}

Sunday, July 09, 2017

About the USA’s donnybrook

There’s something most people now realise: The USA has a deep and unbridgeable divide around one person: The titular 45th US President. That divide isn’t just about differing opinions and reactions to Don or his regime, but also about the divide itself, the people on the two sides. This political donnybrook is preventing either side from seeing reality, much less fixing the situation. This won’t change.

Don is a habitual and chronic liar, which is beyond dispute to Don’s opponents and any mainstream observer. Of course, Don’s fervent fans see things rather differently, choosing to believe that Don never lies, that when the newsmedia call him out on his lies and present the evidence that the lie is obvious, Don’s fervent fans declare it’s “fake news”, the rightwing’s current favourite banal phrase they use to dismiss anything they don’t like, disagree with, or find uncomfortable or inconvenient. This is a concrete example of how the two sides are mutually exclusive: There’s no way to make Don’s fervent fans accept truth, facts, and evidence, and there’s no way everyone else will abandon those three things. This sort of split is repeated constantly.

This situation is regrettable, but we can deal with it. The bigger problem, I think, is that so many of Don’s critics have become seriously deluded about what’s realistically possible, and that makes them avoid the things that must be done in favour of the easier default position of mere opposition.

To be sure, it’s the duty of every patriotic American to stand up for truth, facts, evidence, the rule of law, and the US Constitution, and all of that requires Americans to oppose Don and resist the agenda of Don, his regime, and Republicans in Congress and state legislatures. I say that first because the next part is going to piss-off Don’s avid opponents:

Don will not be deposed or removed from office, at least, not any time soon. Focusing on that isn’t going to make it happen, could actually make things worse, and runs the risk of handing Republicans the election in 2018. And yet, this can show a way forward.

The main reason Don won’t be deposed is that Republicans need him. Whenever Don engages in yet another of his embarrassing bullying Tweet storms, he distracts everyone from what his regime and Republicans are doing. Sure, people know that Republicans are trying to take away the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans, but what about everything else they’ve been up to? The average person couldn’t list any other important issue that Republicans are up to, apart, maybe, from trying to delay and block a proper investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, and the extent to which any of Don’s campaign staff may have colluded with the Russians. No, most people don’t notice most of what Don is up to because they’re too busy laughing about Don, sharing memes mocking Don, or expressing outrage on social media about Don’s Tweets, usually with a call to get Don out of office.

And that’s precisely why Republicans want him there: He distracts the opposition from the things that matter. Opponents should be constantly in the streets, sure, but—far more importantly—they should be organising in all 50 US states to elect Democrats and defeat Republicans everywhere. So far, Don’s man-baby antics piss off Democrats (who’d never vote for him anyway), they concern some Independents, and they have very little affect on Republicans. And this is the other side of why Don is useful to Republicans.

Since the teabagger insurgency in 2010, the one thing Republican politicians fear most of all is facing a primary challenger from farther right—being “primaried”, it’s called. If Republican politicians piss off Don’s fervent base—and whatever one may think about them, they’re indisputably fervent—they may be defeated in their primary. In some places, that might help the Democrat, but in safe Republican districts, it would probably just mean that an ordinary rightwinger would be replaced by an extremist rightwinger (or, depending on the place or one’s ideology, an extremist rightwinger would be replaced by an even more extremist rightwinger).

If—and at this point it’s a HUGE if—polls of Republicans start swinging sharply against Don, then they’ll move to contain him, and they’ll remove him if they feel they need to for their political survival. But don’t expect that to happen.

The obvious question is, how can pandering to Don’s fervent fans help Republican politicians in the general election, where everyone votes? That question forgets one thing: Republicans know that Democrats are easy to distract and contain.

First, they just need to let Don be Don, and Democrats will flock to social media to vent about how awful Don is and how he must be deposed. Then, a few well-placed operatives talking on social about “corporate Democrats” or about “deluded Bernie supporters” and the two sides will be at each others’ throats in the ongoing internecine political war that both the Russians and Republicans exploited so well (with or without collusion…) in the 2016 election.

So, Republicans’ strategy is to keep their opponents distracted by keeping them outraged over Tweets, and also exploiting divisions within the opposition to ensure that Democrats neither unite nor form coherent strategies to oppose Republican policy. Don is very useful to them for both goals. At the same time, failing to oppose Don (which is, of course, not exactly the same thing as supporting him or being loyal to him) helps Republicans to avoid being primaried. From their perspective, Don is extremely useful for achieving their political goals.

At the same time, Democrats could use this to as a way forward by harnessing the outrage of the opposition to focus the energy on organising to elect Democrats. So far, however, the party has been unable to do so because of the distractions and that internecine war. Even so, there have been peaceful demonstrations, the best of which have included personal lobbying campaigns. Also, the folks who have demanded town hall meetings with their (usually Republican) representatives in Congress have been stellar—and creative—in focusing grassroots opposition and gaining attention. The problem is that MUCH more of that sort of personal, peaceful, lawful action needs to happen, but most of it so far has been outside of the Democratic Party, which is part of the problem here: It does nothing to organise for the 2018 elections.

But consider this: If the efforts to depose Don (probably through the 25th Amendment) were successful, then Mike Pence would become Acting President, and he’d be far worse than Don. Mike is smart, experienced in government, he knows how to manage, how to corral legislative support, he’s temperate in his words and actions, and is calm—everything Don isn’t, in other words. He’s also extremely ideological, he actually believes the political positions he takes, he’s ardently religious, and a true believer in far right Republican ideology—again, he’s everything Don isn’t. Put all that together, and he’d work hard to make the USA into a utopia for people like him and the rump of the Republican base, imposing Christian Sharia Law onto everyone, and oppressing the weak and powerless to give power and huge piles of money to the insanely rich, the oligarchs, the plutocrats, and far right religious extremists. In sum, he’d be effective and capable in every area where Don is useless and incompetent. Remove Don from office? Be careful what you wish for!

Despite all that, it’s encouraging that the majority of US states are refusing to cooperate with Don’s special panel working to suppress the votes of people who won’t vote Republican, and that’s mainly because that resistance is bipartisan and focused on the rule of law. It also encourages people to personal action. For example, in Colorado, hundreds of people have cancelled their voter registration because that state’s Republican Secretary of State will cooperate with Don’s panel to the full extent that Colorado law allows (maybe a bit more?). This is a concrete way in which ordinary people can help stop the agenda of Don, his regime, and the Republicans in Congress, even if they are, in fact, normal Republicans, not supporters of Don or the self-serving Republicans in Congress, let alone the Democratic Party. Opposing Don is and should be bipartisan.

So, Don won’t be going anywhere any time soon, not until and unless he causes political trouble for Republican politicians. At the moment, he’s far too useful to them. All of this could change, though that could actually make things worse in the short term (at least) by installing as Acting President an effective and capable true-believer in both far-right Republican ideology and Christian dominionism. And, if Don starts a war with North Korea, China, and/or Russia, all bets are off.

There’s no easy way forward, nor any likely end to the USA’s political donnybrook. That’s the bad news. The good news is that by organising NOW, it’s possible to throw all the bums out and to fix the broken system. Don’t agonise, organise.

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