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Better Start Swimming or You’ll Sink Like a Stone

October 13, 2016

First off, congratulations to poet/songwriter Bob Dylan, the world’s newest Nobel Laureate in literature. That just gave me chills.

bob-dylan

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And, speaking of Nobel worthy lyrics… somebody’s sinking like a stone in his own toxic sludge.

Guess who?

Holy sinking stone. First there was the nauseating video last week of a repugnant 59 year old Donald J. Trump boasting about grabbing, groping and kissing women whenever he wants because he’s a star. Then there was the disturbing revelation that as owner of various beauty pageants he enjoyed the “perk” of entering dressing rooms without warning and again boasted, this time to Howard Stern, that he’d seen plenty of beautiful naked women [some teenagers, by the way]. Then there are the accounts of numerous women coming forward to describe the creepy details of Trump’s unwanted advances…all of this pointing to a pattern that disgusts most but surprises few.

In the last week, since the initial tape became public, his campaign has unraveled. He started with an awkwardly delivered, carefully scripted and totally disingenuous apology. His debate performance three days later was wince-worthy. Instead of contrition, we got an amping up of defensive rhetoric. Instead of a disciplined return to strategic talking points, we got a caged animal lashing out.

The whole week’s been like this. Tweet storms; lawsuits; vile, barnburning speeches delivered to his base in which he calls for stringing up and/or imprisoning (I guess) his opponent. He’s sinking in the polls, his surrogates are spinning like tops, republican leaders are fleeing like cockroaches when the lights go up.

There’s been a flood of satisfying reads and I admit to finally being able to relax just a teeny tiny bit about the outcome of the election. Thank goodness for Fivethirtyeight, newspapers with integrity, and smart people everywhere. I’d never make it without them. And Jim. So calm and reasonable.

So, yeah, I’m gleeful about the election prognoses, but also, man, still just sick to my stomach.

For example, this excerpt from a Slate piece this morning (Laura Anderson, the entire article’s sharp) really got my blood boiling:

“Put yourself in Hillary’s shoes for a moment. You’re 68 years old. You have spent decades—decades—in the public eye, absorbing criticism from every possible angle. Your opponent is an impulsive, amoral ignoramus with a long history of humiliating women. He has made it his strategy during this debate to dredge up what are probably the darkest moments of your personal life—your husband’s affairs and alleged sexual assaults—as evidence of your failures as a wife and as a woman. He has brought three of these women to sit in the front row during the debate in an attempt to throw you off guard and cow you into submission. He literally tells you to your face that he will imprison you if he wins the election.”

 

hilanddonny

That is just some kind of cruelty. What a petulant, entitled, boorish, cowardly man-child. Holding that “press conference” before the debate and inviting those women to sit in the front row was the most classless, desperate, mean-spirited thing I’ve ever witnessed. The nerve.

Newsflash: Bill Clinton’s not running for office, doofus.

Newsflash: karma is a bitch.

I got into it on Facebook with a family member, an evangelical pastor from the midwest. I shouldn’t have, but had to. Here’s my response to the good pastor, who made a snide remark about Hillary’s outfit, Bill’s licentious ways, and I’m not really sure what all he was getting at:

I’d hold their 40-year marriage up to Donald’s three any day. We can never know for sure what goes on behind closed doors, but from what I read, the Clintons went through hell two decades ago, but have since worked hard on their marriage and are stronger and more committed to one another than ever. That seems like a good outcome. I never condoned his behavior, as I don’t Trump’s, but I see a man who changed as a result of the experience and left that behavior behind. Not the case with Trump, as far as I can see. In my mind, Bill earned her forgiveness over a two-decade span of time characterized by immense, demonstrated respect and support for one another. Trump’s “apology” for the lewdness of the video, on the other hand, was hastily scripted and did not ring true. Maybe you heard something else.

What I can’t figure out–and as a pastor, maybe you can help me understand–is how do evangelicals square Trump’s behavior with their values? Everything I see in Trump seems to be the opposite of Christian values… from the horrible and inhumane way he talks about people, to his complete lack of community/public service, to his failure to pay taxes and contribute to the public good, to his coarse/crude language, to his failed two marriages and long record of philandering, to the FACT he lies over and over (see Politifact), to his utter lack of humility… does he even go to church? What is the appeal?

 

Breathe.
~~

I’ve been impressed with the fact that not a single solitary living president–democrat or republican–has come out in support of this year’s ridiculous republican standard bearer. And not a single solitary credible major newspaper has endorsed him either. Today, for example, the Washington Post released its endorsement of Hillary, no surprise. They were fair in presenting qualities good and bad, but on balance were very enthusiastic and compelling in their support. But hold onto your seats for this stunning excerpt, as piercing and unequivocal an indictment of Trump as I’ve read yet:

“Mr. Trump, by contrast, has shown himself to be bigoted, ignorant, deceitful, narcissistic, vengeful, petty, misogynistic, fiscally reckless, intellectually lazy, contemptuous of democracy and enamored of America’s enemies. As president, he would pose a grave danger to the nation and the world.” 

Wow!

Newspapers that have never endorsed democrats are endorsing Hillary. Newspapers that have never endorsed period are coming out for Hillary in the strongest of terms.

The Atlantic last week ran a good one and I’m just going to paste it here in its entirety… mostly so when I’m looking back at these blog posts decades from now I’ll remember what a totally cooky and scary time it was:

In October of 1860, James Russell Lowell, the founding editor of The Atlantic, warned in these pages about the perishability of the great American democratic experiment if citizens (at the time, white, male citizens) were to cease taking seriously their franchise:

In a society like ours, where every man may transmute his private thought into history and destiny by dropping it into the ballot-box, a peculiar responsibility rests upon the individual … For, though during its term of office the government be practically as independent of the popular will as that of Russia, yet every fourth year the people are called upon to pronounce upon the conduct of their affairs. Theoretically, at least, to give democracy any standing-ground for an argument with despotism or oligarchy, a majority of the men composing it should be statesmen and thinkers.

One of the animating causes of this magazine at its founding, in 1857, was the abolition of slavery, and Lowell argued that the Republican Party, and the man who was its standard-bearer in 1860, represented the only reasonable pathway out of the existential crisis then facing the country. In his endorsement of Abraham Lincoln for president, Lowell wrote, on behalf of the magazine, “It is in a moral aversion to slavery as a great wrong that the chief strength of the Republican party lies.” He went on to declare that Abraham Lincoln “had experience enough in public affairs to make him a statesman, and not enough to make him a politician.”

Perhaps because no subsequent candidate for the presidency was seen as Lincoln’s match, or perhaps because the stakes in ensuing elections were judged to be not quite so high as they were in 1860, it would be 104 years before The Atlantic would again make a presidential endorsement. In October of 1964, Edward Weeks, writing on behalf of the magazine, cited Lowell’s words before making an argument for the election of Lyndon B. Johnson. “We admire the President for the continuity with which he has maintained our foreign policy, a policy which became a worldwide responsibility at the time of the Marshall Plan,” the endorsement read. Johnson, The Atlantic believed, would bring “to the vexed problem of civil rights a power of conciliation which will prevent us from stumbling down the road taken by South Africa.”

The Atlantic has endorsed only three presidential candidates in 159 years. Abraham Lincoln (1860) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1964) were the first two. 

But The Atlantic’s endorsement of Johnson was focused less on his positive attributes than on the flaws of his opponent, Barry Goldwater, the junior senator from Arizona. Of Goldwater, Weeks wrote, “His proposal to let field commanders have their choice of the smaller nuclear weapons would rupture a fundamental belief that has existed from Abraham Lincoln to today: the belief that in times of crisis the civilian authority must have control over the military.” And the magazine noted that Goldwater’s “preference to let states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia enforce civil rights within their own borders has attracted the allegiance of Governor George Wallace, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birchers.” Goldwater’s limited capacity for prudence and reasonableness was what particularly worried The Atlantic.

We think it unfortunate that Barry Goldwater takes criticism as a personal affront; we think it poisonous when his anger betrays him into denouncing what he calls the “radical” press by bracketing the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Izvestia. There speaks not the reason of the Southwest but the voice of Joseph McCarthy. We do not impugn Senator Goldwater’s honesty. We sincerely distrust his factionalism and his capacity for judgment.

Today, our position is similar to the one in which The Atlantic’s editors found themselves in 1964. We are impressed by many of the qualities of the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.

 

These concerns compel us, for the third time since the magazine’s founding, to endorse a candidate for president. Hillary Rodham Clinton has more than earned, through her service to the country as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state, the right to be taken seriously as a White House contender. She has flaws (some legitimately troubling, some exaggerated by her opponents), but she is among the most prepared candidates ever to seek the presidency. We are confident that she understands the role of the United States in the world; we have no doubt that she will apply herself assiduously to the problems confronting this country; and she has demonstrated an aptitude for analysis and hard work.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.

 

This judgment is not limited to the editors of The Atlantic. A large number—in fact, a number unparalleled since Goldwater’s 1964 campaign—of prominent policy makers and officeholders from the candidate’s own party have publicly renounced him. Trump disqualified himself from public service long before he declared his presidential candidacy. In one of the more sordid episodes in modern American politics, Trump made himself the face of the so-called birther movement, which had as its immediate goal the demonization of the country’s first African American president. Trump’s larger goal, it seemed, was to stoke fear among white Americans of dark-skinned foreigners. He succeeded wildly in this; the fear he has aroused has brought him one step away from the presidency.

Our endorsement of Clinton, and rejection of Trump, is not a blanket dismissal of the many Trump supporters who are motivated by legitimate anxieties about their future and their place in the American economy. But Trump has seized on these anxieties and inflamed and racialized them, without proposing realistic policies to address them.

In its founding statement, The Atlantic promised that it would be “the organ of no party or clique,” and our interest here is not to advance the prospects of the Democratic Party, nor to damage those of the Republican Party. If Hillary Clinton were facing Mitt Romney, or John McCain, or George W. Bush, or, for that matter, any of the leading candidates Trump vanquished in the Republican primaries, we would not have contemplated making this endorsement. We believe in American democracy, in which individuals from various parties of different ideological stripes can advance their ideas and compete for the affection of voters. But Trump is not a man of ideas. He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar. He is spectacularly unfit for office, and voters—the statesmen and thinkers of the ballot box—should act in defense of American democracy and elect his opponent.

 

Well, there ya go.

I hope the republican party rebounds one of these days… it’d make our country stronger. Mac Stipanovich, republican strategist, says the party may need to wander in the woods for a decade before it regains its sanity, its moral core. In the meantime, enjoying like heck watching it implode. They get exactly what they deserve.

 

 

 

 

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