Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Moral Certainty and the Challenges of Compromise

General Kelly's Moral Turpitude, Trump's Empty Center, and Our Response to Moral Certainty
There is such a thing as irreconcilable differences. There are values that demand taking a stand. We must concede honest differences about values, how we choose to live, and what we can expect of others. What we must do to _live together_ is more complex than what we believe individually; we may face conflicts that challenge us to define our core.

The core problem is not moral compromise but rather moral certainty. General Kelly fails to see the difference. Trump has no moral core, which make his certainties as dangerous as his turpitude and volatility.

We should not be surprised by either kind of retreat into the redoubt of certainty; uncertainty is a feature of vulnerability, which is rarely understood to be an asset when the failing center devolves into competing narratives of truth. When facts no longer matter, the standards of argument wither. We must not allow _that_ to happen. This is another reason why Mueller is so very important. The only thing between ourselves and the abyss of falsity is our timorous human reason. But it is on that bare wooden plank we must stand to find truth's value.

To sustain integrity and viability in the pursuit of truth we must concede moral righteous to the processes of evidence and the tests of true character. If we fail to inhabit the seam between evidence and reason, fail to put civility and judgment between compromise and certainty then darkness can only become darker and light becomes falsity, dogma, intransigence.

Fight for facts and side with the powers of reason, the alternative is nothing but assertion and authority, our collective failure. We are better than such failure, and we must stand with those committed to the differences that allow diversity in a world that can withstand the graver dangers of mortal certainty over compromise.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Party of Lincoln is Now the Party of Trump

The Party of Lincoln is Officially the Party of Trump
An Essay in Idealism

For all of his many serious faults and deep complexities, Abraham Lincoln meant to change America, not merely restore the Union. Before 1859 America created self-evident truths that were neither self-evident nor true unless you were white, male, and landed. The facts of American life were grim but for the few because even if one were born white and free, chances are it was also poor and always near-desperation. The struggles of survival have never been far from the surfaces of even those pursuing hard work and betterment ---provided of course they are part of the structures of privilege that hold for them those possibilities. If you were (or rather, are) born outside of the confines of privilege your chances have always been matrices fewer. Before 1859 our original sin--- the America built on slavery and exploitation--- was the most self-evident of truths.

Lincoln's views of slavery are too complex and even shameful but he eventually came to an arc of understanding those original American propositions from a renewed sense of their value. He made two points I think make Gettysburg his best and final principled stand.

First, that we are a nation that is conceived in liberty and dedicated to a proposition. Idealist, yes, and so far yet unrealized but Lincoln explicitly changes the terms of our conception. We must not and cannot be a nation based on the privilege of one race, one language, any religion or ethnicity or gender, or any culture but that which is conceived and dedicated to the proposition. He is implying, without much doubt, that the diversity of Americans must be affirmed in order to permit this renewed dedication, that we are Americans because we are ALL in liberty and dedicated to a proposition.

Second, "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced." Lincoln looks to the present, to the future, to the living to realize the American claim. I think that _dedication_ would have and indeed must include a reckoning with our original sins and failures, a turn toward the American shadow, not only towards its light. But it is light that Lincoln sees ahead ---and it is shadow we have continued to deny and incorporate into our better angels. The Republican Party was supposed to be that reclamation of ideals and a dedication to those propositions. Like all of the politics of America after Lincoln, it has failed. But now, now the Republican Party is turning itself back, back to 1859.

Before Lincoln the ideals of America were nothing but lies used for privilege and power. Lincoln meant to renew, dedicate, and change that political and social reality into something _American_. Trump means to tell white, especially male America that _it_ is the _real_ America, the true Americans. Not brown people, not immigrants ---and who among us is not? White culture must admit others _only on its terms_ as subordinate and secondary. Trumpism is the New Republican Party, the one that rededicates to the lies of America of 1859.

Ironically, if one looks at the electoral maps before 2016, Trump's Republican Party was in fact the America of 1859. If one looks at Trump's electoral map what we see is the New Republican Party, the one that stretches deeply into the Union States, especially those with rural and suburban white populations. Trump's New Republican Party is the Old South and white culture-supremacist America ---not all of which will admit to the bigotry that is required. Rather, Trump's New Republicanism is culturally white, and that is the key to his success. We are in a culture war and, for the foreseeable future, Trump's white nationalism is winning. What it is certainly doing is redefining the Republican Party. Lincoln is gone. Trump is in.

Built on nostalgia, forgetfulness, denial of the shadow of America's tragic past, rooted in old time religion and a real rejection of modernity, its life-blood is resentment, anger, and, above all, fear. This New Republican Party will purge Mitch McConnell and the "establishment" not because these men are less willing to serve the rich and exploit the poor but because the test of Americanism must be loyalty to the leader of the 1859 forms of white cultural domination.

Welcome to Trump's America. They will rule until the majority of America decides to vote and figures out how to change the hearts and minds of the Former Party of Lincoln. America has not forgotten the Party of Lincoln, it has never become it. And Trumpism has now made that perfectly clear. What more we can become will depend upon our dedication and if we believe in the propositions that were supposed to guide us.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Just Another Day in October in the Age of Trump

October 23rd, 2017
This morning's sutras:
General Kelly changed job descriptions this past week: from adult day-care shift supervisor to enabler. We become the company we keep.
Courage is not virtue. Courage is the requisite to be virtuous.

October 24th 2017
Rubber Meet Road
Reaganism and the New Republican Party
"Establishment" Republican means Reaganism but the New Republican Party, the hostile take over by Aggrieved Nativists led by Trump, is well underway. So what's really the difference when it comes to policy? Does it matter?

IF Republicans--- Establishment and Nativists alike---can get it together to pass their enormous tax cut for the wealthy and corporations they will have indeed embraced an important feature of Reaganism. In truth, one of its most destructive and harmful features. Trump will sign it. Dupes everywhere will applaud and win nothing. A society entirely ruled by the interests of the 1% will need only scream Benghazi in some or another form and laugh all the way to the bank.

We will have to wait for another Democratic presidency and Congress to fix the ensuing catastrophe ---only to be thwarted by the next Republicans who will again balloon the debt for sake of the rich and force Democrats to raise taxes athinggain. It's dèjá vu all over again, as the great Yogi once put it. Do note that Reaganism also embraced the worst depredations of the environment, attacked education, sought to undermine Social Security and every bit of the social safety net, rejected civil rights and women's rights, and set the stage for _everything_ that is Trumpist racist nativism. So why now the enmity between Trump and the "Establishment"?

The über-wealthy who own the Republican Party need the _emotional fuel_ of Reaganism because Reagan/Conservative policies are in fact quite unpopular. As much as rich Republicans hate taxes, rural whites like their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and don't just want to be left alone with their guns and religion when they need other peoples' money just to survive. What is at stake then are their votes. To win them, Trump knows he has to protect their religious bigotries from liberal secularism, appeal to their every fear of others, especially minorities and immigrants, stoke their resentment of economic stagnation by blaming it on "elites," and make sure there is a scapegoat liberal to blame for everything else. What's different about Trumpism is that resentment, aggrievement, fear, and bigotry are all Reaganism has left that is _actually popular_ among the rural white base. What we will get as the new Republican Party Post-Flake-McCain-Corker is the same disaster of Reaganomics coupled with the christian white nativism that wears its grievance on its sleeve in the form of flag, theocracy, and authoritarian law and order.

October 24th 2017
If Flake and Corker believe Trump unfit for office will they call for the application of the 25th Amendment from fellow Republicans?
Integrity is a contest of virtue that tests our ability to place truth above self-interest.

October 24th 2017
The "Morally Treasonous"
aka "Your Neighbors"

Flake has a 93% lifetime rating with the American Conservative Union and a 96% lifetime score with the Club for Growth. Corker's is above 80% with both the ACU and Club for Growth. These Republican Senators are not sane, decent, principled politicians. They are the tools of the extreme Right. So why is it that both would be losers in their Party's primary? Their warnings about Trumpism have been met with silence by their Republican colleagues who dare not speak up. Bannon talks about taking their scalp but where do they differ in votes and policy?

Trump has no policy, instead Trump is a "movement" that requires the sycophantic loyalty that Flake described today as "morally treasonable." Do we need to describe the essentials of that movement or can we accept that it means "supporting Trump"? The politics of resentment? Let's go with the "supporting Trump" because then we don't have to describe these people morally bankrupt bigots. But it is precisely this morally treasonable behavior that explains why Flake and Corker cannot win their safe Republican seats. This behavior is not merely Trump's behavior ---and this is the crucial fact. Such "moral treason" belongs to the 80% of Republicans who strongly support Trump according to the new Gallup Poll.

62 million voted for Trump. 80% of those voters are 49.6 million Americans participating in Trump's moral treason.

These are, without a doubt, the majority of voters in both Arizona and Tennessee. The new Republican Senators come 2019 will offer loyalty to Trump. Think of it this way: there are about 323 million Americans, and Trump's voters are 99% white. There are about 196.3 million white Americans-- not voters, Americans--- and as we noted nearly every single Republican voter is white. Let's leave aside how many of the 196.3 million white Americans are not Republicans or voters. 49.6 million of 196.3 million is about one out of every four white Americans. Let that sink in a little: one out of every four white Americans support Flake's description of "moral treason."

October 25th 2017
The Fever and the Disease

Flake said, "“I think that this fever will break. I don't know that it'll break by next year.” No, it will not. Trump is not a singularity, he is not an anomaly or merely the cause of the white entitlement grievance that is now the New Republican Party. Trump is _result_ of Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Bush because each of them wooed and accommodated, adapted and included the worst of America into their Party.

When their own propaganda machines appeared in Rush and Fox, et.al., they used these tools to cosset the anger, fear, and resentment that defines the ethos of the base. Trump may be an aberrant for his absence of conscience, shameless narcissism, but he is neither inconsistent nor a breach from the past. He is the consequence, the result, the consummation.

America's fever has multiple causes but all of them can be traced to two _kinds_ of facts---change and stagnation. The changes that President Obama represented were made out to be the embodiment of evil that whites could recognize as a threat to their narrow visions of life and privilege. The stagnation that Republican policies in particular have wrought ---endless war of choice, economic immobility, wealth inequality, science rejection---provide the the complement.

Flake was right yesterday when he said he had no chance to win in AZ. I cannot say this enough: Flake's diagnosis of character and immorality may have made him quit but it was his enabling, participation, and continuing ideology that made his political bed.

"Conservatism" in America is a disease wrought of fear, anger, entitlement, privilege, and _history_. The fever is just now raging but the disease is America's long failure to address its causes: bigotry, racism, sexism, economic inequality, privilege, and primal fear, all coddled and nurtured by conservatives.

Democrats have clearly played their part, especially when it comes to the needs of corporations and empire sustainability. We are in a permanent state of war around the world and no one, much less Democrats, will really talk about why. We are living at the whims of big money, corporate usury, Wall Street's dictates ---and no one has the power to stop them. No, not even Bernie, or especially not Bernie. It's capitalism's consequences mingled with the consequences of change and stagnation, fear and need, the lack of any better system familiar to our history.

Conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes is finally, _finally_ catching on. Look at his interview with Jonathan Chait in NY Magazine for the clarity of his own failure and his enabling recognized. He calls it a "relief" to be out of the conservative bubble because, well, it's a fever that is merely a symptom of the disease. What they fear will change leaves them stagnant; what makes them stagnant is the change they refuse to embrace. It's primal, it's real, and it's not a fever that will break anytime soon. Trump is ascendent, not over. Hang in there, grab an aspirin, don't give up.  The disease may be  here to stay but we must break the fever.