This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him.
- “Boycott the Republican Party”, Johnathan Rauch & Benjamin Wittes, The Atlantic, March 2018
One hundred and ninety-eight days. That’s how much time we have to get the job done and ensure victories that will bring both the House and the Senate back under Democratic control. That’s how much time we have to save our Republic. As Rauch and Wittes wrote last month, it is vital that we defeat the Republican Party by voting for Democrats at every level, local, state and national, because the Republican Party has become a mortal threat to our functioning democracy. This isn’t about partisanship. Their Atlantic article, in fact, was written for conservatives who want “to save the GOP from itself”. This is about saving our country and the values and institutions that define and uphold it.
Though it may have caught us by surprise in November of 2016, the radicalization of the Republican Party had been going on long before Trump won. His election was more like the breaching of a wall that many had imagined was impregnable than the sudden appearance of a threat. For years the right has rejected the norms and institutions that make democracy possible. Their propaganda apparatus (for Fox, Breitbart, Limbaugh, et al, are emphatically not journalism) has worked overtime to delegitimize the media, education, government and other institutions as well as the beliefs and norms that underpin them: the concept of objective truth, the idea that there are limits to acceptable behavior, and so on. They have insisted on replacing them with a tribal epistemology in which the only thing that makes a thing true or right is whether it’s an accepted member of their tribe – the radical right – who is saying it.
Enter Trump. His gift, such as it is, sits at the intersection of pathological narcissism and scam. He can lie without a trace of conscience and uses lies to build and maintain the frauds responsible for his success. The combination of Trump’s skill as a con artist with a conservative movement ready to believe anything as long as it was delivered by one of its own was a kind of opposite apotheosis. The movement that had insisted that no rules could apply to it now had a transgressor who stopped at nothing. The liar par excellence had a base that was infinitely gullible and eager to believe the most outrageous and contradictory nonsense.
We’ve seen this play out as Republicans across the board have come to embrace Trump and as their conspiracy theories attempting to defend him from what appear to be his myriad crimes get crazier and crazier. We’ve seen it play out as other Republicans – Roy Moore, Greg Gianforte, Eric Greitens, Scott Pruitt – shamelessly insist that they’re above the rules, too. It’s critical for us all to realize: for the survival of our country, this party, in its present form, has to be completely defeated. If not, we’ll be living in a post-truth dictatorship. It’s time to step up. Now.
Wouldn’t Trump Have to Be Guilty for Cohen to Flip?
Trump’s highest levels of anxiety this past week seemed to be reserved for the FBI investigation into his fixer/attorney Michael Cohen. The FBI had raided Cohen’s office, home and hotel room on the previous Monday and on this past Monday lawyers for both Cohen and Trump argued in court that documents containing communications between the president* and his fixer should be turned over to them for review to identify possible attorney client privilege concerns. Judge Kimba Wood wasn’t buying it. Nor was she buying keeping the name of one of Cohen’s three clients under wraps, despite his lawyer's protests that the client didn’t want to be identified. The lawyer was then forced to tell her his name: Sean Hannity, eliciting gasps and laughter from the courtroom.
Hannity claimed that he had never paid Cohen for advice and, indeed, had only asked him a few questions about real estate. How this squares with his insistence on having attorney client privileges and with his anxiety about keeping it all quiet is anybody’s guess. Hannity had also spent the previous week attacking the FBI raid on his show, while withholding the information that he was Cohen’s client. Any organization practicing journalism would have fired him on the spot. Fortunately for Hannity, he works for Fox "News" instead.
As the week went on, the conversation turned to whether Cohen himself would turn and provide evidence against Trump. Word was that Trump’s allies and family were very worried that Cohen would flip, with one Trump advisor insisting that Cohen would do anything to avoid being raped by black men in prison. By the end of the week, it was also reported that Trump, who is notorious for mistreating everyone in sight, had been especially abusive to Cohen for years. Trump went mad, insisting that he was fond of Cohen and calling one of the article's sources a “drunk, drugged-up loser”, thereby disproving the rumors that he’s abusive to associates. Most significantly, Trump focused on why Cohen wouldn’t flip – not why he couldn’t, which is what an innocent man would claim.
In Other News
- Republicans threatened to subpoena the memos of former FBI Director James Comey, forcing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to release them. As with the Nunes memos, the move blew up in their faces, further confirming testimony Comey had already given and bolstering the case against Trump for obstruction of justice. Republicans may never realize that the move backfired, though, because they almost never do, making up more comforting lies instead.
- Even more examples of Scott Pruitt’s ethical breaches surfaced, leading Republicans to do… nothing. Democrats, however, issued a joint resolution demanding that he resign.
- House Republicans are pushing a disastrous Farm Bill, which would impose work requirements on food stamp recipients, creating an unwieldy, unfunded bureaucracy and pushing hungry people off the rolls. It would also drastically loosen pesticide regulations, harming Americans. It needs to be stopped.
- Several polls were released that showed Democrats in tough Senate races doing surprisingly well. Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Phil Bredesen in Tennessee all outperformed potential Republican rivals and, in Texas, Beto O’Rourke polled just three points behind Ted Cruz. O’Rourke, who refuses super PAC money, also significantly out-fundraised Cruz in the last quarter. Cruz fought back, writing a fawning puff piece praising his bully, Trump, for Time magazine, thereby shredding any remaining dignity he may have had.
- In Arizona, a poll put Democrat Hiral Tipirneni ahead of Republican Debbie Lesko by a single point prior to a special election this Tuesday in AZ House District 8. The district is deeply red, with lots of retirees, but Tirpirneni is a physician who is talking about healthcare and education, while Lesko is focused instead on building a wall. A Tipirneni win would be huge, but if she loses, she’ll run again in November. Even a close loss would send shudders through the GOP. And the base she’s building up there will help Sinema in November. So let’s help her win!
- The Democratic Party sued Russia, Wikileaks and members of the Trump campaign, alleging a widespread conspiracy to help swing the 2016 US presidential election. According to Supreme Court advocate Laurence Tribe, “This lawsuit is well-grounded jurisdictionally and legally, dodges the difficulties that might’ve been triggered by naming Trump personally, and puts a high-powered piece on the 4-dimensional chessboard that can cause Trump’s circle endless trouble (through discovery and otherwise) after criminal proceedings have been completed and regardless of what happens on the impeachment front.” Yes!
- Despite it being the GOP's big selling point in this year’s elections, the public isn’t warming to the Republican Tax Scam passed last December. So now Republicans are contemplating passing another tax bill this summer. When will they ever learn?
- Arizona teachers, following the example of teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, plan to walk off the job on April 26th. As in the other states, the action is in response to GOP fiscal policies that starve teachers of pay and schools of funding.
- Finally, last Friday students around the nation walked out of their schools at 10 am in memory of the Columbine shooting and in support of the Parkland students’ call for student safety through sensible gun legislation. The students continue to organize and to register voters. Republicans continue to ignore them. Guess who is going to vote them out?
198 days. There is so much to do and we are here to help you find ways to do it. We need all hands on deck from now through the election. There are opportunities galore. And we still need to hold the line. It only takes three calls to get a Senator’s attention about an issue. Let’s give them three hundred so they know we mean it.
The Blue Wave won’t happen on its own, but if we all pitch in nothing will be able to stop it.
– 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.