“So what are Democrats to do? The answer is simple: This is a game they cannot win, so they have to stop playing. Know at the outset that no matter what you say or do, Republicans will cry that you’re disrespecting good heartland voters. There is no bit of PR razzle-dazzle that will stop them… Finally – and this is critical – never stop telling voters how Republicans are screwing them over. The two successful Democratic presidents of recent years were both called liberal elitists and they countered by relentlessly hammering the GOP over its advocacy for the wealthy. And it worked.”
– Paul Waldman “Why Democrats Can’t Win the ‘Respect’ of Trump Voters”
Pay attention to the storylines. Not just to the barrage and the newest news. To the storylines. Because they frame the news and give it a context. They’re less obvious than the events themselves but, if you’re unaware of the storyline, it can steer you in the wrong direction. And when a false narrative becomes commonly accepted, it warps our discourse and damages our ability to make progress.
Waldman’s article quoted above and a Twitter thread in response by David Roberts give us one example, the narrative that “elites need to stop disrespecting middle America (eg Trump voters)”. Both thoroughly debunk this myth, which is a core storyline of the rightwing propaganda machine. As they point out, it doesn’t matter what coastal, liberal residents say or do towards rural white voters in the midwest. We have no way to reach them. All they know of us is what they’re told and that’s an endless repeat of the story of our “elite” disrespect. Even competent sources of journalism fall for this storyline and repeat it. It’s fiction. We can’t counter it, so, as Waldman points out, we should stop playing the game.
“But for leaders of the Democratic Party currently trying to wrap their mind around the fact that there is limited audience for their preferred message, there is a reasonably simple hack. Democrats should connect the monopoly on our brain Donald Trump has with the issues of economic fairness and patriotism that Democrats want to talk about by showing how Trump’s personal villainy relates directly to those issues.”
Another common storyline is that Democrats are in danger if they just run against Trump, especially if they mention the “I” word. Never mind that Trump, abetted by the Republican Party, is effectively running a criminal enterprise out of the White House and is working overtime to cement his position as dictator. Somehow saving the country isn’t a compelling enough cause and we should be talking about jobs, jobs, jobs. One danger of this notion is that it effectively normalizes the authoritarian takeover of the country by ignoring it. Another, as Jeff Hauser points out, is that no one is listening to the Dems. Better, as he writes, to show how Trump’s personal villainy relates directly to economic fairness and patriotism. And, finally, at some point – are we there yet? – it’s just ludicrous to pretend that we need more evidence to impeach. It doesn’t just strain credulity, it snaps it. No, we don’t have the votes. Yet. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our voice.
“The Coup Has Already Happened”
“We already had the coup.
It happened on November 8, 2016, when an unqualified candidate won a minority victory in a corrupted election thanks in part to foreign intervention. Any time is the right time to pour into the streets and demand that it all grinds to a halt and the country change direction. The evidence that the candidate and his goons were aided by and enthusiastically collaborating with a foreign power was pretty clear before that election, and at this point, they are so entangled there isn’t really a reason to regard the born-again alt-right Republican Party and the Putin Regime as separate entities.”
– Rebecca Solnit, “The Coup Has Already Happened. So What Are We Going to Do About It?”
Far be it from me to try to lay this all out better than Rebecca Solnit. Read her piece here.
In Other News (of which there was far, far too much)
- Trump’s lifting of sanctions on Chinese phone manufacturer ZTE last week, which shocked experts concerned about the national security risks posed by ZTE’s phones, started to make more sense when it came to light that the day before China had invested $500M in a Trump development in Indonesia. Bribery is an impeachable offense.
- There had already been speculation that the blockade of Qatar was related to their previous refusal to bail out Jared Kushner, who was in serious danger from his catastrophic investment in office building at 666 Fifth Avenue (evangelicals, take note of the address and ask yourselves: is it really worth it?). This past week it turned out that Jared got his own $500M bailout from a Canadian firm whose biggest investor is – Qatar. I guess they learned their lesson. Princelings can’t be impeached. Does that mean the bribery was ok?
- Even bigger news was the Times’ report that Russia wasn’t the only country the Trumps sought out for collusion. It turns out the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were also in on the game, meeting with Don, Jr in the summer of 2016 and offering to help. Also in the meeting was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Little Don was again, unsurprisingly, eager to receive help, though it’s not yet clear what aid was forthcoming. Erik Prince, of Blackwater infamy, arranged the meeting. The Arab states representative present was George Nader – who was detained by Mueller’s team several months ago and is now a cooperating witness in the probe. It’s looking a lot like treason and bribery… can high crimes and misdemeanors be far behind?
- The Michael Cohen story took another plot twist when Ronan Farrow reported that there were two more Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) detailing records of deposits into Cohen’s slush fund that had apparently disappeared – and that had contained larger sums those in the intact report. This was why the first report had leaked: the source was concerned that the files had disappeared (a highly unusual occurrence). It’s possible that an investigation (Mueller or other FBI) had cordoned them off. It may also be possible that access was cut off by a different source within Mnuchin’s Treasury Department.
- Trump continued his verbal assault on immigrants, saying in response to a question, “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people—these are animals.” Republicans tried to pretend that the comment was only about MS-13 gang members, but reviews of the exchange put the lie to that defense. It was widely noted that the comment was typical of the dehumanizing language used to prepare for genocide by, among others, Joseph Goebbels.
- The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a second interim report, agreeing with the intelligence community that Russia intervened in the 2016 election with the purpose of helping Trump win. And the Senate Judiciary Committee noted that Russia had funneled money for the Trump campaign into the NRA.
- It was reported that Trump had pushed the Postmaster General to double rates on Amazon, a continuing effort by Trump to punish Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post. This was another move in Trump’s ongoing effort to destroy a free press and to assert dictatorial powers.
- Again, a school shooting. Ten students were killed at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. We know what it will take to stop the killing, but Republicans won’t admit it and must be voted out. Texas Lt. Governor proposed “door reform” and claimed that “our teachers are part of that well-run militia”. The Republican excuses have gone from ineffective and banal to beyond ludicrous.
- The Senate, shamefully joined by a handful of Democrats, voted to confirm torturer Gina Haspel as Director of the CIA. Senator Feinstein, in casting her “no” vote, was eloquent: “The bottom line is this: No one has ever been held accountable for the torture program and I do not believe those who were intimately involved in it deserve to lead the agency.” Brava, Senator!
- Trump continued the right’s attack on Planned Parenthood with proposed new rules that would evict it from the federal family planning program, where it provides care to more than 40 percent of that program's 4 million patients.
- EPA Chief Scott Pruitt kept on lying about his ethical transgressions.
- North Korea announced that they wouldn’t denuclearize and that they objected to a planned joint South Korean-U.S. military exercise. Also that they really didn’t like John Bolton. Caving, we cancelled participation in the exercises of our B-52 bombers. Watch for Trump to declare victory no matter how badly he gets played, this being a hallmark of his career of failures.
- The earth hit its 400th straight month of warmer-than-average temperatures, a reminder that Trump is obscuring what the critical danger of global warming. But it’s ok, really, Republican Alabama Representative Mo Brooks tells us. It’s “soil or rock or whatever” falling into the seas that’s causing them to rise. The Republicans are just completely intellectually bankrupt. I mean, c’mon. They’re not even trying.
- OK, there was one win. The Senate approved legislation that will overturn the FCC’s gutting of net neutrality. Only now the bill has to go to the House, where Paul Ryan will ignore it.
- Last, but far from least, Trump and Devin Nunes conspired, against the urgent pleas of the intelligence community, to burn a key FBI informant, revealing his identity and possibly placing the source and his contacts in danger. More broadly, they damaged the ability of our intelligence community to recruit informants going forward by showing that we can’t keep our promises to them. Nunes and Trump did this with the sole purpose of protecting Trump from the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in 2016 and, as part of their effort, the lied profusely about why an informant would have been placed by the FBI to begin with. This is obstruction of justice and another very dangerous step for our democracy.
As the news above shows, things are moving rapidly as Trump consolidates his control and builds his authoritarian state. We must work night and day on this year’s elections. We need your help more than ever: postcarding, texting, calling, canvassing and registering voters. We also need your help to continue to pressure members of Congress because our country is under attack now and we must continue to fight back. Pelosi’s and Schumer’s reluctance to acknowledge the need for impeachment seems increasingly untenable as the abuses go from bad to worse. We can win this fight but it will take all of us giving our all. Join us!
– 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.