have judgments so clouded by superstition and resentment, they can’t be trusted to make any decision affecting millions of Americans.

And yet, here’s Mike Pence, potentially a heartbeat away from the Presidency, with his violent attitudes towards millions, possibly tens of millions, of LGBTQ citizens, including children. Which is why I use language that is admittedly immoderate—but moderation in the pursuit of human freedom is never a virtue. Pence, take your Christian homophobia and shove it!