Tag Archives: Donald Trump

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Will President Trump Last Another Year?

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Some political experts doubted that Donald J. Trump would tough it out this long. This, after all, was a very strange man, possibly afflicted by obsessive-compulsive disorder to the point that he even floated the idea of staying in New York.

He moved to Washington. But Trump’s dangerous old compulsions remain: Twitter diarrhea. Impulsiveness. Recklessness. He insults adversaries whose cooperation he needs. He’s allergic to compromise. Will these character defects destroy him politically in 2018?

The odds of Trump remaining president by the end of next year, I said recently, were significantly less than 50%. I still think that’s true. But as noted above, we have a tendency to underestimate this highly inestimable man. The will-Trump-survive question is an equation with many variables.

One thing is clear: “The Resistance,” as the left-center political forces aligned against Trump and the Republicans grandiosely call themselves, is a null force. If Trump is forced out of office, it won’t have much to do with these Hillary Clinton supporters. The Resistance’s street activism peaked out with the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. They are, in Trumpspeak, Losers.

Russiagate, the allegation that Putin’s government “hacked the election” for Trump, still hasn’t risen above the level of a 9/11 Truther conspiracy theory — not one iota of actual evidence has appeared in the media. (Sorry, so-called journalists, “a source in the intelligence community believes that” is not evidence, much less proof.)

But Russiagate led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller’s sweeping powers and authority to pursue any wrongdoing he finds regardless of whether or not it’s related to Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election has already led to the downfall and flipping of ex-Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Mueller’s pet rats may never turn up a smoking-gun connection between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. But they likely know where Trump’s bodies are buried. In addition to obstruction of justice — to which Trump de facto pled guilty in one of his insipid tweets — charges related to sleazy business dealings are a strong possibility. Was/is Trump in deep with Russian oligarchs and corrupt government officials? Perhaps not — but he’s an amoral real estate developer who follows money wherever it leads, including authoritarian regimes where transparency is nonexistent.

Behind every great fortune, Balzac wrote, there is a crime. Trump’s cash hoard probably results from many more than a single illegal act.

Impeachment or resignation? Having researched Trump for my 2016 biography, Trump is more likely to give away his fortune to charity than slink away in a Nixonian resignation. His ego is too big; he’s too pugnacious. He’d rather get dragged out kicking and screaming — unless it’s part of a deal with Mueller or other feds to avoid prosecution.

So impeachment it would need to be.

But no political party in control of both houses of Congress has ever impeached a sitting president of its own party. And there’s another powerful countervailing force protecting Trump from impeachment: Republicans’ self-preservation instinct.

GOP lawmakers suffered devastating losses in the 1974 midterm election following Nixon’s near-impeachment/resignation. Democrats did OK in 1998, after Bill Clinton was impeached — but that was an outlier impacted by the biggest boom economy ever.

In the long term, the Republican Party would probably be better off without Trump. But Congressmen and Senators live in the here and now. Here and now, or more precisely in 2018, Republicans know that many of them would lose their jobs following a Trump impeachment.

Despite those considerations, I think that, in the end, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans are more likely to calculate that pulling the impeachment trigger is worth the likely losses in the fall.

Reason #1 is personal: Paul Ryan’s presidential ambitions. As I speculated in February, I believe Ryan wants to be president in 2020. As Speaker of the House, he’s the one person who can launch impeachment proceedings. I can easily imagine the following quid pro quo: Ryan gets rid of Trump, Pence agrees not to run in 2020, Ryan runs with Pence’s endorsement.             Reason #2 is meta: to save the Republican Party as Ryan and McConnell know it. Here’s what I said in February: “Becoming the party of impeachment at a time when impeachment is popular transforms crisis into opportunity, allowing Republicans to cleanse their Trump-era sins (trying to repeal the increasingly well-received Obamacare, paying for the Great Wall of Mexico with deficit spending, etc.) and seize the moral high ground in one swoop. Vice President Mike Pence takes the helm, steadies the ship, promotes their right-wing agenda with more grace than his former boss, and Ryan and his buddies prepare for 2020.”

If anything, the GOP is in bigger trouble now.

Trump’s approval ratings hover between 35% and 40%. More worrisome for him and the Republicans, his support is shaky while those who hate him are firmly entrenched in their beliefs.

Approval of the Republican Party has hit 29%, the lowest ever recorded.

After failing to repeal Obamacare, the Republicans finally scored their first legislative victory last week when the Senate passed a sweeping series of tax cuts — but it’s wildly unpopular (52% against, 25% for). Pyrrhic much?

GOP elders were already fretting that Trump was ruining the GOP brand following the alt-right riots in Charlottesville. What they’re about to realize (if they haven’t already) is that the president has also undermined one of the party’s strongest longstanding arguments: “The government should be run like a great American company,” as Jared Kushner said in March. “Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

Voters have watched Trump’s staff churn through one resignation and shakeup after another, the president diss his own sitting cabinet members, with no sign of his campaign’s stated goals being talked about, much less executed. The Trump Administration has been characterized by communication breakdowns, chaos, mismanagement and waste — and has little to show for its efforts.

This is the current face of the Republican Party: corrupt, stupid and inept. Ryan and McConnell know they must disassociate the GOP from Trump.

They have to destroy their party in order to save it.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out December 12th. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Trump, the Pussy Tape and a Bunch of Lazy Journalists

Image result for trump access hollywood            “The tape, without question, is real.”

I expected better from The New York Times.

The quote is the lede of a news story by Daniel Victor, a reporter at the Times. Victor’s piece is about a controversy, or more precisely, an echo of a controversy: the 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which Donald Trump is heard joking with show host Billy Bush about grabbing women’s genitals. The audio (you don’t see Trump’s face during the gutter talk) was released shortly before a major debate against Hillary Clinton; it nearly cost Trump the election.

Perhaps in an effort to distance himself from the big sexual harassment discussion, Trump has lately been telling people that the audio wasn’t real — that it wasn’t him saying all that sexist stuff. “We don’t think that was my voice,” he told a senator recently.

Trump’s denial-come-lately (he apologized at the time) is being ridiculed. “Mr. Trump’s falsehoods about the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape are part of his lifelong habit of attempting to create and sell his own version of reality,” Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin of the Times wrote. Senator Jeff Flake said: “It’s dangerous to democracy; you’ve got to have shared facts…that was your voice on that tape, you admitted it before.”

Trump lies a lot. He may be lying here. I don’t know.

The point is, neither does The New York Times.

            What disturbs me more than the possibility/likelihood that the president is a liar is the fact that journalists who ought to know better, including six-figure reporters employed by prestigious media organizations like The New York Times that repeatedly brag about adhering to high standards, are too lazy and/or ignorant to conduct basic due diligence. This isn’t new: I have been the subject of news articles for which the news outlet didn’t call me for comment (calling for comment is journalism 101). But journalistic laziness is still shocking and wrong.

A news article that begins with an unambiguous declarative statement like “The tape, without question, is real” ought to contain proof — or at least strong evidence — that there really is no question.

Victor’s piece does not come close to meeting basic journalistic standards. Victor quotes a host from “Access Hollywood” who says that’s Trump on the tape. Mostly he relies on Trump’s 2016 apology: “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” But so what? I can say I was on the grassy knoll but that doesn’t mean I really shot JFK.

I don’t like Trump either. But it’s reckless and irresponsible to report as news, as proven fact, something that you don’t know for certain.

The sloppy reporting about the authenticity of the Trump tape reminds me of the breathtaking absence of due diligence exercised by The Los Angeles Times when it fired me as its cartoonist. There too the story centered on an audio.

I wrote in a Times online blog that an LAPD cop had roughed me up and handcuffed me while arresting me for jaywalking in 2001. The police chief gave the Times’ publisher an audio the cop secretly made of the arrest. The audio was mostly inaudible noise, yet the Times said the fact that it didn’t support my account (or the officer’s) proved I had lied. I had the audio “enhanced” (cleaned up); the enhanced version did support my version of events. Embarrassed and/or scared of offending the LAPD (whose pension fund owned stock in the Times’ parent company, Tronc), the Times refused to retract their demonstrably false story about my firing. I’m suing them for defamation.

Where my former employer went wrong was that they didn’t investigate thoroughly. They were careless. They didn’t bother to have the audio authenticated or enhanced before firing me and smearing me in print.

Back to the Trump tape.

Editors and reporters at any newspaper, but especially one the size of the New York Times, which has considerable resources at its disposal, ought to know that proper reporting about audio or video requires both authentication and enhancement.

Proper forensic authentication of a recording like the “Access Hollywood” recording of Trump is a straightforward matter. First, you need both the original tape as well as the device with which it was made. A copy or duplicate of an audio or video cannot be authenticated. The tape and recording device are analyzed by an expert in a sound studio for signs of splicing or other tampering. The identity of a speaker can never be 100% ascertained, but comparisons with known recordings of voices (as well as background noise from the original recording location) can provide meaningful indications as to whether a recording really is what and who it is purported to be. (The LA Times didn’t do that in my case. Anyway, they couldn’t. All they had was a copy, a dub — and you can’t authenticate a copy.)

My situation with the LA Times highlights the importance of enhancement. Had the paper’s management paid for a proper enhancement, they would have heard what lay “beneath” a track of wind and passing traffic: a woman shouting “Take off his handcuffs!” at my arresting officer.

            Do I believe Trump’s denials? No.

Is the media right to say Trump is lying about the Billy Bush recording? Also no.

Because the media have offered no evidence as to the recording’s authenticity. For all we know, the original tape was never released. I’d be shocked if the recording device was released. And I’d be triple-shocked if those two items were sent to a professional audio expert for authentication.

A president who is an evil, dimwitted, underqualified megalomaniac is a danger to democracy.

So is a lazy, cheap, cut-and-paste class of journalists who don’t bother to thoroughly investigate stories.

(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.)

81 Wrongs

The United States tried to overthrow or directly interfere in the elections of at least 80 countries throughout the Cold War alone. How exactly is it in a position to complain if it turns out to be true that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Want Real Political Change? Hit the Streets — And Don’t Promise to be Nonviolent

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Tired of Trump? Congress can impeach him. But they won’t do anything unless you actually do something.

Doing something does not mean signing an online petition. Donating to Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution is nice, but your cash can’t depose the oligarchs. Doing something does not mean voting Democratic; both parties are beholden to corporations who demand business as usual. It doesn’t even mean supporting progressive Democrats in primaries against incumbent corporate Democrats; incumbents almost always win.

Doing something effective requires you to become a clear and present danger to the system and the people who run it.

Doing something that might change the fundamental nature of the system requires you to risk prison, injury and death.

Doing something demands that you operate outside the system.

It means taking it to the streets.

By itself, filling the streets with people and signs and chants isn’t enough. Tame street protests are doomed to failure. If you file for a parade permit or let the police pen you up in a ridiculous “free speech zone” or promise that you’ll be nonviolent no matter what, your street protest will be drowned out by the clinking of glasses and the popping of champagne corks in the salons of the ruling classes. It won’t matter whether you go home quietly or leave screaming in a paddy wagon.

Many Congressional Republicans still support the president. They’ll only change their minds if they face irresistible political pressure. Others would be open to supporting Trump’s removal if a groundswell of public opinion provided them with the requisite political cover.

The vast majority of Americans think Trump is doing a lousy job — and that includes many people who voted for him. Forty percent favor impeachment — and that number will continue to grow as he deports children and recklessly ramps up the risk of nuclear war. That’s tens of millions of Americans.

But those tens of millions are powerless. They’re sitting on their butts, waiting for someone else to do something.

The urban protests of the 1960s and 1970s were unsettling and frequently disintegrated into disturbing acts of violence, as seen during the running street battles between activists and the Chicago police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the shootings of students by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State. Since the late 1970s the streets have been calm, except for such episodes of periodic political violence as the 1992 L.A. riots and the Battle of Seattle over globalization in 1999. In recent years lefties expressed pride in the fact that large protest demonstrations like the 2002-03 marches against the invasion of Iraq, the anti-Trump Women’s March and the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement were so studiously nonviolent that organizers deployed “peace police” to separate potential troublemakers from the cops.

It is no coincidence that the American Left hasn’t won a major policy victory, or that no Democratic president has proposed a major anti-poverty program, since the 1970s. Without pressure from the Left, the country has steadily moved right.

“We could have large-scale marches for every year of Trump’s presidency. It would do nothing!” says Micah White, best known for his role in OWS. Street protests have been ritualized, stripped of their drama, and thus defanged.

The Left has embraced a cartoonish militant pacifism that goes far beyond Gandhi (who wasn’t really against violence). Violence hasn’t disappeared. Now the authorities have a monopoly on violence. They operate with impunity against dispossessed people. The authorities have militarized local police forces. They’ve murdered countless people of color, spied on our emails and phone calls, and even declared the right to use drones to blow up U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

Street marches in the U.S. have become empty exercises, unguided support groups to make leftists feel better about themselves because they’re not alone. But that’s not how they started.

Historically, street protests were scary. They were carried out by angry mobs. There weren’t any speeches. These were riots. Drunken people ran around breaking and stealing things. The chaos ended in one of three ways: the rioters got tired and went home, the lord of the ancient and medieval city where the riot occurred had his soldiers kill the rioters, or the ruler so feared the complete destruction of his fiefdom — and for his own life — that he gave in to the rioters’ demands.

What makes violence, or more precisely the willingness to be violent, a useful tactic is that it isn’t necessary to kill anyone or break anything every time you want something. You don’t need actual violence to exert pressure against your enemy — you need the credible threat of violence. What makes that threat credible is the memory of a fairly recent act of actual violence. France and the U.S. both have nukes, for example. But only the U.S. has ever been crazy enough to use them. Which country scares other countries more?

Between 1811 and 1816 the Luddites broke into English mills and workshops to break the machines that were killing their jobs and slashing their pay. After that, terrified factory owners took the Luddites seriously. Luddites sometimes extracted concessions by sending a threatening letter signed “with Ned Ludd’s compliments.”

Consider the countervailing example of the Unite The Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. There weren’t that many racist attendees — fewer than a thousand. But they showed up with weapons, including assault rifles. One murdered a woman with his car and injured others. That violence gives the next alt-right rally a credible threat of violence and guarantees that the event will be taken seriously by the authorities and thoroughly covered by the news media.

I am not suggesting that progressives show up to their next anti-Trump march toting AR-15s, or that leftists should kill or injure anyone. That’s not who we are or what we’re about. We oppose Trump and the capitalist system precisely because they are violent and we loathe violence.

My message is more subtle: march peacefully. But don’t follow the rules. Don’t apply for parade permits. Don’t stay on the sidewalks when the police tell you to. And don’t promise not to break anything.

Be wild.

Power never yields unless it’s scared.

(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.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Progressive, Heal Thyself

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Many progressives are stupid. Unless they get smart soon, “The Resistance” to Donald Trump will fail, just like everything else the Left has tried to do for the last 40 years.

Stupid progressive thing #1: letting yourself be shocked by Trump.

Far too many lefties still can’t believe that the Orange One won the election, or that as president he’s so stupid and mean and right-wing.

Know the cliché, “if you’re not angry you’re not paying attention”? If you didn’t see Trump’s victory coming, you weren’t paying attention to the anger of your fellow citizens — and neither was the Democratic Party. NAFTA cost a million Americans their jobs. Since the 1970s automation has put 7 million people out of work. Democrats marketed themselves as the party of Joe and Jane Sixpack, but Bill Clinton pushed for and signed NAFTA, a Republican idea. Neither Clinton nor Obama lifted a finger to save the Rust Belt; as a candidate Hillary Clinton didn’t care either.

For those who opened their eyes to see, every aspect of Trump’s “surprise” win was visible in plain sight.

2016’s Rust Belt Trumpers were yesteryear’s Reagan Democrats and the “angry white males” of the 1990s.

Democratic disunity was another big factor. But the schism between Hillary Clinton corporate Democrats and Bernie Sanders progressives directly paralleled the 1980 split between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy.

Shocked by Trump’s radical anti-intellectualism? That his only qualification for the nation’s highest political office was celebrity? Don’t be.

Trump is merely the logical culmination of a trend that goes back at least to celebrity politicians John Glenn, Clint Eastwood, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, all of whom exploited their celebrity to defeat more experienced public servants. Though George W. Bush and Obama both had legislative experience, neither man accomplished much before running for president. Both famously adjusted their voices and accents to come off as dumber than they were.

Trump wasn’t a surprise. He wasn’t an anomaly. American politics won’t get nicer or smarter after he’s gone. He’s crazy and mean and dangerous — but he’s not a bizarre departure from the American norm.

Stupid progressive thing #2: viewing Trump’s politics as significantly more dangerous or extreme than, say, Obama’s.

            Worried that Trump will pull a Greg Stillson (“the missiles are flying”) on North Korea? Me too. But please get real. Trump’s needlessly bellicose rhetoric and gleeful overuse of the war machine hardly represent a radical shift in foreign policy from his predecessors. Obama gleefully ordered a political assassination (Osama bin Laden), financed civil wars that destroyed Libya and Syria, slaughtered thousands of civilians with drones and joked about it. All Trump did was alter the tone of U.S. propaganda from fake they-made-me-do-it to his more honest I-like-it.

Stupid progressive thing #3: always reacting, never acting.

Benghazi wasn’t a real issue that Americans cared about. Fox News zeroed in on it, pimped it, and pounded away at Obama-Clinton’s alleged responsibility for the deaths of American diplomats in Libya until it gained traction and ultimately became a Thing. Republicans know how to alter the playing field.

Contrast that to issues progressives actually care about, like Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Aware that his decision would be controversial, Trump released the news late Friday — a classic media dump. Not only that, Hurricane Harvey was about to hit Houston. The Arpaio story got swept away by a flood of Houston headlines.

It’s so easy to play progressives.

Weekends pass. So do hurricanes. Why didn’t progressives schedule some big anti-Arpaio/Trump demonstrations for late the following week? Just put a reminder into your phone! Because they’re used to reacting. Progressives will never win unless they steal a page from the GOP playbook and start setting the agenda — and pounding away at it relentlessly, lack of reaction be damned.

Stupid progressive thing #4: never learning from past mistakes.

Fighting the last war — fixing the mistakes you made last time without anticipating the challenges of the next encounter — is a classic error of strategy. But progressives aren’t even good enough to make that error. They don’t even learn from their previous screw-ups.

Inspired by Tahrir Square, the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement suffered from its lack of centralized leadership, a lack of formal demands, its welcoming of the homeless and mentally ill and a rift between revolutionary and reformist wings. But OWS’ biggest mistake was calendrical.

They occupied public parks. Parks are outside. OWS began in the fall. The weather got cold, occupiers drifted away, morale turned sad. By the time Obama smashed the encampments with federally-coordinated violent raids, there wasn’t much of a movement left to destroy.

Here we go again.

Refuse Fascism has a plan to get rid of Trump. “On Saturday, November 4—approximately a year after President Donald Trump’s election—members of the Resistance will descend on America’s major cities,” reports The Politico. “They’ll march and demonstrate, as they have in the past, but this time, say organizers, they won’t go home at the end of the day. Instead, the plan is to occupy city centers and parks and not leave until, and only until, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have fallen.”

November.

It’s cold in November.

I know, I know — it’s easy to criticize. Which is why I chose criticism as a job. So let me offer a concrete suggestion.

Starting in November? Occupy indoor spaces.

(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.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Trump is Doomed (It’s Not the Nazi Thing)

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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.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Our Obsession with Trump Shows Authoritarianism Has Arrived

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Bernie Sanders has joined the chorus of politicians and pundits who warn that the U.S. is sliding into authoritarianism under Trump. But he’s kind of wrong about how.

There are indeed reasons to worry that civilian and constitutional rule are giving way to institutional post-democracy. Trump’s cabinet and top White House staff contain enough military generals to give Pakistan a run for its money. Trump’s party controls both the House and Senate yet the president prefers to dash off executive orders rather than making the necessary effort to shepherd legislation through Congress. And of course there’s his police-state rhetoric, like when he “joked” that cops should bash their suspects’ heads into the sides of their squad cars.

But the most reliable indicator of looming authoritarianism can be found in the media, specifically in its obsession with the president.

A study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that 41% of all news stories during the president’s first 100 days were about Trump. That’s three times higher than any other president. Six months in, news outlets still devote hundreds of broadcast hours and thousands of words dissecting 100-character tweets Trump dashed off in seconds at four o’clock in the morning.

Trump has a lot on his plate: healthcare, tax reform, the border wall, Venezuela for some reason. But one story towers above all others in news coverage: the Russia-Trump connection. Fifty-five percent of all stories about Trump on TV network news since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel have been about the Russia probe, according to the conservative Media Research Center.

(Count me among the guilty: as a political cartoonist, it’s hard not to notice that images of Trump garner more clicks than those about climate change. Here I go again, right here in this column.)

Americans are divided along party lines. But Trump has brought us together in one respect: he’s making everyone feel anxious by creating a constant atmosphere of crisis.

The president’s Republican supporters are worried sick that a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy will force Trump out before he can carry out his promises. “BREAKING NEWS! WATCH: Top Republican Issues Warning About ‘Taking Out’ Trump – This Is Terrifying…. ” warns an email blast from TeaParty.org. From the same email: “Establishment RINOs just teamed up with the bloodthirsty Democrats to betray their constituents and keep Obamacare – the DISASTER that is destroying he [sic] lives of millions of Americans.”

            These emails hit in boxes of Republican voters at an hourly rate. Here’s another:Within the darkest, dankest bowels of our government, the Leftist Deep State has nursed its wounds and regathered its might. They’re preparing for another surprise attack. The highest Deep State archons have gone absolutely berserk with gnashing, fist-bleeding, spit-flinging rage.” Terrifying! Given how much effort goes into working them up, it’s amazing how few gun owners go on a shooting spree.

Liberals are going crazy too. “Get Organized to Drive Out the Fascist Trump/Pence Regime. In the Name of Humanity — We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America!” urges an email from RefuseFascism.org. “We’re in a crucial moment in history, when the danger of a full-out fascist regime, as we have analyzed, threatens the people all over the world and the planet itself as a viable place for humans and other species to thrive and survive.” Even the bugs are doomed!

No false equivalence here — I’m an unapologetic leftie. The point I’m making here is, everyone is obsessed with Trump, not just the media. And that obsession is a strong clue that the authoritarian era may already be underway.

For 15 years the global embodiment of authoritarian rule was Turkmenistan under former Soviet strongman Saparmurat Niyazov. Like Trump, Niyazov was a quirky megalomaniac who routinely issued executive orders on everything from grandiose construction projects (a vast manmade lake in the world’s hottest desert) to the mundane (a ban on chewing tobacco, ejecting dogs from the capital because of their “unappealing odor”).

Like other visitors to Turkmenistan, I was struck by the ubiquity of Niyazov’s image on currency stamps, statues and posters. But what really made an impression on me was how carefully the Turkmen people studied his every move, both literally and figuratively.

Whenever Niyazov’s motorcade left the presidential palace, the police shut down most streets in Ashkhabat. Motorists carefully tracked his schedule to avoid getting stuck in traffic — or arrested. Because college applicants knew that the president personally reviewed their applications, savvy students sprinkled their essays with quotes from the leader’s book, the Ruhnama. When the Father of All Turkmen let his hair go from dyed to white back to black again, countless thousands of his hapless subjects felt it wise to follow suit.

As in the U.S., where leftist opposition increasingly focuses against the person of Donald J. Trump (as opposed to the systemic oppressions of capitalism and militarism), political opposition in Turkmenistan was directed against Niyazov, the center of the nation’s personality cult. En route to my hotel, my taxi driver pulled over to toss his saved-up household trash over the fence surrounding the presidential palace. Judging from the lawn, he wasn’t the only one.

Prisoners will tell you that serving time safely requires a close watch on guards’ mood swings and shift changes. Survival is part of human nature; studying those with power of life or death over you is key to survival in situations where individual rights are slim to nonexistent.

The U.S government has become increasingly violent, intrusive and capricious since 9/11, brazenly listening to our calls and reading our emails and generally treating individual rights like quaint relics of the past. Obama announced his right to drone-kill Americans on American soil; he and now Trump are even deporting U.S. citizens. The erratic nature of Trump’s personality and policy prescriptions have amplified the sense that Americans, like the Turkmen, had better pay close attention to the man in charge if they want to survive.

(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.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Democrats Are a Lost Cause

Image result for kamala harris hillary clinton

There they go again.

Hillary was a two time loser. Weirdly, her people are still in charge of the Democratic Party. Clintonista militant moderates haven’t learned a thing from Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump — so they’re trying to sell Democratic voters on more of the same.

Remember what happened when Hillary ran on “never mind your crappy low wage job, vote for me because ‘first woman president'”? Now we’re supposed to get excited about center-right California Senator Kamala Harris because she ticks off two boxes on the identity politics hit parade.

Remember the ugly optics when Bill and Hillary took their excellent fundraising adventure to the Hamptons? Kamala 2020 is already doing the same thing.

Remember how well it worked out when Hillary snubbed Bernie and insulted his progressive supporters, then ran a tack-to-the-right general-election campaign that targeted Republicans who were never going to vote for her? Here comes Kamala with rhetoric that makes her sound like a Rand Paul Republican: “I agree we must be talking about wasteful spending in our country…we must be talking about tax reform.” Also lots o’ tasty “tough on crime” (since she’s black it can’t possibly be the racist dog whistle it sounds like).

The DNC is still partying like it’s 1999: Third Way/DLC/center-right triangulation is king. Dick Morris, call Kamala.

Memo to the Dumocrats: Trump’s polls are in the toilet. Still, Trump (or, if Trump gets impeached, Pence) might beat the Dems again in 2020. “Double haters” — voters who hated Trump and Clinton — were a deciding factor in 2016, accounting for “3% to 5% of the 15 million voters across 17 battleground states,” according to political author Joshua Green. They broke for Trump.

They — and Bernie voters snubbed by Hillary who sat home on election day — cost Hillary the 2016 election.

To be fair, some establishment Democrats know how to count. “American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people,” Chuck Schumer wrote in The New York Times yesterday.

Sounds great. So what exactly is in Chuck’s stillborn (Republican president, Republican House, Republican Senate) Better Deal?

“Rules to stop prescription drug price gouging… allow regulators to break up big companies if they’re hurting consumers… giving employers, particularly small businesses, a large tax credit to train workers for unfilled jobs.”

These are good ideas.

But they’re so small.

If enacted, the Dems’ Better Deal wouldn’t do a thing about the problems that afflict most voters.

The #1 problem is the economy. There aren’t enough jobs. The jobs there are don’t pay enough. Bosses have too much power over workers.

A massive new WPA-like program, in which the federal government hires millions of Americans to rebuild our crumbled infrastructure, would create jobs. A $25/hour minimum wage — that’s about what it would be if raises had kept up with inflation — would guarantee that a full-time job yields full-time pay. Abolishing America’s inhuman, archaic “at-will” employment, which gives employers the right to fire you without a good reason, would restore balance to labor-management relations. The U.S. is the only nation with at-will.

The #2 problem is healthcare. Attempts by Republicans to repeal Obamacare have made the ACA more popular than ever. Most Democrats want single-payer, where the government pays for healthcare — why doesn’t the Democratic Party?

The answer, of course, is that the party leadership is owned by Wall Street, the Fortune 500 and big-monied special interests in general. Figures like Harris and Schumer and Clinton will never give the people what we want and need because their masters will never allow it. The question for us is, when do we stop giving them our votes — and start organizing outside the dead-end of the electoral duopoly?

(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.)