Category Archives: GOP

trump tweet

Donald, Your Desperation’s Showing

Long ago, we had president’s who delivered fireside chats to calm an anxious electorate, labored over short speeches to memorialize lost soldiers and whose contents would be remembered for generations, and carefully watched their every step knowing that their actions would serve as precedent for generations to come.  Now, we have a president whose early morning tweet storms reveal a deeply insecure, illiberal demagogue trying his hardest to salvage a failed administration through lies meant to rally a base willing to overlook bigotry, sexual predation, and ignorance.

And recently, these tweets — to which we can set our alarms — have sounded increasingly desperate.  It seems the looming threat of Robert Mueller indicting his campaign staff and other aides coupled with a 35% approval rating and an inability to enact any of his promised agenda leaves Mr. Trump riddled with anxiety that he tries to clear through boisterous tweets.  Maybe he needs to spend more time golfing.

Trump’s 10/29 morning tweets might have shown a new low, which says a lot given he used Twitter to falsely accuse President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phone.  A Department of Justice investigation found the obvious: Trump lied.  Again.  Yet despite that libel, Trump’s tweets on 10/29 show a new low because of their desperation and further descent into illiberal rhetoric.



Here Trump touts the unity of the Republican Party even though earlier in the week, Republican Senator Jeff Flake took to the Senate floor to decry Trumpism and the rotten nativist populism it inspires among the electorate.  Another GOP senator, Bob Corker, said the White House amounted to an “adult daycare center.”  John McCain, in a notable speech, decried the “spurious nationalism” that now plagues the race-baiting Republican Party.

With regards to the Steele dossier, it seems strange to deride as “Fake” a document that encouraged an FBI investigation and whose central point — Trump’s liability to Russian influence — certainly seems truer by the day (why did Trump retain Michael Flynn after pointed warnings about Flynn’s susceptibility to Russian blackmail?).

Furthermore, why should there be any investigation into the Clinton campaign funding routine opposition research?  Unlike Donald Trump Jr holding a meeting with Russian agents after being promised dirt on his father’s political opponent (a meeting attended by then campaign manager Paul Manafort and digital strategist Jared Kushner), hiring a firm to conduct research is not collusion and certainly not a crime.



The Uranium One deal, to which right-wing propagandists have latched as an effort to vilify a now private citizen — the only way to boost Trump’s image — is perhaps the most ridiculous “scandal” ever presented by Clinton haters.  No facts support their claims, but falsely alleging corruption shits focus away from Trump’s improprieties.

Trump’s accusation of a “Comey fix” makes no sense, unless Trump doesn’t understand the law and ignored Comey’s press conference wherein he correctly stated that “no reasonable prosecutor” would recommend charges be brought against her.  It also seems strange to allege some “fix” when James Comey’s letter to one of the most unscrupulous member of Congress tilted the election to Trump.



Donald J. Trump led the racist birther crusade that wrongly claimed Obama was born in Kenya, not America (because all blacks are born in Africa, specifically Kenya, right?).  This endeavor lasted years and only months before Election Day did Trump disavow his crusade that caused millions to doubt Obama’s legitimacy and which mobilized, for the first time in generations, the angry nationalists who later became Trump’s core base.

He also accused Ted Cruz of having multiple affairs and claimed Cruz’s father participated in the John F. Kennedy assassination.  He’s claimed that vaccines cause autism (they don’t) and called climate change a “Chinese hoax” (it’s not).

Looking into collusion with a foreign enemy to win an election is not a “Witch Hunt.”  It shouldn’t even be a partisan issue.



There are no facts pouring out.  Trump lies about alleged Democrat and Clinton guilt because he needs a foil.  Importantly, though, he’s casting the political opposition — dissidents — as guilty of corruption and as an illegitimate political force.  How would conservatives react if Obama unilaterally condemned the GOP as guilty and urged Democrats in Congress to investigate the opposition party?

How would we react if a far-right party somehow assumed leadership in Germany and then called for the Bundestag to investigate the Christian Democrat Union or other centrist parties?  Questioning the legitimacy of political opposition is a purely authoritarian move.

Trump’s desperation leads to illiberal calls on Twitter for an authoritarian investigation into political opposition.  No dedicated democrat — small “d,” meaning those who support free and fair elections and political competition — should tolerate Trump’s rhetoric.  Scared as he may be, he’s normalizing creeping authoritarianism and, as in most democratic backslides, too few stand in his way.



clinton russia collusion

No, the Clinton Campaign Did Not Collude with Russia

Upon the Washington Post’s report that the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee helped pay for the Steele dossier, right-wing media went into a frenzy declaring that the Clinton campaign, and not Donald Trump, colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.  Such claims are complete hogwash.  The Clinton campaign did not in any way, shape, or form collude or have connections with Russia, a fact so stunningly obvious that any claims to the contrary shows the extent to which the right-wing apparatus has engaged in Orwellian DoubleSpeak simply to defend a president all know to be dangerously unit for the job.

These orgies of accusations, whose participants include Donald J. Trump, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Fox News, Sean Hannity, the National Review, the Federalist, Jeb Bush, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, ignore that the Washington Free Beacon — a conservative publication — partnered with Republican megadonor Paul Singer to fund the dossier during the primaries.

They also ignore reports last year that Democrats took over the dossier project after Trump won the Republican nomination.  No new information, just confirmation of previous reports and a pretty evident event: Many in Washington knew of some opposition research into Trump that included Russian improprieties — why would the Clinton campaign not pay a firm to probe for information?



Opposition Research is not Collusion

I should emphasize “pay a firm to probe for information.”  The Clinton campaign hired Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Trump.  Fusion GPS then hired former British spy Chris Steele for the investigation.  Steele collected raw intelligence; that obviously included speaking with Russians.  Undoubtedly, many of these Russians, speakingly disconcertingly freely, likely had lines fed to them by the Kremlin, whose efforts to influence our election and voters (of both parties) has been well documented.

But that’s not collusion (except, perhaps, in the delusional world of those who truly believe everything 1,200 time liar Donald Trump says).  Collusion involves a secret agreement or cooperation for some deceitful purpose — say, agreeing to meet with Russian agents after they promise dirt on your political opponent, which Donald Trump Jr did.  Hiring a firm for opposition research and then that firm hiring a spy and then that spy conducting routine raw intelligence collection is not by any means collusion.

Did the Clinton campaign coordinate responses with Russia?  Did it directly go to Russian operatives in hope of collecting dirt on Trump?  Did an agent of the Clinton campaign beg a de facto Russian outlet for hacked Trump emails (Cambridge Analytica, a Steve Bannon production with funding from alt-right Robert Mercer, solicited Clinton’s emails from Russian puppet Julian Assange).  The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no.



A Lack of Logic

Let’s also walk through the wholly foolish logic of those claiming Clinton/Russia collusion:

  1. Fund the bombshell dossier
  2. Say nothing about
  3. Let Russia hack your emails
  4. Lose election in large part because of leaked emails hacked by Russia
  5. Profit!

It’s utterly bizarre and entirely nonsensical that people think the Clinton campaign would break all sorts of laws and arguably commit treason to coordinate with Russian and then not use the document during the campaign to win the election.  How does that make sense?  Like all of the right-wing attacks, it doesn’t.

Paying for opposition research is not collusion.  By not stretch of the imagination is it collusion.  These new attacks, conveniently emerging in the same week as special counsel Robert Mueller’s first indictment, are only misinformation driven by stakeholders of the Trump administration who will go to any lengths to defend their Great White Hope — he who will take healthcare from millions and cut taxes on the wealthy all while enabling the GOP’s most racist and deplorable faction.




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A Race-Baiter’s Party Now

Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie barely defeated Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart to win the GOP nomination for Virginia’s gubernatorial election.  No one expected the race to be close: Gillespie, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and candidate Mitt Romney, led all polls by at least 15 points and Stewart never impressed with his transplant knowledge of the state.

No one expected Corey Stewart to earn 42.5% of the primary vote because no one understood the true depths of irrational nativist anger that now defines a substantial faction — perhaps the most important faction — within the Republican Party.  The GOP is no longer the party of conservatism.  It’s the party of race-baiters.

Stewart ran a despicable campaign centered around issues of proclaimed heritage, by which he meant protecting the glorification of those who waged war against the Union in an effort to continue an engrained system of crimes against humanity.  In other words, Stewart’s campaign drew on support for traitors.



His rallies became cesspools of Confederate-loving individuals wrapping their obvious bigotry in the high-handed guise of “preserving history” — the history of the Confederate flag, which so many displayed as they cheered a vicious know-nothing.  Speeches descended to diatribes against proclaimed “political correctness,” a catch-all phrase used to decry those who think that states and localities maybe shouldn’t proudly display emblems of secession.

 

We shouldn’t really be surprised by Stewart’s campaign antics.  After hearing the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexually harassing and assaulting women — a tape which preceded two dozen accusations of such behavior, which Trump dismissed because some of the women were “too ugly” to harass — Stewart organized a rally outside of the RNC headquarters to protest the organizations lack of support for their predator candidate.

Even the Trump campaign, the same campaign that lead calls to lock up a political opponent (a highlight in banana republic campaigns) and which ran against the Constitution and the soul of our nation, tired of Stewart’s antics and fired him from his unpaid position.



But Trump’s ultimate victory — a victory made possible by voters overlooking bigotry, predation, and disturbing ignorance — emboldened Republican primary voters to free themselves of the Enlightenment’ shackles; hatred empowered, they no longer saw a need to keep up their facade of constitutionalism.  So 42% of them voted for Stewart and far-right populism.  Only the DC explants residing on Northern Virginia (briefly) saved the state from Stewart’s bombastic nativism (but he’ll be back, running for Senate against Tim Kaine in 2018).

With Stewart defeated by the slightest margin, Gillespie had two choices: Continue a campaign of decency wherein he would combat the most insidious factions of the Republican Party and try to shed conservatism of its fetish for demagogues or continue the campaign Stewart won.  To his shame and that of the GOP writ large, Gillespie chose the latter.

Gillespie decided to further kowtow to race-baiters because today’s GOP is so rotten that any ambitious politician now has to adopt racially biased principles to escape a primary and consolidate support for a general election.  That’s why actual conservatives such as Jeff Flake opt not to run for reelection.  Values would have to be surrendered to the scourge of far-right populists yearning for a nationalism that legitimizes naked hatred of Mexicans and Muslims.



The Republican’s campaign has devolved into running clear race-baiting ads that feature heavily tattooed Latinos and the threats of menacing gangs, such as MS-13.  “MS-13’s motto is Kill. Rape. Control,” screams one. “Ralph Northam’s policy? Northam cast the deciding vote in favor of sanctuary cities that let illegal immigrants who commit crimes back on the street, increasing the threat of MS-13.”

 

Sanctuary cities play a central part in Gillespie’s rallies.  “Do we need to have sanctuary cities here in Virginia?” Gillespie asks rally-goers. “No!” they yell in response, not understanding that sanctuary cities don’t help criminals, do not led to increases in crime, but do help victims of domestic abuse and violence contact police without fear of deportation.

But there aren’t any sanctuary cities in Virginia.

What end, then, could these ads that link Democrat Ralph Northam with muscular, tattooed, Latino gang members serve?  Race-baiting.  Nothing else.



This is the Republican Party now.  Candidates have to invoke racial fears, prejudices, and grievances to rally Lost Cause troops behind their campaign.  The state that witnessed a Nazi drive through a crowd of protesters, killing one, now sees a gubernatorial candidate embrace the exact same principles — saving statues.

Between Gillespie and Roy Moore, racist extraordinaire, we’re seeing how the GOP and its base will act in the years to come.

Emboldened by Trump, they doubled-down on nativism, hatred, and ignorance.



roy moore dred scott

Roy Moore: SCOTUS Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Worse Than Denying Blacks Citizenship

In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that African Americans, whether enslaved or free, could never be American citizens.  They were people in name only: When free from the shackles of bondage, they had no rights whatsoever and could seek no recourse through the American judiciary.

Long-disgraced Chief Justice Roger Taney also held that Congress had no ability to limit slavery in the United States’ territory.  Slavery could expand indefinitely and neither Congress nor the legal system could stop it.  Dred Scott sought to protect slavery forever.

Most legal scholars consider Dred Scott the worst Supreme Court decision in history (or at least among the very worst).  Not Roy Moore, twice-former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, a position from which the state twice removed him because he refused to follow the rule of law.



Roy Moore believes that Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the land, is worse than the decision that kept blacks as property.  Here are his full words:

“In 1857 the United States Supreme Court did rule that black people were property. Of course that contradicted the Constitution, and it took a civil war to overturn it. But this ruling in Obergefell is even worse in a sense because it forces not only people to recognize marriage other than the institution ordained of God and recognized by nearly every state in the union, it says that you now must do away with the definition of marriage and make it between two persons of the same gender or leading on, as one of the dissenting justices said, to polygamy, to multi-partner marriages.”

That’s right.  According to the likely next senator from Alabama, the ability for those in love to have the state recognize their bond as equal to that of two other people in love is worse than saying African Americans can never be US citizens and thus can never have the rights guaranteed to all people without color.

C’mon, Alabama, you’re better than this.



trump and corker

Trump and Corker Feud: The Facts

Donald Trump continues to lash out at all those who speak critically of him.  No one is immune: Not Gold Star families, first-responders to national disasters, or senators from his own party.  His feud with Tennessee senator Bob Corker is just another case of Trump’s gaslighting and lies that come when faced with dissidence.  Of course, in the Trump and Corker feud, Trump has the facts wrong.

Trump and Corker: Presidential Endorsement

Bob Corker opted not to run for reelection in 2018 despite being a fairly popular senator (he won 2012 reelection with 64 percent of the vote and has a +23 approval rating) and holding a key committee chairmanship (Foreign Relations).

Trump, in a series of tweets, claimed Corker decided not to run because the president refused to give his endorsement.

But that’s not true.  Corker’s Chief of Staff told NBC News that “President Trump called Senator Corker and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election and said I would have endorsed you.”  That followed a September conversation in which Trump pledged to campaign for Corker should the senator have ran again.  Multiple witnesses and people familiar with the conversations agree that Trump’s tweets have no basis in reality.



The Iran Deal

Trump’s obsessed with ending the Iran Deal, a deal he despises despite Iran abiding by it and thoroughly curtailing its nuclear capabilities.  Ending the Iran Deal threatens our foreign policy and sanctity of our word.  With misplaced anger towards the deal, Trump launches invective at all those who support it.  And somehow, despite all facts to the contrary, Trump thinks Corker gave us the Iran Deal.

In the land of facts, Bob Corker vocally opposed the Iran Deal, writing op-eds against it and urging his colleagues to vote against the agreement.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, when asked to defend Trump’s blatant falsehood, spat out another lie, claiming that Corker’s cosponsorship of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act paved the way for the Iran Deal.  That’s “astonishingly wrong,” said Richard Nephew, a senior research scholar on global energy policy at Columbia University, as the act “gave Congress the most direct way of killing the deal, quickly and easily.”

Corker also voted against the Iran Deal, which can be easily fact-checked by checking voting records (here’s the vote to end cloture that would then allow the Senate to vote on cancelling the deal).  Why would Trump bother to lie about something so easily fact-checked?



Corker “Couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee”

One of Trump’s favorite insults is alleging that his enemies couldn’t be elected dog catcher in their respective states.  Attacking the electoral abilities of politicians seems odd for a man who only received 46 percent of the popular vote, only slightly more than Thomas Dewey received in 1944 and Michael Dukakis earned in 1988.  Most Americans don’t recognize those names.

But of course, when Trump and Corker compare electoral histories, Corker wins.  Corker won his 2012 reelection with 64.9 percent of the vote; Trump received 60.7 percent of the vote in Tennessee.  In other words, Corker earned a higher vote share in Tennessee than did Trump despite 2012 being a better year for Democrats (Barack Obama took around 51 percent of the popular vote to Hillary Clinton’s 48 percent).

As mentioned, Corker has a solid approval rating: 52 percent approval of Corker’s job as senator and only 29 percent disapprove.  Trump holds a 52 percent approval in Tennessee, but also a 42 percent disapproval, leaving him +10 whereas Corker is +23.  I suppose by Trump’s logic he also could not be elected Tennessee’s dog-catcher.



Corker’s Stature

Trump has little understanding of world affairs.  Corker, on the other hand, does.  Until Trump can explain North Korea’s rationale for developing nuclear weapons, until he can explain the religious differences in the Middle East and which factions fight which, until he can display even the slightest understanding of foreign policy, his criticism of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for work on foreign policy really has little merit.



Lastly, a note on Trump’s character.  Trump and Corker initially got along well — Corker supported Trump and helped the candidate develop foreign policy.  Trump even considered making Corker his Secretary of State.

He chose not to for the worst reason imaginable: He’s only 5’7″.  Seriously.  A deciding factor in Trump’s pick for Secretary of State was height, not competency, knowledge, or respect from global leaders.  I suppose it’s little surprise that the reality TV show president cares only for appearance.

But the world cares about substance and, as in almost every single issue, this Trump and Corker fight — from its inception with Trump’s vanity — shows Trump’s a pathological liar hellbent on deceiving the American people.



losing faith in the free press

Losing Faith in the Free Press

A long history of political science literature teaches us that Americans tend to take cues from elites — that is, as a natural byproduct of being unable to thoroughly analyze each issue they face, they accept the conclusions of those they respect.  Perhaps no where is this more true than in politics, a complicated subject made ever more difficult by the nuances of legislation.

Unfortunately, Americans also base their belief in political norms on the thoughts of such elites.  Political norms — those that adhere our society to liberal democratic values — must be taught and passed from generation to generation.  They should not be eroded on the basis of one rather rogue leader.  But that idealized notion does not exist.  Instead, when charlatans such as Donald J. Trump routinely attack our norms and institutions, Americans follow suit.

Losing Faith in the Free Press

Faith in the free press has suffered under Trump’s baseless and incorrect bashing of the so-called “fake news,” a concept he clearly does not understand.  A recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found that a full 46 percent of all voters think the media makes up stories about Trump and his administration.  This includes some 76 percent of Republicans (only 11 percent of Republicans don’t think the media makes up stories) and 44 percent of proclaimed independents.



The media, of course, does not make up stories about Trump and his administration.  All stories from reputable news sources go through a thorough vetting process and multiple rounds of verification, especially if sources refuse to go on the record.  Of course, Trump himself cannot actually point to a story he finds fake.  Neither can his supporters.

Just 37 percent of voters believe that the media does not fabricate stories.  Fewer than four in ten Americans trust our press enough to believe in the veracity of all they publish.  And yet they have no reason to believe the opposite, except that Donald Trump — and, shamefully, other elites within the Republican Party — have latched onto this false idea that any report that criticizes or disparages the president in any way must be fake news, and called such for millions of gullible voters to believe.

 

It doesn’t stop there.  Nearly three in ten Americans — 28 percent — think the government should have the power to revoke broadcast licenses of major news organizations the government says make up stories.  Put another way, 28 percent of all voters think the government should define what constitutes “fake news” and then act to ban its creators from broadcasting.

Remember that the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom…of the press.”



Blinded by Partisanship

 

Unsurprisingly, it’s primarily Republicans who support these proposals because it’s a Republican (or somehow who calls himself a Republican when he’s really a self-serving demagogue running on the Trump First platform) making the outrageous and blatantly anti-First Amendment claims.

We need to step back and realize that we’re letting an illiberal actor transform our beliefs in needed democratic institutions.  The free press keeps us informed.  It holds power accountable by helping voters understand the issues facing the country, the ongoings of Congress and the executive, and providing a transparent government where we can analyze for ourselves the actions of elected leaders rather than relying on government-controlled messaging.

A free society needs a vibrant press.  It’s the press that uncovers abuses of powers — without a dedicated press, Watergate would have gone unpunished.  Sexual abuse and harassment stories would never come to light.  Administration officials would still be spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to fly from DC to New York on chartered planes.  We wouldn’t know what’s happening because power tends to corrupt and that corruption is defended through lies.

Imagine a society in which Donald Trump’s 1,000+ lies went unchecked and unchallenged, that an unknowing populace — ignorant for the lack of government critique — simply believed all he said because they had no basis on which to form doubt.



Democracies need the press because democracies need informed voters.  That’s precisely what Trump’s attacking through his rhetorical attacks on the press, eroding support among the media and causing many — especially his supporters — to doubt everything said by certain outlets.  That’s not how a free, democratic society lasts.  We must cherish the free press regardless of what our political leaders say.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”



hamilton jefferson election 1800

Republicans Could Learn from Alexander Hamilton

The election of 1800 pushed the young American republic to the brink of a constitutional crisis.  Just the fourth election, and the first truly competitive one, the Federalist and Republican parties — though they would bristle at being labelled parties — organized candidate tickets, John Adams and Charles Pinckney and Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, respectively.

This innovation, a devolution into faction which so frightened the Founders, threatened the Electoral College because prior to the 12th Amendment, Electors had no way of differentiating between the president and vice-president.  Designed without parties in mind, each elector cast two votes and the top two electoral vote getters receiving at least a majority (in 1800, 70 votes) would become president and vice-president.

However, with a party ticket and partisan electors choosing from preferential candidates rather than dispassionately selecting a president from the population, electors had to coordinate votes to ensure that they didn’t each cast their ballots for the president and vice-presidential hopeful; one elector had to cast one vote for a third candidate lest the presidential and vice-presidential designee end up with the same number of electoral votes.

Failing to do so would throw the election to the House of Representatives.



A Republican Coordination Failure

Federalists managed this feat, no easy task given difficultly of coordination in a nation that moved at the speed of horses, with one elector giving a vote to John Jay, leaving John Adams with 65 electoral votes and Charles Pinckney with 64.  Republicans failed to execute their similar plan.  Their electors cast 73 electoral votes for both Jefferson and Burr and the tied election went to the Federalist-controlled House of Representatives, which threatened to overturn the election, nullify results, or even pass installation to install an interim chief magistrate.

In the House, state delegations each cast one vote for president with a majority (9) needed for victory.  While Federalists dominated the chamber — they lost their majority in 1800, but the new Congress would not be seated until March — they only controlled eight delegations, short of a majority.  Republicans controlled seven states and one, Vermont, had a split delegation.

All knew that Republicans picked Thomas Jefferson as their presidential nominee, but that did not bind Federalists, most of whom despised the former vice-president.  They wanted to deny him the presidency and so a number of them voted for Burr: Six Federalist delegations initially voted for Burr, all seven Republican delegations as well as Federalist Georgia voted for Jefferson.  Vermont, split, cast a blank ballot.  Maryland had five Federalists and three Republicans in its delegation — four Federalists voted for Burr while one voted for Jefferson along with the Republicans, leading to a blank ballot.  No president had been decided.

These divisions — six states for Burr, eight for Jefferson, two blank — held for 35 ballots.



Hamilton’s History with Jefferson

Throughout the affair, Alexander Hamilton urged his Federalist colleagues to vote for Thomas Jefferson, his longtime nemesis, because he trusted Jefferson’s character and virtue whereas he found Burr unscrupulous and too self-serving.  A perfect example of Burr’s self-serving character is his unwillingness to stand down after the election when to the House, despite knowing his designation as vice-president.

It’s hard to overstate the depths of the animosity that flowed between Hamilton and Jefferson.  Hamilton considered Jefferson’s political views as “tinctured with fanaticism,” and, as a person, “a contemptible hypocrite.”  During the 1796 election, Hamilton wrote a series of some 25 essays under the pseudonym Phocion attacking Jefferson.  The most notable of the works, all published in the Gazette, accused Jefferson of having an affair with one of his female slaves.

For his part, Thomas Jefferson lambasted Hamilton and funded James Callender, a sensationalist Republican journalist who frequented the muck to attack Federalists, primarily Hamilton.  Callender helped destroy Hamilton’s career and public reputation through false accusations of corruption and the popularization of Hamilton’s affair with Jane Reynolds.



The Callender Affair

In 1792, information came to light that made then-senator (and future president) James Monroe believe Hamilton used his position as Secretary of the Treasury to enrich himself through speculation.  Such accusations naturally angered Hamilton, who prided himself on virtuous leadership that sacrificed his own interests for those of the country.  That disinterested leadership defined his views of government and explains his eventual support of Jefferson over Burr in the 1800 election.

When Monroe and other Republicans confronted Hamilton, they learned Hamilton dallied with Reynolds, but did not act corruptly or abuse his powers.  Monroe and his counterparts understood the distinction between public and private life, realizing that indiscretions in marriage did not equate to corrupt or insidious public action.  The investigation ended without leaks.

Some four years later, Callender uncovered the papers related to the Hamilton investigation, perhaps leaked to him by Jefferson, though more likely released by former House clerk John Beckley, a Jefferson ally.  He published the documents and further editorialized the affair, lambasting Hamilton’s moral standing and falsely accusing him of corruption.

Hamilton responded in a lengthy pamphlet that he assumed would end the confrontation and restore his stature — after all, the same defense and revelation of facts had ended Monroe’s intrigue.  Unfortunately, the pamphlet, in which Hamilton admitted the sordid details of his affair but denied all allegations of corruption, reached a mass audience and that audience assumed Hamilton’s moral indiscretions exposed a rotten character.  Callender’s efforts, funded by Jefferson, thoroughly disgraced Hamilton.



Differences Aside

And yet, when it came to the tied 1800 election, Hamilton put his long-standing rivalry and antipathy towards Jefferson behind him and fervently wrote Federalist congressman urging them to make Jefferson, not Burr, president.

Hamilton worried that the country would suffer, that the government would be subverted or otherwise harmed, by “an unprincipled man [who] would exploit public passion.”  He warned of a latter-day Catiline, the Roman senator who tried a populist uprising against the Republic.  Burr’s populism — he was the first (vice) presidential candidate to canvass for office and helped establish the first political machine in New York — and ambition made him such a man.

Federalists believed that Burr, who held few core principles and profited from the Hamiltonian economic system, would maintain the Federalist program.  But Hamilton, who did so much to consolidate government and design the Federalist programs, willingly sacrificed their rollback for character in the presidency.  “Great Ambition unchecked by principle…is an unruly Tyrant,” he wrote.

“As to Burr there is nothing in his favour. His private character is not defended by his most partial friends. He is bankrupt beyond redemption except by the plunder of his country. His public principles have no other spring or aim than his own aggrandisement per fas et nefas. If he can, he will certainly disturb our institutions to secure to himself permanent power and with it wealth.”



The Lesser of Two Evils

Jefferson, on the other hand, had greater ability than Burr and was not “zealot enough to do anything in pursuance of his principles which will contravene his popularity, or his interest. He is as likely as any man I know to temporize — to calculate what will be likely to promote his own reputation and advantage; and the probable result of such a temper is the preservation of systems, though originally opposed, which being once established, could not be overturned without danger to the person who did it. . . . Add to this that there is no fair reason to suppose him capable of being corrupted, which is a security that he will not go beyond certain limits.”

“He is of a temper to undertake the most hazardous enterprises because he is sanguine enough to think nothing impracticable, and of an ambition which will be content with nothing less than permanent power in his own hands.  The maintenance of the existing institutions will not suit him, because under them his power will be too narrow & too precarious; yet the innovations he may attempt will not offer the substitute of a system durable & safe, calculated to give lasting prosperity, & to unite liberty with strength. It will be the system of the day, sufficient to serve his own turn, & not looking beyond himself.”

“The truth,” Hamilton wrote, “is that under forms of Government like ours, too much is practicable to men who will without scruple avail themselves of the bad passions of human nature.”

Hamilton put his hatred towards Jefferson and concerns over the longevity of his system to support a candidate with character fit to be president, eschewing his party in the process.  He recognized the dangers posed by a self-serving individual without ideology of which to speak and no clear attachment to the constitutional system.



How Republicans Can Learn from Hamilton

Republicans should learn from that.  Donald Trump has no interest in protecting the Constitution — in fact, his actions as president have undermined it through violating the foreign emoluments clause, the domestic emoluments clause, undermining the separation of powers, and trying to erode the First Amendment’s protections of free speech and press.

Obviously, Trump is not fit for office.  He promotes falsehoods, lies to the American people, and blunders about without a clear understanding of policy, domestic and foreign.  About 1/3 of his presidency is spent on properties he owns, mingling with donors and lobbyists who pay companies in which he maintains a financial stake hundreds of thousands a year simply to have access to the president.  The Founders never wanted such a businessman to be president because that individual would have innumerable conflicts of interest and act on in a self-serving manner; the fears Hamilton had of Burr come true in Trump.

Trump’s authoritarian minded.  He has offered a tacit endorsement of political violence and degraded political discourse through slander, libel, and countless lies told about the opposition.

Our institutions do constrain him, and that’s a testament to the efforts of Hamilton and other Founding Fathers to create precedents of separated power and checks and balances, not risking the early republic for personal or factional interests, but instead recognizing the gravity of their decisions.  Precedents can be overturned and the normalization of an authoritarian president coupled with weak congressional opposition does not bode well for the country going forward.

Hamilton acted for the country, not for himself.  He worked ceaselessly to protect the country from the dangers of ann ambitious and self-serving character.  Republicans need to learn from Hamilton’s actions and recognize that our country would be best served by abandoning Donald Trump.

If Republicans want to be glorified as Hamilton has, if they want to protect the American republic, they would do well to deny Trump the 2020 GOP nomination and, if he claims it, unite behind a Democrat for the sake of our nation.



For more on election of 1800 and the histories of Hamilton and Jefferson, checkout Gordon S. Wood’s “Empire of Liberty.”  Click the image to buy.

hamilton jefferson
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lamar smith

Lamar Smith is Everything Wrong with Today’s GOP

Lamar Smith, Republican representative from Texas’s 21st congressional district, which covers parts of San Antonio and most of its northern suburb/exurbs, showcases the vast ignorance and hypocritical desires for censorship of ideas it dislikes that has corrupted today’s Republican Party and turned it into an illiberal organization of national embarrassment and worldwide disrepute.

Somehow, Lamar Smith ascended to the chairmanship of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology despite having no scientific background and standing athwart the tide of scientific progress.  He’s used his chairmanship to harass scientists and promote conspiracies, delusions, and outright lies to the American people.



Lamar Smith Denies Science

A prolific climate change denier, Lamar Smith claimed that an Obama-administration report on climate “intended to frighten Americans into believing that any abnormal weather we experience is the direct result of human CO2 emissions.”  A whopping 97 percent of climate scientists agree that humans have caused climate change.

Smith believes in the so-called “global warming pause,” a theory which cherrypicks data to argue that temperatures haven’t actually risen in the years since 1998.  Of course, this theory is utter bogus and finds support only among the scientifically illiterate buffoons hell-bent on promoting pseudo-science and undermining the intelligence of the American people.

lamar smith pseudo science
What pause?



He thinks peer-reviewed scientific findings using methods he cannot begin to comprehend have actually been fudged with public scientists “altering the data” to “advanced [the Obama administration’s] extreme climate change agenda.”  Again, 97 percent of all climate change scientists disagree with Lamar Smith, who has received more than $700,000 in campaign contributions from energy companies.

Speaking of peer-review, Lamar Smith isn’t a fan of the system that verifies scientific findings and maintains the high-quality of published research.  Smith wants to overhaul how the National Science Foundation (NSF) applies for and is awarded grants for scientific research.

Politically-Motivated Scientific Censorship

Currently, the NSF has two existing criteria for grant applicaitons: Intellectual merit and broader impacts of the research.  These two prongs encourage research freedom and promote ideas that benefit all fields of study.  Politics do not influence grant application and awarding, a clear must as politically-motivated science will never have rigour and credibility.



But Lamar Smith wants all research grants awarded solely by what the House of Representatives — a chamber dominated by Republicans entirely resistant to science and its findings — defines as in the national security interest or which help boost the economy.  This will naturally preclude most social science research and other explorations into important subjects that help us understand our society and guide policymaking in ways unrelated to what Lamar Smith finds useful.  Research into climate change would of course be stopped.

To boost his lost cause, Smith had committee aides go to the NSF and review its grants and research, ostensibly to find wasteful use of taxpayer money, but obviously to exert political review of the scientific process.  Quite clearly, this entire affair reeks of attempted political censorship on science simply because Lamar Smith and his unenlightened colleagues detest the results of peer-reviewed, high quality science.



Authoritarian Inclinations

Such desires for political censorship have continued, with Lamar Smith, at a conference held by the Heartland Institute, which prides itself as being the organization most resistant to climate science, expressed support for punishing “scientific journals that publish research that doesn’t fit standards of peer review crafted by Smith and the committee (although he didn’t say how that would be accomplished).”

Lamar Smith wants science to be beholden to political interests.  NO science should be conducted that may challenge his bizarre worldview; no research can be of merit if doesn’t align with what Smith finds important.  Authoritarian and totalitarian countries try to control science and its findings.  The Soviet Union infamously did so to further its propaganda.  No country benefits when science must be politically correct and controlled by ignorant bureaucrats — no society remains free when the government controls all it dislikes.

In what way is this anything other than an attempt to limit the intelligence and knowledge of man to the doctrines the Republican Party finds acceptable?



donald trump authoritarianism

The Alpha Male of a Chimpanzee Colony

The Primal President

Donald Trump appealed to millions of Americans through sheer primal dominance.  His bluster, his unpredictable and easily inflamed temperament, his agenda driven by extreme narcissism, and his story of (white) American warriors constantly fighting in a Hobbesian world of (racial and cultural) change made him appear as an alpha male, a force with which to be reckoned.  But really, Trump’s psychological appeal that preys on those who lust for authoritarianism makes him the alpha male of the chimpanzee colony that is now the Republican Party. 

Prestige Psychology and Statesmanship

In an ideal polity, humans embrace prestige psychology, a somewhat recent evolutionary gain that has prepared our brains to respect honor those with culturally valued skills.  These skills usually contribute to a society’s well-being and are wielded for benevolence.

Prestigious individuals apply their talents not for self-aggrandizement, but to help others.  Members of society respond by elevating these individuals to positions of leadership and revere; they seek to emulate these cherished individuals and to respect the prestigious leader’s proclivity to collaborate with other experts (prestigious themselves) and act with degrees of “magnanimity, generosity, forbearance, and dignity in their leadership roles.”



Today, we would call those individuals patricians, or statesmen.  Such qualities can be attributed to some of our best presidents, including, namely, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two men whose actions created and saved the Union while furthering liberty for all.

Donald Trump, of course, shuns statesmanship and his appeal did not draw on prestige psychology.  He won because his rhetoric appealed to primal human psychology: Social dominance.



Chimpanzee Politics

To understand Donald Trump’s appeal, we have to look at chimpanzees.  Chimpanzee societies are dominated by a single top-chimp – the alpha.  He earns his position through a mix of aggression, intimidation, and threat (which will often devolve into outright violence to squash insurrections and to completely assert social dominance through physical injuries).  The alpha chimp also manages to forge coalitions of pragmatism, allying himself with other forces to maintain leadership or, once dethroned, instantly supporting the new alpha in order to keep some vestiges of power.

Humans often act in similar ways.  Affinity for social dominance hails from from our ancient history – whereas prestige psychology developed around 100,000 years ago, social dominance became engrained some 5 to 7 million years ago.  It’s this truly primal psychology that explains Trump’s appeal.

Trump’s intemperance and (mental) instability means he’s constantly at risk of exploding – he often does this while watching Fox News in the mornings or evenings.  His looming aggression and stalking during the second presidential debate show an aggressive man lusting to pounce or charge his opponent.  Early morning Twitter tirades insult opposition (often with violent undertones), vent, and relentlessly self-promote such that the uninformed are almost bullied into believing Trump’s competency.



Primal Fear

Fear, too, permeates chimpanzee politics – and Trump’s success.  Alpha chimps must instill in their potential challengers a sense of fear, a belief that any attempt to overthrow the existing regime would be futile, resulting in pain and even death.  Trump uses fear in two ways: To solidify standing among his base and to bully other Republicans into acquiescence.

Trump portrays certain minorities as rapists (Mexicans) and terrorists (Muslims) who hope to destroy the American experiment and undermine Western civilization.  By identifying entire groups – large groups, nonetheless – as existential threats to continued existence, he instils in his base a sense of fear.  They obviously want to alleviate this fear and so flock to Trump because of his harsh rhetoric towards those groups.  And, when irrationally scared, the ends always justify the means.  That’s why people supported Trump even after his announcement that he would ban Muslims from entering the country and floated shutting down Mosques and establishing a Muslim database.  Anything would be justified to make us safe.



With a solid base unwavering in their support, Trump can bully Republican lawmakers by the implicit (or explicit) threat of a primary challenge.  Politicians are cautious creatures.  They fear losing and will go to great lengths to avoid real challenges, even if it means compromising on principles (as with most Americans, politicians don’t understand statistics and thus greatly overestimate the probability of losing to a primary challenger).  Trump can threaten to endorse and campaign for a rubber-stamp challenger and his base, so the argument goes, will follow him.  To avoid that, Republican legislators, in fear of the chimpanzee base, rally behind the president.

Transactional Coalitions

This same alpha will also be willing to enter coalitions so long as they benefit himself.  He views all relationships as transactional and will end any connection once it ceases to be useful.  Hence why Donald Trump ran as a Republican despite having little in common with the party – he needed its resources.

Similarly, after spending months denigrating the RNC and his competitors, he gleefully accepted their endorsements and help; most notably, after claiming that Ted Cruz’s father had been a part of the JFK assassination, Trump accepted Cruz’s endorsement when Cruz ignored his own “vote your conscience” convention speech.  It also explains why Trump abandoned Jeff Sessions after the latter’s recusal from the Russia probe: Sessions no longer had anything to offer Trump.



Authoritarianism

Trump’s appeal, in its primacy, relied on authoritarianism.  As mentioned, Trump’s hostile rhetoric towards minorities created a good versus evil false choice in which members of the proposed in-group – (white, Christian) Americans adhering to traditional values – came into conflict with the out-group, bad people (Mexicans and Muslims) who wanted to end the American way of life.

At worst, authoritarianism results in the utter dehuminziation of the out-group.  This is how violence and genocide happen.  The out-group becomes a subhuman with no natural rights and which must, by all means, be destroyed.

As humans think about conflict with out-groups – whether naturally or at the prompting of a malicious actor – support for highly dominant, authoritarian leaders increases. 



Authoritarian Personalities among Voters

Authoritarianism defines the alpha as well as his followers.  The (right-wing) authoritarian personality – the best predictor of Trump’s electoral support – desires nationwide values that revolve around traditional norms, submission to (strong) authority figures to either embody or reinforce those norms, and virulent antipathy to those who dare challenge the existing social order.

Trump perfectly fits the needs of those with authoritarian personalities.  His extraversion (social dominance, gregariousness, reward-seeking) and low levels of agreeableness (humility, altruism, care, empathy) cultivate a strongman image seemingly dedicated to a strict and traditional social order.

With no political philosophy, Trump acts out of pure narcissism.  He wants, above all, to promote himself.  This plays into the authoritarian dynamic as those looking for salvation and safety in an authoritarian figure feel vindicated in their choice when the leader believes himself to be a savior, that his “his superior intelligence, his charismatic dominance, his single-minded devotion to a grandiose self will triumph in the end.”  That, of course, perfectly defines Trump, a man who constantly (and wrongly) brags about his intelligence.



Conclusion

Donald Trump is the primal president, a man whose support and ascent to power can best be understood by studying chimpanzee politics.  He’s an authoritarian who seized the fascination of those with authoritarian personalities and expanded that solid base through fear, intimidation, and coalitions of practicality.  His support does not come from political philosophy or long-held ideology.  It’s not because of his prestige and skills or natural statesmanship.  It’s because Donald Trump tapped the tribal dominance that we evolved millions of years ago but thought we had left behind after the Enlightenment and with the embrace of civil, democratic societies.





graham-cassidy

What is the Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Plan?

Graham-Cassidy is the GOP’s last breath in the partisan healthcare fight.

With budget reconciliation – the parliamentary procedure that allows the Republicans to overhaul the healthcare system with only 50 votes – expiring on September 30, the GOP has introduced and rallied behind one final attempt to repeal the ACA: The Graham-Cassidy bill.

What is Graham-Cassidy?

A healthcare bill introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) along with cosponsors Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Johnson (R-WI).

What does it do?

It ends the Medicaid expansion



Graham-Cassidy eliminates the Medicaid expansion in which the federal government encouraged states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover individuals and families earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.  Thirty-one states as well as the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid with the federal government subsidized at least 90 percent of new beneficiary costs.

Instead, the money once deigned for the Medicaid expansion would be reallocated as block grants for states to spend as they choose (funding would expire in 2027).  This means that states who accepted federal dollars to expand health insurance would lose money to states that resisted the ACA – it’s a redistribution from the states that helped residents afford health insurance either through Medicaid or helping people sign up for insurance through federal exchanges to resistant states that did not try to help residents afford health insurance.

Money given to states by Graham-Cassidy’s block grants would not need to be used to help residents afford care.



Graham-Cassidy also ends cost-sharing subsidies and the tax credits that helps low- and middle-income Americans pay for insurance premiums.

What about the individual and employer mandate?

Graham-Cassidy repeals the individual mandate to purchase coverage and offers no replacement to induce people to buy health insurance.

The individual may be unpopular, but it’s absolutely needed to make health insurance affordable.  Healthier individuals, those with relatively low expected medical spending, help subsidize costs for more expensive healthcare consumers.  Remove healthy individuals from the risk pool, as would happen without an individual mandate, and insurers would be forced to raise premiums to pay for an unhealthier and costlier universe of policy holders.

Couple ending the individual mandate with eliminating the ACA’s tax subsidies, and healthy individuals will have little reason to sign up for insurance; the failure to dilute risk would lead to a death spiral.  



What about preexisting conditions?

Graham-Cassidy allows states to ignore the ACA’s ban on preexisting condition discrimination.  In other words, Graham-Cassidy would let insurers charge those with preexisting conditions exorbitant rates that may price society’s most unfortunate entirely out of coverage.  This would, at best, bring healthy individuals back to the market, but even if it does, price discrimination would keep those who need health insurance most from affording it.

Graham-Cassidy does offer states a way out of this problem. It allows them to waive out of the Obamacare ban on preexisting conditions. This would give insurance plans the ability to charge sick people higher premiums, possibly excluding them from coverage altogether. That builds a market that functions well for healthy people but is terrible for sicker and lower-income Americans.



What does the CBO say?

We don’t know.  The CBO has yet to release a Graham-Cassidy score and it won’t before the September 30 reconciliation deadline.  Republicans may vote on a bill that touches 1/6 of the economy and with the potential to disrupt tens of millions of lives without knowing what the bill will do.

Independent analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities finds that Graham-Cassidy will provide “$239 billion less between 2020 and 2026 than projected federal spending for the Medicaid expansion and marketplace subsidies under current law” (italics original).

These estimates likely underestimate the destructive effects of Graham-Cassidy because the bill has a Medicaid per capita cap.  Block grants won’t adjust for higher costs related to recessions, “public health emergencies, new treatments, demographic changes, or other cost pressures,” leaving states on the hook for covering those costs.

Tens of millions would likely lose insurance.



Who loses?

“In 2026, the 20 states facing the largest funding cuts in percentage terms would be Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. These states’ block grant funding would be anywhere from 35 percent to nearly 60 percent below what they would receive in federal Medicaid expansion and/or marketplace subsidy funding under current law.”  These states all either expanded Medicaid or pushed for residents to sign up in the federal exchanges.


Anything else I should know?

Yes, Graham-Cassidy will greatly disrupt the health insurance market with the ability to collapse it in the long run.

In the short-term, all 50 states and DC would need to create their own coverage programs without guidance, standards, or administrative infrastructure.  Market rules would also have to change.  This means that come 2020, after the transition period has ended, insurers will not know what the individual markets in which they operate will look like.  Insurers, who make decisions based on risk pools and risk expectations, won’t have any idea what the risk pools would be.  They would, at best, increase premium rates to account for uncertainty and, at worst, exit the market entirely.

Ten years from now, in 2027, Graham-Cassidy’s block grants simply expire (as does the ability for states to opt-out of ACA preexisting condition protections).  “Insurers in all states would face a market without an individual mandate or any funding for subsidies to purchase coverage in the individual market yet be subject to the ACA’s prohibition against denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging people higher premiums based on their health status.  Many insurers would likely respond by withdrawing from the market, leaving a large share of the population living in states with no insurers, as CBO has warned about previous repeal-without-replace bills. ”



Will it pass?

Maybe.  It needs the support of 50 senators and right now it has around 48-49.

Who’s against it?

Rand Paul, though his rhetoric now matches what he said about the BCRA before he voted for it.

Who’s undecided?

Susanne Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and John McCain (R-AZ).

Who should I call?

The above senators and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV).