“Bringing Normal Back”
Trump's creating energy among the Democratic base that wants to come out and wants to make the change and wants to do something to fight back against what's happening. At the same time, he's creating enough chaos and divisiveness and hostility that Republicans who would never ordinarily vote for a Democrat say, "Okay, well I've got all the chaos and hostility I can handle right now. I'll vote for somebody who wants to try to find common ground and get things done for me, even if they're a Democrat.”
- Joe Trippi, Doug Jones’s Campaign Manager, discussing Doug’s win in Alabama
This past Tuesday the Democratic candidate Conor Lamb won the special election for the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania’s 18th district – at last count by only 627 votes out of more than 227,000 cast. This was a stunning victory. Trump carried the district by nearly 20 points in 2016 and Democrats hadn’t even bothered to run a candidate in the past two House elections.
Lamb did it by being a great candidate – a young, handsome, ex-Marine public prosecutor with a long family history in the district – and by running a campaign that focused not on Trump but on what his constituents need from Washington: a functioning government that will maintain the programs they depend on and will care for the quality of their lives. The other key factor in his win was the tireless work of two groups: grassroots progressive women and organized labor. Their combined effort, bolstered by help from around the country, put Lamb over the top.
Lamb didn’t spend much time criticizing or running against Trump, who remains pretty popular in his district. But what he did do was to run for stability, effectiveness, belief in facts – for the normalcy that we lost when Trump came into power. I would argue that he didn’t have to mention Trump much. People are well aware of the lies, the chaos, and the destructiveness that Trump flings around himself. They’re aware of the spinelessness of the Republicans and the destruction of the government at their hands. And they long, as we do, to be able to wake up in the morning and enjoy their life without worrying that something new is now also spinning out of control, or someone new is being attacked.
It’s this longing for a return to normal – for caring, responsibility, truth, order, justice, stability – that needs to be the foundation of campaigns as we work ceaselessly this year to take back the House and Senate. It needs to be our brand. I write this knowing that this “normal” has been a sign of privilege, that for far too many that normal was harsh, dangerous, unjust. We must do better. We must insist that that stability and security should be extended not only to some, but to all. Still, moving away from chaos, the lies and the authoritarianism is the critical first step. It will not be easy.
Destroying the Rule of Law
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you.
-Former CIA Director John Brennan, in response to Trump’s gloating tweet about the firing of Andrew McCabe
The chaos around Trump continues to grow. Reportedly emboldened and encouraged by his unilateral decisions to impose trade barriers and to meet with Kim Jong Un, Trump fired Secretary of State on Tuesday by tweet. Rumors buzzed through the week about other cabinet members slated for dismissal, while the morale at the White House plummeted.
Tillerson was arguably the worst Secretary of State in American history, presiding over an unprecedented decimation of the department. But his replacement will almost certainly be worse. Trump has nominated noted hawk and Trump lackey CIA Director Mike Pompeo for the job. Replacing Pompeo at the CIA, if Trump has his way, will be Gina Haspel. She, too, must be opposed, as she ran a “black site” in Thailand where torture was practiced during the Bush administration, then later destroyed the evidence – videos of the interrogations.
Midweek, Trump bragged about lying to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a conversation about trade. Lying to Trump is like breathing, but it’s rare for him to admit it.
Then, Friday evening, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Director Andrew McCabe two days before his retirement. The proceedings against McCabe haven’t been made public, so it’s impossible at this point to judge the case against him. But McCabe asserted that, “I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey.” Coming on the heels of months of Trump’s ranting about McCabe and pressuring Sessions, the firing had all the appearance of a vendetta, even before Trump released a gloating, wholly false tweet in the aftermath of the firing. On Saturday, unsurprisingly, Trump’s lawyer called for the Mueller investigation to be ended – surely the point of the whole attack.
We’re now seeing, in faster waves, Trump’s push for complete and unquestioned authority: dictatorship. He wants to decide, alone, without meaningful input. He expects loyalty and supplication. He will tolerate no dissent and wants to be free of all constraint. He uses the instruments of government to harass and attack his enemies.
Trump is fulfilling the essence of the statement he made during his campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” The clear meaning of this is “even if I were to commit the most flagrant and odious crime, I would not be punished for it.” He will continue to push the limits of his authority – to wield total power, to destroy whatever he wants to, to commit his odious crimes – until he is stopped. He will never restrain himself. The Republicans, a grievance-and-propaganda driven tribe, no longer a political party in the way we understand the term – will not act to constrain him. We must stop Trump. As you can see from John Brennan’s quote above, we are not alone. There are many of us – a majority – but we must act.
In The News
• The Guardian published an extensive series about Cambridge Analytica, the Bannon/Mercer data company that helped Trump win the 2016 election. The articles allege that the firm illegally acquired data on 50 million Facebook users that it used for election cyberwarfare. Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica and associated persons from its platform, which appears to be far too little, far too late. And, yes, there are ties to Russia.
• Twelve Democratic Senators joined Republicans in weakening financial protections in the Dodd/Frank Act. This may well come back to haunt them.
• Republicans are making noises about passing further tax cuts – for example, making individual cuts permanent and daring Dems to oppose them. It’s apparently the only thing they know how to do – and they may be concerned that their existing tax cuts didn’t help them at all in Pennsylvania this week.
• The administration continues to undermine the Affordable Care Act, poisoning attempts to shore it up. Americans’ health care is increasingly at risk as a result.
• Republicans are also seeking Democrats’ help to fix bad mistakes that occurred because they wrote their tax bill in a mad, secretive rush (remember the handwritten changes added right before votes were taken?). They should receive zero help. They messed it up; they must suffer the consequences.
• Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a key proponent of the false “voter fraud” movement used as an excuse for disenfranchisement, is struggling to defend his charade in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU. Kobach and Devin Nunes seem to bring about the same level of skill to their work.
• Stormy Daniels, the porn star who signed an non-disclosure agreement with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, meant to keep her from talking about an affair with Trump that took place shortly after his son Barron was born, was threatened by another Trump lawyer. Daniels maintains that since Trump never signed the agreement, it is invalid. Trump’s lawyers are trying to move the matter to federal court, a move which could force Trump to testify. Oops. And – look for her interview to air on 60 Minutes Sunday, March 25th.
• It was reported that Robert Mueller’s investigation has subpoenaed financial records from the Trump organization. His investigation must be protected at all costs.
• As Trump continues to fire people right and left, he’s apparently looking for replacements who are “fun to be with” and “look good on TV”. Trump is our first fake president.
Finally, a blinding ray of hope. Last Wednesday, students all over the country walked out of their classes at 10 am for seventeen minutes to commemorate the seventeen killed in Parkland, Florida. In some cases, their schools supported them. In others, the students risked derision, suspension or even corporal punishment. They walked out anyway. The Parkland students, driving this effort, are not backing down. They won’t forget that their lives are at stake. We must not back down either. Our country and our lives are at stake, too, and are being threatened right now.
Fight back by acting today to take back the House and Senate here: Act to Win. And defend our democracy by keeping up the pressure on our elected officials here: Take Action. And on Saturday the 24th, join students everywhere as they #MarchForOurLives.
– Tom Benthin
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org .
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook. Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news. To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, we provide this weekly summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.