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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,309

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Steve Schmidt was the master of hyperbole when it came to trashing Trump

Some may have thought him the ultimate drama queen too, with his over the top repeated and dire warnings that the entire fate of America's democracy rested on expelling Trump from the Oval Office, and utterly crushing each and every fascist enabling politician belonging to the Republican Party.

Except every fucking word Schmidt has said has turned out to be true. Same with Michael Cohen and Mary Trump. Not one person has ever bet wrong over estimating the danger Trump and his followers pose to America.

Trump Republicans won't be convinced to "moderate" their views.

Not the party functionaries and elected officials anyway. They're all in with the madness now, having burnt their bridges back to the mainstream a long time ago, if ever they once existed. The true fanatics have their entire identity wrapped up in Trump worship and support for conspiracy cults, white nationalism, and fascist movements. The cynical pragmatist Republicans, those who live to get reelected, chose to swerve hard right at every fork in the road they came to over the last year. They don't have fuel to explore a different way forward now. For Republican U.S. Senators the last exit off the dirt road they are barreling down is rapidly approaching with Trump's impeachment trial, and few seem inclined to take it.

Positions have hardened, trenches have been dug and battle lines fixed. Total opportunists like Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham have all placed their bets, there is no more backing down or away possible for them. They've signed onto the Pirate Ship and they'll go down with it if they can't reach a safe insurrectionist harbor.

It is theoretically possible that the Republican Party, sometime over the next four years, might offer up a scattering of more moderate leaders, but it won't be through the conversion of any of the current office holders who have thrown in their lot with the rabble. If moderating change ever comes to the Republican Party it will be over the politically dead bodies of those who currently hold power within it.

Democrats, up to and including President Joe Biden, can still reason with reasonable Republicans, but for the most part that entails reaching out to the minority of relatively sane Republican voters left in America in any quest for common ground.The vast majority of Republican elected officials have already jumped off any fences they might have been straddling, and landed with the insurrectionists. And that is how they must be known and dealt with.

My elementary school gave split grade report cards. Nowadays that's how I evaluate Republicans

When I was a kid our report cards had two letter grades for each subject. Don't have a clue how widespread that practice is now, but it produced the slogan "gets an A for Effort." While my report cards graded me both on Achievement and on Effort, lately I apply a different filter for Republicans. I have started split grading them on both Policy and Patriotism .

I would be hard pressed to think of any Republican in Congress who earns even a C in my book for Policy. Perhaps there are a couple of Republican Governors who might deserve a C grade for policy, but in congress at most a smattering of Republicans scrape by with D's while the vast majority earn a solid failing grade. For almost my entire life that policy grade was the only one that mattered. But for almost my entire adult life I pretty much took it for granted that, with a few exceptions, Republicans (at the national level at least) would not embrace an overtly fascist overthrow of our constitutional order. Sadly, live and learn.

Our democracy has not been so threatened as it is today since at least the McCarthy era, but more likely not since the Civil War. That's forced me to consider split grading of Republicans. Virtually all of them suck when it comes to policy, but a minority of them have shown some willingness to take a stand for our democracy. And of course the survival of our democracy is of paramount importance. So now I assign Republicans a patriotism grade also, and for the duration of our current constitutional crisis, that grade has real meaning.

I give an "A" for patriotism to the active Never Trumpers, even those who fall woefully short on policy. If they are actively organizing to defeat Trump's authoritarian putsch, they earn that. I give high patriotism grades also to Republicans who have or will vote for Trump's impeachment (either one.) I assign at least good grades for patriotism to those Republicans who endorsed Joe Biden for President in 2020, and to the small handful of Republicans who at least briefly opposed Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination. I assign patriotism good grades also to Republicans who protected (in the face of real pressure) the sanctity of our election process, like the one Republican on Pennsylvania's election certification board who voted with Democrats to certify the Pennsylvania results for Biden under the spotlight of Trump's rage

Then we descend to the level of mere average and passing grades (again on patriotism only.) That includes those who, like Ex-Senator Corker, tried to provide some opposition to Trump's insanity at least for awhile, and never devolved into becoming Trump boot lickers, Republicans who were willing to accept that Joe Biden won the election once all of the networks etc. called it for him also earn a passing patriotism grade from me. Those who never flat out asserted that Trump won the November election, but who waited for the Electoral College to meet before accepting Trump's defeat, scrape by with a grade of "D" for patriotism. The rest earn F's, and that should be a scarlet letter worn on their chests for the rest of their days on earth, or at least until they admit their complicity in the attack on our democracy and sincerely atone for that mortal sin against America.

Support for, or condemnation of, QAnon by Republicans should be our go to "Wedge Issue"

Every Republican in, or seeking, elected office should be forced to go on record regarding their view of the QAnon conspiracy movement. In many ways this is a more potent wedge issue to divide Republicans over than their views on Donald Trump. Trump, in many right leaning circles, manages to retain some trappings of legitimacy despite his assault on democracy because he was elected President once and came reasonably close to being elected again. Conservative Republicans deflect on Trump by noting his judicial appointments, and the pre-pandemic economy etc. Many Republicans therefor don't fear being exposed as being bat shit crazy if they to some extent don't totally disown Donald Trump. QAnon however is a different story.

Donald Trump himself attempted to fudge the question of QAnon by claiming he didn't know that much about them. Although QAnon conspiracy believers and Trump supporters are not fully one and the same, there is a huge overlap between the two. Many Republicans, who feel that they can get away with not fully condemning Donald Trump, are much more squeamish about being seen as in anyway sympathetic to QAnon conspiracy advocates, yet they don't want to alienate them either.

Keep in mind that the FBI already, under the Trump Administration, has warned against the QAnon movement:

"An FBI document, first reported by Yahoo News, identifies conspiracy theories as potential domestic terrorism threats, specifically identifying QAnon, a group that believes there is a "deep state" working against President Trump, in the memo.

The FBI specifically points to QAnon and Pizzagate, a conspiracy theory that claims Hillary Clinton and other top Democratic figures are running a child sex-trafficking ring beneath a pizza shop in Washington, D.C., as examples of groups whose messages could lead to “violent acts.”


Republicans can't win if forced to take a firm stand on QAnon. However they may react, from full support to total condemnation, and every stage of waffling in between, will cost them support from significant numbers of voters. Most of the relatively sane Republican, or Republican leaning voters, have remained relatively sane in part by not plugging into QAnon social media sinkholes. Which means in all likelihood they are not all of that aware of the many extreme psycho elements QAnon "thinking". Most Republican elected officials want to keep it that way. It is our job to make sure that they can't.

Twas a time when people wondered how an advanced nation like Germany allowed Hitler to become ruler

When I was younger I wondered about it too. Lots of folks were tempted to attribute Hitler's success and rise to power to supposedly unique aspects of German character; an obsession with "order", an acquiescence to "strong leadership" and reluctance to challenge authority, etc. etc. It was a German "problem", not ours.

It's all become clearer now, hasn't it? People say that Donald Trump is no Adolph Hitler. Of course he isn't. Hitler was unique, and so was Stalin, Franco, Batista, and Amin. And so is Duterte and Bolsonaro and Putin. And so would Marine Le Pen be if she ever manages to become President of France. Each had/has their own personal traits, their own personal excesses, their own varying degrees of extreme toxicity. When a nation flirts with authoritarian rule, to an extent it's luck of the draw exactly which flavor it ends up with, but almost universally it involves the embrace of a cult of personality and subservience to one man's will (they're always males, aren't they?) and a host of gray faced accomplices.

It is far past time to retire any illusion that there is something special in the American character, some magical essence of "American exceptionalism", that protects us here against the rise of domestic fascism. Germany was absolutely devastated after it lost World War One. It entered its own Great Depression immediately and never left it. Desperation was at epic proportions when the Nazi's rose to power. We don't even have that excuse. Trump rose to power in relatively "good times" in America. Any stress on our democracy in recent decades pales compared to what the Weimar Republic, Germany's government from 1919 to 1933, was battered by before Hitler seized control.

Believing that America was the world's bastion against fascism was a nice illusion while it lasted. For the moment we do still have a Republic, if we can keep it.

The Senate decides if he's guilty, not whether it's constitutional to try Trump

That's a call for the Supreme Court to make, not Senators like Rubio. There is legal precedent for a Senate trial of an impeached government official who no longer is in office. As a member of the legislative branch of government, Rubio can decide yay or nay on Trump's conviction base on the merits of the case brought against Trump. Rubio doesn't get to pretend he's a Supreme Court Justice and vote to acquit because he doesn't believe the Senate trial is constitutional.

The House impeached Trump and referred the matter to the Senate for a trial on the article of impeachment. The Senate is obligated to review the evidence and then vote accordingly. Rubio can ask the Supreme Court to void any Senate verdict on Trump after one is reached, that's their job to look at. Rubio's job is to act as an impartial juror in the trial that will soon begin. He needs to be called out on this.

There's a scene in the film Dr. Zhivargo

It's during the first World War, the Bolsheviks have not yet seized power in Russia, and Russian troops are still fighting the Germans, but in retreat. A charismatic Russian officer leaps on top of a sealed keg of water to rally his troops who have begun to drop their weapons and flee. His words have power and conviction, and soldiers turn to face him as he implores them to regroup and fight on. Some begin to respond. Then the top caves in on the water keg and the officer plunges in and flails in the water as he tries to regain his footing. Soldiers laugh at him and one shoots the officer dead before they all turn around and resume their flight from the Germans.

Trump never had either the conviction or charisma of that fictitious officer, but he still held millions of Americans under his bombastic macho sway. Then his coup failed, and his twitter account was taken away from him. Already groups like the Proud Boys are ridiculing Trump as "weak." No doubt there will be millions of Americans who will continue to look up to Trump as a leader for some time to come, but something fundamental has changed. Trump no longer has the trappings of power, and he can no longer command the attention that came with it. The top collapsed on his water keg platform.

Meanwhile white nationalists in America have not given up, but they are in retreat. They have not been routed, but neither can they mount full scale military offensives any longer. They can't lay siege to our capitals now because, like the insurgents once fighting Castro at the Bay of Pigs, they were counting on receiving air cover from a sitting American President while they advanced. That cover has been stripped away, making it much more difficult and far more dangerous to them to mass in public again. I suspect they will turn more to guerilla terrorist tactics now, while hopefully awaiting another right wing political tide in a future national election, one as soon as 2022 or 2024, and we must be prepared for that. But Donald Trump got his moment on the water keg, and it caved in on him.

This kind of says it for me...

I love that Trump's second impeachment threw a wrench into his pardon planning

Since Trump only actually cares for himself, now he is weighing whether this or that pardon would lose him a critical vote from this or that Republican Senator at his Senate trial. All those insurrectionists who invaded the Capital on Trump's behalf ran out of luck, when it comes to get out of jail cards, when the House held Trump accountable..

My greatest sorrow and shame, after 5+ decades lived as an adult American citizen

Or, to be more specific, as a white American citizen in his 70's, is the enduring persistence of of institutional racism in our country. I was 18 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Prior to that horrific day I never fully faced the scourge of racism, or understood it beyond a surface revulsion to white supremacists. I opposed racism, sure, from a white informally segregated middle class distance. A lot changed for me that day, and I became involved in the Civil Rights movement as a direct consequence of it. I've actively opposed racism, off and on ever since, but I have to acknowledge far more frequently off than on. I underestimated racism, because of the color of my skin.

When I was 18 there were many things I expected to see happen during my lifetime. I thought we would have a colony on Mars well before now, and I fully expected cars to fly. I thought we would have a female President decades ago, and I felt pretty confident it would be my generation, the ones who coined the phrase "don't trust anyone over thirty" who would drive a stake through the heart of institutionalized racism in America. I expected us tp be radical agents of change. Maybe at times we were, those young whites like me back then who openly embraced multi-culturism, but we sorely underestimated what we were up against, and the degree to which most of our eyes remained closed. I suppose I have done more than most whites have to combat racism, but far far less than some, and ultimately no where near enough.

And now I hear the eerily familiar refrain, rising up from some many decades younger than I, who hold out hope that with the passing of my generation, the path toward a post racist America might finally be cleared. I don't take it personally, I hope that they are right. There is less racism, overall, in whites under thirty today than there was when I was young. I don't feel unappreciated for the efforts I have made in my life to combat racism, I simply acknowledge that we fell woefully short of my youthful expectations, that I didn't do enough. I am deeply chastened, and can only pass on this warning. Racism is a foe far more tenacious than I once believed that it could be. If we manage to beat back the current resurgence of white nationalism that was emboldened by Donald Trump, it will not mean the end of it. I watch anti-racist white teens of a new generation take up banners like "Black Lives Matter"and I simply say, more power to them. I will help wherever I can, but I pray that half a century hence they won't have to look back on their lives with the same remorse that I feel now. It can not continue this way. Ultimately only whites can uproot the institutional racism that oppresses so many millions of our fellow Americans tody.
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