It’s almost as if Trump is determined to destroy the Republican Party

Let me summarize the Republican platform for the coming election:

  • We are the party of white racial grievance. We believe
  • those marching in Black Lives Matter protests are “thugs.”
  • We see the term “systemic racism” as an unfair attack on white people.
  • We support keeping Confederate monuments on their pedestals, and
  • we have no idea why anyone would consider Confederate flags a problem.
  • We are equal-opportunity racists.
  • We see Latino immigrants as “bad hombres.” And
  • we believe that using the racist term “kung flu” to describe covid-19 is hilarious, not least because
  • we are convinced the covid-19 pandemic is basically over, anyway.
  • Who cares what pointy-headed “experts” might say — we know in our hearts that patriotic Americans don’t wear masks.

Those are some of the views Republicans endorse by uncritically embracing and supporting President Trump. He is leading his party down a sewer of unabashed racism and willful ignorance, and all who follow him — and I mean all — deserve to feel the mighty wrath of voters in November.

I’m talking to you, Sen.

  • Susan Collins of Maine. And you, Sen.
  • Cory Gardner of Colorado. And you, Sens.
  • Thom Tillis of North Carolina,
  • Martha McSally of Arizona,
  • Joni Ernst of Iowa,
  • Steve Daines of Montana,
  • Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and
  • John Cornyn of Texas.

And while those of you in deep-red states whose reelection ordinarily would be seen as a mere formality may not see the giant millstones you’ve hung around your necks as a real risk, think again. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina and even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, you should look at the numbers and realize you are putting your Senate seats — and the slim GOP majority — in dire jeopardy.

You can run and hide from reporters asking you about Trump’s latest statements or tweets. You can pretend not to hear shouted questions as you hurry down Capitol hallways. You can take out your cellphones and feign being engrossed in a terribly important call. Ultimately, you’re going to have to answer to voters — and in the meantime you have decided to let Trump speak for you. Best of luck with that.

It is not really surprising that Trump, with his poll numbers falling and his reelection in serious jeopardy, would decide to use race and public health as wedge issues to inflame his loyal base. That’s all he knows how to do.

Most politicians would see plunging poll numbers as a warning to try a different approach; Trump takes them as a sign to do more of the same — more race-baiting, more authoritarian “law and order” posturing, more see-no-evil denial of a raging pandemic that has cost more than 120,000 American lives.

Racism is a feature of the Trump shtick, not a bug. He sees the nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd as an opportunity not for healing and reform, but to stir anger and resentment among his overwhelmingly white voting base. Trump wants no part of the reckoning with history the country seems to crave.

This week, city officials in Charleston, S.C. — the place where the Civil War began — took down a statue of John C. Calhoun, a leading 19th-century politician and fierce defender of slavery, from its 115-foot column in Marion Square and hauled it away to a warehouse. Also this week, Trump reportedly demanded that the District’s monument to Confederate Gen. Albert Pike, toppled last week by protesters, be cleaned up and reinstalled exactly as it was.

Trump went to Arizona not just to falsely claim great progress on building his promised border wall, intended to keep out the “hombres,” but also to delight fervent young supporters by referring to covid-19 as “kung flu.” Weeks ago, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said that racist term was clearly offensive and unacceptable. But since Trump has made it into a red-meat applause line, Conway now apparently thinks it’s a perfectly legitimate way to identify the virus’s country of origin.

All the other Republicans who fail to speak up while Trump runs the most nakedly racist presidential campaign since George Wallace in 1968 shouldn’t kid themselves. Their silence amounts to agreement. Perhaps there’s enough white bitterness out there to carry the Republican Party to another narrow win. But that’s not what the polls say.

Trump’s antics are self-defeating. He’ll put on a racist show for a shrinking audience, but he won’t wear the masks that could allow the economic reopening he desperately wants. He may be able to avoid reality, but the Republican governors — including Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida — scrambling desperately to contain new outbreaks cannot.

It’s almost as though Trump is determined to destroy the Republican Party. Let’s give him his wish.

Newt Gingrich Didn’t Break American Politics

The Times podcast focuses less on Gingrich’s style and more on his use of so-called “wedge issues.” Times columnist Jennifer Senior interviews Republican former congressman Vin Weber about how the GOP “exploited” American differences on cultural issues such as partial-birth abortion and gay marriage to help hand them their first majority in two generations.

But it turns out that “wedge issue” is just another word for “popular position.” In the early 1990s, there wasn’t a meaningful electoral constituency for gay marriage. There wasn’t much public support for partial-birth abortion. By bringing up cultural issues, the Republicans not only gave voice to millions of Americans who had deep concerns about the cultural direction of the country, but also exposed divisions in the Democratic coalition.

Gingrich’s Contract with America (you can read it here) was extensively poll-tested to present only promises that had overwhelming public support. Gingrich was a political street fighter, yes, but he was playing a very strong political hand. Congress was overdue for serious change.

.. it’s hard to argue that he “broke politics” when the GOP House and the Clinton administration worked together to enact significant legislation.

.. What? The president of the United States (a man who is almost certainly a sexual predator, by the way) had an affair with an intern in the Oval Office and lied about it under oath. He lied to the American people. He conducted a systematic smear campaign against his accusers and his investigators. None of this was Newt Gingrich’s fault.

.. It is absolutely worth profiling Gingrich and considering his role in American politics — including the undeniable part he’s played in American polarization. Some of his tactics have absolutely been destructive. But the diagnosis here is just fundamentally wrong.

.. Did Newt Gingrich “break” American politics more than Roe v. Wade did? Do progressives know or care about the shock waves Ted Kennedy’s “Bork’s America” speech sent rippling through conservative America? Lest you need reminding, here is the key part of that vile text:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.

But for progressives, Roe is good and Bork is bad, and so a bit of sloppy judicial reasoning or rhetorical excess is but a trifling compared to the worth of the broader cause. It’s the arc of history bending towards justice, and that’s not always neat or clean.

.. There’s no question that Newt Gingrich was an important figure, but he was an inevitable important figure. If Gingrich hadn’t ended Democratic dominance of the House, someone else would have. There were tensions in the Democratic coalition that could not be avoided. The Democratic hammerlock on the House was out of step with the composition of the American electorate. The tidal forces of cultural conflicts launched decades before were going to tear apart Congress in the same way they’d torn apart campuses and caused conflict at kitchen tables.So, no, Gingrich didn’t break American politics. But he did help break a progressive monopoly on the House, which the GOP has controlled 20 of the 24 years since. And given the aggression and incivility they overlook on their own side, it’s clear that for many commentators on the left, ending Democratic dominance is Gingrich’s truly enduring sin.

Melania Trump issues statement in support of LeBron James after president insults him

The president took to his favorite medium and attacked James’s intelligence Friday night after CNN aired an interview in which the NBA star told anchor Don Lemon that he thought Trump was trying to divide the country by using sports as a wedge.

.. “What I’ve noticed over the past few months,” James told Lemon, “is [Trump has] kinda used sports to kinda divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to.”

While James has not commented on Trump’s tweet, others have responded both directly and indirectly — like the first lady.

“It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation,” said Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham. “And just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today.”

.. During the interview, James told Lemon his first interaction with the white community was on the basketball court, where divisions melted away. “Sports has never been something that divides people,” James said.

Trump’s Cynical Immigration Strategy Might Work for Him—Again

The lesson Trump has learned is not that saying shocking, untrue, and arguably racist things about immigrants is politically dangerous but that doing so helped him become President.

.. But others, Merkley told me, quickly saw political peril. “There were folks saying, ‘My goodness, shifting the attention from health care to immigration is a huge political mistake.’ ”

.. Senator Jeff Merkley said he considers Trump a “fear” candidate from a Party that had learned to run what he called the “three-terrors strategy”: pick three issues that scare the American public, and emphasize them at all costs.

.. Trump’s ability to gin up fears about illegal immigration, more than perhaps any other issue, won him the White House. Headed into a midterm election that will be won by the political party that can better rally its base, Trump has remained determined to talk about immigration, even when others in his party have resisted. Indeed, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill were furious with Trump as the immigration controversy spiralled out of control this week—a time they had planned to spend celebrating the G.O.P. tax cut, along with the general strength of the economy, which they hope to make the centerpiece of their fall campaign.

.. Trump, she told me, had a “freakishly stable” approval rating; in such a polarized moment, people know where they stand on the President.

.. voters in both parties are more motivated to vote than they were at any time in the previous twenty years.

.. The pollster agreed that it appeared to be a smart move on Trump’s part to keep talking about illegal immigration as much as the economy, even in the midst of the backlash over his tough policies. “On most issues, whether health care or taxes or the general mood, the Republicans are in a bad place,” the pollster said. “This is their one wedge issue that actually works for them.”

..

The lesson learned by Trump was not that saying shocking, untrue, and arguably racist things about immigrants was politically dangerous but that doing so helped him become President. “Remember I made that speech, and I was badly criticized? ‘Oh, it’s so terrible, what he said,’ ” he told the audience. “Turned out I was a hundred per cent right. That’s why I got elected.”

.. this is exactly what Merkley predicts Trump will do between now and November. He told me in our interview that he considers Trump a “fear” candidate from a Republican Party that had learned to run what Merkley called the “three-terrors strategy”: pick three issues that scare the American public, and emphasize them at all costs.
.. he predicted, illegal immigration will be one of Trump’s main rallying cries
.. Merkley acknowledged that his more cautious Democratic colleagues could well be right: changing the subject to immigration plays into the President’s hands. “I just feel like when you see children being mistreated, forget the politics,” Merkley told me. “You’ve got to call it out as completely wrong.”

 

 

 

 

Call out his lies. He depends on them.

just calling out deceit is insufficient. It is essential as well to understand why Trump tells particular lies at particular moments and to be hardheaded in judging how effective they are.

.. Republicans on the ballot this fall should be asked if they see Pelosi as an “MS-13 lover,” and if not, whether they will denounce Trump for saying such a thing. I am not holding my breath.

.. Yet sometimes Trump engages in a perverse form of transparency. He signaled clearly that the whole point of his screed — during which he also re-upped his claim that Mexico would pay for his border wall — was about the midterm elections. Immigration, he said, is “a good issue for us, not for them.”

.. Why immigration? It’s not the central concern of most voters. A Gallup survey in May found that 10 percent of Americans listed it as the most important problem facing the country. And Trump’s wall is not popular — in a recent CBS News poll, 59 percent of Americans were against building it.

.. But currently, Trump and the Republicans aren’t focused on the majority of Americans. They are petrified that their own loyalists do not seem very motivated about voting in November.
..  just 26 percent of Americans strongly approved of Trump’s job performance, compared with 41 percent who strongly disapproved.
.. Trump and his party feel they need to screech loudly to get their side back into the game, and attacking immigration (going back to Mexican “rapists”) is the signature Trump talking point.
.. Republican House candidates are following Trump’s lead, according to a USA Today study published Tuesday, “blanketing the airwaves with TV ads embracing a hard line on immigration.” By contrast, health care was the topic most invoked in Democratic spots. The GOP’s emphasis may shift some after the primaries, but Republicans seem to know that wedge issues are more useful to them than their record.

.. Political polarization has many sources, but the prime cause of it now is the president himself. Polarization defines Trump’s survival strategy, and it means that demagoguery

  • toward immigrants,
  • toward crime,
  • toward special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe,
  • toward dissenting NFL players,
  • toward anyone who takes him on
— is what his presidency is all about.
.. What thus needs exposing is not simply Trump’s indifference to the truth but also the fact that he depends upon the kinds of lies that will tear our country to pieces.

Midterm Elections Remain Vulnerable to Russian Meddling, U.S. Spy Chief Says

The November midterm elections are vulnerable to the Russian interference that plagued the 2016 presidential election, the Trump administration’s top intelligence official said Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Moscow could undertake cyber-influence operations in the coming congressional elections similar to those it stands of accused of running in 2016.

.. “Influence operations, especially through cyber means, will remain a significant threat to U.S. interests as they are cow-cost, relatively low-risk and deniable,” wrote Mr. Coats, a former Republican Indiana senator appointed by Mr. Trump to the top intelligence job in his administration last year. “Russia probably will be the most capable and aggressive source of this threat in 2018.”

.. Mr. Coats, along with the leaders of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, told the panel they had already seen evidence Russian intends to interfere in the 2018 elections, but declined to elaborate, citing the public nature of the hearing.

.. Russia’s goal, Mr. Coats said, was to “create wedges that reduce trust and confidence in democratic processes.”

.. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo suggested that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un would be reluctant to give up his nuclear arsenal for fear that it would undermine his standing at home.

.. “The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possible upheaval—through 2018,” Mr. Coats’s assessment found.