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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,124

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The Constitution never enshrined Democratic ideals, nor does the GOP. Its a divide as old as America

In the hazy rear view mirror of patriotic nostalgia the two foremost founding documents of the United States can almost seem indistinguishable. but each one marched to the beat of a different drum. At its core the Declaration of Independence addressed the concept of justice, and the complementary repudiation of injustice. In so doing it proclaimed adherence to moral ideals, whereas the U.S. Constitution was a blueprint for power sharing that established a legal framework for America while proclaimed full allegiance to the rule of law.

The first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence affirms that "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation". The next passage of the Declaration defines the cause of the American Revolution in stating "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Powerful ideals that are easier stated than achieved.

Those ideals have played a key role in propelling the dialectic of American history, but they have also been contested. The sometimes opposing but also heralded definition of America is that ours is a nation governed by laws, not men, and that American exceptionalism is rooted in the concept that no one here is above the law. Perhaps, but laws themselves are amoral. Laws are written my men (here the gender pronoun is still mostly accurate) and often tailored to further the self interests of those very same men or their powerful sponsors. The U.S. Constitution said nothing about "all men being created equal", it defined Negroes as 3/5ths human for census purposes. Slavery has been since been abolished through amendments to the Constitution, and women have been given the right to vote etc. But the electoral college hasn't been abolished. American "Democracy" does not reward the presidency to the person for whom most Americans vote. When "Bush beat Gore" many Americans found it unsettling that the loser of the popular vote could none the less become President. Increasingly most Americans are numbed now to that occurrence, dutifully keeping score of winners and losers using the anti-democratic rules embedded in our Constitution, with the popular vote an afterthought if thought of at all.

Today's GOP adheres to a vision of America that is not rooted in democratic ideals, nor guided by a quest for Justice, and in so doing builds on centuries old American precedent to arrive at their current perspective: Any legislation deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court is appropriate to pursue if deemed in the interests of those who have the power to prevail under rules laid out in the U.S. Constitution. So, for one timely example, if under one interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, a majority of lawmakers in a State Legislature decertifies the slate of Presidential electors (under whatever "legal" pretense) chosen by the voters of that state, and instead certifies an "alternate" slate of electors, that action is fully constitutional if the Supreme Court says it is And that is how power should be wielded in the Republican version of America. All is fair in love and legislation, Make sure you control the courts, abstract concepts of justice be damned. First you legislate the strike zone to the advantage of the pitchers and batters on your team, then you chose the umpires who call the balls and strikes, and then you can "play by the rules."

Mitch McConnell sees nothing anti-American in how he plays the game. It adheres to his vision of America

Remember the 35 day Dec. 2018 - January 2019 government shut down, and who the public blamed?

Trump was insisting on funding for his wall and forced a government shut down over it. There's a good overview on the prolonged impasse here:

The resulting chaos and disruptions in the government ended up hurting Trump and Republicans, who took the brunt of the blame for the shutdown and its consequences. Or did it really? By the middle of January 2019 Trump's approval rating was at its lowest point since February 2018. A Washington Post–ABC News poll published on January 13, 2019, found that a larger number of Americans blamed Trump and congressional Republicans than congressional Democrats for the shutdown. A PBS NewsHour–Marist poll found that on January 15, 2019, a majority of Americans thought that President Trump was to blame for the shutdown.

A few months later the entire crisis was in America's rear view mirror. While Gallop showed Trump with an approval to disapproval score of 37/59 for the week of January 21- 27 2019, by April 17 - 30 his Gallop approval to disapproval rating had rebounded to 46/50. One year after the trashing that public approval polls gave Trump in January 2019 (or to be more precice in polling that took place between 1/16 - 1/29/20) Gallop had Trump with an approval to disapproval rating of 49/50. At no time during his presidency did Trump receive an approval number higher than 49%.

We are over a year out from the 2022 Congressional midterm elections. We are over three years out from the next Presidential election. A snap shot of public opinion taken today while uncertainties over the fate of President Biden's legislative agenda for America dominates the headlines, is essentionally meaningless.

Better negotiating with Joe Manchin to get things passed than have to count on Susan Collins

For better and for worse, that kind of sums it up.

Trump has that "war is peace / hate is love" propaganda ploy down to an orange "T"

I remember when he flipped the term "fake news" on it's head at the begging of his assault on truth. Initially that phrase described Trump fabrications. But "Stop the Steal" is the perfect example. Those who rallied around that call worked to steal a fair election. Seditiomists are patriots. Anyone who honors their constitutional oath is a traitor. Disarming against a pandemic means defending freedom. Saving America means destroying America as we know it.

This is about much more than words. It is perpetrating a delusion among thugs and their fellow travelers that those who smear feces inside the halls of Congress hold the high moral ground, that those who plot a coup against it are upholding our democracy, that the victims of white oppression pose a threat to racial justice. This propaganda not only justifies hate, it demands it in the name of love perverted.

And when actual patriots warn that democracy in America is under attack, those who are actually attacking it feel a contact high as the self identified defenders of all that is good in America, including the democracy they subvert. They will not be deterred by efforts to defuse American extremism, they are encouraged by a failure to confront them directly. There are parts of this country where those forces are strong, where their delusions and hatred predominates. It will not be an easy struggle to defeat them, but it only gets harder if it isn't fully engaged, sooner rather than later.

The people who showed adequate public alarm about Trump last year (aside from Democratic activists)

...tended to be mainstream well established political figures on the right. Yes, I know, that statement needs to be qualified, in several ways. For one thing it is clearly a blatant generality, with many exceptions. Beyond that the most obvious qualifications center on the words adequate and public. There were lots of political figures, both insiders and observers, who knew last summer that Trump posed a grave and existential thereat to our democracy, who either only expressed those views in private, or who used much more moderated phrases in public at that time. Others became increasingly more alarmed and outspoken after election day, when the significance of Trump's maneuvers to overturn the election became more evident.

Again, lots of people, including our Democratic leadership, spoke about varied serious threats that Trump posed to America, dating back to the 2016 campaign. Very few though saw the real potential of a coup in 2020/21, or the literal short term dismemberment of our Democratic Republic. And if if they did they didn't use terms like that in public. You know who did though, aside from some grassroots Democratic activists? Some who personally knew Trump well, like Michael Cohen and Mary Trump, which probably is why their warnings were so dire and early.

Another group who refused to pull their punches or mute their warnings, was is in some ways much more significant : Republican insiders. I'm talking about leading "Never Trumpers", many of whom long felt as at home inside the inner workings of the Republican Party as they did in their personal family house. In particular I am thinking of Steve Schmidt, but there were many others like him. They had front row seats to how quickly Donald Trump was hollowing out the Republican Party, like a parasitic entity consuming its host. It is one thing for a sociopathic despot to win the presidency once, before his true nature is sufficiently revealed to those who preferred not to see, until they absolutely had to. Some Trump voters might fit into that category. But top elected Republicans and Party officials never had the luxury of harboring delusions about who Trump really is. They knew exactly who he was, they literally rubbed shoulders with him, but still gambled that they could contain him. And when they lost that gamble they acquiesced to all of it, the hate, the narcissism, the incompetency and greed. And when that narcissism metastasized into a lust for autocratic rule, they meekly fell in line rather than lose any remaining last shred of their grip on power.

Most of the national media was just adjusting to the unseemly necessity of labeling the President of the United States a liar when a few Republican insiders were already warning all who would listen that Trump was destroying not just our democratic traditions, but our democracy itself. Many inside politics were accustomed to taking with a pound of salt the so called "ravings" of leftist cable TV commentators, but this was something else. This warning came from inside the "Republican House."

I think we must acknowledge, show respect for and give thanks to the role that "Never Trumpers" have played in the ongoing fight to save our democracy. People like them made it easier for people like Anderson Cooper to start openly talking about Trump's past and future coup attempts (in words that are no longer veiled) as early as he did, and that could not have come a day too soon.

Trump boasted about using tax breaks to pay next to nothing. Duckworth used a veterans benefit.

Presented as some kind of scandal. Fox News writer Dom Calicchio wrote, in a Sunday column, that Tammy Duckworth had not paid property tax on her Illinois home since 2015. True, she utilized a tax benefit available to military veterans. She lost both of her legs in combat service to America. Contrast that story to this one

"Donald Trump brags about 'brilliant' use of tax laws, which helped him skirt paying them for years

That's a New York Daily News headline from 2016, but you can find a dozen similar stories about Trump in countless media sources. Here is the story link:

Here is a snipped:

"I have brilliantly used those laws," Trump continued, to make good on a "fiduciary responsibility to pay no more taxes than is legally required."

"Or to put another way, to pay as little taxes as legally possibly," he said.

The comments were Trump's first public response to a New York Times report published Saturday night that reviewed multiple pages of his 1995 tax returns.

Trump, the returns showed according to the newspaper, declared a loss of almost $1 billion — and may have skirted federal income taxes for 18 years.

Then there is this:
"NYT: Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017"

Today's Republicans are the standard bearers for "having no shame".

Might Republicans inadvertently help Democrats get the reconciliation bill passed?

They filibustered normal order legislation that would have raised the debt ceiling. If they hold firm to that position (or try to drive too hard a bargain in order to win enough of their votes to shut down a filibuster) it seems like the reconciliation process will become the only route left to keep the United States from defaulting on its debts. If raising the debt ceiling ends up in the reconciliation bill, it instantly becomes must pass legislation for all Democrats as time is running out on any other solution. It seems that if Schumer and Pelosi make a good faith effort to craft a bill that constitutes a reasonable compromise to the impasse that the reconciliation bill is currently mired in, that Democrats of every stripe, in both chambers, would be left with no choice but to back it to prevent the U.S. from defaulting. What am I missing here?

Who wants to write a big check without knowing what you are buying?

I assume polling for that would be in the single digits

What vendor would advertise an expensive product without simultaneously pointing out to potential buyers that, after the manufacturer's rebate, the cost to them would essentially be zero? None who want to stay in business.

But for all practical purposes that is what a handful of so called moderate Democrats have done with President Biden's Build Back Better program. They are hyping a 3.5 trillion dollar price tag without extolling the benefits of the product. They are letting a false impression take root that a 3.5 trillion dollar payment comes due immediately without stressing how the costs will be spread out over ten years. And then they neglect to emphasize that the tab for dozens of social programs that lift tens of millions out of poverty, while easing life's burdens for scores of millions of middle class and working class Americans, will predominantly be picked up by the "folks in the mansions on the hills."

Those erecting roadblocks to President Biden's full agenda are not representing a "moderate agenda". They are defending a "special interests" agenda that benefit the few at the expense of the many. In the House there are perhaps a dozen Democrats in this category, but the Progressive Caucus in the House represents less than half of the Democrats in that Chamber. The vast majority of "moderate" Democrats support Joe Biden's full Build Back Better agenda. Those who are fighting it do not deserve to claim the "moderate" label for their own.

Republicans don't gain votes over economic issues. They LOSE votes over economic issues

Today's Republicans win votes over fear, hate, resentment, and (often manufactured) grievances. Now that Trump dominates the Republican Party pretty much the only Republican voters who support Republican economic policies are some very rich ones, and demographically, that is a very small (though powerful) sliver of the electorate. Hell, millions of well off Americans fully support paying their fair share of taxes under a progressive taxation scheme, because they understand that they are blessed and they don't want others to needlessly suffer from to the effects of poverty.

The fattest of fat cat Republicans may care about "pro-business" economic policies (to further enrich themselves) but average Republicans don't, unless they see how a change in economic policy will directly benefit them. During times of very high unemployment Republicans can sometimes pull off pushing tax cuts for the rich under the guise of helping "job creators" "create jobs", but even that usually fails to sway average voters. The last two givaways to the super rich, under Trump and George W. Bush, polled poorly with actual voters. Most voters strongly support Democratic economic policies, when they aren't being scared away by boogie man fear labels like "socialism." But the thing to remember is this: Republicans smear any and all Democratic economic policies as "socialist" regardless of how modest and/or mainstream by historic measures they may be. Appeasing the Republican Party with lukewarm half way measures hasn't worked for decades.They tie us to Hugo Chavez anyway.

Every element of President Biden's Build Back Better program is popular with American voters And for good reason, the policies that program introduce is of economic benefit to the vast majority of Americans. Beyond that, it strengthens America economically in the long run for all Americans. The average American voter is not a deficit hawk. Perhaps more to the point, even THE AVERAGE REPUBLICAN VOTER IS NOT A DEFICIT HAWK. Does anyone think they cared about red ink under Trump? The Republicans who sincerely do care about deficit spending are by and large a sober lot, and a small one at that. But you know what most of those "sober" Republicans care about more than the growing national debt? The preservation of American democracy. The core anti-Trumpers aren't quibbling about the detail's of Biden's policies now, they just want to see the insurrectionists defeated.

So why are the so called moderate Democrats so worried over the price tag for Biden's Build Back Better agenda? First let's be clear here, I am calling them the so called moderate Democrats because they don't represent the views of most moderate Democrats on this, either in Congress or the public at large. The so called "moderate block" of Democrats in the House of Representatives, who insisted on holding a vote on the "bipartisan infrastructure bill" in September, thereby derailing House leadership's plan to move that legislation simultaneous with the reconciliation act, consist of about a dozen members. They are a small minority of elected moderate Democrats in Congress. They are a tiny minority of the Democrats in Congress period, and they are opposing the President's agenda.

Why? The programs funded in the current Build Back Better reconciliation act are fully paid for, predominantly through a very popular mechanism, higher taxes on currently super rich tax cheats and loophole queens. Even if increased revenues end up coming up a few dollars short of the total tab that has never stopped Washington politicians before, it sure as hell didn't stop the Republicans under Bush and Trump. Money isn't the issue. Money is just a smokescreen. There are only two plausible explanations. One is deplorable and the other simply pathetic. Either they are firmly in the pocket of powerful special interests, like the entrenched big energy and pharmaceutical lobbies, or they have been cowed into total submission by the specter of Republicans beating up on them with scary words. They sure as hell aren't representing the interests of their voters. And they sure as hell don't believe in their ability to defend their votes enacting programs which their constituents already strongly support.

We can't defeat campaigns waged against us with fear by ducking our heads against incoming.

Lesssen learned: Democracy highly vulnerable if widely recognized authority figures spout total lies

At first glance it seems self evident, but evidently some aspect of our culture previously tamped down the degree to which leading authority figures brazenly and repeatedly asserted wild lies that are easily debunked by actual facts. It is not new that people in positions in authority sometimes lie, and do so boldly and knowingly. What is relatively new is that they now do so repeately, doubling and tripling down on those lies even when the truth that exposes their deceit is readily available.

No President of the United States, dating back well over a hundred years, practiced what became standard practice for Hitler's Nazi regime under Goebbels, that being the constant repetition of a totally fabricated reality until is was indistinguishable from the truth to vasts swaths of the population. Not until Trump. Previously leading authority figures tried like hell to bury stories that contradicted the message they sought to convey, but when that failed they shifted to damage control "clean up" mode, often looking for a scapegoat on whom the blame could be pinned who would then summarily lose their job. That playbook was abandoned by Trump, and the new "triple down" repeated (and sometimes further amplified) lie playbook has now been embraced by virtually the entire Republican Party.

The effects of this shift in political tactics is greatly heightened by the rise of major media partisan prime time "news commentators" who supplanted traditional "news anchors" in public influence. When such commentators retain a shred of integrity, the effect of their influence may not be toxic. But with media conglomerates chasing viewers for ratings driven profits, integrity is often the first thing to go. Suffice it to say that there is no one left now with a tenth of the capacity of a Walter Cronkite of former years, who can effectively counter Big Lie propaganda when it raises its ugly head.

America has always had racists, xenophobes and wild conspiracy consumers. They rarely though were given the oxygen of so called "legitimacy" needed for their views to literally go viral. That of course is where the explosion of social media comes into the picture, with platforms that are self contained and willfully detached from reality. But in my mind, it is the shameless brazen lies, all truth be damned, repeated by socially and politically established leaders at the highest levels, that is making the current pandemic of disinformation so difficult to contain, let alone eradicate.
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