birtherism

How The Country Was Lost – in Retrospect


Reading time – 4:03  .  .  .

It started well before the 2016 election. It started with birtherism.

The formal start of Donald Trump’s campaign began with a vile slur against Mexican people coming to this country. That was the first clear indication of the torrent of hate mongering to come. It continued with his Muslim ban and all his racial, ethnic and religious dog whistles and outright verbal attacks, including his infamous Charlottesville “good people on both sides” slur.

His declaration that we need more immigrants from Norway made it clear that the only people who would be welcome immigrants would be white European Christians. His ongoing marginalization of minority populations powerfully served to divide and even polarize the citizens, which weakened opposition to Trump and continues to this day.

During the 2016 campaign Trump repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged. He attacked the FBI, especially James Comey. Then he praised the FBI when Comey, announced – twice – the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails right before the election. When Trump won the election, oddly enough, the election was no longer rigged.

Not much later Trump resumed his back stabbing of Comey because he wouldn’t pledge fealty to Donald Trump, instead sticking with his oath to protect and defend the Constitution, which included investigating Russian interference in the election. That’s when Trump declared that the FBI was both corrupt and demoralized because of corrupt, weak leadership and resumed his attacks on Comey, eventually firing him and demanding that he be investigated for some imagined wrongdoing. What is significant about all the criticism is the profound effect it had in undermining public confidence in government.

Over the next four years the attacks on government and the undermining of our institutions were constant, including attacks on the press as “fake news,” which had the effect of reducing people’s trust in those who hold public officials – like the President – accountable. He gutted the State Department, brutally criticized “the generals”, fired everyone who showed so much as a raised eyebrow of disagreement and installed Trump loyalists throughout his Cabinet. That many had been lobbyists for the industries they were now to monitor was a plus for Trump and his control.

The undermining of government was powerfully enforced through vitriolic verbal attacks, many scandalous accusations and a continuous tweet storm of rage. His angry supporters, roughly 38% of the population, loved it. His raised middle finger tantrums spoke for them and their sense of betrayal and their disgust with government. It was tolerated by many centrists because of weak, ineffectual opposition.

Republicans were terrified of crossing him because of his verbal attacks and the certainty that they would get “primaried,” the dynamic that prevented his removal from office following his impeachment. This is exactly how a minority wrests power from the majority.

During the impeachment proceedings numerous State Department and military people testified under subpoena, even though Trump had ordered all Executive Branch personnel to refuse to testify as part of his stonewalling of the investigation. His response following the Senate refusal to convict him was to fire all who had testified and even some who had not. That created a powerful deterrent to anyone who might otherwise speak up in the future, giving Trump complete power over them.

Only one more thing was needed to secure absolute power: control of the judiciary and the intelligence community, the departments of government that have the power to investigate him. After that, there would be no impediment left to stop Trump’s assuming total control of the country.

Trump installed William Barr to the post of Attorney General and Barr wasted no time in becoming the personal attorney for Trump, instead of for the nation. Most notably, when the Mueller Report was released to him, Barr quickly said that he had reviewed the entire document and released a summary, in which he claimed that the report exonerated Trump of any wrongdoing, including conspiring with the Russians.

When Barr at last released the report, it was found that he had redacted so much of the Mueller report that many of Barr’s lies about it couldn’t be fact checked immediately. What was checkable was that Mueller specifically did not exonerate Trump, nor clear him of colluding with the Russians. But Barr’s dishonest summary was out for weeks before the complete report was released and that delay controlled the narrative for Trump.

Later, Barr inserted himself into Justice Department investigations with the clear intent to protect Trump’s operatives and attack his opponents. Indeed, Barr instructed federal prosecutors that all new investigations had to get approval from him or his designee, giving himself the power to protect Trump. This is precisely the way all authoritarians operate, using the legitimate mechanisms of government to dismantle its protections against abuse.

The final act of wresting total control came when the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) reported to the appropriate committees of Congress about Russian interference in the 2020 election. Even though the briefings were federally mandated, Trump fired the DNI and replaced him with a completely inexperienced Trump loyalist. In addition, he fired other long serving Intelligence Agency personnel.

With that, Trump effectively had dictatorial control over all of government. That even gave him the power to declare a national emergency and use that to cancel the 2020 election.

And that, in shorthand, is how the country was lost.


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Critical notes for 2020 Democratic candidates who want to get elected:
  1. In order to win the 2020 election, it must be – it must only be – a referendum on Trump. You must attack and continue to attack. You must never stop putting before the public his criminality, his racism, his cruelty (at every opportunity decry his putting children in cages), his attempts to eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions, his sell out of hard working Americans, his neutering of our national security in order to benefit Putin and the rest of his un-American outrages. Say it with me: UN-AMERICAN. Conservative and center-right voters see themselves as bedrock Americans, so this labeling of Trump will drive a wedge between them and the un-American president. Say it again: UN-AMERICAN.
  2. You must stop the circular firing squad. Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, you must obey the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Democrat. Don’t do Trump’s work for him. Ever.
  3. Of course the primary election is important, BUT, every word you say in the primary season can and will be used against you in the general election. So, if you want to win the general election – you’re going to hate this –  you must stop promoting far left policies and memes, regardless of how fervently you believe in them. That includes Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, free college tuition, erasing student debt, socialism, calling out to “brothers and sisters” and the rest. Promoting those things will ensure that you only get the votes you already have from your base. You’ll drive away all the other votes that you need in order to win in the general election and Donald Trump will be reelected. Stop pissing off the 78% of the electorate that doesn’t embrace those ideas, because you need their votes in order to win.
  4. Stop your wonkiness about policies altogether. You bore listeners (i.e. voters). Okay, your true believers love it and they cheer wildly and you puff up and ride a high with each cheer. Everyone else has changed the channel. In all debates and speeches, you must make every issue solely a referendum on Trump. Park your wonk on your desk and don’t go back to find it until the general election is over.
  5. Following the Milwaukee DNC convention when you’re the nominee, you must make the election solely a referendum on Trump. Refer to points #1 and #4 above for further clarification.

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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