Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do?

“Misinformation is a virus unto itself.”
― Brianna Keilar

In 2015 the arrival of Donald Trump on the political landscape seemed like a gift from the journalism gods. Here was a man with few filters and many delightfully bizarre and disturbing incidents in his past. The prospect of lampooning him grew like a festering boil on the pan head of every liberal/progressive who could string three sentences together in anything resembling a coherent thought. And did he deliver.

Trump’s win in 2016 gave America an unprepared, under educated, and amoral president with little or no interest in improving the lives of average Americans. Indeed, his modus operandi was antithetical to actions of most who served before him. From the beginning, Trump was a hot mess spread on a thin veneer of questionable success based mainly on his own statements highlighting his shady real estate career, success as a television reality show host, and by the support of those who willfully sold their souls to him for their own personal self-aggrandizement. From the time he took office to the time he left the White House shrouded in a grifter’s stew of lies, falsehoods, and shady dealings behind the scenes, he proved to be a flimflam artist on every level. He is and was a shameful man child with little recognition of anything that approximated the qualities of a competent leader or the truth.  

Those heady days are gone along with America’s collective shock of what Trump and his associates really had in store for the country. As much as he was a bumbling, inept clown, his actions will have reverberations that last far longer than the memory of his criminality, or the surprise of just how much damage he sought to cause in his persistent attempts to hang on to the nation’s highest office. Yet, the die is cast, and the country has to come to grips with how to deal with it all.

As Americans saw recently with the actions of the Supreme Court, Trump crafted an extreme right-wing majority of likeminded justices that are wasting no time implementing their white, evangelical nationalism on the rest of the populace. With the overruling of Roe vs Wade, the court demonstrated how the conservative Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Roberts, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett are willing to steer the nation against the will of the American people. In the days following the demise of Roe vs Wade, the Court issued rulings that struck down a gun control law in New York state, and weakened the wall between church and state by sanctioning prayer on school grounds. Restricting the EPA’s ability to monitor and fight climate change was simply icing on the cake. And this is just the beginning.

It is hard to believe that the emotionally and intellectually challenged former president even understood the effect his actions would produce. It is even harder to believe that he cared. Appointing three radical personalities to the high court is a politically expedient act meant to throw red meat to his crazed followers to shore up their support. Still, while expected, the sweeping rulings by the court and the breadth of their impact on American society caught many off guard.

As bad as these early rulings are, they portend even more egregious decisions in the offing. Gay rights, gay marriage, eliminating contraceptive rights, immigration restrictions, race in college admissions, voting rights, and of course, free speech are all in the crosshairs in next year’s Supreme Court docket. To use a crass overstatement, the court has become the ultra-right’s lurid wet dream. The possibilities are far reaching and frightening. The next year will be crucial to the continuance of our democracy.

Why the urgency? Americans have to awaken to the fact that the Republican Party no longer supports the will of the people. They are the party of big business, the one percent, and are rapidly becoming the party of white nationalists, rabid evangelicals, and power-hungry insurrectionists willing to sell the nation out to fulfill their unpatriotic agenda. It is necessary to point out that the few sane Republicans left in the party’s ranks have been duped into believing that America is not great, and Trump has the answer to the ills facing the nation. He doesn’t, and therein lies the rub.

A steady diet of Fox News, slanted conservative talking points, and a fear of becoming irrelevant in the face of growing numbers of brown skinned people has the MAGA crowd peeing their pants and closing their ears to the truth. The Republican Party has been playing the long game from at least the point when the Supreme Court gave George W. Bush the presidency despite Al Gore winning the popular vote. The decision highlighted the need to scrap the Electoral College in lieu of using the popular vote as a barometer of where the nation’s consensus lay. Despite Barack Obama’s eight years in office, Congress skewed right setting the stage for Mitch Mc Connell’s crusade to pack the court with conservative judges to set up the current state of affairs America finds itself in today.

This is why the next year will be so crucial. Given the Court’s actions over the past month, Americans can expect more of their rights trampled upon and severely restricted. Conservatives know the actions of the court will bring on an onslaught of dissention among liberals and moderates. Still, expect the court to act in flagrant disregard of the will of the people. They believe that if they can pass crippling voting rights restrictions, shore up the states’ abilities to question election results, and marginalize entire blocs of voters, they will have gained control of the government despite the Democrats being in charge of both chambers of Congress.

Yet, conservatives understand their playbook is little more than a governmental game of chicken; a game they have to win next year. Conservatives know they are walking a slippery slope. The justices have one shot at reconstructing America’s democratic process. A half-hearted attempt in 2023 to legislate by judicial decree would place them in an untenable position. Liberals and moderates would rise up and punish them at the ballot box in 2024. Republicans are playing for all the marbles in this game, and they are playing to win. Anything less than a tumultuous year of judicial decrees further cementing them into power would be unthinkable. Expect the fireworks to begin on October 3 of this year when the 2023 Supreme Court begins their deliberations in reshaping America in their image. It will be interesting if not pretty.

Living Large In Carson City: The Bread And Circus Show Comes To Washington Edition

Image result for image of ford and kavanaugh

Image: The Morning Call

Yesterday was one of those days that will remain in our memories forever. Where were you when Nixon resigned? Where were you when the first man walked on the moon? Where were you when you heard that John Kennedy was dead? In the future we will add, where were you when the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to ignore a sexually assaulted woman in favor of her alleged assailant. A man who is a part of the “good ole’ boy” network that grooms the elite of Washington society for positions like the one Brett Kavanaugh is hoping to fill on the Supreme Court. It was that kind of day.

I confess to watching the entire circus from gavel to gavel. The first part, Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, was a study in integrity and an important civics lesson. Integrity in that she had a narrative to tell, and she told it with humility and emotion, but not in a way that elicited undue sympathy (although I can’t believe anyone could watch her speaking without feeling sympathy). A study in civics because she knew what had been done to her and chose to tell the story, not for personal gain, but simply because it was the right thing to do. A sexual predator was on the shortlist for a seat on the Supreme Court, and she felt it was her civic duty to speak out, although reluctantly, to ensure that the Senate Judiciary Committee and the president had all the information pertinent to choosing a qualified subject.

Later in the day, things came apart when Kavanaugh took his seat at the witness table. His anger and incredulity of being put through such a rancorous and contentious grilling was evident in his 40-minute long opening remarks. Alternately, while bellowing out his objections to crying then back to bellowing then starting all over again, several points became very clear.

First, his belief in his accomplishments was huge. Granted, he has had a charmed life up until now attending a private high school, admission to Yale and then acceptance into Yale Law School, all of which he proudly chronicled over and over again. From there his grooming cycle took him to Ken Starr’s investigation of the Clintons, legal counsel in Bush’s White House then a federal circuit judgeship. And naturally, in his eyes, the Supreme Court was supposed to be his next stop. It’s the way the grooming process works.

His disdain for the process that would subject an anointed one such as himself to public scrutiny was palpable. When questioned, he fairly mocked the Democratic senators by throwing their questions back at them. This tactic didn’t work all that well on Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), and especially not on Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who Kavanaugh had to apologize to after making insensitive remarks about her drinking habits. As the daughter of a recovering alcoholic, Kavanaugh’s flippant hectoring of Klobuchar came off as brutish and bullying, which it was.

In the end, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) brought the session to a halt when he asked Kavanaugh to turn around and ask White House Counsel, Don McGahn, seated behind Kavanaugh, if he would ask the president to reopen the FBI file on Kavanaugh so the allegations brought against him by Blasey Ford could be investigated. Kavanaugh refused to commit to making the request.

The rest of the day was a mishmash of crazy on an epic scale. Having asked for an outside counsel to grill Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh, the senators abandoned that tactic to ask their own questions after Durbin put the nominee on the ropes. The questioning devolved almost immediately to a partisan, unhinged tirade by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to a weird come to Jesus moment instigated by John Kennedy (R-LA) that looked like a cross between The Waltons and the horror movie Halloween with Kennedy starring in the role of Michael Meyers. 

The one truth that came from these exchanges is that, truly, the Senate Judiciary Committee has become a partisan political body beholding to the White House and Donald Trump over the objections of the 10 politically neutered Democrats who sit on their hands and dream of better days. Kavanaugh in his opening remarks and subsequent testimony emerged as a hardcore ideologue who, in his mind, has paid his dues and deserves the right to sit on the highest court in the land for the rest of his life. The fact that he would steer the court hard to the right and rule through his ideological mindset was evident in his words and the support he expected from the Republicans who sit on the committee. The problem for Kavanaugh was that he thought the fix was in. It wasn’t. Not yet.

Last night the Republicans decided to push forward and vote on the Kavanaugh nomination Friday, which they did on a party line vote a few hours ago. The one outlier was Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Flake has been on the fence concerning the Kavanaugh nomination but agreed to vote to pass Kavanaugh on to a vote on the Senate floor if the committee agreed to postpone the final vote for one week so the FBI can look into the allegations against Kavanaugh by Blasey Ford. An hour ago, the Republican led committee agreed to the one week hiatus for the final vote.

So, what does this mean for Kavanaugh? On one hand, the investigation could exonerate him. While the FBI is one of the premiere law enforcement agencies in the world, the attack Blasey Ford claims took place occurred 30 plus years ago. It might be difficult to nail down any definitive conclusion on Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence. Conversely, considering the secretive manner in which this nomination has been conducted, Kavanaugh might find himself in deep trouble if the FBI gets lucky and taps into a group of his old friends who are willing to talk about those days openly. If they find a collaborating witness who was at the party that night or if Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s high school friend, talks candidly (he has already agreed to being questioned by the FBI) Kavanaugh may find himself in even more trouble.

Best case scenario, the FBI gets lucky and backs Blasey Ford’s accusations. Or Kavanaugh gets off the hook. It isn’t beyond reason to think that Americans may wake up next week and find that Kavanaguh has withdrawn his name for consideration. Why would he do this? If he knows that his past will come to light, he can gracefully back out citing the pressure on his wife and family and claim it just isn’t worth it. Or he may play it out and see what happens. Regardless, with what America knows now about Brett Kavanaugh, he has proven himself to be a respected jurist, but also a secretive, dissembler of the truth who should not be seated on the highest court in the land. Let the FBI find what they will.