“A Threat to the Foundations of Democracy”
“That's one of the biggest problems in confronting the Russia scandal: There's so much involved, and so many people doing so many things that are so obviously wrong, that it can be difficult not to be overwhelmed. Which is why we have to speak honestly about what is happening. When people say about Trump "This is not normal," they aren't wrong, but they're not going nearly far enough. This isn't just not normal, it's an abomination, a threat to the foundations of the American democratic system.”
– Paul Waldman, “Inevitably, Trump Declares He’s Above the Law”, The American Prospect
The threat to democracy goes beyond the Russia scandal, though it’s Putin’s installation of Trump in the presidency that set everything loose. Trump would be “not normal” if he were merely erratic, only disinterested in learning, easily angered. He’s all of those, but the reason he’s a threat to democracy is that he seeks to be an autocrat, a dictator, and uses totalitarian means towards that end.
The totalitarian means include Trump’s lying constantly in order to eliminate the idea of a knowable truth. Add to this the constant reversals and contradictions of those lies, so that his followers have to accept and parrot a new “reality” whenever Trump changes it. Now begin to include threats and attacks on enemies. Make the attacks particularly cruel and start with the scapegoats – the immigrants. Dismantle the rules and institutions that limit him. Concentrate all possible power in his hands. Broadcast and maintain all of it with a robust network of propaganda.
None of this is about what might happen in the future. All of it is here. Right now.
The conspiracy theories about Mueller change week by week and contradict each other and all actual evidence. His sycophants repeat them endlessly, changing their stories in a panic when Trump changes his.
ICE is brutally deporting people around the country. Now children as young as a year and a half old are being ripped from their parents at the border. Trump continues to assail them as “animals” and “not so innocent”.
This week began with Trump insisting that he had the power to pardon himself of any crime, following on the revelation that his attorneys consider any action he chooses to take to be above the law. While there were a few whimpers from Republicans, they remained largely supine and silent.
The week ended with Trump attending the G7 Summit, where he declared that Russia should be allowed back in the group, threatened to end trade completely with our allies and finally refused to sign an agreement worked out during the meeting and insulted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling him “weak”. Putin is definitely getting his money’s worth. And we’re closer to living in a totalitarian state. Trump’s base is all the way there.
This is not just facing danger. We’re in it. Our language has to be up to the task, telling the truth, not skirting it. This includes what we demand of the press. Many people pay scant attention to the news. We can’t afford for them to be coddled or misled. In just the past two days, the Times has run an article suggesting that maybe Trump really didn’t need to study up for his meeting with Kim Jong-Un, while the Post’s Dan Balz wondered if the North Korea meeting would cause Trump to “pivot”. Both articles were epic fails, succumbing yet again to the idea that this is a president like any other, just quirkier. Enough.
“Do the Right Thing”
Benedict Cumberbatch made headlines when he stopped the Uber he was riding in London to rescue a delivery cyclist who was being beaten by muggers. Asked about it, he said, “I did it out of… well, I had to, you know.”
This is why Democrats can’t just run on healthcare or the tax scam alone, why they can’t just let Mueller deal with Trump’s criminality and treason and see how it plays out. If you see a crime, you try to stop it. What you cannot do is turn away, pretending it’s not happening. We must demand that our leaders show courage, resolve and that they do the right thing.
“Out of the Jungle”
We appear to have survived the jungle primary on June 5th*, with Democrats looking to be on the ballot in all but one of “the 14” – the California House districts that we’re working to flip from red to blue. This wasn’t at all a sure thing, but tireless work from people all over the state pulled us through. Huge congratulations to all of you here with Indivisible, SwingLeft, SisterDistricts, OFA and more who wrote postcards, sent texts, made calls and traveled to districts to register and to canvass. You were instrumental in getting us over the first hurdle. Now, let’s flip those districts blue!
* There are still over 2 million ballots to be counted, due to the rise in mail-in voting. Initial reports called the turnout low, but in fact it was particularly high for a midterm primary.
IN OTHER NEWS
- Border agents continued to take children away from their parents, holding them in large cages or sending them to foster homes. The lasting damage to both children and parents will be enormous. In at least one case, the separation has led to suicide. As Andrew Sullivan writes, this is state-sponsored terror.
- Not satisfied with harming immigrant children, Jeff Sessions’s Department of Justice announced this week that they wouldn’t defend the Affordable Care Act against lawsuits brought by red state Attorneys General. And by withdrawing legal support for pre-existing conditions, the DOJ puts the lives of all children in jeopardy. The suits claim that, since Congress essentially eliminated the Act’s individual mandate as part of the Republican tax scam passed in December, other provisions needn’t apply, either. For the DoJ to refuse to defend the ACA is a dereliction of duty and undermines the rule of law. If the lawsuits are successful, protections for pre-existing conditions will be stripped, harming millions and costing lives. Democrats will run on this issue like crazy, as well they should.
- The House did Trump’s bidding, passing a ‘rescission’ bill, which claws back $15 billion from the spending bill passed this Spring. Notably, the recission removes $7 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which the Republicans had held hostage for months before finally agreeing to fund it. The Senate is expected to oppose the recission. I suppose there’s a certain symmetry. The Republicans are attacking children. And they’re attacking health. So why not children’s health?
- The EPA scaled back its regulation of potentially harmful chemicals, happy to ignore the damage they cause when they’re in the air, ground or water. Of course they did. That’s what the chemicals industry wanted.
- Scott Pruitt continued to make headlines for abusing his position. Corruption, abuse of public funds, you name it. The list just keeps growing. House Dems are now asking that he be investigated for criminal conduct. Yes!
- Puerto Rico is still suffering.
- A Cambridge Analytica director, it was discovered, reached out last year to Julian Assange of Wikileaks to discuss the 2016 election. She’s also reported to have funneled crypto currency payments to him.
- Robert Mueller’s team brought new indictments against Paul Manafort, accusing him of obstruction of justice and also indicted his associate and link to Russian intelligence Konstantin Kilimnik on the same charges. Mueller is asking that Manafort’s bail be revoked and that he be returned to prison.
- There’s a movement afoot amongst the Grand Old Puppets’ vote-suppression crowd to redraw Congressional districts based on the number of citizens, not on the number of residents in a given area. As with everything else they’re doing, this is an attempt to boost red states and districts at the expense of blue. If you can’t win fairly, cheat.
If this is all too much to take in, here’s the short version: Trump’s recent actions are those of a dictator, in particular one who is wholly owned by Vladimir Putin. He’s doing enormous harm now and that harm will continue into the future as our reputation and institutions are damaged. This is why we’re the Resistance: he and his party must be slowed and then they must be stopped. We have to slay the totalitarian beast.
A final thought. As I wrote a few weeks ago, Trump’s regime is all about “performative cruelty” – demonstrating cruelty towards those he has singled out to his followers. John Stoerh puts it well: the Republicans have become a party of sadism. Yes, we must challenge and combat them. But we must also show the way. May I suggest practicing performative kindness?
– 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.