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Category: Politics

Hope Floats On
Greta Thunberg arrived in New York last week. The Nobel Prize nominee had come from Sweden on an emission-free racing yacht to join other activists protesting the climate crisis in front of the U.N. She is 16 years old.

She also brought with her something special just for me: hope. I think of myself as a hopeful person; she is too, but hers is the purer, youthful version. "It's your fault," she has correctly informed me about my role in global warming. "You shit on my future." Thanks, I needed that.

The young survivors of the Parkland High School massacre have that same brand of clear vision. and so do other young doers willing to do things their elders either will not or cannot do. I am warmed by their clarity and directness and certainty. I need as much of that as I can get. It’s like my hope is half buried by tradition and gridlocked among cultural restraints I don’t even know are there…old-guy restraints that the youth do not even acknowledge.

Maybe it’s just that cool zero-emissions yacht. Or Greta’s long pigtails and quiet, bold assurance. Whatever it is, I like it, and I need it. I’m happy to admit that they have a greater claim to the future than I do. As long as they keep bringing the hope, I am on board the yacht and ready to sail.
Joe Biden
Before I get started on Joe, let me get my first prediction for the 2020 Presidential election out of the way. In case you were wondering, there will be no President Biden. Even though he would, if elected, be 78 when he took office, I do not rule him out because he is old. Rather, I do so because he is old news.

That was one of the things that hurt Hillary, too. Besides her other drawbacks as a candidate, she had simply been in the public square too long. People were tired of her, and I think Uncle Joe is in the same situation. He’s more simpatico than she is, and more bluntly honest with his feelings, but those assets won’t be enough to overcome the fact that his political career is now well past its expiration date.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Joe isn’t a nice guy. Like all of us, however, he is at least in part a product of his time. He has made mistakes, especially when viewed in retrospect. We could choose to forgive him for those errors and move forward from there. But why bother if his shelf life has run out?

That said, I do think that Joe still has an important function to perform during the debates and even into next year’s primary season. His role, as I see it, is as an avatar for the past, particularly the good things that existed when the world was young (way back in 2016). Let him talk about working with the Republicans, just as Obama did. Let him point to the flawed-but-aspirational world leadership we offered before the current collapse of honor and decency. Let him harken to a better time, because we might want to return to that old order once this dark time has passed.

And let Joe continue to attack Drump, not by giving back those childish personal insults, but with an honest assessment of the poisonous effect the Orange One has had on our fragile democracy. Each of the new kids, meanwhile, would be left free to talk about policy and make the case for their own brand of leadership in this brave new world. And as they do all that, they will become better known and begin to rise in the polls against the President.

There will come a time, I believe, when Joe is no longer useful as an active candidate. Attrition will claim him, probably well before the convention. Even if he is still around, hovering like a ghost over the campaign, he can still be our avatar for the past. To me, that is a fitting and even noble role for the former Vice President.

Fortunately for the nation (and planet Earth), Drump has developed the same problem that Joe has. By inserting himself into every news story, no matter how petty or lame, he has committed a sin worse than being despicable. He has become tiresome. He too is now old news — which brings me to another prediction: there will be no second term for President Trump. Maybe a prison term, but that is not our concern here.

So if not Biden or Drump, who will be moving into the White House in January of 2021? Who will appoint the Attorney General who arrests Drump as he tries to escape through the side door of the oval office? Who will be in charge of cleaning up the mess in D.C. and everywhere else the infection has spread? Who’s got the brains and the fight and the moral strength to pull it off?

It could be any of these contenders, I suppose. To me, however, the last prediction is the easiest. President Warren, guaranteed.
Smells Good
We’re coming up on summer now. See the garden bursting with life and color? Hear the birds signaling a season of fun and adventure? Smell the impeachment in the air?

It’s only a matter of when now, even though no one — not even Nancy Pelosi herself — knows exactly when when will be. Nancy has managed to hold the line so far, but my take is that she’s just waiting to make sure she’s got her ducks in a row before she pulls the trigger. We’ve still got a few more obstructions working their way through the courts and one or two other shoes that need to drop before we can present a full, orderly case for tarring and feathering Trump.

She also has to get the ducks in her caucus primed and ready. Some of them are still pointing to the impeachment of Bill Clinton as a cautionary tale about those who dare to challenge a president in this way. They remind us that Clinton’s job approval ratings hit the 70s after he was impeached and that the Republicans lost seats in Congress in the next election. Also, several leaders of the effort (including the poisonous Newt) were driven from public life in disgrace. The same fate, the doubters say, could well befall the Democrats.

That argument does get your attention, but while impeachment is extraordinary and more than a little scary, using it now would be a markedly different proposition than it was then. Just look for a moment at the precipitating event for each prosecution. In Trump’s case, it was massive tampering by the Evil Empire with our Presidential election. For Clinton, it was a blow job in the Oval Office.

Let that sink in for a moment. Which of those seminal wrongdoings posed a greater threat to our country? I think that most people, once they hear the facts laid out about Trump’s obstruction (plus whatever ugliness is turned up once we start sifting through his finances) will agree with you. Part of the reason Clinton’s impeachment boomeranged on the Republicans was that most people saw it for what it was: an abuse of Constitutional powers for raw partisan purposes. They did not use it as a shield to protect the country from criminality, but rather as a sword to destroy their political foes.

It is obvious that Nancy and her cohort intend to use impeachment as a shield. They are still worried, however, that others might accuse them of wielding it as a sword. I get that, but it’s possible to be too concerned about what other people think. If they do their job right, they will be able to hold their heads high — and keep their seats in Congress — whether he’s convicted in the Senate or not.

A big part of doing their job right, of course, is doing it before we get too deeply into the Presidential season. I was about to suggest that now would be a good time, but I notice that the Judiciary Committee in the House (where impeachment would officially begin) has scheduled hearings for next week about the Mueller Report. That will begin the other big part of doing their job right — explaining, patiently and through the testimony of witnesses — the findings of the investigation. That will bring the American people on board with what has has happened. You can enter that labyrinth anyplace you like, since the destination is the same no matter which they choose. But they do have to enter.

They may not be launching impeachment per se, then, but I say close enough. Soon, we will all be in the labyrinth searching for truth and justice. Now can you smell it?
Something's Wrong on the Right
I blame the Republicans. Doesn’t everybody? Even other Republicans hold them responsible for our current pickle. And by “other Republicans” I mean Rs who are still operating within a belief system that values national security, law and order, old-fashioned morality, honor, duty, and the supremacy of the Constitution. I am sad to say that their kind is declining in numbers. I’m honestly going to miss those guys when the Grand Old Party as we know it finally gags its last.

We’re not there yet, though. Those other Rs are still out there, and we’re starting to hear more from them now, even though the pushback is pretty weak. That is partly because they are powerless now that they have been replaced by Trump Republicans in Congress. With one or two exceptions, all the rest who remain in office have made the transition from anti-Trump to pro-Trump — for the most part, it seems, completely without fanfare.

It is those Republicans who are screwing over the Republic. But even as we blame them, we are puzzled by their failure of conscience. Surely they will stop and realize, I keep imagining, that all the principles they hold dear as patriots, all the reasons they got into politics in the first place, all the faith they have in our system of government, are under threat from the current president. Not only under threat, but under attack and being shredded even as we all watch. I wait for resistance to form in their ranks, but so far, no one has dared.

Where is their decency, their shame? It doesn’t make sense. Their behavior has been so inexplicable, in fact, that I decided recently to step back and take another look at my assumptions in this matter. Perhaps I have been misjudging the participants in some fundamental way, and that has thrown off my calculations. And perhaps I have been a sucker.

I can report that my second look turned up something right away. Now that I see this new possibility, however, I am hesitant to suggest it. It brings with it ramifications that are even more troubling than the original ones. But the stakes are too high to just turn away, so here it is:

What if the Republicans who aren’t simply spineless and venal? What if they are willing partners in undermining our free society? What if, in other words, they are not just enablers but collaborators? Co-conspirators, that is, in a treasonous corruption of our democracy?

You’ll have to admit the idea is chilling. And maybe a bit nutty. This is just the kind of thinking we usually ascribe to right-wing conspiracy theorists. How could these duly-elected public servants really be okay with ushering in Emperor Trump? It seems so far-fetched, and yet you can’t deny the Republicans’ track record of strong anti-democracy activism.

Want evidence? They regularly purge voter rolls, often using the laughable excuse of voter fraud. They shut down polling places, usually in areas where the Democrats are strong, often without good reason. They limit the hours and days available for voting. They jealously guard (much more so than the Democrats) their gerrymandered districts, enshrining minority rule and defying the will of the people. And even now, in the face of a direct attack on our electoral process by the Russians, they refuse to bring up a single bill in the Senate to protect our system. The effect of all this, as we have seen, is to undermine the very essence of democracy — the sanctity of the ballot box.

So there’s all that. Would a full corruption of our institutions just to take power once and for all really be such a stretch? It’s even possible, I suppose, that there hasn’t been a real Republican in office for decades, and that all these Constitution-thumping fascists have just been waiting for the right moment to realize their mad dreams of power.

I hesitated to suggest all of this because I really don’t want this new analysis of mine to be correct. I was comfortable with my old, rosy assessment of human nature. Under these new assumptions, I not only have to worry about the country finding its way back to normal, I also have to worry about getting me back there too. But if I don’t, at least I’ll know whose fault it is.

I blame the Republicans.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon