When I was a child, world maps in American school classrooms showed the United States at the center of the world. It always confused me, as I couldn't figure out why those land masses on the far right and left edges of the map were cut off. For better or for worse, the days of centering the United States are over. We are living through the end of the American Century.
The New York Times has a lot to answer for regarding how it covered the 2016 presidential election. Its coverage of Benghazi, and especially of Hillary’s frigging emails, did a lot to sour voters on Hillary Clinton. (Case in point: according to the Columbia Journalism Review, “In just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.”) If this weekend’s editorial extravaganza is a bit too late as a mea culpa, at least the NYT editorial board gave it the old college try.
The New York Times of Sunday, October 19, 2020 included a special editorial section consisting of thirteen separate essays explaining why Trump “is unfit to lead the nation.” Even if you don’t take the time to read every essay, the introductory editorial itself — which begins by saying, “Donald Trump’s re-election campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II” — is worth reading in its entirety. It concludes with this: “Mr. Trump is a man of no integrity. He has repeatedly violated his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States…. Now, in this moment of peril, it falls to the American people — even those who would prefer a Republican president — to preserve, protect and defend the United States by voting.”
Of course, those among his “base” who could learn the most from this won’t ever read it. Indeed, they have been thoroughly brainwashed into thinking that the press is the enemy of the people, and that the New York Times in particular is some kind of radical, left-wing propaganda machine (spoiler alert: it’s not), run by Antifa, Inc. (which doesn’t exist) or by satanic pedophiles and cannibals (no parenthetical disclaimer needed here, methinks). These are the same people who believed the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign was running a child-trafficking ring out of the back room of a pizza shop.
But the Republican elites are probably ready to accept the truth of what the Times lays out here. They got their tax cuts and their federal judges, but the rest of what Trump has to offer isn’t good for them, either, if it brings down the entire American experiment.
Here’s hoping that many Republicans, when they get into the privacy of the voting booth, will fill in the little bubble next to JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.
I don’t have to tell my vast reading public (all five of you!) that Dictator Donny is trying to destroy the U.S. Postal Service in order to keep Democrats from voting. After all, he has said so publicly. The USPS even wrote to 46 states in July to warn that mail-in ballots for the presidential election may not be delivered in time to be counted.
The attempt to destroy the ability of the Post Office to function on the eve of the presidential election is just one of Trump’s many blatant, destructive and unconstitutional attempts to destroy democracy and rig the election. (As my 82-year-old mother said to me the other day, there is at least one thing Donny has said that is actually true: that the 2020 presidential election will be the most riggedelection in history—except of course he is the one rigging it.)
There is a lot of information floating around about what people can do to help save the Post Office, and preserve the right to vote by mail, but the information is scattered and difficult to find and to vet. So I am bringing together in one place a list of actions you can take if you think it’s wrong that our own government is deliberately slowing down the mail; deactivating, removing, and disassembling multimillion-dollar mail sorting machines (and perhaps even destroying them, as Rachel Maddow reported on August 14, though I have not been able to confirm that anywhere else); and even removing mailboxes from street corners to keep you from being able to safely vote by mail in the midst of a deadly pandemic (though of course the Trump Administration denies this is the reason, and says that removing underused mailboxes or those in need of repair or subject to theft is simply business as usual).
BREAKING NEWS: Before I could finish this blog post, the Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, announced on August 18 that he would suspend the Postal Service’s so-called “cost-cutting measures” until after the November election. This shows that pressure works! (It doesn’t hurt that a coalition of states was getting ready to file a lawsuit charging that the changes could undermine the election.) Nonetheless, you may still want to let your government representatives know where you stand. After all, this doesn’t mean that DeJoy is going to reverse the damage that has already been done. And there is still the issue of providing governmental funding for the Post Office—which the House is coming out of recess to address, but which the Republican-led Senate and the President are loathe to do.
If you have other information about concrete steps people can take to help save the Post Office or ensure the right to vote, please provide them in the comments. I’ll keep updating this blog as I am made aware of additional relevant resources.
ACTIONS TO TAKE TO SAVE THE POST OFFICE
Contact Your Representative and Senators
Write to your member of the House of Representatives and to your U.S. Senators to register your complaint about what has been happening to the Post Office. This is important even if your Representative or Senator agrees with you. They keep track of constituent messages, and it helps if they are able to say that they have heard from x number of a constituents. If they don’t hear from you, they won’t know you care about this issue.
You can find your Representative here. (When I put in my address, it actually pulled up three possibilities, so the search engine isn’t perfect. If the same thing happens to you, you can look at this Congressional Districts Map to get a more accurate result.) When you get to your Representative’s home page, there should be a contact link. If you prefer to call (also very effective!), you can find phone numbers of every member of the House of Representatives here.
You can find your Senators here. If you click on the link for a Senator’s name, you’ll arrive at their home page, where there should be a contact link. You can also find contact details for all U.S. Senators here.
Don’t want to call or write? Go to this link and you can easily make a video, post it to social media and tag your representative.
Update: Here is a really easy way to contact your representatives. Text USPS to 50409 (which will put you in touch with RESISTBOT), and it will help you generate a letter to your representatives to demand protection for the US Postal Service. Just follow the prompts! It took me less than two minutes (including some waiting time at the outset—I guess they’re seeing a lot of interest!). Note that you can also use RESISTBOT to contact your representatives about any other issue you like.
Send an Email to the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service.
The U.S. Postal Service is governed by a Board of Governors. Members of the Board are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Governors, in turn, select the Postmaster General (at least in theory—does anyone think Trump had nothing to do with installing DeJoy, who was a major donor to his campaign?).
Let’s flood their email boxes with messages asking them to save the Post Office. This really shouldn’t be a partisan issue—Republicans and Democrats alike should be aghast at what is happening. One acquaintance of mine sent the following message:
Here are the relevant addresses that you can cut and paste into an email:
For several months, as the financial crisis facing the Postal Service has become all the more dire, there have been many calls for people to buy stamps as a way of injecting funds into the USPS. It’s a nice idea, but financially it won’t make a dent in the need.
Part of why the USPS is in such bad shape is that in 2006, Congress passed a law requiring the agency to fund 75 years of retiree health benefits—in essence funding benefits for people who have not yet even been born. However, buying stamps isn’t enough to bail out the Post Office. As one expert has explained, “If Americans were to buy 1 billion first class stamps — about 4 per household — it would constitute a resounding vote of confidence and support. On the other hand, it would generate only about $500 million [in revenue]. Most observers believe the post office needs an immediate injection of $25 billion. Only Congress can make that happen.”
Still, it’s a nice idea, and if nothing else it’s a way to show your support. And precisely because most of us rarely use stamps anymore, it’s nice to have some around the house when you suddenly need one on an urgent basis. You can buy stamps online at USPS.com.
ACTIONS TO TAKE TO ENSURE YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE
Join a Phone Bank or a Texting Platform to Help Get Out The Vote
Texting is an effective way to reach voters these days and there are many organizations that provide platforms that let you send texts from your computer. Phone banks are still around, too, and you can participate from home (though personally I never answer calls anymore unless I recognize the number, and I think that’s true of a lot of people nowadays). There are also organizations that can guide you in engaging in social media campaigns, provide the technology for you to make your own video, or use volunteers in other capacities.
These online and phone “campaigns” aren’t necessarily partisan. In some cases, you may simply be contacting people with neutral reminders to, for example, respond to the census, or register to vote.
Here are just a few organizations to check out:
When We All Vote (nonpartisan organization with a mission to increase participation in voting)
In her speech on the first night of the Democratic convention, Michelle Obama advised people going to the polls on November 3 to plan ahead: wear comfortable shoes, bring a bottle of water, bring a brown bag dinner and maybe even a breakfast.
In other words, whether you vote in person or by mail, voting is not going to be easy this year. Polling places may be closed, understaffed or disorganized; the Postal Service may not deliver ballots in time; and all manner of voter suppression efforts will be in full swing. If you plan to vote by mail, it will be critical to mail in your ballot (or take it to a drop box or to the Board of Elections office) as soon as you possibly can.
For all of these reasons, it will be important to plan how you are going to vote. Will you vote in person? Will you depend on the mail? Will you attempt to drop off your absentee ballot at your local Board of Elections office (and if so, will they be prepared to accept your ballot)?
If You’re Young, Consider Becoming a Poll Worker on November 3.
Approximately 60 percent of the people who work in the polls on Election Day are over 60 years old, which means they are in the highest-risk group for COVID-19. So this year, there are efforts to recruit young people, who are not as susceptible to the virus, to take their place.
If you or a friend or family member are young and would like to help by becoming a poll worker, go to this link to get started. You will be helping to ensure that the polls are well-staffed, and safe for voters.
On Saturday, August 8, Donald Trump signed four new executive orders (actually, threeseparatememoranda and one order) by which he purports to solve the Congressional deadlock on extending COVID-19-related relief. He claims he can do so by, unilaterally, providing executive authority for extended supplementary unemployment payments, an eviction moratorium, a further suspension of student loan payments and, while he is at it, a suspension of the payroll tax for certain taxpayers.
Trump asserts that, as president, he has the authority to do these things simply through the power of the Sharpie. But these orders are (1) evil, and (2) little more than political theater designed to shore up his support in the upcoming election. In other words, it’s all another big lie, dressed up in the pomp and circumstance of a presidential signing ceremony.
Let’s start with my second contention. I say that this is all nothing but political theater because Trump doesn’t actually have the authority to do what he is pretending to do.
Under the U.S. Constitution, only the House of Representatives has the power to tax and spend money for the federal government. (We know the president hasn’t read the Constitution, but you should. See Article I, Section 7, Clause 1: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.”) Similarly, the president is not permitted to draw money from the Treasury unless Congress has specifically passed a law allowing him to do so for a specific purpose. (See Article I, Section 9, Clause 7, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”)
The House of Representatives actually has tried to appropriate funds that would, among other things, extend the $600 supplemental unemployment payment. Way back in May (seems like a lifetime ago), the House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which would have provided billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief, but Mitch McConnell has not allowed the Senate to consider it, much less to vote on it.
This gave Trump the opportunity to swoop in and appear to show that—in the infamous words he uttered in his Republican nomination acceptance speech in July 2016—“I alone can fix it.” Moreover, in doing so he and the Republicans are trying to convince the public that executive action was needed because “Congress” didn’t act to help suffering Americans, when in fact the Democratically-controlled House did act, while the Republican-controlled Senate decided to go on vacation.
One of the other memos extends the deferment of student loan payments through December 31, which is a good thing, as far as it goes (the CARES Act deferment would have expired on September 30). As for evictions, Trump issued an executive order which basically says, yeah, the relevant federal agencies should see what they can do to help. Which is probably nothing.
Why Are These Actions Evil?
So how does Trump say he will pay for all these things? This is where the evil comes in.
Trump proposes to use his emergency powers to divert $70 billion from the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) to provide unemployed workers with $300 per week on top of what they receive from the state in which they live. But for expenditures from the DRF, states are required by law to contribute 25%, so he is depending on already cash-strapped states to find that money. States also have to provide an additional $100 per week from the money they already received pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, assuming it has not been spent already. (Note that even in the unlikely event all of these stars were to align, the total would only be $400, as opposed to the $600 per week the unemployed received under the CARES Act.)
Whether this will actually result in any additional payments to the unemployed is an open question. Many states, which are losing tax revenues and are precluded by law from running deficits like the federal government can, may simply be unable to come up with the money. (Or perhaps this is the Senate’s evil plan, since McConnell has floated the idea of allowing states to file for bankruptcy, presumably because he assumes this would affect mostly blue states.)
Trump is also directing the Secretary of the Treasury to defer payroll taxes as of September 1 on taxpayers making less than $104,000 per year. Though not stated explicitly in the memo, this is clearly meant to put more money in the pockets of those lucky enough to have jobs. (To make this clear: this does nothing for the more than 50 million Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits since March.) The Secretary is also ordered to “explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes deferred pursuant to the implementation of this memorandum.” In other words, though payroll taxes are only being “deferred” for now, the medium-term plan is to eliminate the requirement that such deferred taxes ever be paid. (See below for the long-term plan.)
Why are these presidential acts evil? First, because they set the stage for what Trump hopes to do in his second term.* One major goal is to get rid of the payroll tax altogether. Remember, the Social Security system is funded by the payroll tax! Those are your tax dollars (plus tax payments from employers) that are supposedly being put away for future retirement. It has long been a Republican goal to get rid of Social Security. This is a step toward achieving that long-term plan. Moreover, Medicare is partially funded by payroll taxes as well. Would you like to have reasonably affordable health insurance once you’re retired? Then you might want Medicare to survive a few more years.
I would also contend that diverting disaster funding is foolhardy, especially during hurricane season in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
The real danger—the real evil—lies precisely in the political theater surrounding these “orders.” The White House surely knows that all of these directives will be challenged in the courts. As such, they are unlikely to have any practical impact. The real impact, to my mind, is the fact that Trump issued these orders at all. By doing so, he is going well beyond the “unitary executive” theory so beloved by Attorney General William Barr, under which the president has expansive powers to control all aspects of the Executive Branch. Here, he is also seeking to extend his power over a key function of the legislative branch, which is to make laws deciding how our tax dollars are to be spent. This is a dangerous, perhaps unprecedented, power grab. Don’t forget: Trump has (falsely) said that the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want”.
If you read the actual documents, they are replete with rhetoric about how the virus that is the cause of all this trouble began in China (which is relevant to … what, exactly?), and how the Trump administration has been such a raging success in every way. But they do little to accomplish the goals Trump claims to be solving with the flick of a pen. All they do is take us one step further down the road of autocracy.
As always, I recommend the informative daily newsletter by historian Heather Cox Richardson for more depth and detail (available on Facebook, on BillMoyers.com or via email subscription). She wrote about these presidential orders in her newsletter of August 8, 2020.
* But please, dear god—no, I should say “dear voters”—don’t let Trump win a second term!
When Mary Trump started writing her very interesting book, Too Much Is Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, one of her biggest fears was that the Narcissist-in-Chief would be responsible for loss of life by wittingly or unwittingly starting a war. At the time, she had no idea that he would be responsible for a huge number of American deaths through his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But neither Mary Trump nor many other observers have focused on what I firmly believe to be true: that Trump is not just responsible for the thousands upon thousands of COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Trump is, in fact, largely responsible for the entire global pandemic, and the millions of deaths, untold suffering and economic devastation that will ultimately result from it.
It has been widely reported that the White House ignored the pandemic response plan the Obama Administration left for the new administration. The Trump Administration later dismantled the federal government’s pandemic response team (the National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense) in May 2018.
Around the same time, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before the U.S. Congress that “[w]hen you have a respiratory virus that can be spread by droplets and aerosol … there’s a degree of morbidity associated with that, you can have a catastrophe.” He went on to say, “We’ve experienced in [the] real world those types of things. The one we always talk about is the 1918 pandemic which killed between 50 and 100 million people.” Dr. Fauci couldn’t have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet he basically predicted the COVID-19 pandemic—and nobody in the Trump Administration listened.
Relatively less attention, however, has been paid to the fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had a U.S. public health official—a medical epidemiologist—embedded in China’s disease control agency until the Administration eliminated the role in 2019.
The American expert, Dr. Linda Quick, “was a trainer of Chinese field epidemiologists who were deployed to the epicenter of outbreaks to help track, investigate and contain diseases,” according to an article from the Reuters news agency. She was forced to leave her post—officially known as Resident Adviser to the U.S. Field Epidemiology Training Program in China—as the result of a bitter U.S.-China trade dispute that erupted in July 2019, during which it was announced that her position would be defunded and eliminated as of September 2019.
Had Dr. Quick remained in her position in China, she might have served as a valuable liaison between Chinese and U.S. officials when early signs of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) emerged in China’s Wuhan province in November 2019—the virus that causes the disease that has been dubbed COVID-19 (CO standing for “corona,” “VI” for “virus,” “D” for disease, and “19” for 2019, the year the virus and the disease emerged).
This is only speculation, of course, since there have been suggestions (which the Chinese government has disputed) that China was also negligent and delayed letting the rest of the world know about the gravity of the virus that emerged in Wuhan. But it’s possible that if Dr. Quick (or someone else in her position) had remained in China, she could, in fact, have alerted not only the U.S. but the rest of the world about the virus weeks earlier than Chinese officials did—and months earlier than the Trump Administration notified the American public. If so, the entire course of what became a worldwide pandemic could potentially have been suppressed.
For this reason, I say that the entire global COVID-19 pandemic is Donald Trump’s fault. I won’t even get into his Administration’s deplorable “response” (if you can call it that) to the crisis in the United States, where we have four percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s COVID-19 cases.
Suffice it to say that the man has blood on his hands.
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SOURCES AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING (more or less in the order in which these topics are addressed above):
Trump has unleashed his secret federal police onto the streets of American cities. Ever since this president’s inauguration, many horrified American critics who could foresee what was coming have nonetheless been reluctant to use the “F” word (Fascism), much less compare Trump and his supporters to the “N” word (Nazi). But just as individuals (and countries) go bankrupt—in the words of Ernest Hemingway—“gradually, then suddenly,” so, too, do democracies slide into fascism gradually, and then suddenly.
Trump’s “secret” police force isn’t so secret anymore, since it has now been reported in multiple credible media outlets that he has been deploying paramilitary officers domestically from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), two components of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He has done so by reassigning these officers to the Federal Protective Service (FPS). However, they remain anonymous on the streets, bearing no official government insignia or identification on their uniforms. When they confront protesters, they do not identify themselves. When they make arrests, the vehicles in which they take people away are unmarked.
All of these actions are signs of creeping fascism.
Though by their very nature, these paramilitary operatives are unnamed, they do in fact constitute a new kind of secret federal police. Where have we heard of this before? Let’s see. Remember something called the Gestapo? Yes, I’m going there. It may not be evident to most Americans, but Gestapo is not a German word. Instead, it is an acronym. GE stands for “geheime” which means “secret.” STA stands for “staats” which means “state” or “national” (which we would be more likely to term “federal” in the United States). And PO stands for “polizei” or “police.” So Gestapo stands for secret federal police.
The German Gestapo was created by Hermann Göring in 1933. It became a national agency in 1936, under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler. The Gestapo engaged in extralegal and extrajudicial repression of any activity the Nazi Party considered unacceptable. You’ll recall that the Nazis weren’t defeated until 1945.
I shouldn’t have said “creeping” above. Fascism has long since crept its way into American daily life. We’ve moved beyond “gradually” and have arrived at “suddenly.” Anyone who is not terrified is not paying attention.
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“How did you go bankrupt?” a fictional character named Mike is asked in a well-known American novel. “Two ways,” he replies. “Gradually, then suddenly.” Often misquoted, and misattributed, this quote comes from Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises.
The always sharp and incisive Lawrence Reichard — a journalist and activist based in Maine — writes this “Letter from America” to the world. What exactly is happening here? Where will this all lead? I dearly hope his concluding line is prophetic.
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July 23, 2020 Lawrence Reichard
It is an odd thing to live in the United States right now. The greatest empire in the history of the world has devolved into a twisted, macabre, grotesque caricature of itself, and the world looks on in astonishment and horror. My good, dear friend Heidi texts from Cologne, Germany about unidentified government agents snatching Black Lives Matter protesters off the streets of Portland, Oregon and forcing them, with heavy weaponry, into unmarked vans. “This is fascism, no?” she writes. I reply. “Well, yes, it is.”
On night 52 of the Portland protests, a Wall of Moms shows up, to protect the protesters. Mothers in bicycle helmets facing off against government agents equipped for war. The agents wear camouflage, in a city, at night. The point isn’t to blend in — it’s to intimidate and frighten. And federal agents that normally guard the border tear gas the mothers. Mothers. That’s what we’ve come to as a country..
But it doesn’t work. Instead of scaring off protesters, protester ranks swell, as columnists around the country warn of creeping fascism.
It gets worse.
In the midst of a global pandemic, President Trump pulls out of the World Health Organization and threatens to cut funding to the CDC, something he already did well before the pandemic struck — despite clear warnings from the outgoing Obama administration that a pandemic would almost certainly strike at some point.
In October 2019, prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore ranked the US first among 195 countries in pandemic readiness, and number one in all six categories surveyed. Eight months later the US is number one in COVID-19 infections. Number one in deaths. And Trump, in astonishing tone-deafness, brags about the Hopkins study. With a population of 331 million, the US has 142,000 deaths. With a population of 95 million and four percent of US per capita GDP, Vietnam has zero deaths.
My good friend Peter Millard is an MD and epidemiologist. I tell him Trump could scarcely kill more people with COVID-19 if he tried. Peter agrees.
As COVID-19 tears through the South and Southwest, cities in Georgia try to mandate face masks in public, but Georgia Governor Brian Kemp blocks the move. Atlanta, the biggest city in Georgia, mandates masks anyway, and Kemp sues the city. In an extraordinary move, Kemp personally sues Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is isolating at home with COVID-19. In our greatest crisis since World War II, we’re at war with ourselves. We’re eating our own.
Kemp shouldn’t even be governor. In 2018, he stole the election against the dynamic, charismatic African American Stacey Abrams, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. Kemp was Georgia secretary of state from 2010 to 2018 and he oversaw the closing of 1,688 polling places and the purging of 340,000 voters. Kemp “won” the election by 54,763 votes.
A secretary of state overseeing an election in which he himself was a candidate. We have become a banana republic.
A secretary of state overseeing an election in which he himself was a candidate. We have become a banana republic.
On June 23, 2020, Kentucky held a primary election in which more than 95% of the state’s polling places were closed. Louisville, with a population of 600,000, had one polling place. The media barely noticed.
In a July 19 on-camera interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, Trump refused to commit to respecting the outcome of his upcoming November 3 re-election bid.
And none of this is imagined, invented or exaggerated. I couldn’t possibly make this up.
But there are signs of hope. The Portland protests show no signs of ending. Or even slowing down. In the 58 days since the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Floyd’s name has become known the world over and has ignited a global fight for racial justice and equality such as the world had never seen before.
Even corporate America is behind it. Even golf, game of the rich and the corporate. Golf tournaments on TV are now regularly interrupted by 30-second heartfelt racial justice messages delivered by black sports icons. As the messages say, there’s no turning back. Though events are still playing out, history has spoken. And Trump is lining up solidly on the wrong side of this history.
As stated in a New York Times opinion piece, Trump knows only one song. It’s a song of anger, resentment, bitterness, hate and division. But it’s not playing. Trump’s numbers are in veritable free fall and he may take Republican control of the senate with him, reducing Senate Majority leader, kingmaker, and Trump enabler Mitch McConnell to a backbench status little above that of the teenage senate pages that scurry around the chamber floor delivering messages here and there.
History suggests Trump may be heading for the biggest defeat in 231 years of US presidential elections, perhaps eclipsing incumbent Richard Nixon’s 60.7% to 37.5% thrashing of George McGovern in 1972.
The strain is showing. Trump has for decades craved public praise and adulation, and now he faces the biggest test of public approval of his life. Will he respect the November results? He is already laying the groundwork for not accepting them. He has already said the election will be fraudulent, because of mail-in ballots, something the US has used for more than 150 years, and which Trump himself uses.
But Trump may have made a key mistake. On June 1, Trump used tear gas to clear a path through a peaceful protest for the sake of an election-style photo op, holding up a bible — upside down — in front of a Washington church. This from a man who rarely goes to church. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper went with him. Both men later said they didn’t know where they were going or for what purpose. It’s hard to say what’s more shocking: that they — the country’s highest military figures — didn’t know where they were going, or that they publicly admitted they didn’t know.
But the damage was done. Trump had humiliated these career military officers before the world.
In another extraordinary move, both men later expressed regret, for being duped and for allowing themselves to be used as campaign props. And in a point missed by American media, Black Lives Matter likely played a role in those remarkable mea culpas, as BLM has unleashed a global tsunami of reckoning.
Those public expressions of regret must have been deeply humiliating to Trump, but the man who has tweeted 200 times in one day, was silent on this abject rebuke of his rule. The rebuke was reminiscent of congressional testimony earlier in the Trump era in which a high-ranking Pentagon official assured a congressional committee the military would not let Trump get the country into an ill-advised war. It is a measure of the surreal nature of these times that such unprecedented testimony barely raised an eyebrow in the US media.
Given all this, it’s hard to imagine the military would allow Trump to not abide by November’s verdict. But all indications are that Trump doesn’t have the requisite fortitude anyway. Trump has threatened military action against Iran, Venezuela and North Korea, but aside from the seemingly endless US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan — which he inherited — all Trump has done in three and a half years is bomb a far corner of a Syrian air force base where there were, perhaps by design, no Syrian forces. And when peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters gathered outside the White House, Trump hid in a White House basement bunker intended for use in nuclear war. Trump later claimed he was inspecting the bunker, a claim widely ridiculed in the media.
No, Donald Trump won’t refuse to leave if he loses. He doesn’t have the guts.
As I wrote in my post yesterday (July 21), the law enforcement personnel Trump has deployed on the streets of Portland, Oregon (and has promised to deploy in Chicago, New York and other cities “run by liberal democrats”) come from two sub-agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These are two of three new immigration agencies (the third being U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS) that were created within DHS when it absorbed the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which had been part of the Department of Justice.
Evident in the very names of these two agencies is the fact that their mandates are to enforce immigration and customs-related laws—both at the border (CBP) and in the interior (ICE) of the United States. So why are two immigration agencies being used to patrol the streets in a city that is not on an international border, and to make arrests having nothing to do with immigration or customs enforcement?
As I mentioned yesterday, I think the main reason is that Trump has been rebuffed in his desire to use the military for these types of operations. So he turned to a politicized agency that, by the way, is already the country’s largest federal law enforcement organization, with more than 60,000 law enforcement officers on its payroll. Moreover, unlike other federal law enforcement agencies—such as the FBI, the DEA or the ATF, which have specific domains of authority defined by federal statute—DHS’s statutory authority includes the discretion to transfer agents from one component of DHS to another. The administration is taking advantage of this loophole to second CBP and ICE officers to the Federal Protective Service (FPS), a federal agency whose job is to protect federal property.
But there is another, more insidious reason why it should not surprise us that Trump is using armed border patrol and other immigration enforcement officers as his storm troopers. As Dina Haynes, Professor at New England Law, writes, “Racist, regressive leaders around the world have been instrumentalizing racism, discrimination, and ‘othering’ to further their nativist goals.” Immigrants were Trump’s first scapegoats, but it’s an easy next step to scapegoat anyone who challenges his authority by suggesting that they, too, are somehow “others” who seek to destroy our country. The administration has been quite successful in instrumentalizing anti-immigrant sentiment to justify expanding administrative authority. (This in an administration that purportedly wants to “deconstruct the administrative state.”) The result is the sort of authoritarian crackdowns we are now seeing, including in Portland, where the administration is using national security rhetoric to justify letting DHS operate far beyond its jurisdictional limitations.
In a Facebook post where Angelo A. Paparelli, a highly respected immigration lawyer, posted without comment a New York Times opinion piece about what’s happening in Portland (see Michelle Goldberg’s great column, “Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun”), a contrarian commenter started right in by suggesting that Angelo must “love anarchy” and “hate America.” Nothing in his post, or in his history, would suggest anything of the sort. Why do Trumpers so often resort to this kind of rhetoric? And it rarely helps to respond with facts and figures. These Kool-Aid drinkers have long since absorbed the Orwellian dictate, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Remember, Trump himself said in 2018, “Just remember what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Yes, it’s all fake news—except when it suits him. Then it’s all the Democrats’ fault.
My friend and fellow immigration law warrior Rebecca Eichler recently posted the image I am sharing here. It’s a relevant update of the famous prose poem by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. Fascism is here. In America. Today. The question is: will you resist, or will you collaborate?
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SOURCES AND FURTHER READING (more or less in the order in which the related topics are discussed above):
If you aren’t already reading Heather Cox Richardson‘s daily newsletters, I highly recommend them. She is a professor of American history who brilliantly puts current US events into historical context. She also broadcasts live on Facebook twice a week, and in today’s video she connects the dots to demonstrate how Trump is using the Department of Homeland Security to create a false narrative about violent anarchists on the streets in Portland (and soon other cities as well) in order to scare people into voting for him in November.
Keep in mind that to date, the worst the protesters in Portland have done is spray graffiti on some government buildings and deface a statue commemorating the Confederacy. Meanwhile, unmarked, heavily armed federal officers have cracked skulls and swept peaceful protesters off the streets into unmarked vans. Is this the kind of country any of us wants to live in? A place where the government engages in extrajudicial violence and disappearances?
The military, for all its faults, is an essentially apolitical (not to mention disciplined) institution. After the debacle where Trump manipulated the military into clearing the streets near the White House of protesters so that he could pose with a bible in front of a nearby church, military leaders made it clear that they would not let themselves be used like that again.
So now Trump is using law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security — especially two of its sub-agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — to serve as his storm troopers. DHS is a thoroughly political institution, created by the George W. Bush administration in the wake of 9/11, and CBP and ICE, which are both full of virulently right-wing white supremacists, are more than willing to do Trump’s bidding.
In 2016 (and again in 2018), it was caravans of supposedly violent immigrants who were said to pose a national security threat to our country. (Funny how news of the caravans essentially disappeared after the elections.) In 2020, it will be purportedly violent anarchists in — wait for it — Democratically-led cities who allegedly pose an existential threat to our democracy. The language to this effect that 45 used in his recent “Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence” is extraordinarily deceptive, incendiary and dangerous. When has a nation’s government ever gone to such lengths to protect monuments to traitors? The so-called violent left-wing extremist is just a straw man. The real threat comes from the government-sanctioned brown shirts on our streets.
Richardson also makes the point that although most presidents want to be re-elected (except for the few, like LBJ, who chose not to run for a second term), the lengths to which Trump is going to gain re-election is unprecedented in American history. After all, what’s the worst that can happen if a president is not re-elected? That he (or, someday, she) is condemned to a life of too much golf and millions of dollars in lecture circuit earnings? It’s not a bad gig.
But in Trump’s case, something worse awaits him, as it is almost certain that once he leaves office, he will be subject to multiple criminal charges. The only thing protecting him from indictment now is a Department of Justice policy (it’s not even a law) that a sitting president cannot be subject to criminal charges. So he is using all of the government resources at his disposal to distract the populace from his disastrous lack of leadership that has allowed a virulent coronavirus to kill thousands of Americans, and to convince the electorate that only he can save us from the violent overthrow of the US government.
It’s all utterly despicable, and leaves me in deep despair. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is stripping the country for parts while they have the chance. We are living through the end of the American Century, brought to you by our sponsor, Trump Inc.