Oh, How Our Standards Have Fallen

Any Functioning Adult 2020 copy

My Facebook friend Cecilia Di Trastevere recently posted this photo. It’s funny, but also deeply sad—and instructive.

Remember 2016, when so many people—large segments of the press and punditocracy very much included—were saying of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, “Ah, they’re both really bad.” Do you remember that? Because I do.

I think the last two years have made it resoundingly clear how utterly untrue and dishonest that was. Even if one didn’t care for Hillary (and full disclosure, I was a fervent supporter) the false equivalence was absurd. Now we are suffering the results.

These days, that mode of thought is so shockingly dated that it might as well be Spanish cartographers warning Columbus that he was going to sail off the edge of the earth. Even people who thought Donald Trump would be a bad president didn’t think he’d be this bad. On the contrary: especially among conservatives and right wingers who loathed Hillary (and yet weren’t that bothered by Donald), the mantra was that he would BECOME presidential. That he would “pivot.” He was supposed to pivot during the primaries, then after he secured the nomination, then after he took office….

Yet he never did.

It took a long time for some folks to admit that he wasn’t ever going to pivot, or become presidential, or drop the incendiary demagogic rhetoric, because all those things were simply beyond his ken. He is what he is, and that’s all he would ever be.

And what he is is a troglodyte.

One may dislike Hillary Clinton or her policy positions, or both, or think Donald Trump—for all his faults—is better equipped to carry out the kind of policy agenda that conservatives desire. (I’ll leave out those who admire Donald Trump personally because this discussion is confined to people in their right minds.)

But after watching him in office for two years, even Republicans who support the agenda that Trump is carrying out on their behalf—tax cuts, deregulation, and all that rot—cannot possibly contend that this man isn’t a willfully ignorant cretin, however useful he has been to them.

(Again leaving out the Kool-Aid drunk, criminally insane, and neo-fascist white supremacists, which I realize excuses the majority of the GOP.)

We know that even the Republican leadership in Congress privately ridicules him, alternating with wee-hours-of-the-night handwringing over the damage he is doing to the country, if only when he hurts the GOP’s own “brand” with self-inflicted wounds like the unconscionable 35-day federal shutdown…..not to mention the bodyblows he has delivered to the rule of law, respect for a free press, and the credibility of the intelligence community, just to name a few. (Their culpability in the Faustian bargain they have made is a topic for another day. Suffice it to say that there is a looming housing shortage in the Ninth Circle of Hell.) For those few Republicans with a shred of principle or conscience—admittedly, a group that could meet in a broom closet—Trump continues to be a deeply worrying threat to the very foundations of American democracy and the place of the United States on the world stage.

For the rest of us, he is something even worse: a man so manifestly unfit to govern; so proudly stupid; so malignantly narcissistic; so lacking in simple human empathy; so pathologically dishonest, unjustifiably arrogant, borderline mentally defective, corrupt, incompetent, racist, and petty that it beggars the imagination. (And those are his good points.) Not surprisingly, he is presiding over a kakistocracy even worse than the worst predictions from the most pessimistic observers when he pulled out an unlikely Electoral College win with some help from guys in furry hats in November 2016.

And that “rest of us” now comprises a resounding 63% of the country who disapprove of the job Trump is doing in office. And that statistic fails to capture the depth of the unhappiness. That isn’t garden variety “disapproval” of presidencies past. It’s not people sneering at Carter putting solar panels on the White House roof, or criticizing Reagan’s showdown with air traffic controllers. It’s to-the-marrow outrage and panic.

You do still hear a few Republican deadenders defensively argue that “Hillary would have been even worse.” But with all due respect, no one with detectable brainwave activity can seriously make that claim, not even diehard conservatives. One senses that, when they say that, with arms crossed like angry toddlers, even they know it’s risible. But they cling to it nonetheless because, frankly, they got nothing else. They have bought into this travesty, foisted it on the rest of us, and now have no other option than to double down, or else admit their colossal mistake and prostate themselves in abject repentance. (Not a move typically in the right wing quiver.)

From caging babies to robbing the poor to give to the rich to handing the Kremlin top secret information in public view to gleefully accelerating the ecological demise of the entire planet to reducing the federal government to a shambles in an effort to build a magical wall, at every turn Trump has been even more jawdroppingly bad than we imagined he would be.

So we’ve now gone from “Clinton is no better than Trump” to “Any functioning adult would be better than Trump.”

But a lot of people already realized that in 2016.

MISOGYNY: ALIVE AND WELL

The very first post in this blog back in May 2017 was about misogyny. I’m sorry to report that it has not been eradicated in the twenty-one months since then.

Maybe next year.

In retrospect, when we consider the steep drop from the false equivalence between Hillary and Trump that was prevalent in 2016, to our present understanding that a putrid bag of dog feces would be a better president than he is, the role of simple misogyny in Trump’s “victory” is impossible to deny.

I know there were a lot of factors in play. I know it’s a fool’s errand to pin the blame any single one of them. But at the same time, it’s hard to dispute one basic argument:

A male candidate with the exact same profile as Hillary—same strengths, same flaws, same everything—would never have lost to Trump, even with the same tactical errors in swing states, even with Comey’s Halloween announcement, even with the Russians helping the GOP.

I realize I am violating Michael Lewis’s “undoing project” principle (I cite it frequently, because it is frequently germane), but in this case it is a useful thought experiment.

I bring this up not to reopen old wounds or re-fight old battles, but as a reminder going into 2020 that we would do well not to repeat the kid gloves treatment we as a people gave Donald Trump, and the disproportionate abuse to which we subjected everyone else.

By the same token, it’s sweet that the one American politician who has been able to best Trump, to frustrate him, to humiliate and embarrass him over and over again on the national and even global stage, is a woman—and a 78-year-old, immensely experienced, veteran Democratic woman to boot. Which means Nancy Pelosi shares more than a little in common with a certain presidential candidate from four years ago, for whom she now inevitably serves as a surrogate in the public imagination.

After years of mostly low-key public service in terms of the awareness of the average American, the past two months have seen a massive, out-of-nowhere groundswell of love and admiration for Nancy. (Forgive me for using Trump’s devastating nickname for her.) The reason, per above, is her demonstrated ability to beat him like a conga at Club Babalu. And let us recall that there was talk after the midterms, briefly, that she shouldn’t even get a second term as speaker. That speculation now looks shortsighted and uninformed at best, as people who know politics, and who know Pelosi, might have told us.

(Full disclosure again: in the recent midterms I was a supporter of Max Rose, the former US Army infantry officer and combat wounded Afghanistan vet who claimed a House seat in deep red Staten Island, upsetting the useless incumbent Republican Dan Donovan. Rose was part of this freshman class of Democratic representatives who ran on a platform that included dispensing with Pelosi and Schumer in the interest of new blood. I’m glad Max won and is representing SI and South Brooklyn, but I’m not sorry he lost that battle.)

But even as Nancy Pelosi has become a progressive darling, I have already heard bile and hatred spewed at her for no other discernible reason than the fact that she is a woman. Sure, there are plenty of male Democrats who get shit from Trump Nation, but there is a special edge to the hatred toward Pelosi, the same as there was a special edge to the hatred of Hillary.

Gee, I can’t imagine what they have in common.

Oh, right—vaginas.

It’s a pointed reminder that the toxic sexism that was aimed at Hillary has not gone away.

Few of these critics can name even one policy position of Pelosi’s that they oppose, or really anything about her, except that she hypocritically has a wall around her Pacific Heights home in San Francisco…..which it turns out, she doesn’t.

Barack neither. Yet that lie is so alive and well that Trump himself felt emboldened enough to repeat it on national television during the State of the Union address, omitting only their names, since his audience knew full well to whom he was alluding.

Some of this bile aimed at Nancy, not surprisingly, has come from Republican women, just as there were plenty of Republican women consumed with vicious, full-throated hatred for Hillary. The self-loathing mentality of female Trump supporters would require a book-length investigation by a world-class team of psychiatrists, but for the short version, I refer you to Frantz Fanon’s theory of the colonized mindset.

While we’re on that topic, however, our famously fork-tongued fake President takes great delight in the idea that he can even get women to buy his sexist bullshit, often crowing that he won 53 percent of the female vote. Hold on to your hats, but he’s not telling the truth. That’s actually the percentage of white women who voted for him. 96% of black women voted for Hillary; Trump’s real share of the female vote was 41%.

But maybe he’s using some sort of Dred Scott 3/5ths-of-human being calculation.

Of course, 41% is still appallingly high, given Trump’s demonstrable animosity and contempt for the female of the species. But such are the depths and breadth of misogyny in our country, even among women themselves.

A MILLION CRACKS IN THE GLASS CEILING

As I recently pointed out (“Sending Don Spelunking,” January 26, 2018), as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is second in line to be President of the United States, should both Trump and Pence be forced out. I understand that Trump’s early dismissal is unlikely, let alone Pence’s as well, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

Even if Nancy doesn’t become our first female President, several other strong contenders have already emerged for that distinction.

In order of announcement—but certainly not viability—Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar are all formidable candidates. (And all US Senators, coincidentally.) If I were Beto O’Rourke, I’d stay in Texas and keep my street cred intact rather than becoming the poster boy for white male privilege by spoiling the party in the Year of the Woman. Maybe run for Senate again, B-Dog.

That goes double for Bernie, and quadruple for that bloviating egomaniac plutocrat Howard Schultz, minus the running for Senate part.

Of course, though she is but a freshman and not (yet) running for president, no politician of either sex makes Republicans’ heads explode like New York’s own Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The reasons are manifold: her unwavering idealism; her unapologetic manner; her telegenic appearance; her non-whiteness; her talent for cutting to the heart of right wing hypocrisies, lies, and other crimes; her facility with the Twitter zinger that makes Trump look all thumbs; her avowed identification as a democratic socialist. (Note to the president’s histrionic speechwriters: the US, like almost all Western democracies, is already a socialist state.)

Along with consciousness-raising about race and misogyny and the general energizing of the progressive movement, unleashing this flood of passionate female candidates may be one of the few good things to come out of the Trump disaster. And not just at the presidential level. The sea of female congresswomen in suffragette white at the State of the Union—Nancy P pointedly among them—was a beautiful sight, like The Handmaid’s Tale in reverse.

But like Nancy, and Hillary before her, Harris, Warren, Klobuchar, et al have already been the recipients of savage attacks for no other reason than their sex. And I don’t just mean from far right, incel-heavy He-Man Woman-Haters; I also mean the casual condescension and dismissiveness of “mainstream” American men, even left-leaning ones, whom I often hear insisting that gender has nothing to do with it, but frequently scorn female candidates for things that would never be considered disqualifying for a man, if they merited mention at all. (Kamala was too tough as a prosecutor! Klobuchar was a demanding boss! Elizabeth Warren is too smart!) Hell, many of those criticisms would be considered praise if the candidate were male.

And there is surely much worse to come. If any of these women emerge as the Democratic nominee, she is in for a world record blast of toxic pseudo-masculinity from that epitome of Freudian overcompensation, the tiny “fingered” Donald Trump and his band of mouthbreathing disciples…..and it won’t help if progressive men don’t live up to their name and instead add fuel to the fire.

The difference, one hopes, is that having watched what happened last time, and the role that biased media coverage played, there will be far greater scrutiny of how Trump gets covered versus his opponent—especially if she is female—and far more awareness of the inequity, and the injustice, and the terrible consequences thereof.

In 2016 America was so freaked out about the idea of a woman president that it elected a man who was a certifiable criminal, patent ignoramus, and walking punchline. Can we do a little better this time?

V.T.M.F.O.

With Trump past the halfway point in his term (I refuse to call it his “first term”), and even closer still to Election Day 2020 (632 days to be exact, but who’s counting?), electoral defeat increasingly seems like the most likely path to his dismissal from office. Even as his legal jeopardy mounts on a half dozen fronts, Trump’s impeachment or removal of the 25th Amendment—always longshots, given the Republican majority in the Senate—seem ever more unlikely, in part precisely because the usual mechanism for shitcanning a president is coming tantalizingly into reach.

Perhaps that is for the best. Much as I would like to see Trump dragged out of the Lincoln bedroom in handcuffs, seeing him resoundingly voted out of office by the American people will be a more powerful repudiation, and one less likely to trigger longlasting grievances and rumors of “deep state” conspiracy among 40% of the American people, to the extent the rest of us give a flying fuck.

We can all imagine Trump screaming that he is being victimized, should he be  impeached, and very possibly triggering a constitutional crisis by refusing to leave office. (Hell, he may well do that even if he is beaten fair and square in a scrupulously legitimate election.)

Of course, Trump’s loathsome base will scream “Fix!” no matter how he leaves office.

But an electoral defeat will be harder for them—and him—to dispute with even a fraction of credibility. And it will deliver unto us the great pleasure of calling him what he is, the label that in his twisted world is among the dirtiest of epithets:

“Loser.”

And comfort yourself with this thought: when Trump finally is out of office, one way or another, a Mount Everest-size avalanche of criminal indictments awaits at both the state and federal levels, from which he will have no executive privilege to protect himself, and no resort to pardon by President Pence, should that come to pass.

There is very good reason to believe that private citizen Trump, former President though he will be, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

So where we used to say ITMFA—Impeach The Mother Fucker Already—let us know say VTMFO: Vote The Mother Fucker Out. And if it’s a woman who beats him, all the better.

 

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