Figures like Clinton and Obama are attacked by progressives and conservatives alike, but for entirely different reasons.
Until the 1990s, American electoral politics were divided ideologically, between the opposing ideas of liberalism and conservatism. Now we have Team Politics: Democrat versus Republican, my party right or wrong.
Back then, Rush Limbaugh sometimes accused the Republican Party of betraying conservative principles. At the same time, the liberal op-ed writers at the New York Times occasionally took the Democratic Party to task for not being liberal enough.
Those things don’t happen now. Americans back their party the same way they back their favorite sports team — with automatic, stupid loyalty.
If you are a liberal, you support the Democratic Party no matter what. You vote for Democrats who vote for Republican wars of choice. You look the other way when they do things that only Republicans should do, like order political assassinations and regime change. You even make excuses for outright betrayal, like when Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and welfare reform.
If you are a conservative, you support the Republican Party no matter what. You vote for Republicans who drive up the deficit with unnecessary spending. You look the other way when they do things that only Democrats should do, like allowing the NSA to violate basic privacy rights and failing to put America first when it comes to foreign trade. You even make excuses for outright betrayal, like when “family values” Republicans wallow in sexual impropriety.
Never have team politics been more evident than in the current tsunami of sexual harassment scandals. Republicans make excuses for their politicians, like Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly, even when they are credibly accused of sexual assault. Most notably with Bill Clinton but arguably continuing with big-time democratic donor Harvey Weinstein and perhaps Al Franken, Democrats do the same.
I can’t predict whether this national conversation on sexual harassment will yield the ideal result, a widespread cultural consensus that no means no and that workplaces should be desexualized. It seems clear that permanent positive change is in the making. This moment should certainly mark the beginning of the end of silly Team Politics.
It would go too far to argue that Harvey Weinstein got a free pass for so many years despite his hideous behavior including alleged rape, solely because he donated millions of dollars to the Clintons and the Democrats, and hosted lavish fundraisers at his home for top Democrats like Barack Obama. But Weinstein’s high rank in Team Democrat was part of it.
And it was pretty much the whole deal for Bill Clinton. Sexual harassment and assault charges against the then-Arkansas Governor were swept aside by Democratic voters in 1992. After four years of the clueless George H.W. Bush, whose economic policies prolonged a deep recession, neither liberal voters nor liberal pundits nor the corporate Democrat classes were going to let Bill’s “bimbo eruption” stand in the way of a change. Even after the Monica Lewinsky scandal — if Louis C.K. lost jobs because he abused his “power” over fellow comedians, how about the power gap between a President of the United States and a 21-year-old intern? It was just a blow job, after all.
You may have forgotten: MoveOn.org got its name from those who wanted to “move on” past the Clinton impeachment. Nothing to see here, folks!
Give (a few) liberals credit. Some are finally giving Clinton accuser Juanita Broaddrick the fair consideration she never got in 1999, when she said the future president had raped her in 1978.
ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson, known for his aggressiveness, admitted at the time that “people in charge of our coverage, at managing editor status, have not seen this as a story they wanted to spend a lot of time on…lots of people argued that it was unseemly.” Better 18 years late than never — at age 74, Broaddrick is lucky to have lived long enough to see her story discussed (albeit not deeply or at length).
Democrats who claimed to be feminists yet ignored Clinton’s misogyny feel sheepish and hypocritical. As they should. So they’re mostly keeping quiet and hoping for a change in subject. Which they shouldn’t. At least there’s a chance they won’t reflexively resort to the empty tribalism of Team Politics the next time one of “theirs” faces similar allegations. (Hello, Representative John Conyers.)
Now it’s the Republicans’ turn to come to Jesus.
Yeah, Mitch McConnell says Roy Moore isn’t fit to serve in the Senate. But that means nothing; McConnell didn’t like Moore in the first place. Trump is the head of the Republican Party — and the president is still tacitly endorsing Moore, and might even campaign in person for the alleged child molester.
Better a pedophile than a Democrat, Trump argues insanely. But kneejerk support for a GOP candidate this repugnant, as even most Republicans can plainly see, is Team Politics having jumped the shark and then some.
Die, Team Politics!
Let’s Make the Ideological Divide Great Again.
(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) next book is “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Unlike many of my colleagues, I knew Trump would probably win. Based on the president’s congenital laziness and short attention span that I documented in my biography, I also predicted that his administration would be characterized by a lack of focus or follow-through. I did pretty well by my readers.
But there’s one thing I never saw coming.
I didn’t know he was a far-right extremist.
Who would have ever thought that a president would defend Nazis and Klansmen — repeatedly, even after catching hell for doing so? That, to appease “very fine” Nazis and Klansmen, a president wouldn’t bother to phone the family of a high-profile political murder victim? (Trump waited four days to call — and first did so during her funeral.) That a president of the United States would elevate the leaders of the defeated, treasonous Confederacy to the level of America’s Founding Fathers?
As CNN’s Anderson Cooper observed after Trump’s now-infamous news conference, “A few hours ago, the President of the United States revealed to us so clearly who he really is.”
Who is he? At best, an enabler and apologist for fascists.
At worst, a fascist himself. Though, to be fair, comparing Trump to fascists is unfair to fascists. Fascists got things done. Infrastructure, for example.
There were plenty of signs of Trump’s fascist tendencies. He promised to bring back torture; on August 17th he approvingly recounted an incredibly (i.e., literally untrue) racist story that U.S. occupation troops executed Muslim Filipino patriots with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. He repeatedly encouraged violence against peaceful liberal protesters at his rallies; he was still at it last month, when he “joked” that cops ought to bash suspects’ heads into the side of their squad cars. He wants to refill the infamous concentration camp at Guantánamo.
During the campaign there were also indications that Trump might be a reasonable man. Gay Republicans assured us his White House would respect pro-LGBTQA rights. During the campaign, Trump said Caitlyn Jenner should feel free to use the Trump Tower bathroom of her choice. Strange to think about now, but this is the same guy who endorsed single-payer healthcare, called for a tax increase on the wealthy, promised to lay off Planned Parenthood, and came out for amnesty for illegal immigrants (albeit after deporting them, then letting them back in…to help out the airlines, maybe?).
Candidate Trump was satisfyingly all over the place.
President Trump has been terrifyingly consistent.
Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush hired Democrats to top posts. Not Trump. His cabinet and top staff is staffed by rabid right-wing lily white ideologues; it features more generals than an old-school junta. Trump’s first major policy initiatives — repealing Obamacare with no replacement and tax cuts for the rich — have tilted so far right that he can’t even secure the support of the usual sellout Vichy Democrats, or right-wing Republicans.
Even by the standards of a country whose citizens — even the “liberal” ones — believe they have the right to invade and bomb any country they feel like without justification, Trump’s presser and ensuing tweets were truly special.
“Mainstream” Republicans like Mitch McConnell may have the soul of a Nazi. But actual Nazism — the uniforms, the flags, the crazy rune shields — Americans don’t do that stuff. Actual Nazism is for a few thousand pasty tatt-covered muscleheads with little pig eyes. They are freaks. They are few.
Yet they have a friend in this president.
Let’s be clear: there isn’t much ideological daylight between “mainstream” Republicanism and little-pig-eyed Nazism. Nazism is militarily expansionist; so is U.S. foreign policy (which, to be fair, is equally supported by Democrats). Nazism centers around a dynamic cult of the Leader; Republicans rally around their president no matter what outlandish crap gets vomited out by his mouth. Nazism relies on scapegoating and harkens to a mythic past when the nation was united by a common cause and everyone (everyone who matters) was happier and more prosperous — c.f. “Make America Great Again” and Republicans’ baseless claims that illegal immigrants are criminals and rapists.
So Trump’s defense of Nazis and Klansmen isn’t a radical departure from the GOP political norm. Where he’s gone off the rails by American standards is a question of style.
Trump’s manner — as Senator Bob Corker aptly describes it, his lack of “steadiness” and “competence” — is why he almost certainly will not complete his term.
Racism isn’t the issue — Republicanism is racist. It’s a matter of decorum.
Trump is too tacky and high-strung and unpredictable for the business class. America’s ruling elites like their racism served up quietly in a well-tailored suit, under a tight helmet of elder-statesman hair, delivered calmly and slowly, so bland that no one pays attention.
This is where Mike Pence comes in.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)