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How crazy wins

How crazy wins

Picture this scene: You are minding your business, watching the kids play in the tubes of the McDonalds PlayPlace. In walks a rumpled guy in an oversized coat. He’s ranting at no one in particular, expressing his anger at the CIA for implanting thoughts in his brain. As he shuffles around the restaurant, his gestures get more emphatic and his volume rises. What do you do?

We carry an almost universal response to non-normative behavior in a public setting. First, we hunker down and try to escape attention. We appeal for an authority to remedy the situation. If those efforts fail, we abandon the space. This ingrained response holds for almost any form of norm-defying activity in public, whether facing an obnoxious preacher in the park or the loathed street mime. When people behave erratically or unpredictably in public, we tend to cede that public space to them and retreat.

What happens if the outrageous behavior is not removed and we cannot escape the shared space? Unless confronted, the lunatic always wins. Everyone around them will bend their behavior to establish a new order. You can watch this happen when someone engages in an obnoxious display on a subway or in an elevator. They will own that public space and define the boundaries of acceptable behavior until someone stops them. Unless someone gets frustrated enough to confront the crazy, the person engaging in the norm-defying behavior will, given time, successfully establish a new norm.

PA/Geoff Caddick

How did the Republican Party, our humorless bastion of business, commerce and pragmatism become a seething hive of lunatics? House Speaker Paul Ryan is demonstrating that process in real time, as he carefully bends around increasingly idiotic, even disastrous demands to avoid the awkwardness (and risk) of a confrontation. John Boehner did it before him. For more than twenty years, nice, sane, polite Republican activists at the grassroots level have been challenged by raving loonies. One by one, they have all gotten rolled until there is nothing left of the Republican Party worth saving.

Republicans in Houston experienced the normalization of crazy in a textbook display that unfolded across the 90’s. Until the late 80’s very few people were involved in the Republican Party at the grassroots level, leaving it vulnerable. Southern states had never, since their founding, supported two-party politics. The Democratic Party’s embrace of civil rights at the national level had weakened the party in the South, but down in the precincts Republicans in Houston still consisted of a thin collection of business voters combined with a small number of Northern transplants, like the Bush family.

In the early 90’s a bizarre religious fanatic named Steven Hotze led a bitter, divisive campaign by outsiders and former Democrats to seize control of the county GOP organization. It wasn’t that hard. Back then you could take control of the Republican organization in the country’s fourth largest city by having 200 like-minded people show up to vote at a meeting.

Hotze’s efforts caused a split in the local GOP. For several years there were two parallel organizations in Houston claiming to be the legitimate county Republican Party. Over time, though, the power of crazy and the urge to restore normalcy prevailed. Older, traditional Republican interests ceded the public space to the lunatics, creating a new “normal.” Major figures directly involved in this ugly business won’t even talk about it today. They downplay the event if they acknowledge it even occurred. What happened in Houston was repeated across the South as local weirdoes recognized and exploited the grassroots fragility of a party gaining popularity in the polls.

How did sane Republicans acclimate themselves to a political environment constrained by insane demands? First through self-delusion. In the decade after the takeover you could hear business Republicans, in private conversation, explain away the antics of anti-gay crusaders or bizarre abortion extremists as “harmless.” Religious fanatics welcomed into the party (and now occupying all major leadership positions) were “useful idiots” being manipulated toward the party’s wider business and commercial goals.

By the time that illusion became impossible to sustain, those who held it were either fully co-opted to the party’s new lunatic goals or had simply been pushed into irrelevance. As Orwell wrote in 1984, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia. When we abandon our attachment to empirical realities in pursuit of public calm, crazy takes over. Crazy, if tolerated, will in time create its own new normal, pushing reason to the margins before extinguishing it altogether.

For evidence of this process in action, look carefully at the gap between election results and issue-based polls. Surprisingly few of the people who have traditionally voted Republican actually support Republican policies. From abortion to universal health care to higher progressive taxation to climate change and gun control, only a fraction of the people who vote for Republicans support what Republicans are doing.

In private conversations, almost all Republican voters express the conviction that their Republican elected officials don’t actually mean what they are saying. Their Republican officials do not actually intend to implement the policies they described in their campaigns. Republican voters are almost uniformly convinced that their candidates are just saying crazy things to get elected and will not enact those stupid policies once in office.

A nasty backlash is building. You can see it in the 2016 Election results, but it is also evident in twenty years of voting patterns. Places that used to be Republican strongholds, like the suburbs of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles have toppled. Clinton won every major city in Texas. She won the entire Atlanta metro area along with its traditional Republican suburbs. Clinton won the ferociously Republican Houston suburbs in Fort Bend County.

Relatively conservative voters (by the historical definition), educated professionals, and business people, voters who should in a sane universe be Republicans, are rejecting the party in greater and greater numbers. Trump and the GOP won by appealing to the voters who are most vulnerable to a con. They may not stay vulnerable as the real-world consequences pile up and a rebellion breaks the mesmerizing hold of crazy.

It is always a mistake to reason with crazy. Crazy wins every argument. When you resort to reason and persuasion in a disagreement with people who reject reason and persuasion, you lose before you start. Here’s a strange thing about lunacy in a public setting. It doesn’t fight well. When confronted in a serious way, it scatters and runs. It disintegrates.

Crazy prevails when people ignore it, when people are willing to cede their public space and their public rights to preserve quiet. It fails when people resist, when they publicly call it what it is. Our future depends on our willingness to speak up, to act, and to restore sanity to our own public spaces. Crazy loses when we decide to fight.

For more, see The Politics of Crazy: How America Lost Its Mind And What We Can Do About It


  1. Just a reminder that local elections may be coming up soon in your area. I think they are good opportunities to exercise your membership in the resistance.

    For example, cancelling Obamacare and ‘reforming’ Medicare and Medicaid will increase the burden on local governments. In Houston, Harris County operates a large medical care system. Both the city of Houston and Harris County have public health departments.

    It would be a good idea to ask local candidates their views of the impact of federal activities on local taxation rates.

    The next election in Houston is in May, not that many months away.

    And Cruz is up for re-election in 2018, not that far away either.

    Unfortunately, Cornyn won’t be campaigning until 2020. 🙁

  2. I went to London with my children to watch Cirque de Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall. They were a magnificent celebration of human talent, and the children were mesmerised.

    We also went to the Imperial War Museum. And went into the Holocaust Room. It was a somber, frightening exhibition, but what struck me the most was the depth of murderous insanity that a widespread section of the population of Europe descended into. The scale of the slaughter, the systematic way it occurred , and the deceptive initial rise of the Nazis as a party that was going to make Germany proud again.

    This is why we do not let Trump, Bannon, Conway, Geert, Le Penne and Farage get away with anything, whatever their apparent success at the moment. It’s why we now need to confront crazy in whatever public space it rears itself up, whether in real life or in social media. It’s not so far fetched that the slide into even worse crazy begins

    1. One more good article from The Guardian……..on Trump’s pout about attendance…and how hard it is going to be for his administration to ever confront inconvenient truths…

      “While the topic of the inauguration attendance was trivial, that Trump’s team was immediately willing to deny reality from the world’s most powerful office alarmed figures across the political spectrum. Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, also echoed Trump’s false claims in interviews on Sunday.”

      Priebus – what a class act, NOT.

  3. Conway’s appearance on Meet the Press today was truly something else. “Alternative facts” she said. Seriously. What else needs to be said?

    Interestingly enough though, that was one of the few times I’ve seen Conway lose her cool. Kudos to Chuck Todd, he kept on her and didn’t let her switch the topic of conversation, though she sure as hell kept trying. Well done, sir.

    I sincerely hope this signals a turning point in the media. We need this kind of persistence in all things that this administration and all its cohorts do from now.

    1. Anybody want to bet how long Spicer will last in the job?

      Conway continues to double down on her motor-mouth hyperbole to suit the topic…until she deflects….She seems to have some sort of mental schism…smart but crazy? For her to flatly state that Trump will not release his tax returns “Because” people “don’t care about that”….is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. If the petition on takes off and gains millions of signatures, at the very least, it will expose the total hypocrisy of their excuse. Trump has something to hide. That’s all there is to that.

      I just finished reading the Houston Chronicle about the weekend marches in TX. 22K estimated in downtown Houston…biggest march ever! Lisa Falkenberg had a super long article on it as well. I’ll link if I can. I’m going to email her and give her Jennifer Hofmann’s action center and see if she will be able to run it in her regular column.

      As for media – if they aren’t fired up from Trump’s absolute jackass treatment, I don’t know what it will take. If I were in this field, it would inspire me to work harder at nailing this man to the wall.

      1. Whatever one thinks of Trump though, you’ve gotta give him credit for picking Conway. Those two are a terrible combination; Trump with his outrageous lies and Conway being out there at the snap of a finger to deflect, distract and divide with her motor mouth. Love her or hate her, the woman’s good at what she does.

        That aside, I honestly couldn’t care less about Spicer. I will say that he looked genuinely pained at that press conference though. Oh well.

      2. I cannot stand Conway. She is the epitome of a person who has sold their soul to the highest bidder, and will say and do anything necessary to achieve “her” or “their” goal without regard for the truth. I don’t respect her and I certainly don’t admire her.

        Spicer – he’s been the head RNC communicator since ’11, so he should have known what he was getting into. Anyone with any decency to them (???) that Trump has appointed is going to live in hell. There will be no pleasing the man and god help you if you try to tell him the truth.

      3. I share your contempt for Conway. She is a verbal prostitute; there is nothing too outrageous, too intelligence-insulting, too flat out false that she won’t say, if she’s getting paid. She once shilled for Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, so no one should be surprised at how low she will sink.

        I can only hope that Todd’s treatment of her catches on. She deserves even worse for being such a deceiver.

        As for Spicer, no sympathy. Nobody going to work for Boss Tweet can plead ignorance about what they’re signing up for. Alternative facts are not your friends.

      4. Guess it would be dumb to expect any class from anyone who would “want” to work with Trump. It was bad enough watching his GOP potus peers grovel.

        I read this article and found it uplifting. Hope it will give those in the group who are not quite as “fired up” an avenue to explore that will allow them to contribute in their own way. There are many ways to reach out and get your point across.

  4. RE: Seattle Women’s March

    Today we had a 95th birthday celebration for my partner’s mother. 4 generations were present, with over 30 people, maybe 40. Of that, I personally talked to 10 who had participated in the Seattle march or one in other communities in the area. A couple who came into Seattle on a ferry indicated that the ferry was jammed and unofficially designated as a women’s march ferry. I’m confident there were others who participated of whom I’m not aware.

    I was personally not able to participate, because I had a class yesterday. We were offered the opportunity to reschedule to today, but the decision had to be unanimous. I of course had to decline. There were probably others as well. I was there in spirit, however.

    I’ve heard numbers as high as 150K for the Seattle March; it was over 3.6 miles long. Leading elements reached the termination point prior to the last leaving the beginning. The Seattle police reported no arrests and that many officers were enjoying providing security. The numbers were larger than for the Vietnam marches. So it was a successful and impressive demonstration of opposition to T.

      1. Your grand daughter will enjoy a clear contrast in inauguration message between the two men, that’s certain. Good for her for choosing a topic she’s interested in and can be used to inform her peers……future voters, no?

      1. I failed to mention the bald eagles and the weather. I noted that the eagles are mature eagles and very possibly a pair and in courtship. Eagles will be nesting soon. They nest early as it takes a long time for the juveniles to fledge and even then they need parental care. Eagles frequently do not nest successfully until the 4th or 5th year. They need to learn a lot of skills to survive and raise young successfully. They also typically mate for life.

      1. Signed up to participate in Womens’ March first 100 days. Printed my cards and will mail tomorrow to “my” senators. Will check Off Topic for new steps. Posted the womens march 100 days link on my FB page (and I don’t do FB!) and sent the link with an encouraging message to 10 friends to enlist them in the effort.

        Friend sent this twitter link which is worth viewing: …and I rarely tweet! What’s happening to me (-:

    1. Will do this, also just posted to my Facebook. Many (most?) of my friends marched in various places; some were actually critical of the marchers (“Walking around taking selfies and being part of one big coffee klatch is hardly historical” and “More hysterical than historical” were two critical comments on my timeline O___o)

      Life in a wealthy, spoiled, Republican-leaning enclave…sigh.

  5. There’s been lots of talk about how Trump is so unpredictable. I’ve come to the opposite conclusion. You can predict him, if you follow the ego. Witness his latest bit of disrespectful, deplorable behavior. He stands in front of a memorial to CIA agents who were killed on the job, and he brags and lies about the size the the crowds at his inauguration. Were you shocked by that? I wasn’t, just disgusted. What matters is what Trump thinks will make him look good.

    1. I was thinking this was a symbiotic relationship, in which President Trump and his supporters need each other equally, but I think he needs them more than they need him, for his ego.

      I continue to listen closely to his words, and a lot of them make sense, plain common sense, but then his ego takes over.

      1. Tutta, I believe we’re looking at a classic case of addiction. Trump wants to be worshipped, and his base gives him his fix. What to watch for- does he keep holding rallies? If he does, that’s very strong evidence.

      2. I’d rather Trump hold rallies than make policy….although the GOP is gonna be taking care of that for him, I reckon……

        You are spot on, Fly. Trump must have an incredibly deep-seated insecurity complex (father?) and have been indulged his entire life…I wonder if he and family even spent the first night as POTUS in the WH. It’s just an “office” to him – we can only hope and work to make sure it is never home.

      3. Words are worthless if they are spoken for appearance and not from conviction. Every word Trump utters is calculated to an end that serves him. It is always going to be this way. Listen away but that truth will not change.

    2. My husband couldn’t even watch the news clip, he was so upset. Below the wall is a book, with the names of each agent corresponding to their star. Many of the entries are blank, because of the sensitivity of the mission. It is a sacred space, and that fool desecrated it.

      1. I was ranting along those lines to one of the students on Friday as we were doing a little fly work- Trump is a coward who mocks the sacrifices of heroes. I cited McCain, Capt Kahn and his parents, and Rep Lewis. Now we can add fallen CIA agents to the list. And the party that claims that it loves America the most and supports the troops is deafening in their lack of appropriate outrage.

        We pricked his ego a bit yesterday. In the grand scheme of thing, an ant bite or bee sting, but enough bites/strings will take you down. We have to keep the pressure on this fool.

      2. EJ

        If I may ask, I notice that you spell Captain Humayan Khan’s surname “Kahn.” At first I thought it was just a typo, but I notice that a lot of people have done it consistently. Is this an American thing?

  6. In reading the continuing comments in the WaPo coverage of the women’s marches, I found a comment to share. You can go to the “new” page and there is an option to share directly with the WH when you open the “get in touch with the white house” caption. Here’s what I wrote:

    “Congratulations Mr. President. This has been a big weekend for you and your family and team. It’s also been a big weekend for women. The Women’s Marches in solidarity crossed into 50 countries and generated hundreds of thousands of marchers in cities throughout the United States. I hope you and your team respect the passion and message from all who participated – voluntarily – at their own expense. Women want you to know our issues matter. We want to be an important part of your agenda. Please respect the effort that was made to raise our voices so that you will hear us.”

    Yeah, I was being politic….but the commentator urged people to flood the website with comments about the marches, which would resonate and allow them to live on….(and irritate them in the process….) Just something to think about at 11:09 at night for those of us who have nothing better to do (-;

      1. Yeah, well my mama taught me better than to be disrespectful. HOWEVER, Trump has not earned my respect and I don’t see that changing. I will, however, continue to express myself and will utilize the site to do so.

        Trump tweeted this morning about the Women’s March acknowledging it was a peaceful march which he respects even if he disagrees with their point. Always the “veiled” criticism. Anytime, anytime, anyone gets the “better” of DJT, he will either disparage them or lie. He has no sense of humility and that is not going to change.

  7. My hubby and I went to the Seattle march today. They expected up to 50,000 participants. They ended up with 130,000 marchers. The march started at a south end park and finished at the Space Needle, about 3 1/2 miles away. The front of the march reached the Space Needle before the last marchers left the starting point. Truly inspiring.

  8. I went to my college town’s Women’s March this morning. The crowd was more progressive than I am, and the acoustic Pete Seeger-type anthems being sung don’t appeal to me (I’m looking for political action, not sing-alongs), but there was a LOT of people there. I remember the main speaker saying they were only expecting several hundred to show up to the event, but their FaceBook now says almost 10,000 showed up. Fortunately the local police helped to escort this massive crowd along the march route.

    There were tons of people signing up for the local Together We Will group (the equivalent to the Indivisible groups you see around the country), as well as the California Democratic Party, environmental groups, our local chapter of the NAACP, etc. It’s a heartening sign that we have the potential to fight back.

    Some of my fellow college students joined for the march, but left right afterwards and didn’t seem to be planning to be more politically involved after that. Maybe I should send them all a link to the Indivisible website?

    1. YES! Send the link, Solid Karma! Now our number is 6! So proud! I read in the WaPo that over 50 countries held womens’ marches in solidarity with the DC march. The numbers are fluid in terms of total, but the numbers were impressive.

      Now, that energy and passion needs to be informed, channeled and expanded.

      1. Congrats MassDem, on becoming a “nasty woman” and on your initiation into the exciting world of political activism….(Note to self – it won’t always be this much fun!)

        From another Nasty woman who’s been at this a long time and is so happy to see so much youth and energy engaged!

        It appears we had 4 marchers today – EJ, Fly, Bobo, and MassDem. Way to go!

      1. Meanwhile, those paragons of honesty had this report on Saturday:

        “White House press secretary Sean Spicer also made his first appearance behind the lectern in the White House briefing room on Saturday afternoon, where he scolded media for its “shameful and wrong” focus on the inaugural crowd size.

        “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” Spicer claimed.

        Media outlets quickly pointed to photos and video showing fewer people assembled on the National Mall on Friday than were there for Obama’s inauguration.”

        Liars often figure, but figures never lie. Neither do photographs, DJT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        TAKE THIS, DJT:

        We’re all feeling good from doing something positive this weekend – however small. Whether it was turning off the tv to not help Trump ratings (YES – it worked!) or marching with all those nasty women, or putting a home-made sign in a front yard – we did what we could. From here on, it’s going to be very tough. Consider that the millions who turned out to march and greatly outnumbered the inauguration attendance will likely be ignored or denigrated. That won’t change the message the world saw. Revel in the moment but know that the hard work lies ahead. Great work, all!

    1. Although I struggle against the demons within me that drive my disgust and anger for what has happened in our election, and although I will fight against anything that threatens our democratic values and institutions, I will not adopt a blanket rejection for every change that occurs, IF that change offers constructive benefits. We will, after all, be living with this man, DJT, for at least four years. We will be living with his legacy and the rigid, hard-right policies and institutional changes of the Republican majority for far longer. We have to find a way to stand up for the principles and values we know are true while being realistic about what we can achieve given what we face.

      It is critical that we choose our battles carefully. Support those that are deserving, fight like hell when needed. Know your adversaries and know that right now our voices and our actions are our strengths. Get involved as you can. Do what you can. Support those organizations that can achieve things you support but cannot do on your own. ACLU, SPLC, Planned Parenthood, your local newspapers. Attend meetings and speak up on issues dear to you. Keep in contact with your elected officials. Stay engaged and be informed.

      I offer this opinion piece by the LA Times editorial board for your consideration. Tough times ahead – Semper FI!

  9. Here’s an article about how, despite being dismissed, Occupy Wall Street has already laid groundwork and infrastructure for effective resistance:

    Note that several times in the article, Bellafante points out the surprising number of non-traditionally ‘activated people’ getting involved:

    “Scholars have long maintained that change of the kind movements generate is largely driven by the “biologically available,” which is to say by the young and unencumbered or the old and idle. What is striking about the universe of Trump resistance, at least in New York, is how visibly active the biologically unavailable actually are. At one meeting of several hundred people in a synagogue in Brooklyn on Monday, I met a woman named Lisa Raymond-Tolan, a mother and occupational therapist who has recently made activism a second job. “Prior to Nov. 8,” she told me, “I didn’t activate one day in my life.””

    There was a second article in the Metro section that covered small shop designers, printers, and knitters of pussy hats. It pointed out how much relatively innocuous smaller business people are doing for free for the cause, and had a lot of the same moments where someone would say “I don’t normally do this, but now it’s important.”

    One example is a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the print costs of pickets for the Women’s March. It aimed for $1000 to cover 1500 posters. It made $8000 and printed 18,000.

    1. Never once have I seen people on my block get active in grassroots politics in even the smallest way. A dozen neighbors are either downtown or in DC today.

      You can mark this across centuries of civilization – you cannot sustain a government, no matter how determined or repressive, without the acquiescence of the “retainer class,” that layer of educated professionals just below the wealthy who make things run. This government has lost the retainer class. We’ve never had that happen before, not even under Nixon.

      1. This Congress and administration. That said, that’s the government. The problem with a revolution is you don’t really get to plan what comes next. Ask the marxists who launched the Iranian Revolution how that works. I can’t foresee where this is headed.

      2. At today’s Pittsburgh march, the hope was palpable.

        And the crowd was full of women and men of all colors from all walks of life. The retainer class was most definitely represented well.

        In a city of 300,000, over 25,000 showed up to march.

      3. >] “The problem with a revolution is you don’t really get to plan what comes next. Ask the marxists who launched the Iranian Revolution how that works. I can’t foresee where this is headed.”

        Agreed, but what will be key is whether these people channel all of this energy into sustained effort, pressuring their representatives and becoming politically active themselves. If they do, then this has the potential to make the Tea Party movement seem positively meager by comparison.

        More important than anything else is what the people decide what they’re for. Tea Partiers, insofar as their so-called “representation” in Washington, were anti-Obama and nothing else. So-called ‘fiscal conservatism’ or whatever amounted to little more than talking points and nothing else. They were an engine of unprecedented gridlock and driving our government to the brink time and time again.

        If the people want to serve as the antithesis to that and get things moving again, then a broad platform will eventually be needed for people to coalesce around. How that comes about or who makes it could serve as an interesting civics exercise. Heck, why don’t we do it right here?

      4. Ryan, I am not an admirer of the Tea Party’s goals, but I disagree with their effectiveness. They are still putting people into office, fighting at all levels of government (our city council!), bond issues, backing candidates, fund raising…The members of the Freedom Caucus all have Tea Party backgrounds…So, don’t think it’s accurate to paint them as only “anti-Obama”…which was absolutely an initial driving force but the movement has assumed structure that has survived and is still helping elect far right candidates to office.

      5. When we talk about the Tea Party these days, are we talking about the elected officials or are we talking about the grassroots activists that have been effectively silenced? Important to make the distinction.

        For example, a local T. Party group in FL got behind an energy initiative to put a ballot measure on the ballot in ’16 that would’ve allowed for outside solar companies to come in and lease solar panels to citizens. Sounds pretty good, right? That effort failed (although they’re still allowed to keep the signatures they’ve gathered and push forward into ’18) in large part because of a concentrated effort by AFP (Americans for Prosperity) and the utility companies to keep a monopoly on the energy market in FL. Thankfully, their effort via their sponsored Amendment 1 failed.

        To put that in perspective, that amendment (the good one) had exactly one Democratic sponsor in the FL House and not a single Republican, and certainly not so-called Tea Party darling Rick Scott. Funny how that works.

      6. I’m talking about local Tea Parties. Well organized (in our area) and very active in local politics. There are also national TP organizations who undertake fundraising and campaigning to help elect people who endorse their platform. The FC is made up of men who were elected with the endorsements of TP organizations and grassroots campaigns. I am not an admirer of their agenda, as stated, but these people work hard and they have very clear objectives and they follow through. And, vote. And GOTV. I think we could learn a great deal from their organizational efforts, that’s all. Just like Dems need to replicate the RedMap plan. If something is successful, learn from it and borrow the best ideas.

      7. Bearing that in mind, Tea Partiers overwhelmingly do not want reductions in Medicare or Social Security benefits. Suffice it to say that that is not the consensus of the Republican majority in Washington. Do you believe the Freedom Caucus will be a bulwark against drastic changes to these programs?

      8. The Freedom Caucus is focused on balancing the budget and reducing spending. They will not protect medicare and social security. Period. They are a very young group of men – mostly attorneys whose net worth insulates them from the real world – a world of people they believe are raping the economy.

        As for Republicans not wanting their medicare/ss touched….I’m not so certain about that. Depends upon how it’s spun. If you’re talking about the more affluent members of the Repub. base, they will accept modifications if they believe it will reduce the deficit. They can afford to be “generous”. Seniors who are scraping by will likely not want changes. As a senior who participates in SS and Medicare, and has studied the financial issues surrounding their survival, I do not see how changes can be avoided. Of course we could increase the earnings cap for SS payment, or increase medicare premiums, but the “wealthy” who are “in power” don’t want to pay more taxes for something they’ve been getting for a bargain. America has to decide if health care is a privilege or a right. I support the latter position but clearly understand the cost for doing so. I’d support a VAT with an iron-clad Trust fund (no borrowing as was done with SS) so that everyone participates in contributing something per their spending patterns and everyone benefits – the same – no matter how poor or rich.

      9. EJ

        That’s a good point regarding the retainer class. A government can withstand a screaming mob, but when the sober, sensible people who make society run on a day-to-day level start having conversations on how best to remove you, you’re in real trouble.

        With respect to the revolutions, I think America might be in less trouble than Iran was. I’d draw a parallel with East Germany instead: we had our brothers in the West to fall back on, and they had still retained the strong German democratic traditions and institutions. We weren’t starting from a blank piece of paper.

        Similarly, America has a very strong tradition of representative government, and has many people like yourself who represent an institutional memory of how democracy works. I’m optimistic.

    1. That was a fine article with well-integrated historical basis. Here’s one from your neck of the woods by Richard North Patterson, who urges “action informed by vigilance”….exactly what Chris is advocating and teaching us.

      “…the America which Trump described is curiously self-alienated and amoral. His call to patriotism paid no heed to our democratic traditions, the strength of our institutions, or the value of our diversity. He spoke only to his base, and his America was not exceptional in any way that mattered. Trump’s America is tribal, and that is hardly exceptional in history — or reassuring, either.”

    2. I follow Lobelog, a site on foreign affairs which offers commentary from excellent, experienced contributors in the field. Some of the commentary is direct; some reprinted due to relevance and quality. I highly recommend the site. Today’s post is on topic and insightful and blunt. The writer is Graham Fuller, former CIA, author of several books.

      “The US does not even seem capable of governing itself at this point, and the fault lines are sharpening. The specter of domestic political violence can hardly be excluded in this swirl of personalized politics of black hats and white hats. There is no debate, only vituperation, slander, vilification and demonization. Drastic failures in US foreign policies going back at least to 2000 have raised ongoing serious doubts in the eyes of the world about US “leadership.” More and more countries, friends and rivals, are moving into damage limitation mode in dealing with us; their main task is to prevent the US from dragging the rest of the world into dangerous confrontation.”

  10. Chris, this is an exceptionally perceptive piece.

    Your use of McDonald’s as an example of crazy in a non-political space as a lead into political examples is excellent essay writing.

    I think the urge to avoid confrontation is something we’ll all have to work on.

    When I was young, I concluded that I would be a poor journalist because I was uncomfortable confronting people about things they didn’t want to discuss. (Youth. It’s overrated.)

    And I think you’re right about how unwilling many people are to continue crazy behavior when called out.

    Years ago, when the tea party first started interrupting congressional town hall meetings, I watched one of those meetings on television in the cafeteria at work. There appeared to be spitting.

    A guy next to me snorted and smiled and said, “Maybe now they’ll listen!” He looked at me as if he was sure I agreed with him.

    I followed him out of the building and whispered to him as we walked about how embarrassed he should be if he participated in that. He shrunk back and he indeed looked embarrassed.

    I don’t think my points were all that persuasive. But perhaps he hadn’t heard any disagreement in some time. Every time I saw him on campus after that he blushed and looked away.

    Going to the women’s march in Houston today. Hope there will be lots and lots of people.

      1. A friend who is a veteran activist has been trying to dim my hopes for a good — impressive on TV — turnout. I hope he’s wrong. He says crowd size unpredictable.

        He also offered: stay away from the police horses; if they step on your foot, it may get broken. Also, move away from any trouble makers.

        I had planned to wear a black shirt today even though I didn’t know there was a color of the day 🙂 . Also, a hat I got in Luckenbach; I be Texan.

      2. EJ

        We just left the London march. It was full of American expatriates, and a surprising number of veteran lefties who had sprouted American flags. That second one surprised me. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, I suppose.

        Turnout was huge. There were tens of thousands at the start in front of the US Embassy, and lots more entering via feeder streets.

        A good day out. Cold, but inspiring.

      3. EJ

        The new British PM is an arch-pragmatist. She’s been very careful not to let anyone know what her thoughts are, and very careful not to alienate anyone in case she needs them later. This means it’s difficult for her to speak with much moral authority, but it’s easier for her to avoid ceding further ground to extremists.

        Right now, British public thought is deeply fractured, and the respective “sides” have not yet recoagulated. As such May is probably the best person for the role of Prime Minister.

        To be clear, the lefties I saw with the flags were British lefties, not American ones. When I say “lefty” in this case, I don’t mean liberals such as myself; I mean full-on Socialists and unreconstructed Marxists. Twelve months ago if I’d seen them handling American flags, I’d have been worried that they were going to burn them. Now they seem to see themselves as coming to America’s aid in her hour of need.

        The world is turn’d upside-down.

      1. I decided to take the train to city hall and wait for the marchers there. A small group had the same idea. After we figured out how to buy tickets, they spotted me my train fare.

        In addition to the hundreds at city hall, there must have been thousands of marchers coming in from the skate park. Really, it was astonishing. All kinds of people, all colors, all ages. It was great!

        The Chronicle estimates 22,000.

        The signs were good, too. Many duplicated others we have have seen online but still. Some of THOSE really are funny.

        So glad I went.

  11. Re confronting the crazy, it must be done. For those of us who shrink from confrontation it’s important to remember that there are many ways, small and large, to engage. Some of these confrontations may be quiet and even polite. I’m linking here to a couple of diaries from Daily Kos concerning confrontations with Trump voters. One of these diaries describes a face-to-face encounter with a stranger; the other is is a polemic aimed at friends, posted on Facebook. The diarists make reasoned arguments that they back up with facts and sources, but they also have a personal perspective that they are not afraid to voice, and that is difficult to dismiss. Both of these diarists are self-identified lefties who also serve or formerly served in the military. If you are a Republican or former Republican, your perspective might be particularly persuasive to some Trump voters.

  12. For anyone mildly curious as to what the influence of so-called “conservative think tanks” is these days, let Team Trump put you at ease (or not). It’s still alive and well and more than deserving of its own share of hawkish attention. Former Heritage members and current Trump toadies, Russ Vought and John Gray, have put forward a plan that would slash federal spending by 10.5 trillion over a decade, taking a proverbial meat cleaver to funding and outright eliminating many programs and departments:

    – Justice Department programs for violence against women, promoting community-oriented policing and providing legal aid would see significant reductions.

    – Same for DOJ’s Civil Rights division and Environment & N. Resources division.

    – Also for State Department initiatives on climate change. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Office for Fossil Energy would be outright eliminated.

    – Also facing elimination would be the Minority Business Development Agency, National Endowment for the Arts & the National Endowment for the Humanities, all of which hurt like a damned sucker punch right in the solar plexus.

    – And, to top it off, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, because of course it would.

    Now it should be noted that even so-called fiscally conservative Republicans get pretty antsy about such draconian cuts when it comes to their own districts and states. A similar budget was shot down in the Republican House just a few years ago and the vote wasn’t particularly close. We’ll see how things go this time though.

  13. Excellent article in The Atlantic profiling an Edelman poll: ”

    After polling more than 30,000 respondents in 28 developed and developing countries, Edelman recorded slight declines in trust in all four institutions that it measures: government, the media, business, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)..

    The conclusion? “Lack of belief in system + economic and societal fears + loss of trust in institutions = populism”

    1. I’m glad the petition tool is back, I hope it lasts.

      The fact is that it can keep hitting 100,000, after which the White House puts out it’s official response… and then another should be opened, after which the White House has to keep putting out official responses … and repeat, throughout his entire term.

      1. Also good to know.

        Frankly mine is more serious than “Trump, Resign Immediately!” which is currently public and live. I don’t see why any official government website, whatsoever, should be allowed have advertising and marketing for consumer and luxury brands. But at least I know that these things get purged early.

    1. I didn’t listen to the address, plan to read the transcript. Three things are called for in an inaugural address; a little humility, a lot of optimism, and a recognition that though not everyone voted for the candidate, their views will be respected. I’m guessing Trump hit one of the three.

      1. I guess I’d characterize the speech as “us against them,” with the “them” being the rest of the world and our establishment.

        Interesting to wonder what’s running through the minds of the Goldman Sachs members of the cabinet when he talks about how “the establishment” has screwed his people.

      2. In my reading of the transcript, I didn’t see this tone or focus. I’ll be curious about your “take”. Trump did invoke “God” which I am certain is to pander to the religious right who has forgiven Trump alllllll his many sins because he is repentant and oh, by the way, will appoint a SC justice who will oppose abortion…

      3. “Interesting to wonder what’s running through the minds of the Goldman Sachs members of the cabinet when he talks about how “the establishment” has screwed his people.”

        Probably “he’s throwing more red meat to the rubes.” Donnie loves the worship he gets from the pissed off blue collar bloc. But does he love it enough that he’d really make it more difficult for the rich to get richer?

  14. “Relatively conservative voters (by the historical definition), educated professionals, and business people, voters who should in a sane universe be Republicans, are rejecting the party in greater and greater numbers. ”

    I use to be a committeeman for the County Republican Party. I have left the party and Orlando use to be very Republican is deep blue. Truth is I am not enamored with the Democratic party either. But it is one useful front to resist Trump and the more obnoxious policies of the Republican Party. Most of my family jumped on the Trump train. But not the more educated and affluent part. I think the coming policies and chaos is going by mid-terms make most of those who voted Trump to rethink. As Dan Rather said we need to lean on our first amendment horn long and hard against bad policies and injustices. We also need to be willing to publicly confront crazy. It is one thing to rave on Facebook and face actual people who are rational while you are not with an audience watching. It is becoming apparent except to the most right wing ideologue that Trump supporters are a minority. We better not let them forget that.

    1. I believe we will be confronting fewer crazy and more deplorables. I still cannot easily discuss what’s happening. At a doctor’s appointment (long wait) and man next to me struck up conversation. He runs a chain grocery store – about 50, very pleasant. As we both waited, he noted there was no tv in the room, to which I replied how happy I was about that. That prompted him to state: “Donald Trump is just what our nation needs.” Rather than respond, I chose to stop conversing with the man. He was of no interest to me and I simply busied myself with reading. Chalk that one up any way you like. I really don’t care.

    1. To anyone asking me to give Trump a chance, my short answer is “No, because he refuses to clean up his act.”

      If someone wants a definition of “clean up his act”, the list starts with 1) release the tax returns, 2) actually detach yourself from your businesses interests (and no, the kids running them don’t count) 3) stop all this lying (“I won in a landslide”) 4) lay off the racist dog whistles 5) grow up and stop throwing Twitter tantrums 6) no more rallies. The campaign is over.

      I’m sure you all have plenty to add to that list.

      Good to see you again Texan!

  15. While I generally shy away from slippery slope ideas and don’t think we’ve lost everything (yet), in this case you’re spot on. The principled Republican party is dead and gone, and all that it is waiting for is momentum to turn before it collapses on itself.

    But on a societal level, things get much more complex. There’s already opposition organizing, and it’s growing, but in one sense, isn’t this very opposition one of the things that allows the Republicans to keep feeding their base- the fear of the “atheist communist socialist unamerican Islamist liberals? As opposition grows, I fear that the new base for the Republicans will only entrench, and this time they have within their entrenchments all the apparatus of power. I do think that (again, this time) there are still enough Republicans with a vestigial sense of honor and respect for democratic (small d) systems to not pull the whole country down, but the damage can still be severe.

    And as constrained as my options are, I am part of the resistance. The only org so far registered with Indivisible is the county democratic women’s org, which has done nothing and accomplished nothing. The local Dem party org is even less effective and doesn’t even post meeting notices on their Facebook page. And, as a Fed, I have to be very careful about how vocal I am… And still, I am looking to help with more than my checkbook (OK, who really does that any more?)

      1. Jeff, join the nasty ladies! From the time I was little, I always hung out with the guys…first girl to be allowed into the boys’ tree house club; first girl in the neighborhood to play corner lot boy’s baseball team….Makes life more interesting (-; I’ll bet the ladies would welcome you!

    1. Donald Trump has been hired by the American people to destroy institutions. It’s our job to build new ones.

      The institutions and organizations that the Democrats represent are on defense. They’re not on institution-building mode. They will lose things, but their success will be measured by what they retain.

      But those organizations are not equipped to handle either the attacks pending on them… nor the needs of the people who want to fight. Those people, mostly Millennial, are sick of the old institutions too. That’s why they didn’t defend them during the previous election.

      So the winner of history will go to who builds the next institutions. If you’d like to be one of them, you need to join whatever groups are starting now. And if nobody around you is starting now…

      … then you need to start them.

    2. We didn’t have an Indivisible chapter in my suburb. A facebook-savvy person started a facebook page for it, and I put a notice in our local listings (which got a little bitching from some Trumpers, but that’s another story). That was on Jan. 10. Today our page has 80 members and we’re getting ready for the kickoff meeting at the end of the month. Start one or hook up with someone who wants to start one.

  16. You are right Chris, confrontation in a public place does work. I loathe confrontation, and now recognise that this is one of my shortcomings that I need to remove to effect change far more efficiently

    I have just recently used the methods you describe to confront a crazy. Since Brexit, nasty comments about immigrants are taking place with depressing regularity on public FB pages like Granada News. All I really did was to introduce myself as an immigrant, and to refute the immigrant taking half our jobs nonsense with a short explanation of the causes of increasing social inequality and decreasing value of labor, and I cross referenced it all for him to look at.

    He went very quiet after that.

      1. Yea, that’s a great question. Social media may now be the “public space” in which we have the greatest quantity of personal interaction. Before last year, if you were friends with me on Facebook you might not have known anything about my politics. That has changed.

        Still, on social media there’s a fine line between being assertive and being obnoxious. You probably can’t hope to be one without occasionally being the other. I really don’t like that, but I don’t like anything about this situation.

      2. It can be worse, Tutta. (confrontation on social media)…because it’s very difficult to defend a position on a public forum populated by people who will say anything without any factual substantiation. Plus, the public lightning speed that takes this confrontation across continents makes it even more dangerous.

        I have never shied away from public confrontation although I always try reason first. In this social/political climate, that is becoming increasingly difficult. Online, I rebut fallacious commentary (professional and individual opinions) but I do so with fact, just as Hoonteo does. I also select “ignore user” when it’s offered so that I avoid seeing any commentary by people who offend me or are intellectually incapable of considering another POV.

        Chris is dead right. What is getting ready to come down is the biggest assault on democracy that America will likely ever see. It is going to demand the best each of us can offer in resistance. We will likely not always be able to choose a passive resistance without sacrificing principle. I’m ready and already fighting back as best I can, and I know each of you in your own way will do the same.

        When someone throws a brick at you, sometimes ducking is not the best response.

      1. In the past I have done little to support the Fort Bend Democratic Party. I am joining and will start to help on the grassroots. Posting comments is fun and is a good way to let off steam but without action it is for naught.

        I live in Pete Olsen”s district in Sugar Land and it is time for him to go.

      2. Turtles, one thing you can do is support the Hispanic effort in Pasadena by keeping pressure against Isbell and the council against appeal of the judicial ruling. This group fought so hard and long and won a tough legal battle, but it is not over unless Isbel et al accept the opinion.

        Otherwise, I applaud your active commitment and I know you will make a great contribution. Good luck down there! The fact that this county voted for Clinton as majority shows you have a lot of motivated, thinking individuals to join with your efforts.

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