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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 05:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,209

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Just release your tax returns Donald. That will stop those critics in their tracks

You have nothing to hide, right? Twenty years worth should do it. You already got elected President, remember? You already have billions, and one of the most famous names in the world. No audit's gonna take that away from you, no matter what the IRS says. Go ahead, prove 'em all wrong - release your returns and show them that your son was wrong about all your dealings with Russia.

You're not shy, are you?

Even if Trump is jailed for treason and Pence exposed for complicity

Climate control will be gutted, millions will lose health care, Medicaid will loose guaranteed federal fiscal support, the ultra rich will be given hundreds of billions in "tax relief" forcing essential services to forfeit funding, diplomacy will be jettisoned to pay for mega weapons, public education will be starved, consumer protections will end and so much more, if the Republican budget plans become law. And it will take more than just protests to reverse those moves once made with Republicans still in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, regardless of what happens to Trump.

I am as riveted, alarmed and angered as anyone else is while watching the high crimes and misdemeanors of Trump's White House and our Democracy's attempt to fight them off. But I worry when I find myself transfixed by that to the inadvertent exclusion of sustained nuts and bolts organizing among those who will most be hurt by the drastic cuts in services, benefits, and protections that loom before us. It is hard to focus on anything except the unique threat that Trump embodies. I think Republicans in Congress and their handlers in the oligarchy are counting on that.

So, let's see if I have this right

Many of us don't want to in any way court the votes of anyone who voted for Trump in 2016 - even ex-Obama voters - because, essentially, they chose to vote for an unqualified autocratic self serving rich bigot, who betrays America's ideals and will harm millions, so we don't want or need their kind of votes now.

Many of us have no use for blue dog Democrats in deeply red state America, who vote along with the majority of their respective Democratic caucus members in Congress the vast majority of the time, because they break with a majority of the Democrats in Congress to vote, on some important matters, in ways that support some part of Trump's agenda. Because of that, who needs them? Or, for example, a majority in the Senate?

Many of us show some animosity toward Bernie Sanders who, along with several other candidates, conducted a primary challenge for the 2016 presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton for "an open seat." In so doing he won roughly 45% of the votes cast, and energized the largest base of small donors ever seen in American politics while attracting large numbers of new voters, disproportionately young, to Democratic politics. Still, he lost after a spirited campaign where contrasts were drawn between the leading candidates and some sharp elbows got thrown - but by all relatively objective counts far fewer than normally get thrown in this type of prolonged competition. Though he subsequently campaigned for Hillary and later was named to the Democratic leadership team by the Senate's Democratic leader- many of us are dismissive of Sanders for, among other things, not being a true Democrat, and/or for having somehow contributed to Trump's victory by, among other things, not doing enough to unify the Party then (or now). Disdain for Bernie Sanders translates, for some who were drawn into the Democratic Party political process because of him, into disdain toward them as well. Many of us, it often seems, have little respect for those voters if their loyalty to the Democratic Party is so shallow that it can be shaken by attacks on the man who inspired them to become so active. Do we really need them?

Many of us show some animosity toward Hillary Clinton, who also chose to seek the 2016 Democratic Party nomination for President in 2016, won the most votes in the primaries, and then lost the General Election despite wining almost 3 million more popular votes than Trump. In so doing she retained the fierce loyalty of millions of Democrats, representing hope and change to many women in particular. Clinton developed that loyalty over the course of decades of hard committed work, mastering the ropes of leadership as we have known it, both inside and outside of the Democratic Party as we have known it also, during those very same decades. She excelled in a system that some of us have now grown tired of or disillusioned with. So many of us, it can easily seem, have little respect for Hillary's accomplishments, or of those who still highly value them. That, to put it simply, undermines cohesion in today's Democratic Party, but many of us it appears, are untroubled by that. Purity has been redefined, let mass purges begin. Who needs a broad based coalition if truth is on your side?

Many of us ridicule those who voted Third Party in 2016, neither for Trump nor Clinton. We act as if Democrats had a right to their votes, because those voters did not support Donald Trump for President. We place the blame on them if they are alienated from the current two party system, not on the major parties that make up the current two party system. We ignore the fact that Third Parties have almost always been a part of America's democracy - sometimes playing critical long term roles, even in defeat. We overlook the fact that the Libertarians, who did not negatively focus on Hillary Clinton during the last campaign, won far more votes than the Greens did, and that younger voters in particular increasingly identify less with either major Party than did recent generations before them. Quite frankly, many of us call them all stupid or worse for helping enable Donald Trump to win. And in these attitudes toward them, many of us increase the alienation that a lot of third party voters have toward the current Democratic Party. But, given how high the stakes were in that election, many of us don't now want the support of those too stupid to vote for Hillary in 2016.

And of course we all agree that our Republic itself, and the essential well being of tens of millions of Americans is now gravely periled by the Trump Administration and the Republican majorities in Congress. Above all else, we must do everything possible to resist and seize political power away from them.

Where will we find the votes to do so?

A few words on the use of the term "Deplorables"

First, I do not at all question that it is an accurate description for millions of people who supported Donald Trump for President. For exactly how many is a fair matter for debate. Personally I would estimate that well below ten million justly qualify for that particular slur, probably less than five million, but of course that depends on where you draw the line. Now if you open it up to include those who are narrow minded or very poorly informed, and those who harbor some prejudices, that number greatly expands. I don't include the latter categories for defining "deplorables". Virtually all of us harbor prejudices, including many of us who are continually working to confront and rid ourselves of them. Some of us have it worse than others, it's an often lethal social disease that tends to kill not the hosts, but those who are exposed to it. It's evil, I make no apologies for it. But I note a distinction between those who are infected with it, and those who proudly embrace it. A white person who routinely locks their car doors whenever they drive through a "minority neighborhood" is infected. A white person who frequents white supremacy web sites openly embraces overt racism - which clearly is deplorable.

Here's the thing though. "Deplorables" don't mind it in the slightest when liberals and progressives call them that. They wear it as a badge of honor, and they see our use of that term as a political gift to them. Why? Because it is vague and oddly nondescript. The literal haters, the openly racist, the ideological bigots, and the true fascists love to blur the lines. They argue that liberals are inherently elitists, who love to look down on "ordinary people". That is their desired "us vs them" dichotomy: "out of touch hypocritical snobs" on one side vs "everyday Americans". So they gleefully appropriate the "deplorable" terminology and claim that is how progressives dismiss each and every person who voted for Donald Trump.

I am not here to defend anyone for voting for Donald Trump. I believe that those who supported that man for President all made an egregious mistake. And I cut zero slack for the openly racist, for true haters, for proud bigots, and for fascists. But that is exactly what those who deserve it should be called; haters, bigots, and fascists: people who are all inherently Unamerican. That is where the wedge needs to be driven. Be careful not to let them take cover under a term that doesn't explicitly name them for what they are, and which they happily can twist into a viscous equal indictment of everyone who, for whatever reason, voted for Donald Trump in November. It only plays into their political narrative, and ultimate game plan.

I'm a leftist who is, in the big picture, strongly "Pro-American" & "Anti-Russian"

Our nation and it's leaders have participated in innumerable evil acts in the long course of our history. Russia has a magnificent cultural legacy and a strong, resilient, and industrious people. There is much to deplore in America. There is much to admire in Russia. But in the large sweep of world history the evolution of liberal democracies is to be encouraged, and the concentration of power in the hands of autocrats is to be fought. I believe the ends do not justify the means, I believe the means determine the ends. I believe that there can at times be "benign dictatorships" but that they are, where found, temporary at best exceptions to basic human nature - that will inevitably end up badly. I believe that democracies are inherent with some risks as well, ranging from susceptibility to mass manipulation, to mob rule and the utter trampling of minority rights. But nothing is as ruthlessly efficient at wielding concentrated power as an autocracy or full blown totalitarian state. And in the big picture I fundamentally believe that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". In all of the above I can find some common ground with the most principled of Libertarian Conservatives.

I seek no conflict with Russia, and certainly not with the Russian people. Human civilizations are massive centuries long experiments in social evolution. None of us (even with robotics and breakthroughs in medical science) can ever hope to live long enough to see full harmony in this world. We will always have to find a way to coexist to the extent possible with those with whom we have fundamental disagreements, be that a Putin or a Trump. But the ongoing path forward for humanity is always an embrace of both Liberty AND Justice, one can not be sacrificed at the alter of the other.

Capitalism at best in amoral, coupled with greed it quickly lends itself to immoral pursuits. Putin and those in Russia who think like him have much to legitimately fear from Western expansionism. The West has a long and deep tradition of colonialism. But the growth of democratic institutions in Western Europe helped check the manipulation of nationalistic sentiments by self serving despots, who had constantly plunged that continent into war, time and time again, over the preceding millennium. Today we face an exceptional challenge. Not only must we continue the fight to expand and perfect our democratic institutions and our values pertaining to human rights, human dignity and individual freedoms that underlay them (the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of humanity) as President Obama so often alluded to. We must simultaneously fight to protect against their literal erosion.That is the battle today. And it is happening on fronts both local and global.

Fascism is never dead, and it is constantly mutating into new forms. At it's core it existed long before we called it fascism, and it will exist long after that specific construct has fallen from regular usage. Fascism is revitalized now throughout Europe, though it still is being held at bay. Some seeds of it are sprouting here as well. Putin's Russia does not advance democratic values and it sees no value in preserving them. But, for various geo-political and economic reasons it does see significant value now in disrupting the democracies of both Western Europe and America. I see that as dangerous, with potentially very long lasting negative consequences. If that puts me, in this instance, on roughly the same page as John McCain, so be it.

The Glaring Question that the Media Refuses to Probe Seriously

It's the elephant in the phone booth that everyone is tip toeing around: Why did the Russians want Trump to win the presidency?

The media largely accepts the consensus findings of the intelligence community that not only did the Russians attempt to disrupt our elections, they did so with an avowed intention of helping Donald Trump get elected. That begs the followup question, doesn't it? Why?

Answers for that question are continually glossed over when it is answered at all. On one hand I've heard it dismissed as simply that Putin had it in for Hillary personally because of insults he and his regime suffered from her while she was Secretary of State. Putin has a huge ego, no doubt, but he is also an extremely hardened autocrat firmly entrenched inside Russia with the power and privileges that he so enjoys. He has much to potentially lose as well as potentially gain when he acts to potentially upend the world order. The risk to benefit equation has to balance. Hacking the American election system, pulling out all the stops to change the internal leadership of the most powerful nation on earth, can not be pursued without encountering some significant risks associated with such a brazen move. The rewards hace to be worth it.

What made those risks acceptable when Putin could have stuck with a far less risky option - just letting it be known that he foresaw a likelihood of increased international tensions if the United States stayed on the same foreign policy course established by "the Obama - Clinton administration" though of course he would be "open to working with" whatever leader the American people elected. That still would have given Trump some material to work with. I don't believe a theory that implies Putin acted in such a dramatic high stakes manner simply because Hillary bruised his male ego. With Trump, yeah that's plausible, with Putin, no.

Aside from the above dubious explanation for Putin's actions, the media seems to be bending over backwards to not connect the dots. Putin would not have risked the potential adverse consequences of intervening so blatantly into the internal affairs of America to elect Donald Trump, if Putin were not confident that a President Trump would help advance Russia's (i.e. Putin's) strategic interests. The central question(s) then is why was Putin so confident that electing Trump would advance strategic Russian interests? Exactly what Russian interests does Putin expect Trump to help advance? How does this effect American strategic interests? That's the ball game.

The media questions why Trump has been so cordial toward Putin. The media wonders about contacts between the Trump administration and the Russians prior to Trump's inauguration. The media notes how Russia is currently moving aggressively on the world stage. The media notes that America's traditional allies are unsettled about indications of new stance that America now seem to be taking in the world. In light of all of that however, the mainstream media has still not directly been asking the glaring underlying question, just why was it so important to Vladimir Putin that Donald Trump become President of the United States, and what, given that, does it mean to the strategic interests of our own nation now that Trump is?

Pence will be cast as the next Gerry Ford.

I first posted the text below over two weeks ago, and I think it remains on track. Trump will end up as the fall guy for the negative extremes embraced by the Republican agenda. Pence won't have to do much of the dirty work, Trump will have done it for him. Pence will pose, on the surface, as surprisingly moderate heading in to the 2018 elections. The damage will have already been done. The Pence presidency will be a PR effort to retain as much of the Trump policy legacy as is politically viable while backtracking on some window dressing to position Republicans to retain Congress under his benign (by way of contrast with Trump) rule:

At some point after they get enough out of him, and Trump's approval ratings sink low enough, Republicans will cut Trump loose for a President Pence. They already have enough to impeach him over any time they want. They will spin that they are true patriots, putting the interests of the nation over a president of their own party. They will saddle Trump with the blame for everything that goes wrong in and for America during his administration, and then throw hm overboard. They have to wait long enough before doing so that their own base won't punish them for turning against Trump, but they will pull the trigger then- probably within 6 months the way things are going. Most likely they will depose him on national security grounds. By then Trump will already have signed off on their conservative domestic agenda. Expect Pence to pose as a Gerry Ford after Nixon type figure temperamentally. He will be framed as a calming return to normality. The window dressing will suddenly improve dramatically and America will feel relieved when our VP is elevated to the presidency.

The daily scandal that Trump now throws out is the perfect set up to normalize the rule of a President Pence, by way of contrast, after he takes power. When asked what took them so long to deal with a rabid Trump presidency that they in fact enabled, Congressional Republicans will cite a respect for the will of an electorate that chose Donald Trump to be President. After the fact they will claim that they were always keeping a keen eye on Trump and were preparing to defend our Constitutional Republic from him if need be. I think they may be able to pull it off by claiming to still support whatever elements of Trumpism haven't by then been fully discredited (coupled with standard conservative "values" with a new improved figure head President who we will be told was a crucial behind the scenes leader in successfully navigating us away from the Trump disaster.

But Republicans can't escape political blame for the pain they will inflict on millions of people whose fundamental survival may depend on how Republicans deal with health care. Their zeal to repeal Obamacare predates the rise of Trump, his downfall will not provide them with a convenient scapegoat after the fact IF we make sure that the blame stays pinned on them now. Whether or not Democrats can retake one or both houses of congress in 2018, I think, may rest on this after Republicans help clean the White House of Donald Trump and try to take credit for that.

Democrats must continue to show that Congressional Republicans are willingly and knowingly playing with our lives if they move to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and the protections (and affordability) it now provides to lower and true middle income Americans - many of whom provided the critical votes Republicans needed last November to win a narrow electoral college majority to install a President wiling to sign off on their legislative agenda. Our problem is that with all of the ongoing pyrotechnics of a Trump presidency, it is hard to not keep all eyes riveted on him while we respond to the latest explosion, and not on Congress where the more garden variety work of the plutocracy is steadily advancing. Can we both forcefully resist Trump and keep a spotlight on Republicans in Congress? Much rides on our ability to do so.

Trump is prepositioning himself to politically benefit from any future terrorist incidents

He might just as well be constantly repeating that Democrats and the media have been soft on Hurricanes, and therefor the next one to strike America can be blamed on liberals and the Weather Chanel. Alternate reality, no fact checking need apply. And America will be struck by another Hurricane, and America will again be struck by terrorists. Trump is counting on it. Authoritarians consolidate power when fear proliferates.

The more White House & Executive Branch leaks there are, the more paranoid Trump will be

Less than a month into his presidency whispers about possible impeachment at some future point are becoming murmurs in the press. The institutional State Department is in open opposition to his policies. The internal White House leaks and off the record reporting about some Republicans in Congress becoming increasingly uncomfortable with him will just fuel Trump's paranoia.

I predict a death spiral as Trump reacts to perceived less than full loyalty from members of his administration and Republicans in Congress. If Trump had the psychological ability to open up his decision making process to strive for consensus, among all of the important players that any Administration needs to depend on to succeed, before he made significant policy decisions - perhaps he could turn it around. That should be the lesson that Trump learns from his first two weeks in office. But he won't. He's incapable of not nursing grievances - he thinks others are out to get him, and the more he acts from a basis of that fear, the more accurate that fear will become. His inner circle will shrink as his suspicions grow, which will result in more, not less, poorly vetted decisions. And that in turn will further feed the death spiral.

What will happen when Trump begins to believe, accurately or not, that "key Republican leaders" are quietly laying the groundwork in secret discussions to cut their losses and transition toward a Pence Presidency? Paranoia can induce its own self fulfilling reality. We face dangerous times. Another 5 to ten point drop in Trump's approval ratings could trigger off a chain reaction sequence of destabilizing events, as Republican leaders come to view support for Trump to be a greater political liability to them with voters than opposition to him is currently.
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