Saturday, August 01, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Myth of the "Judeo-Christian Tradition"

The far right and Christofascists routinely use historical myths in pushing their agenda of special rights for Christian extremists.  One myth is that America was founded as a "Christian nation" - something that a look at the nation's true history is decidedly not true.  Another is references to America's "Judeo-Christian Tradition," a concept manufactured starting in the 1930's in response to fascism in Europe, especially in Hitler's Germany.  What earlier references to the term that exist always saw Christianity as eventually replacing all other religions. Now, the Trump/Pence regime in yet another attempt to shore up the support of morally bankrupt evangelicals is trotting out the  "Judeo-Christian Tradition" concept to signal a promise of right wing Christian ascendancy under Trump's rotten regime. Accurate history shows the falsity of the concept and the reality that it has always been a concept of exclusion used to marginalize those of different beliefs.  A long piece in The Atlantic looks at the real history of the manufactured myth.  Here are highlights:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has defended the focus on religious freedom as a distinctively American birthright now applicable to all manner of “faith traditions.” In fact, he argues, the original American human-rights vision was inspired equally by another non-Christian religion, Judaism. The report, he has said, will “return America’s understanding of human rights … back to the fundamental moorings of the Judeo-Christian tradition on which this country was founded.” Except that tradition never existed.

The “Judeo-Christian tradition” was one of 20th-century America’s greatest political inventions. An ecumenical marketing meme for combatting godless communism, the catchphrase long did the work of animating American conservatives in the Cold War battle. For a brief time, canny liberals also embraced the phrase as a rhetorical pathway of inclusion into postwar American democracy for Jews, Catholics, and Black Americans. In a world divided by totalitarianism abroad and racial segregation at home, the notion of a shared American religious heritage promised racial healing and national unity.

Yet the “Judeo-Christian tradition” excluded not only Muslims, Native Americans, and other non-Western religious communities, but also atheists and secularists of all persuasions. American Jews themselves were reluctant adopters. After centuries of Christian anti-Semitic persecution and philo-Semitic fantasies of Jewish conversion, many eyed the award of an honorary hyphen with suspicion. Even some anti-communist politicians themselves recognized the concept as ill-suited to America’s postwar quest for global primacy in a decolonizing world.

The mythical “Judeo-Christian tradition,” then, proved an unstable foundation on which to build a common American identity. Today, as American democracy once again grasps for root metaphors with which to confront our country’s diversity and its place in the world, the term’s recuperation should rightfully alarm us: It has always divided Americans far more than it has united them.

Although the Jewish and Christian traditions stretch back side by side to antiquity, the phrase Judeo-Christian is a remarkably recent creation.

Before the 20th century, the notion of a “Judeo-Christian” tradition was virtually unthinkable, because Christianity viewed itself as the successor to an inferior, superseded Jewish faith, along with other inferior creeds. A good example of this comes from Reverend Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College and the most important intellectual in the early American republic, who wrote of religious freedom in 1785: . . . . A time will come when six hundred millions of the human race shall be ready to drop their idolatry and all false religion, when Christianity shall triumph over superstition, as well as Deism, and Gentilism, and Mohammedanism.

Religious freedom meant freedom for Christians. Jews might be accommodated, though not necessarily with full equality, on a temporary basis until their eventual conversion.

That traditional belief reflected itself in the slow pace of Jewish inclusion in American society. Even as legal barriers for non-Christians slowly fell state by state in the 19th century, Christian Americans hardly viewed their country, much less Western civilization, as embodying a tradition shared equally by Jews and Christians. During the Civil War and early Reconstruction years, Congress repeatedly considered a constitutional amendment to declare the United States a “Christian nation” under the ultimate sovereignty of the “Lord Jesus Christ.”

Only in the 1930s did that slowly begin to change, as the rise of Nazism alarmed American Christians who saw in fascism, as in communism, an ideology that threatened to destroy the broader spiritual culture of the West.

The years following America’s entry into World War II saw a rapid rise in the new Judeo-Christian discourse, as Americans tried to make sense of their country’s role in repelling the Nazi assault on Western civilization. The intertwining of religion and democracy provided a helpful means for Jewish and Christian clergy and politicians to signal their shared commitment to anti-fascism. But its heyday would really arrive only at war’s end, as the rhetoric morphed easily into the new vocabulary of Cold War politics. Anti-communist liberals found in the phrase a convenient shorthand “for religious pluralism in general, identifying unbounded diversity and unfettered freedom of belief as the keynotes of democratic life,” Gaston writes. What mattered most in the Cold War, and in a rapidly changing America, was making a common commitment to faith.

Yet it was not quite true that America didn’t particularly care which religion its people chose. Conservatives interpreted the same idiom in narrower, exceptionalist terms to argue that only Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism could inoculate American society from the dangerous viruses of Marxist secularism and excessive pluralism. In 1954, for instance, the Protestant pastor George Docherty persuaded President Dwight Eisenhower to officially add the words under God to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we trust” to American currency as part of a “theological war”

Docherty’s sermon persuaded Eisenhower to make the symbolic changes. It also inadvertently highlighted the problem with Jewish-Christian relations at the heart of the imagined “Judeo-Christian” tradition. The reference to Saint Paul’s famous vision of Christian universalism—“neither Jew nor Greek”—cast Jews as a people destined to disappear in a future all-Christian world.

Remarkably, Eisenhower was one of the first to flag the problematic nature of Judeo-Christian. Despite Eisenhower’s promotion of God language in American governance, including the inauguration of the National Prayer Breakfast, Gaston observes, he seldom used the specific phrase Judeo-Christian. Eisenhower seems to have been less concerned with its repercussions for America’s Jews or others than with the way it would be received by a global audience. In a fascinating letter written in 1954, Ike cautions his brother on his use of the phrase:

You speak of the ‘Judaic-Christian heritage.’ I would suggest that you use a term on the order of ‘religious heritage’—this is for the reason that we should find some way of including the vast numbers of people who hold to the Islamic and Buddhist religions when we compare the religious world against the Communist world.

Eisenhower’s move away from exclusionary religious rhetoric suggests the complicated nature of religion and democracy in a postwar American society. Some conservatives recognized the problem with their own language at the time. By the same token, liberals saw how the phrase might be strategically mobilized for the cause of civil rights. In a 1960 speech, for example, Martin Luther King Jr. denounced racial discrimination as a “cancerous disease that prevents us from realizing the sublime principles of our Judeo-Christian tradition. It relegates persons to the status of things.”

King’s 1960s Jewish civil-rights allies pushed hard to separate Church and state through a series of landmark Supreme Court cases. Privileging religion would not end well for American Jews and other religious minorities, they argued. True religious freedom required separation of government from faith.

The phrase appears with regularity in rhetorical attacks on Islam and the progressive left, in attempts to restrict immigration and LGBTQ rights, and in arguments in favor of religious freedom that would collapse the wall of separation between Church and state. Now it has surfaced again in the Trump administration’s unlikely quest to identify a unifying principle for an American human-rights agenda.

The incredible religious diversity that has blossomed in the United States since the 1960s has changed our country for good, and for the better. We cannot turn back the clock to a mythical “Judeo-Christian America” in order to chart a new course for America’s moral imagination. Nor can we ignore the fact that the catchphrase has failed to shed its Christian religious residue. Living through an unprecedented era of anti-Semitism, American Jews no longer wish to play the role of guest stars in someone else’s theological drama. An authentically American human-rights vision cannot rest upon a flawed historical reading of how our country first came to imagine rights. In a 1773 sermon attended by Ezra Stiles, Rabbi Carigal warned future Americans that “imaginary conceptions” and “remote applications” of the Hebrew Bible were no basis on which to justify American revolutionary politics. The same holds true for our visions of human rights and religious freedom today.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP Has Become the Party of Lies, Racism and Demagoguery

Yesterday Donald Trump suggested the November 2020 elections be postponed. Why?  Because it currently appears he will lose badly and perhaps take many Republicans down with him.  It's the type of move one would expect from Vladimir Putin yet most Republicans met the incredible suggestion with tepid condemnation.  Trump clearly views himself as a monarch or dictator and needs to be removed from office as soon as possible. If this were the Roman Empire, it would be time for the Praetorian Guard to act. This latest indefensible action by Trump and the weakness of the GOP response underscores just how spineless and depraved the Republican Party has become.  A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican compiles the ways in which Republicans have sold their souls and any claim to morality to Trump.  Here are excerpts:

What a tremendous burden it must be for you [Republicans] to still be defending President Trump. You have called yourself a constitutional conservative for decades, but now you sit silently as the president pushes to move this year’s election because he might lose. Even some Republican senators are speaking up. Why aren’t you?

Trump remembers how you ran interference for him when he claimed unlimited powers under Article II of the Constitution, so he thinks you will stay quiet. Remember your silence after Charlottesville? You eventually mustered the nerve to claim Trump never preached moral equivalence between torch-carrying Nazis and protesters. How unthoughtful it was of David Duke to expose you by praising the president’s putrid performance and thanking Trump for his “honesty and courage to tell the truth.” The former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard even bragged to reporters that Charlottesville represented a “turning point” for white nationalism. “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump,” Duke proclaimed. “That’s why we voted for [him].”

Ouch. That one had to sting, but you kept on defending Donald.

If you had a political soul after that shameful stunt, the Cold Warrior in you would have been as sickened by Trump’s retreat from Germany as U.S. strategists were over his ceding of Syria to Vladimir Putin, handing Moscow a foothold in the Middle East for the first time since 1973. No country was a closer ally during the Cold War than West Germany, and no nation is more critical to Europe’s future now than a unified Germany.

But there you are, silently supporting a demagogue who sits by while intelligence suggests Russia’s leader put bounties on the heads of young American troops. Trump instead plays Putin’s apologist by declaring the United States equally guilty.

Did any part of you cringe when Trump leaned once again on the crutch of moral equivalency, ignoring the glaring fact that the U.S.S.R. was America’s sworn enemy during our “twilight struggle” against communism? Maybe not. Maybe Trump has you figured out and knows what a frightened political soul you are, and remembers that you remained mute when he defended Putin’s killing of journalists and political rivals almost five years ago.

When it was revealed that Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign was “sweeping and systematic,” you shrugged your shoulders. You later learned that Russian nationals with connections to the Kremlin promised Trump’s family dirt on Hillary Clinton, and that they were excited to learn it was part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” You remained motionless, numb to it all, when federal investigators later revealed that Russia’s GRU began hacking Clinton-related email accounts hours after Trump announced this: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

You still refuse to criticize the Trump team’s use of material stolen by Russia during the last month of the campaign, just like you and your president continue turning a blind eye to any Russian bounties.

None dare call it treason, but perhaps one day they will.

The last line hits the nail on the head.  Republicans no longer support the U.S. Constitution.  Instead, all that matters is retaining power and not upsetting the hideous elements of the GOP base.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The Lost Battle for the Republican Party’s Soul

I often bemoan what has become of the Republican Party.  Stuart Stevens, a past Republican political consultant, has a column in the New York Times that looks at how the struggle to save the soul of the Republican Party was lost.  It was a battle that I admittedly gave up on years ago because I viewed as impossible to win, especially with the rise of the Christofascists - perhaps the most hateful people on the planet - and the open white supremacists within the GOP base.  Sadly, what had been dog whistle racism is now out in the open and Trump and his acolytes and supporters appear to be striving to start a race war.  Indeed, WSLS TV in Roanoke has reported that violence in the City of Richmond over the past weekend was started by white supremacists seeking to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement.  The take away? What we are now seeing is what the GOP became over a period of time - perhaps 50 years - and Trump now is the face and soul of the Party.  There is no reforming the GOP.  It must experience electoral defeat after electoral defeat. Hopefully, November 2020 will be very brutal to the GOP.  Here are highlights from Stevens' column:

After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential race, the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, commissioned an internal party study to examine why the party had won the popular vote only once since 1988.

The results of that so-called autopsy were fairly obvious: The party needed to appeal to more people of color, reach out to younger voters, become more welcoming to women. Those conclusions were presented as not only a political necessity but also a moral mandate if the Republican Party were to be a governing party in a rapidly changing America.

Then Donald Trump emerged and the party threw all those conclusions out the window with an almost audible sigh of relief: Thank God we can win without pretending we really care about this stuff. That reaction was sadly predictable.

I spent decades working to elect Republicans, including Mr. Romney and four other presidential candidates, and I am here to bear reluctant witness that Mr. Trump didn’t hijack the Republican Party. He is the logical conclusion of what the party became over the past 50 or so years, a natural product of the seeds of race-baiting, self-deception and anger that now dominate it. Hold Donald Trump up to a mirror and that bulging, scowling orange face is today’s Republican Party.

I saw the warning signs but ignored them and chose to believe what I wanted to believe: The party wasn’t just a white grievance party; there was still a big tent; the others guys were worse. Many of us in the party saw this dark side and told ourselves it was a recessive gene. We were wrong. It turned out to be the dominant gene.

What is most telling is that the Republican Party actively embraced, supported, defended and now enthusiastically identifies with a man who eagerly exploits the nation’s racial tensions. In our system, political parties should serve a circuit breaker function. The Republican Party never pulled the switch.

Racism is the original sin of the modern Republican Party. While many Republicans today like to mourn the absence of an intellectual voice like William Buckley, it is often overlooked that Mr. Buckley began his career as a racist defending segregation.

In the Richard Nixon White House, Pat Buchanan and Kevin Phillips wrote a re-election campaign memo headed “Dividing the Democrats” in which they outlined what would come to be known as the Southern Strategy. It assumes there is little Republicans can do to attract Black Americans and details a two-pronged strategy: Utilize Black support of Democrats to alienate white voters while trying to decrease that support by sowing dissension within the Democratic Party.

That strategy has worked so well that it was copied by the Russians in their 2016 efforts to help elect Mr. Trump.

When Mr. Bush called himself a “compassionate conservative,” some on the right attacked him, calling it an admission that conservatism had not been compassionate. That was true; it had not been. Many of us believed we could steer the party to that “kinder, gentler” place his father described. We were wrong.

Reading Mr. Bush’s 2000 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention now is like stumbling across a document from a lost civilization, with its calls for humility, service and compassion. That message couldn’t attract 20 percent in a Republican presidential primary today. If there really was a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, we lost.

There is a collective blame to be shared by those of us who have created the modern Republican Party that has so egregiously betrayed the principles it claimed to represent. My j’accuse is against us all, not a few individuals who were the most egregious.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty

When Conservative Supreme Justices Revolt

CNN has been carrying pieces looking at the the just finished term of the U.S. Supreme Court and the manner in which two justices, Gorsuch and Roberts delivered decisions that will prove to be on the right side of morality and history but which caused apoplexy among Christofascists and others in the far right. Gorsuch's majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County which extended non-discrimination protectons to the LGBT community is perhaps the best example.  A piece in The Atlantic looks further into the failure of conservative justices to rule as demanded by Der Trumpenfurhrer and those demanding special rights for far right Christians.   While defeats at the Court may not lessen evangelical ardor for Trump on a wide scale - further proof of their moral bankruptcy - the just ended term must have a few believing they were betrayed by Trump's appointees.  Here are article excerpts:
Until two months ago, Leonard Leo was among the unambiguous winners of the Trump era. The bookish lawyer and architect of the conservative legal movement has spent the past three and a half years executing his decades-long vision of remaking the federal judiciary—he was instrumental in the Supreme Court appointments of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. But during the Court’s term this summer, an old conservative nightmare recurred: Republican-appointed justices, including Gorsuch, aligned with their liberal colleagues on big, consequential decisions about immigration, abortion, and LGBTQ protections.
In recent decades, conservative justices have consistently moved to the left once reaching the bench: Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan, routinely cast the deciding vote against social conservatives on gay rights. Conservative-movement stalwarts have never forgiven David Souter, the George H. W. Bush appointee, for voting to uphold the constitutional right to abortion in the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, or for siding with his liberal colleagues in the battle over the 2000 presidential election, Bush v. Gore. Leo spent his career building a conservative legal machine in Washington that would forestall this kind of leftward drift among Supreme Court justices. But this summer, the machine began to sputter.
Leo’s greatest strategic success, perhaps, has been convincing Donald Trump of his methodology: He helped Trump craft a list of potential Supreme Court nominees during the 2016 presidential campaign, which Trump widely advertised to demonstrate his conservative bona fides, and, in less than four years, Leo has shepherded 200 judges to their confirmation on the federal bench. But the president—and his supporters—made a pact premised on results. If even Leo can’t guarantee conservatives the rulings they crave, can Trump?
Conservative-movement activists were frustrated by setbacks at the Court this term, even going so far as to question Trump’s judicial vetting process. But Leo is taking the long view, arguing that his movement’s philosophical overhaul of the judiciary will yield dividends for years to come.
As they did for Trump’s other Supreme Court prospects, Leo and his team reviewed Gorsuch’s record for what they saw as independence and fearlessness. “His judicial record demonstrates a faithful commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said at Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing. “He has refused to litigate his own policy preferences from the bench.” In mid-June, however, Gorsuch shocked conservatives by writing the opinion in one of the biggest cases of the term, consolidated under Bostock v. Clayton County, arguing that federal civil-rights law protects LGBTQ employees from discriminatory practices. . . . . Backed by Chief Justice John Roberts and all four of the Court’s liberals, Gorsuch wrote that he reached his decision in favor of LGBTQ rights using textualism, the conservative judicial philosophy. “It’s no contest,” he wrote. “Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”
Leading conservative lawyers in Washington were shocked. . . . . Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who wrote a glowing CNN op-ed in support of Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, decried Bostock on the Senate floor as a flashing sign of danger for religious conservatives, who fear that extending civil-rights protections to LGBTQ people will threaten their freedom of conscience. “If this case makes anything clear, it is that the bargain that has been offered to religious conservatives for years now is a bad one,” Hawley said. In exchange for going along with the conservative establishment, religious voters are promised judges who will protect their rights, he said, but those judges consistently fall short.
Bostock was just the beginning of bruising conservative defeats during this term. In June Medical Services v. Russo, the Court’s first big case on abortion since Trump was elected, Roberts cast the deciding vote to strike down a Louisiana law that regulated abortion providers. This was a “disaster,” Hawley tweeted. “It is a big-time wake up call to religious conservatives.
As the term produced one defeat after another—on abortion, LGBTQ rights, immigration, and tribal affairs, conservative justices leading the way each time—the sniping from conservative commentators grew more pronounced. If these are the conclusions a majority-conservative Court comes to, they asked, is the conservative legal machine really as effective as Leo and his allies have claimed?
Trump has spent the past month making the case that religious conservatives need him to protect their legal rights. “If the Radical Left Democrats assume power, your Second Amendment, Right to Life, Secure Borders, and … Religious Liberty, among many other things, are OVER and GONE!” he tweeted. He promised to release a new list of potential Supreme Court nominees by September 1, and added the current justices to a long list of his political enemies: “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” he tweeted. Like [Trump] the president they support, religious conservatives are likely discontent with this term at the nation’s high court. And yet, their defeats may only redouble their commitment to supporting [Trump] the president.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Trump's Latest Medical Quack Warns of Sex with Demons

Trump's medical con-artist, Stella Immanuel.
Trump's Christofascist base of support - and sadly some otherwise decent Republicans I know - are always at the ready to believe whatever insane and far fetched story line that plays to their prejudices and/or ignorance embracing religious beliefs.  This is a reality that Trump has played like a violin as he has sought to grant Christofascists special rights and to exempt them from non-discrimination laws.  It is also why Trump seems to have a constant parade of whacked out "experts" who either support his endless lies or who will play well with the ignorant searching for "experts" to support their exist biases.  Now, Trump has found an unhinged physician who he is offering up as an expert to counter legitimate and sane medical experts.  The Washington Post looks at this loose canon who blames some medical conditions on having sex with demons (A piece in the Daily Beast also looks at her lunacy).  Why this individual still holds any medical license is baffling.  Here are article highlights:

        According to the Mayo Clinic, endometriosis is “an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of [the] uterus — the endometrium — grows outside [the] uterus.”

    Not so, says Stella Immanuel, a Houston pediatrician and spiritual leader of Fire Power Ministries, a pronouncedly non-orthodox church. Endometriosis and other potentially dangerous gynecological conditions are the residue of sexual intercourse with demons, Immanuel teaches.

        They visit humans in sexy dreams, which aren’t dreams after all but spirit spouses making a booty call. The demons are responsible not only for diseases of the female reproductive system but also for male impotence, most financial troubles, marital discord and spiritual malaise.

        This is not Immanuel’s only diversion from the medical mainstream. She also maintains that alien DNA is a component of some therapeutic drugs and that government scientists are developing a vaccine to prevent religious faith. You can find these and other teachings of hers on YouTube.

        Or you can find Immanuel on President Trump’s Twitter feed, where she testifies to the power of hydroxychloroquine (yep! we’re back to that one) to cure covid-19 and assures the public that masks are not important to fighting the pandemic. More than 10 million Americans heard her advice, thanks in part to the president’s amplifying effect, before Facebook took down her page. In response, Immanuel threatened to have Jesus unplug Facebook’s servers.

        I guess there is no point in expressing my strong view that the president of the United States should not, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, pass along medical advice that undermines public health officials without good reason to believe that it comes from a qualified authority. The president doesn’t care.

        And I suppose it’s pointless to say to my Christian brothers and sisters in Trump’s dwindling camp that a man who raises the profile of a heretical preacher is not a friend of the faith. Many so-called evangelicals who stick with Trump gave up on evangelism — that is, winning people over through selfless acts of love and charity — long ago.

        [L]et me speak to those Republicans cowering in closets and hiding under stairs in Washington and the state capitals, muttering prayers that Trump might somehow calm the flames that threaten to consume them.

        Run away. Close your eyes and duck your heads and sprint as fast as you can away from Trump. Claim amnesia. Say you’ve been hiking the Appalachian Trail. Blame your spirit spouse — whatever. A fury is building in Middle America that has nothing to do with Russia or impeachment or “Access Hollywood.” It’s rising among people who managed to look past all of that to find something they liked about the president. And now he’s repaying them with a stubby middle finger in their faces.

        They understand that covid-19 is not a joke. They have children whose teachers are afraid to be in school with them. They have teenagers reeling from the mental health impacts of isolation and anxiety. They’ve lost their jobs, their businesses, their sense of safety. They’re worried about losing their homes.

        And they see what the president thinks of them and their concerns. Here, you dupes and dopes, Trump says — here’s a video from a woman who believes in demon dream sex. Or here’s one from a washed-up game-show host who says covid-19 is an election ploy. Or how about this idea: Drink some bleach.

        They’re worried and suffering, and their president might as well be saying: I don’t care if you live or die. And it’s coming through loud and clear. The political center is slow to anger. It’s also slow to forget.

Tuesday Male Beauty

What Might a Post-Trump GOP Look Like?

The future of the Republican Party will remain up in the air for some time whether Donald Trump wins in November - a nightmarish thought - or goes down in ignominious defeat - a much more pleasing thought.  The bigger Trump's loss, the better the chances that the party will regain some semblance of a moral compass.  Any true change will require the exiling of Trump's principal base of support: white supremacists and evangelical Christians. Whether or not there will be much of a party left once those boils on the party are excised will remain to be seen given that so many former Republicans may be unwilling to re-associate with a party that has so strongly revealed its moral bankruptcy.  Some hope a stunning Trump loss will bring the remnants of the GOP back to its senses, yet the example here in Virginia suggests that such may well not be the case. After not winning a statewide race in eleven years, the Virginia GOP continues to nominate extremists and recently even replaced a more viable congressional incumbent with and extremist with ties to Liberty University.  A column in the New York Times looks at the possibilities.  Here are highlights:
[I]f Trump loses? Then the future of the party will be up for grabs. It’s time to start thinking about who can grab it, who should, and who will.
Much depends on the margin of defeat. If it’s razor thin and comes down to a vote-count dispute in a single state, as it did in Florida in 2000, Trump will almost surely allege fraud, claim victory and set off a constitutional crisis. As Ohio State law professor Edward Foley noted last year in a must-read law review article, a state like Pennsylvania could send competing certificates of electoral votes to Congress. Interpretive ambiguities in the 12th Amendment and the Electoral Count Act of 1887 could deadlock the House and the Senate. We could have two self-declared presidents on the eve of next year’s inauguration.
But let’s assume Trump loses narrowly but indisputably. In that case, the Trump family will do what it can to retain control of the G.O.P.
Tommy Hicks Jr., the current Republican National Committee co-chairman, is one possible candidate to move up to become chairman, and run the R.N.C., but the likelier choice is Hicks’s good friend Donald Trump Jr. The Trumpers will make the argument that NeverTrumpers cost them the election and are thus responsible for everything bad that might happen in a Biden administration, from crime on the streets to liberal Supreme Court picks to some future Benghazi-type episode.
Something unpleasant might come of this. It tends to happen whenever a large mass of conformists convince themselves that they’ve been betrayed by a nonconforming minority in their midst.
Then there’s the third scenario: An overwhelming and humiliating Trump defeat, on the order of George H.W. Bush’s 168 to 370 electoral vote loss to Bill Clinton in 1992.
The infighting will begin the moment Florida, North Carolina or any other must-win state for Trump is called for Joe Biden. It will pit two main camps against each other. On the right, it will be the What Were We Thinking? side of the party. On the further right, the Trump Didn’t Go Far Enough side. Think of it as a cage match between Marco Rubio and Tucker Carlson for the soul of the G.O.P.
Both sides will recognize that Trump was a uniquely incompetent executive who — as in his business dealings — always proved his own worst enemy, always squandered his luck, never learned from his mistakes, never grew in office. Both sides will want to wash their hands of the soon-to-be-former president, his obnoxious relatives, their intellectual vacuity and their self-dealing ways.
That’s where agreement ends. The What Were We Thinking? Republicans will want to hurry the party back to some version of what it was when Paul Ryan was its star. They’ll want to pretend that Trump never happened. They will organize a task force composed of former party worthies to write an election post-mortem, akin to what then-G.O.P. chair Reince Priebus did after 2012, emphasizing the need to repair relations with minorities, women and younger voters.
The Didn’t Go Far Enough camp will make the opposite case. They’ll note that Trump never built the wall, never got U.S. troops out of the Middle East, never drained the swamp of Beltway corruption, ended NAFTA in name only, did Wall Street’s bidding at Main Street’s expense, and “owned the libs” on Twitter while losing the broader battle of ideas. This camp will seek a new champion: Trump plus a brain.
These are two deeply unattractive versions of the party of Lincoln, one feckless, the other fanatical. Even so, all who care about the health of American democracy should hold their noses and hope the feckless side prevails.
As with the Democrats after Jimmy Carter’s defeat in 1980, it will probably take more than one electoral shellacking for conservative-leaning voters to appreciate the scale of disaster that Trump’s presidency inflicted on the party and the country. It will probably also take more than one defeat for the party to learn that electoral contests should still be waged, and won, near the center of the ideological spectrum, not the fringe.
But everything has to start somewhere. A decisive Trump loss in November isn’t a sufficient condition for the G.O.P. to begin to heal itself. It’s still a beginning.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Losing a Family Member

Today the husband and I sadly had to say goodbye to our dog Bandit (pictured above with me in 2009 at a friend's Nags Head cottage) who had been my loyal companion for just shy of 15 years. Bandit never met a person or animal he did not like - even if he enjoyed playing Kamikaze to my late cat. He was a gentle little soul and I remember moments like him sitting all day with my late father in my dad's near final days to lying on the bed with me when he perceived me as being sick (i.g., hung over) to playing "crazy dog" when he would race around the house. He saw some of my darkest days during my coming out saga and was always there to give his unconditional love.  He will be much missed.

More Monday Male Beauty

Republicans Are Losing with Women Voters

Outside of Republican Women's Clubs - where older women in particular want to bring back the 1950's and perhaps the Jim Crow laws too - women are increasingly fleeing from the GOP.  What had been a growing problem has become a crisis fueled by the always vile Donald Trump whose crudeness, vulgarity and incompetent response to the Covid-19 pandemic is rapidly alienating women voters. If the exodus away from the GOP continues, not only Trump but his enablers within the GOP may face a harsh reckoning come November. A piece at CNN looks at the phenomenon.  Here are highlights: 
The GOP's quest to win back women is not looking promising 100 days before Election Day, a point punctuated by yet another week of sexist missteps -- from a GOP congressman's decision to reportedly call Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a "f**king bitch" on the steps of the Capitol to President Donald Trump's tweet marshaling "The Suburban Housewives of America."
Though the United States is rightly focused on the coronavirus pandemic, last week's events in Washington underscored that two years after women powered the Democrats' 2018 push to flip the House of Representatives, Trump and some members of his Republican Party have not learned their lesson -- and still cannot seem to show that they will treat women as equals and respect the dignity of their work both at home and in the professional realm. As Trump ramped up his campaign to strike fear in the hearts of White suburban voters by arguing that they will not be safe in Joe Biden's America this week, he tweeted out an opinion column in the New York Post praising his efforts to get rid of an Obama-era fair housing regulation. . . . . the Thursday afternoon tweet that seemed straight out of the 1950s, Trump said "The Suburban Housewives of America must read this article. Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!"
 In another example of his failure to think about the consequences before he speaks, he wished Ghislaine Maxwell "well" during a Tuesday briefing on the coronavirus even though she faces charges for recruiting, grooming and ultimately sexually abusing minors who were as young as 14 as Jeffrey Epstein's alleged accomplice. Trump's tone-deaf tweet about suburban housewives was in keeping with his long record of using demeaning language to describe women and his attempt to win the 2018 midterms for his party by stoking a backlash to the #MeToo movement by calling it a "very scary time" for young men.
Trump has never figured out how to make up lost ground with female voters since 2016 and 2018. And he now stands to lose them by potentially historic margins in the November election.
The President was trailing Vice President Joe Biden by 25 points among women (35% to Biden's 60%) in the recent Washington Post-ABC News poll and by 28 points in the mid-July Quinnipiac poll that showed Biden leading Trump among female voters 59% to 31%. And as CNN's Harry Enten wrote this weekend, this is not an election where the economy -- which Trump has long believed to be his greatest strength — is driving the election. At this moment when the number of coronavirus cases in the US has surpassed 4.1 million and more than 146,000 Americans have died, polls have consistently shown that Americans, particularly women, are more concerned about Covid-19 than any other issue. Voters trust Biden more than Trump to handle the pandemic, and largely because of that, the former vice president has maintained a solid lead in the polls, both nationally and in many of the key battleground states that Trump needs to win reelection. [H]e also undercut his own message by continuing to argue that children must return to school in person -- and falsely claiming that children don't get sick or transmit the virus easily -- even though polls show a majority of parents with school-aged children do not feel safe sending them back for in-person instruction. . . . . Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday that Trump's claim that governors have everything they need is not accurate. The gendered language of the week, from Trump's tweet to Florida GOP Rep. Ted Yoho's verbal attack on Ocasio-Cortez -- an incident in which the Florida Republican reportedly called the New York Democrat "disgusting" and a "f**king bitch" within earshot of a reporter from The Hill newspaper -- was a reminder that Trump and many of his allies still don't understand how to talk to women, much less about them. In many interviews with female voters of all political persuasions over the past three years, one of the things many of them said they don't like about Trump is his coarse, sexist language and how he has changed the dialogue in America — convincing his followers and allies that they can say whatever comes to mind, no matter how hurtful or offensive it is. 
For Trump and Republican acolytes like Yoho, there are now too many self-inflicted mistakes to count. They are dragging their own party down with them -- and no one will be surprised if women once again rise up in November and deliver a victory to the Democrats.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

America’s Global Standing is at a Low Point

It's ironic that while Donald Trump's campaign theme was to "make America great again,"the reality of his term in office so far is that America's standing in the global community of nations is at a low point even as China's military continues to build, Russia gains ground in the Middle East, and our long-time allies see us as unreliable. Add in America's failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic, about which we are either laughed at or pitied, and America's image is in tatters.  A second irony is that but for Trump's racist, religiously extreme/ignorance embracing base, who think America is the greatest, everyone else can see that its not and that it's decline has been precipitous because of their cult leader.  We cannot take much more of Trump's "winning." An very long article in the Washington Post looks at America's failed stature, most of which tracks to the malignant narcissist in the White House, on the global scene.   Here are excerpts: 

America’s standing in the world is at a low ebb. Once described as the indispensable nation, the United States is now seen as withdrawn and inward-looking, a reluctant and unreliable partner at a dangerous moment for the world. The coronavirus pandemic has only made things worse.
President Trump shattered a 70-year consensus among U.S. presidents of both political parties that was grounded in the principle of robust American leadership in the world through alliances and multilateral institutions. For decades, this approach was seen at home and abroad as good for the world and good for the United States.
In its place, Trump has substituted his America First doctrine and what his critics say is a zero-sum-game sensibility about international relationships. America First has been described variously as nationalistic, populistic, isolationist and unilateralist. [Trump] The president has demeaned allies and emboldened adversaries such as China and Russia.
At home, Trump’s handling of the pandemic has created division and confusion rather than an effective national strategy. The rest of the world sees the United States not as a leader in dealing with the coronavirus but as the country with the highest number of coronavirus infections and covid-19 deaths, and with the disease far from under control. European nations have responded with the unprecedented step of blocking Americans from entering their countries.
Before the pandemic, [Trump] the president took a number of steps that signaled a retreat from collective involvement abroad, pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. He raised doubts about the U.S. commitment to NATO. After a long-running quarrel with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he has called for the withdrawal of more than a quarter of the 34,500 U.S. troops stationed in Germany.
When many world leaders participated in a World Health Organization assembly on the pandemic, the president was absent. Trump’s anger with China over the virus ultimately prompted him to withdraw the United States from the WHO.
“People are stunned about the effect of incapable leadership, or of polarizing leadership, of not being able to unify and get the forces aligned so you can address the problem [of the coronavirus],” said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, a vice president of the German Marshall Fund and director of its Berlin office. “And that, of course, results in a nosedive in how you view [the United States]. What you’re seeing is a collapse of soft power of America.”
“I think the U.S. is seen from my perspective as being involved in its own internal reckoning — like the rest of the world doesn’t really exist,”
“It hurts our brand. It hurts the status of our institutions. It’s going to weaken our economy and our economic power and soft power as a consequence,” said Stephen J. Hadley, who was a national security adviser to President George W. Bush. “It’s potentially a real setback.”
This is not the first time the world has held America in low esteem. The U.S. invasion of Iraq cost the country dearly, in lives and in prestige. George W. Bush left office highly unpopular, especially in Europe.
Still, by the numbers, Trump had an immediate and negative impact. A Gallup survey of impressions of world leadership after the first year of Trump’s presidency saw the rating of U.S. leadership plummet by 20 points — lower than Bush’s worst rating.
The following year, approval of U.S. leadership remained similarly low, and disapproval was higher than for the leadership in Germany, China and Russia. “In this climate, China’s leadership has gained a larger advantage in the ‘great power competition,’ and the other player, Russia, is now on a more even level with the U.S.,” the Gallup report said.
The Pew Research Center issued a report in January on international attitudes toward the United States and found 64 percent of people across 32 countries saying they had no confidence in Trump as the U.S. leader, though impressions of the U.S. as a whole remained positive.
President Trump is acting as no administration acted since the 1920s,” said Nicholas Burns, a career Foreign Service officer and former U.S. ambassador to NATO now teaching at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “Those presidents were engaged in the world. President Trump isn’t. He’s almost at war with the world.”
Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and U.S. ambassador to NATO during the administration of President Barack Obama, said of Trump, “He doesn’t believe in alliances, open markets, promotion of freedom and human rights — the three pillars of [American] foreign policy. On the essential concept of the United States as the global leader of the international order, Donald Trump has thrown that all out the window.”
“By almost every measure, America’s standing and influence in the world has been damaged over the last three-and-a-half years. . . . You see it during a crisis. This is the first global crisis probably since World War II where the United States has not been in the lead. It’s kind of a stunning thing to see a transnational challenge like this without U.S. leadership.”
“I think this is the most dangerous moment the United States has faced in decades,” said the former Obama adviser Donilon. “We obviously are in the midst of multiple crises. Economic. Health. A serious societal upheaval. We have an election system that is vulnerable to outside interference. . . . We have the lowest point in our relationships with Russia and China in decades. I think democracy is under the most pressure in the world since the ’30s.”
Burns, a foreign policy adviser to the Biden campaign, said he thinks the former vice president, as president, would “quickly return the United States to a position of leadership” and that other governments would respond positively to that. “But I worry that it will take longer with the publics of these countries,” he added. “The memory of Donald Trump will not fade easily.”
[T]he last time this country’s standing was in decline, it was because of fears that the United States would exercise its vast powers excessively and unilaterally. That is not the issue today. Instead, it is a worry that the United States is no longer prepared or willing to use the powers it still has for the good of the world.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

More Sunday Male Beauty

Progressives Should Welcome Anti-Trump Republicans

Anti-Trump Republican John Kasich.
Often Democrats - especially those on the far left of the spectrum - are often their own worse enemies and put the so-called idealism over practicality and sometimes seem to prefer to see an opponent who is the antithesis of what the claim to support rather that set away from at times ridiculous "purity" tests. They'd rather cut off their nose to spite their face.  With the coming November 2020 election 100 days away, no one is more against the progressive agenda than Donald Trump.  Defeating Trump through any means possible out to be goal number on and anyone who will assist in achieving that goal should be deemed and ally and welcomed into the anti-Trump resistance.  Yet some on the far left remain hostile to the Lincoln Project and other anti-Trump groups filled with former Republicans. It's idiocy of the highest magnitude and ignore the reality comes to defeating Trump and Trumpism, the saying "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" at least through the presidential election.  NOTHING is more urgent that making Trump a disgraced one term president = and hopefully sending a number of Senate Republicans into forced retirement.  A column in the Washington Post makes the case that progressives should embrace the anti-Trump Republicans.  Here are excerpts: 
Those who genuinely embrace a creed or hold passionately to a point of view are, in principle, always looking for converts. Yet the old believers are often suspicious of the new arrivals.
Sometimes, the converts are annoyingly rigid and sectarian. This can bother those who are long comfortable in their faith and thus at ease with pluralism. But there is also the opposite fear: that the new allies haven’t really changed their thinking and are only trying to sow heretical notions among the orthodox.
It is the second anxiety that animates an unease among some progressives about anti-Trump Republicans and conservatives. This has fostered a limited but vocal backlash against the idea that John Kasich, the Republican former Ohio governor, might address the scaled-back Democratic National Convention on behalf of presumptive nominee Joe Biden.
The easy answer to this apprehension is to say that if you believe (as I certainly do) that defeating President Trump is the prerequisite for anything good happening again in American politics, you should welcome everyone willing to help get the job done. And in light of Trump’s threats to challenge the results if he loses, the health of our democracy may depend on Biden’s winning by a landslide that would leave not a smidgen of doubt about what the voters were saying. This is an all-hands-on-deck proposition.
If the race tightens, the Republican converts could be essential to getting Biden over the line.
Finally, for a progressive program to have any chance in Congress, the Democrats will have to take over the Senate. The bigger Biden’s margin, the better the chances of this happening.
To these progressives, I’d argue that the point of this election, besides defeating Trump, is to shift the country’s political dynamic as decisively in their direction as Ronald Reagan did toward conservatives in 1980. And doing so requires not only welcoming new partners, but also nurturing their second thoughts about a conservative project to which many of them dedicated their lives.
[H]e [Reagan] pulled politics and the intellectual center of gravity to the right by splitting the old New Deal alignment. . . . . . Now, a similar opportunity beckons the left and center-left.
Yes, some Biden Republicans just want to beat Trump and then get back to business as usual. (I still welcome their votes and appreciate their moral revulsion over what my Post colleague George F. Will recently called a “gangster regime.”)
But others are angry at the entire GOP. They are willing to acknowledge, in the wake of the Trump follies and the pandemic, that endless rounds of tax cuts for the wealthy and knee-jerk deregulation have damaged our society. Many of them accept that we need a new and far more equitable social contract That Trump and Trumpism create a national emergency is reason enough to pitch a very big tent. But this election could also open the way for a durable shift in the nation’s dominant public philosophy toward social decency and greater equality. A transformation of that sort requires the witness of converts.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

Donald Trump's Suburban Horror Show

I grew up in the Republican Party, and although I lived in the country through high school - going back to my high school reunion last year reminded me of that - I've pretty much lived in the suburbs ever since.  Back when I grew up, the Republican Party was the party of knowledge, science and fiscal responsibility - the latter pretty much went away after Reagan's election and it has been Democrats in the White House that have been the ones reducing the federal deficit. Now, of course, under Donald Trump and the evangelical/Christofascist base of the GOP, the Republican Party has become the party of ignorance, alternate facts, and outright lies. None of these changes in the GOP have been lost on suburban voters who (i) tend to be better educated than rural voters, and (ii) more receptive to racial diversity than red state rural voters.  In addition, suburban voters, are paying attention to Trump's failed leadership in the context of the pandemic and seem to belatedly realized that almost nothing Trump says can be considered true.  The combined result of this is that suburban voters are abandoning Trump - and likely other Republicans - in the suburbs.  The results could be catastrophic - and much deserved - for the GOP.  A piece in Politico looks at Trump's declining prospects in the suburbs.  Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump says Joe Biden wants to abolish the suburbs. But polls show a different truth: The suburbs want to abolish Donald Trump.
If current numbers hold, the Republican Party will suffer its worst defeat in the suburbs in decades — with implications reaching far beyond November.
It was in the suburbs two years ago that Democrats built their House majority, ripping through Republican-held territory across the country, from Minnesota and Texas to Georgia, Virginia and Illinois.
It would be bad enough for the GOP if that had been a temporary setback. But with the prospect of a second straight collapse in the suburbs this year, it is beginning to look like a wholesale retreat.
“We can’t give up more ground in the suburbs nationally without having a real problem for our party,” said Charles Hellwig, a former chair of the Republican Party in Wake County, N.C., describing a landscape in which “every year, every month, every day, we get a little bluer.”
It is the same story in suburbs everywhere. In a Fox News poll last weekend, Trump was trailing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by 11 percentage points in the suburbs. An ABC News/Washington Post poll had Trump down 9 percentage points there — larger margins in the suburbs than exit polls have recorded since the 1980s, when Republicans were winning there by double digits.
That polling reflects a dramatic swing from 2016, when Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the suburbs by 4 percentage points. Trump’s erosion in the suburbs is a major reason the electoral map this year has expanded for Democrats in recent weeks — with Trump in danger not only of losing, but of taking the Senate down with him. And demographic shifts are only becoming more favorable to Democrats.
“The movement of suburban voters, particularly educated women and millennials being so progressive in their politics, increased voting participating among Latinos, African Americans,” said Bill Carrick, a Democratic strategist who managed Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt’s 1988 presidential campaign. “That all contributes to this geography: Suddenly, we’ve got Georgia and Texas and Florida and Arizona, Iowa. There’s a lot of places in play.”
Trump’s damage in the suburbs has come primarily, as it has elsewhere, from his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But Trump’s response to the George Floyd protests also appears to have hurt him in the suburbs . . . .
Trump's intervention in Portland, Ore., has drawn more people into the streets, not fewer — including clashes between not only the Trump administration and antifa, but a “wall of moms.”
Comparing new voter registration in 17 states from immediately before the Floyd protests began to the week after, the Democratic data firm TargetSmart found that young people and people of color were registering at higher rates than before — with years to cast ballots for Democrats still ahead of them.
“Literally every state you’re seeing these increases, which is not something we saw in 2018,” Bonier said. “It’s interesting to see how the demonstrations in cities around the country are playing. … Suburban voters seem to be more sympathetic to those demonstrations than they ever have been in the past.”
When Americans were asked in the ABC News/Washington Post poll who they trusted more to handle issues surrounding crime and safety, they preferred Biden to Trump 50 percent to 41 percent.
There are still more than 100 days before the election, and Trump’s overtures to the suburbs are becoming more explicit.
Last week on the South Lawn, chastising Democrats for their positions on issues ranging from law enforcement to climate change and urban planning, Trump accused Democrats of plotting to “abolish our beautiful and successful suburbs.”
Mike Erlandson, a former chair of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, . . . . as the protests — and Trump’s response — have unfolded, he has seen Trump hurt his own standing there.
“The fact that the president is trying to drive a wedge in on things around law enforcement, I think most people find disappointing,” Erlandson said.  The suburbs, he said, "certainly have not turned their back on law enforcement." But at the same time, he said, "they don’t really see leadership coming out of the White House.”