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Fri Nov 2, 2018, 07:48 PM

Friday Talking Points -- Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Our subtitle today is an apt summation of the Republican Party midterm campaign message, in full. That's what they're running on, led by our Snowflake-in-Chief, Donald Trump. Fear. Naked, undiluted fear. "Be afraid!" they warn their voters. "Be very afraid!"

Be afraid of penniless refugees who are walking thousands of miles to legally make an asylum claim. That word bears repeating: legally. Because you won't hear it much from the GOP. To them, it's an "invasion." An invasion that demands sending more U.S. soldiers to the Mexican border at any time in the past century. More soldiers than are still fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, (supposedly one of the "adults in the room" ) has gone along with this political nonsense, much to his diminishment. When the soldiers get to the border, they'll be firing live weapons at anyone who dares to throw a rock at them, Trump promises, and locking everyone up in tent cities (or "refugee camps," to give them their proper title). Oh, and don't forget to be afraid that the migrants are disease-ridden, full of "strong young men" who happen to be brown, and that they probably have some ISIS members among them. Also, be afraid that George Soros is paying for it all, for some inexplicable reason. Even Soros getting a pipe bomb in the mail has not dialed down the hatred and fear directed at him from the president on down.

Be afraid of Democrats who will raise everyone's taxes, destroy Medicare, hurt people with pre-existing conditions, and throw the borders open wide. How they're going to do any of that with a Republican in the White House is never fully explained, of course. If Trump's afraid of them, that's good enough -- all voters should be afraid of them. Be afraid of a black man becoming governor of Florida, or a black woman becoming governor of Georgia. Be afraid of illegal immigrants who will rape and murder you in the night, because that is what they do. Also, be afraid (or, better yet, start actively hating) the media, just because. And, of course, as always, be very afraid of Nancy Pelosi.

What voters shouldn't be afraid of, according to Republicans, is people who send bombs through the mail to the president's political enemies, or people who pick up high-powered guns and decide to kill as many Jews in a synagogue as possible. Because they were probably Democratic "false-flag" operations anyway.

This is Donald Trump's Republican Party. This is the Republican Party of the twenty-first century. Not since the days of the Civil Rights movement has racism and racial fearmongering been such a central part of American politics. Trump this week released a web ad that could be described as "the Willie Horton ad, on steroids," which warned that Democrats gleefully allowed into the country a man who was proud he had murdered two cops. The fact that he probably re-entered the United States during the George W. Bush administration was not mentioned in the ad, of course, because Democrats are always to blame for everything bad that ever happens, period, facts be damned.

Trump has set this tone, almost singlehandedly. We say "almost" because astonishingly enough there are Republicans who are even more blatantly racist than Trump in their campaigns. Like the guy in New Jersey who sent out a campaign mailer picturing his opponent (a Jew) as an evil, money-grubbing crazy person. Or Steve King, who never fails to excel in this regard (King went so far this week that the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee -- the group responsible for electing as many Republicans to the House as possible -- strongly rebuked him for his "white supremacy" views and actions).

Months back, Trump decided that being virulently anti-immigrant had worked so well for him in his own election that it was the ticket to winning his first midterm as well. Since that point, Trump has put his white supporters on a diet of nothing but red meat, which he tosses out in ever-increasing doses.

Throughout this blizzard of fear, Democrats have admirably stayed focused. This was best exemplified this week by a tweet Senator Brian Schatz sent out, on one of the pressing issues of the day (the day in question being Hallowe'en): "Candy corn is disgusting and they are trying to take away your healthcare." Now, that's how to get back on subject, folks!

Fighting the avalanche of lies just on the healthcare issue alone has been exhausting, but necessary. Republicans are just flat-out lying that they are the ones who care about people with pre-existing conditions (spoiler alert: they're not). Republican candidates -- for the first time since the Tea Party's rise -- are having to deal with the fact that Obamacare is now more popular than they are.

It is now four days from when the polls will close. We're in the homestretch now. Which is why today's column is nothing short of a plea to every thinking voter out there to counter the lies, propaganda, and fear of the Republican midterm campaign. There's only one way to put a serious damper on all of the craziness, and that is to elect so many Democrats next Tuesday that Trump will be forced to realize how many people disagree with his dark vision of the future.

We won't say "this is the most important election of our lives," simply because we've heard that refrain so often in the past (pretty much every election cycle, if memory serves). But it is beyond doubt that this is indeed a watershed election cycle. We can chart a course away from Trump and Trumpism next Tuesday, or we can watch it consume everything that used to be decent and good in American politics. That's a stark choice. And an important one.

Because of the seriousness of getting out and voting this week, we are not going to hand out any awards to Democrats. If there ever was a time to pull together, that time is now. Every Democrat on every ballot is the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week, in other words.

We are also going to pre-empt our talking points segment to provide our answer to Trump's fearmongering. Call it our "I am afraid" speech. Because we are actually afraid -- just not of the things Trump is telling us to fear.

Volume 507 (11/2/18)

OK, we realize that we are not Oprah Winfrey. Unlike Mike Pence, we are humble enough not to go toe to toe with Oprah. She said it best this week, campaigning for Stacey Abrams, who could become the first African-American woman ever elected governor in America, by stating that anyone who ever had any ancestor who was denied the right to vote would be shaming their family and their heritage by not voting. She's right, and that group includes each and every one of us, no matter the color of our skin. It wasn't just black people who were denied the franchise in American history, after all. How many of us have a family tree which only boasts property owners back when they were the only ones who could vote? More obviously, how many of us have women ancestors? It's been less than a century since they were allowed to vote, after all. All of us are covered by Oprah's statement, in fact. And she's right -- all of us need to honor their memory by going out and voting next Tuesday.

So, as we said, we cannot hope to compete with Oprah's inspirational language, but we did feel it necessary to explain exactly why absolutely nothing under the sun will keep us from casting our ballot this time around. So here is our fear-inspired election rant for the 2018 midterms. And here's hoping a solid majority of people feel the same way.

My fear-filled midterm election rant

Donald Trump and the Republican Party have decided on a single message to inspire their voters. That message is: "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

I have to say, this has indeed inspired me to cast my ballot, come Hell or high water. Because I do fear for my country right now. I am afraid of what it has become. Which is why I'm going to vote for every Democrat on the ballot, in fact.

I am very afraid -- of a president who does nothing but stoke fear, constantly and consistently.

I am very afraid -- of the dark and evil forces Trump is unleashing and mainstreaming. These attitudes have always been with us, but for the last 50 years it has been all but unacceptable for any leader to give voice to them. That has now changed, for the worse. By declaring himself a foe of "political correctness," what Trump has actually done is make it acceptable for politicians to be boorish, insulting, demeaning, and crude. That's not a role model for our children. That's not something anyone should aspire to being. Which is what makes me fear it.

I am very afraid -- that one party is doing everything within its power to suppress the votes of millions of Americans. They are so afraid of what the true majority thinks of them that they will stoop to disenfranchising voters to remain in power. From "purges" of the voter rolls, to passing laws making it all but impossible for some minorities to vote, to refusing to upgrade voting machines that actively switch people's votes, to accepting voting machines that do not provide paper records (making a physical recount completely impossible), to yanking polling places from minority neighborhoods to make it much harder to cast a ballot, to refusing to step down as a state's primary election official while running for governor, to flat-out lying about non-existent hordes of illegal voters, the Republican Party has over and over again shown nothing but naked contempt for the idea that every citizen's vote is sacred and should be protected. Republicans only want their voters to be able to easily cast their ballots. Other voters should be shamelessly and blatantly suppressed. That, to me, is un-American in the extreme.

I am very afraid -- of a political party that now seems to be based upon conspiracy theories. I am afraid when this party ignores facts and evidence in favor of wild-eyed insanity that used to be relegated to those wearing tinfoil hats. I am afraid for the truth, to put it properly.

I am very afraid -- of a president who is nothing short of a pathological liar. By one count, Donald Trump has now uttered 6,420 lies in his first 649 days in office. That's ten lies a day, but it has gotten much worse recently. In September, Trump uttered or tweeted 599 lies -- an average of about 20 per day. He kicked off October by lying an astonishing 84 times in one day. For the month of October -- and not even counting Hallowe'en -- Trump spewed 1,104 lies.

I am very afraid -- not just of Trump lying his face off at every opportunity, but of what he chooses to lie about. As the New York Times pointed out recently:

In the past couple of weeks alone, the president has spoken of riots that have not happened, claimed deals that have not been reached, cited jobs that have not been created and spun dark conspiracies that have no apparent basis in reality. He has pulled figures seemingly out of thin air, rewritten history and contradicted his own past comments.... Even some in Mr. Trump's orbit acknowledge that this campaign season has brought out a torrent of untruths that, they worry, distracts from a record he should be proud to outline factually.

I am very afraid -- of a Republican Party who has lost its moral compass entirely, in fawning subservience to Trump. How many of Trump's lies have been called out by his fellow Republicans? Precious few. When they are -- as when Paul Ryan recently reacted to Trump's statement that he could overturn the 14th Amendment by executive order by stating: "he cannot do that" -- Trump lights into them like a bandsaw. The entire Republican Party now cowers in fear and blindly accepts whatever Trump tells them is the new reality. Facts be damned -- if Trump says it, it's good enough for them!

I am very afraid -- that the public will buy some of these Republican lies. The biggest one in this election season is the downright laughable claim that Republicans will somehow protect people with pre-existing conditions from losing their insurance. This is just ridiculous on its face. Republicans have proven -- by over 70 votes in Congress, and by a lawsuit currently in federal court -- that they will stop at nothing to repeal each and every piece of Obamacare, including protections for pre-existing conditions. But now Obamacare is popular, so they stand there and claim that up is down and black is white. Republican after Republican has cut weepy ads promising voters that they would never cut protections for people with pre-existing conditions, even while their own votes and their own lawsuit says otherwise. I am afraid that some voters will actually believe this damned lie, and not realize which party truly is protecting the most vulnerable.

I am very afraid -- that the progress of women and people of color in this country is now at greater risk than any time I've been alive. With Trump's fratboy pick for the Supreme Court holding an enormous grudge towards all Democrats, America simply cannot be confident in the impartiality of the highest court in the land any more. Who knows what important rights will be overturned in the next few years? I sincerely hope women and minorities also share my fears enough to motivate them to go vote on Tuesday no matter what, because this election could impact their future in profound ways.

I am very afraid -- of Trump administration officials who have been using their high office to do nothing short of rob the American people in various and creative ways. Trump promised he'd "drain the swamp" but he has installed nothing but a pack of swampy alligators as his highest advisors. Trump hasn't done one thing to drain the swamp, he's actually shamelessly expanding it.

I am very afraid -- of an economic team that has nothing but contempt for working Americans' interests. Larry Kudlow was just quoted saying that the federal minimum wage "is a terrible idea." Apparently he's fine with workers being paid two bucks an hour -- or maybe just fifty cents an hour -- because he has no earthly concept what life is like for those on the bottom of the economic ladder. Such naked contempt and ignorance is to be feared by all.

I am very afraid -- that Republicans stoking the divisions in America will win out over people who still believe in America's national motto: E Pluribus Unum. "Out of many, one." That's a concept that I have believed in my entire life, and I have never seen it more under attack than now. Because Trump and his Republican henchmen (and henchwomen, to be fair) are telling their base not just to be afraid of external forces, but also to be afraid of their neighbors. Our motto is not E Pluribus Duo, because our Founding Fathers wanted our nation to be one, not two warring camps. But in Trump's world, everything is "us versus them." I sincerely want to believe we are better than this. But I am afraid that we may not prove to be.

I am very afraid -- of a president who probably doesn't even know what E Pluribus Unum means, but who still has no concept whatsoever of the constitutional constraints placed upon him. He thinks he can overturn a constitutional amendment by signing a piece of paper. He thinks the Justice Department should be acting as his own personal lawyers, protecting him from any negative consequences of his past actions. Trump doesn't even seem to understand that Congress cannot pass a tax cut bill when it is not actually in session. Trump has so little understanding of the way the federal government works that he gets downright petulant when he is stopped from issuing royal proclamations that change reality more to his liking. I have disliked and disagreed with Republican presidents before in my life, but I have never been fearful that they simply had no idea what was contained in the U.S. Constitution. That should scare everybody, really.

I am very afraid -- that Democratic voters will be complacent on Election Day. "We've got this one sewn up," is a dangerous concept, right now. Because that directly leads to another thought: "The blue wave will take care of everything, so I don't need to go vote." This is going to be a close election in all kinds of states and districts. Your vote counts, period. Do not assume everyone else will win the day for you -- get out there and vote like your lives depend on it!

I am very afraid -- that young voters and Latino voters and African-American voters will think that this election is somehow not important enough to show up at the polls and cast a vote. How can any sane individual think "there's no difference between the parties" after all the hatred and fear and vitriol from Trump and his fellow Republicans this election cycle? Democratic voters usually sit out midterm elections, but to do so this time around would be disastrous for the future of our country. If you know someone who may or may not vote, then drive them to the polls yourself on Election Day! Don't let them get away with sitting this one out!

Yes, I am very afraid. Not of the things that Donald Trump tells me to be afraid of, because they are either lies or just downright ridiculous. But I am afraid that too many American voters will be fearful of his phantom menaces and nonexistent dangers. This is nothing new, it bears pointing out. Fully five hundred years ago, Niccolò Machiavelli warned us of this phenomenon. He stated that, in politics, fear was a much safer and more effective political tactic for a leader than love. Now, I am 100 percent certain that Donald Trump has never actually read The Prince, but he certainly knows the truth of this passage, that's for sure.

So I am afraid for the future of our country -- especially the next two years of it. But the only way to combat this fear is by going out and casting my ballot next Tuesday. For every Democrat on the ticket, from senator and governor right on down to dog catcher. The Republican Party has been utterly co-opted by Donald Trump. There is not even a shell of its former self. The party that billed itself as the most moral (and most moralizing, for that matter) for the past 40 years or more is now the party of pure expediency. "The means justifies the ends" is their new motto. It used to stand against what it called "moral relativism" and for the absolute good over absolute evil. It can no longer make any such claim. Republicans have sat silent while our political norms and ethical standards have been trampled into the mud by a shameless demagogue. The once-proud Republican Party has become nothing short of a cult of personality. That is dangerous, and everyone should fear it, because historically such situations do not end well.

My one remaining fear is what Donald Trump will do if faced with a major midterm loss. Will he just fly off the handle and start thrashing about in a paroxysm of destruction? The very fact that this fear exists is instructive, because I've never feared this sort of thing before in my entire life.

But the only way I can combat all these fears is by voting. And by urging everyone else who shares any or all of these fears to do the same, next Tuesday. The blue wave will not appear if we stay home and sit this election out. So get out and vote, please. To paraphrase Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The only thing we have to fear is the fearmonger himself.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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