Author Archives: Bob Burnett

The Biden Infrastructure Plan

On March 31st, President Joe Biden introduced his infrastructure plan, “The American Jobs Plan” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/ )  It’s an omnibus $2 trillion plan to repair the major holes in America’s infrastructure, and to create jobs.

It’s useful to recall that, during the 2016 presidential campaign, former-President Trump promised to repair America’s infrastructure.  In February 2018, Trump sent to Congress an $1.7 trillion infrastructure “plan” financed by  $200 billion in new Federal spending and $1.5 trillion “from the private sector.”  Trump didn’t follow through on his proposal and it died in the halls of Congress.

Nonetheless, Trump’s infrastructure “plan” was popular with voters. Similarly, President Biden’s plan polls well.  A recent Reuters/IPSOS poll (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-biden-infrastructure-poll-idUSKBN2BP126 ) found that “79% of Americans supported a government overhaul of American roadways, railroads, bridges, and ports.”  And, “Americans also were largely supportive of ways that Biden has proposed to pay for his massive infrastructure bill. According to the poll, 64% of U.S adults supported a tax hike on corporations and large businesses, and 56% supported ending tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.”  However, when filtered through a partisan lens, the findings changed: “Only 45% of Americans said they would support a jobs and infrastructure plan that was ‘recently released by the Biden administration.’ Another 27% said they were opposed and the remaining 28% said they were not sure… only about two in 10 Republicans and three in 10 independents said they supported a Biden infrastructure plan, compared with seven out of 10 Democrats.”

Biden’s Plan: Here’s the first cut of the $2.15 Billion Biden Infrastructure/Jobs plan.  Bear in mind that the entire plan will be modified by the (Democratically controlled) Senate and House.

1.Transportation Infrastructure: ($621 Billion) This allocates $174B for electric vehicles and charging stations.  $115B for road and bridge repair. $85B for “modernizing transit systems. $80B for Amtrak repairs. $50B for “infrastructure resiliency,” funds to deal with climate-related disasters.”  $25B for airport upgrades.  $20B for underserved neighborhoods; “The President’s plan includes $20 billion for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.”  $20B to “improve road safety;” $17B for inland waterway and port improvements; and $35B for related projects.

2. “Quality of Life at Home”: ($650 Billion) This allocates $213B to “build, preserved, and retrofit more than 2 million affordable homes and commercial buildings.”  $111B for safe drinking water,  $100B for “constructng or modernizing public schools.” $100B for new high-speed broadband networks. $40B to improve public housing.  $18B for Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.  $12B for community-college infrastructure improvements.  $16B to “plug oil and gas wells and reclaim abandoned mines.” And $40B for related projects.

3. Caregivers for elderly and disabled. ($400 Billion) Biden’s plan will expand Medicaid to provide affordable, quality care for everyone who needs it.

4. Research, Development, and Manufacturing: ($480 Billion) Around $300B would be devoted to improving domestic m manufacturing capacity– including $50B for semiconductor manufacturing. $180N would be allocated to new research and development of clean energy.

As you can see, the Biden Infrastructure/Jobs plan collects many of the elements of previous plans and  links them together.  There are standard infrastructure improvements, such as roads, bridges, ports, and trains, and non-standard items such as home-improvement, removal of lead water pipes, and provision of a high-speed broadband network.  The Biden plan provides funds to deal with the impact of climate change and funds to retrain workers to take on the jobs of the future,

5. Funding: President Biden estimates the infrastructure plan will be paid for within the next 15 years, if his newly proposed “Made in America” tax plan is also passed:

  • Set the Corporate Tax Rate at 28 percent. “The President’s tax plan will ensure that corporations pay their fair share of taxes by increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 percent. His plan will return corporate tax revenue as a share of the economy to around its 21st century average from before the 2017 tax law and well below where it stood before the 1980s. This will help fund critical investments in infrastructure, clean energy, R&D, and more to maintain the competitiveness of the United States and grow the economy.”
  • Discourage Offshoring by Strengthening the Global Minimum Tax for U.S. Multinational Corporations. “The President’s tax reform proposal will increase the minimum tax on U.S. corporations to 21 percent”.

6. Process: On April 12th, The House and Senate will begin work on the Biden infrastructure/jobs plan.  It appears this will come up for crucial votes around July 4th.  In the House, only a majority is needed to play the plan.  In the Senate, it will also need a simple majority to pass because of a recent ruling by the Senate Parliamentarian (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/infrastrucutre-bill-american-jobs-plan-reconciliation-senate-parliamentarian/ ) “Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 can allow for multiple reconciliation bills per fiscal year. The parliamentarian is an expert on the obscure procedures of the Senate, and determines whether certain actions are permitted under Senate rules.”

BB prediction: something close to what Biden proposes will be approved by Congress.

Waiting for Waits*

One step forward
One step back
One to shoreward
One to slack
Sit on da ground
Turn yo’self around
Do the existential hokey pokey.

Drive on the freeway
Drive on the lane
Drive in traffic
Drive in sane
Drive real fast
Drive very very slow
When you get arrested, say
I didn’t know.”

Look up
Look down
Look all around
Look at the ground
Look in lost and found
Do the existential hokey pokey.

Celebrate the Blues
Celebrate Bop
Dance in the corner
Dance ’til you drop
Run through the jungle
Run on the beach
Don’t let ’em catch you
Stay out of reach.

Skip home room
Skip to ma’lou
Skip getting old
Skip turning blue
Skip watching TV
Skip being you
Do the existential hokey pokey.

(* Waiting for Tom Waits to sing this song.)

Whatever Happened to Personal Responsibility?

It may be hard to imagine but, a couple of decades ago, Republicans described themselves as “the Party of personal responsibility.” The Grand Old Party imagined itself as the Party of rugged individualists, folks who clawed their way to the top with an unstoppable combination of ambition, perseverance, and moral rectitude. Republicans claimed the moral high ground. No more.

In the last year, we’ve seen Donald Trump, and his Republican cohorts, dodge responsibility for the Coronavirus pandemic and for the January 6th insurrection. Each of these actions was shameful and should  be sufficient to tarnish the GOP for decades.

In every regard, Donald Trump mismanaged the pandemic. When he left office, at noon on January 20th, he was responsible for 25 million U.S. Covid-19 cases and 400,000 related deaths. It’s an understatement to say that Trump did a terrible job; it’s more accurate to say that he made a bad situation much, much worse.  The prestigious medical journal Lancet (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32545-9/fulltext) recently observed: “Trump’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic—compounded by his efforts to dismantle the USA’s already weakened public health infrastructure and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage expansions—has caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. His elimination of the National Security Council’s global health security team, and a 2017 hiring freeze that left almost 700 positions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unfilled, compromised preparedness… The number of people without health insurance had increased by 2·3 million during Trump’s presidency, even before pandemic-driven losses of employment-based coverage increased the number of uninsured people by millions.”

It wasn’t entirely incompetence.  Trump politicized the pandemic.  He had a chance to act responsibly and, instead, chose “the dark side.”  In a recent CNN documentary (https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/29/politics/coronavirus-deborah-birx-donald-trump-joe-biden/index.html), Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator for the Trump White House, said, “I look at it this way. The first time we have an excuse.  There were about a hundred thousand deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”  (In other words, Trump is responsible for 300,000 of the 400,000 deaths that occurred on his watch.)  In the same CNN documentary, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases specialist, said: “Trump’s demands for a reopening of the country in contravention of the advice of government health experts came as ‘a punch to the chest.'”

(On March 29th, Trump responded to the CNN documentary (https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/29/trump-fauci-birx-cnn-documentary-478422) calling Birx and Fauci “self-promoters.” “They had bad policy decisions that would have left our country open to China and others, closed to reopening our economy, and years away from an approved vaccine — putting millions of lives at risk.”)

The truth is Trump made a political calculation that it was in his best interests to discount the pandemic.  In the 2020 presidential election exit polls (https://www.cnn.com/election/2020/exit-polls/president/national-results ), Trump voters were much more likely to report that “the recent rise in coronavirus cases” was NOT a factor in their vote.  Only 15 percent said the pandemic was “the most important issue” in their vote  – most Trump voters said the most important issue was “the economy,” because they trusted Trump to reopen the economy.   Most Trump voters saw US efforts to contain the coronavirus as going “very well” or “somewhat well.”  Most Trump voters saw wearing a face mask as a matter of “personal choice” rather than a “public health responsibility.”

Trump set an example for his base: minimize COVID-19, refuse to wear a mask, and disavow social distancing.  After being hospitalized with Coronavirus, Trump tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of Covid,  Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

This reckless attitude has greatly influenced his base: A recent PBS/NPR/Marist Poll (http://maristpoll.marist.edu/npr-pbs-newshour-marist-poll-results-the-biden-administration-covid-19/#sthash.z0TLROd9.dpbs) found that 30 percent of respondents have no intention of being vaccinated for the Coronavirus: 49 percent of Republican men. (And of course, Red states are now rushing to reopen.)

Trump has never taken responsibility for the pandemic.  In an August interview (https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/510393-trump-on-coronavirus-death-toll-it-is-what-it-is) he claimed the Coronavirus was “under control as much as you can control it.”  When asked about the rising Coronavirus death toll, Trump responded: “It is what it is.”

My point is not to belabor Trump’s incompetence or his lying.  I want to emphasize Trump’s absolute failure to take responsibility for the mistakes of his Administration.  Thousands of deaths and millions of illnesses are his fault.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, we’ve seen remarkable evidence of Republican incompetence: the 9/11 attacks, the unnecessary war in Iraq, and the 2008 financial crisis — to mention only a few.  Trump’s failure to handle the Coronavirus pandemic stands alone as a testimony to GOP self-serving greed.

Trump may be gone.  (I hope.)   But, the appalling failure of the Republican Party must not be forgotten. They can no longer claim  the moral high ground.  The GOP is not the party of personal responsibility.  At best they are incompetents; at worst, traitors.

Sappho and Beauty


Some men say an army of horses, and
Some men say an army on foot, and
Some men say an army of ships
Is the most beautiful thing on the black earth.
But I say it is
What you love.

A fragment aged 2700 years
Brings Sappho to our shore
Her words ring in our ears
Commanding us with ancient lore
To ponder our hearts once more.

And lovely laughing
Oh it puts the heart in my chest on wings
For when I look at you,
even a moment,
no speaking is left in me.

Sappho’s love is one of passion
Practiced, I am sure
In her epoch’s fashion
Physical love and something more
Awe floods through the door.

Here to me from Crete in this holy temple
where is our graceful grove
of apple trees and altars smoking
with frankincense.

And in it cold water makes a clear sound through
apple branches and with roses the whole place
is shadowed and down from radiant shaking leaves
sleep comes dropping

In this place you Aphrodite taking up
in gold cups delicately
nectar mingled with festivities:
pour.

Awake Sappho, and pour
Your beauty on this parched land
Let it splash across the floor
Take the virgins by the hand
Restore our hearts with something grand.

Yet I love the finer things . . . this and passion
for the light of life have granted me brilliance and beauty.
[a Fragment from Sappho’s “Old age poem” believed to be written when she was 60]

What’s Wrong With the GOP?

A recent Gallup Poll found that Americans, in general, are happy with the Biden Administration. Except for Republicans. Another poll indicated that most of us want to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Except Republicans. What’s wrong with the GOP?

The most recent Gallup Poll (https://news.gallup.com/poll/339977/biden-approval-ratings-diverge-gender-education-race.aspx ) found that 56 percent of respondents approved Joe Biden’s job performance — versus 39 percent who disapproved.  While 96 percent of Democrats viewed Biden favorably, he earned the support of only ten percent of Republicans (and 55 percent of Independents).    (Not surprisingly, Biden polls worst with non-college-educated, rural, white men.)

To determine the true level of Biden’s support, it’s useful to study national opinion regarding the Covid relief bill.  A recent Pew Research poll (https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/03/09/broad-public-support-for-coronavirus-aid-package-just-a-third-say-it-spends-too-much/) found that 70 percent of respondents supported the Biden proposal — including 41 percent of those who were “Republican/lean Republican.”  The poll indicates that roughly two-thirds of voters support Biden’s policies — as opposed to supporting Biden personally — including a sizable chunk of Republicans,  (That is, about one-third of Republicans support Biden’s major initiatives even though they may not admit that in public.)

This makes sense because two-thirds of Republicans believe the 2020 presidential election was “invalid.”  ( https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/540508-majority-of-republicans-say-2020-election-was-invalid-poll?)  “[Former] President Trump’s rhetoric seems to have had a profound impact on his base’s outlook on the election.  Across all regions, our participants by and large opposed alternative voting methods, believed that those methods opened the election process to fraud, and felt that the 2020 election result was invalid.”  At the moment, two-thirds of the GOP feel cheated and, therefore, aren’t going to support Biden no matter what he does.  In contrast, the one-third of Republicans who believe the election was “valid” are prepared to move on.  They are prepared to consider the Biden-Administration agenda on an item by item basis — in contrast to most Republican members of Congress who appear to be opposed to anything Biden or Democrats propose.

A recent PBS/NPR/Marist Poll ( http://maristpoll.marist.edu/npr-pbs-newshour-marist-poll-results-the-biden-administration-covid-19/#sthash.z0TLROd9.dpbs) found that 60 percent of respondents approved of President Biden’s handling of the Coronavirus while 30 percent disapproved.  It was another indication that Biden has roughly a two-thirds level of support for his policies.

Of interest was the PBS/NPR/Marist poll finding that 30 percent of respondents have no intention of being vaccinated for the Coronavirus: 49 percent of Republican men.  Therefore, there is a “Trumpian” bloc of the electorate who believes the election was “invalid,” will not support any Biden/Democratic policy initiative, and will not  be vaccinated.  (They are prepared to “eat worms.”)

There are three consequences of the current political reality.  The first is that, at the moment,  Joe Biden has the support of a substantial majority of the electorate and, therefore, can move a lot of legislation through Congress.  (Obviously, the Senate’s filibuster rule will determine how much.)  That’s a good sign.  Democrats can’t bank on it, but it does indicate that Dems, at the moment, have political momentum.

The second consequence is that Republicans are fractured.  In the 2020 presidential election exit polls: 37 percent of respondents identified as Democrats, 36 percent identified as Republicans, and 26 percent identified as Independents.  Of the 36 percent that identified as Republicans, it appears that two-thirds are “Trumpians.”  In other words, at the moment about 25 percent of the electorate are hardcore Trump supporters.

Trump retains his hold on these Republicans but his attraction to the general electorate has diminished.  A recent Forbes poll (https://www.forbes.com/sites/carlieporterfield/2021/02/16/trumps-popularity-rebounds-among-republicans-after-impeachment-trial-poll-suggests/?sh=40575fcf237e) found that 54 percent of Republican respondents “said they would vote for Trump in a hypothetical GOP primary.”  The Forbes study concluded: “While Republicans appear to have moved past evaluating Trump’s role in the insurrection at the Capitol, the broader electorate has not let go so easily, the poll suggests: 64% of respondents said Trump is a least partially responsible for the Capitol Hill violence.”  (At the February Conservative Political Action Conference, “only 68 percent of those at the conference said they wanted [Trump] to run again in 2024.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/28/us/politics/cpac-straw-poll-2024-presidential-race.html ) )

There’s early indications that in many 2022 Republican primaries, Trump will run his own slate of candidates; that is, back candidates that “fully supported” him in 2020.  For example, in 2022, in Georgia, Trump will field a Republican candidate — Jody Hice — as an alternative to incumbent Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger. (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/trump-endorses-challenger-against-georgia-elections-chief-brad-raffensperger)

Heading into the critical 2022 midterm election, Republicans are fractured.  While the majority of the GOP supports Trump — and his policies — there is strong support for other conservatives.  Therefore, in many GOP contests there will be a “mainstream” Republican candidate and a Trump candidate.  This will negatively impact Republican fundraising.  (In email appeals, Trump is advising his supporters to send money to his PAC and not to the regular GOP outlets such as the Republican National Committee. (https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/09/trump-tells-donors-to-give-him-money-not-republicans-in-name-only.html))

The third consequence is that Democrats are remarkably unified, at the moment.  The Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) fundraising is off to a strong start: “The DNC fundraised $8.5 million in February and $18.4 million since the beginning of the year, which is a blistering start for the Democrats in a non-presidential election year… According to the DNC, 67 percent of the funds it raised came from small donors, meaning people who gave $200 or less.”

At his March 25th press conference, President Biden was asked if he expected to run against Trump in 2024 responded: “Oh, come on. I don’t even think about – I have no idea… I have no idea if there will be a Republican Party. Do you?”  Perhaps Biden was musing that in 2024 the Republican Party will split and Trump will run on the MAGA ticket.  The Grand Old Party is suffering from moral cancer and refuses to acknowledge this.

Filler

There are 1440 minutes in a day
More than sufficient time
To sleep, eat, be on our way
To earn our daily dime
Or perhaps engage in rhyme.

480 minutes to devote to sleep
120 involved with food
300 earning our keep
The remainder? To the TV glued?
Or, perhaps, with something lewd?

When you “retire”
Each day goes on and on
The serenity to which we aspire
Proves elusive, come the dawn
And our purpose feels withdrawn.

What do you love doing?
That’s the place to start
Don’t tell me “TV viewing”
I prefer some form of art
Or work connected to your heart.

Silicon Valley denizens work long hours
Seldom inspired by love
They forget to eat or hit the showers
All for money, when push comes to shove
Or fame, prestige, power (sort of).

Dedicated artists have focus
They often enter a trance
As they work on their opus
They engage in a mystic dance
Have their faculties enhance(d).

Open-minded


What does it mean to be open
To accept new information
Perhaps a style of cope’n
To shield us from frustration
Facilitate cerebral dilation.

What closes the door
Shuts down flexibility
Is it chance, abuse, or something more
That hinders our agility
Turns us toward docility.

How do we respond to the novel
Do we express curiosity
Or blindly retreat to our hovel
Do we extend the hand with generosity
Or clench our fists with ferocity.

To be liberal is to be flexible
To be conservative obdurate
One is open and sensual
The other closed, inconsiderate
Judgmental, and obstinate

Who supports you in a crisis
The one who is adaptable
or the one who is biased
The friend with the smile
Or the narcissist with guile.

Biden’s First 50 Days

The passage of the American Rescue Plan –the coronavirus relief bill — comes less than two months after Joe Biden’s inauguration. How does this period compare to the similar period in Barack Obama’s first term?

In both cases, the Democratic Presidents had to deal with a grave national disaster. Obama had to deal with The Great Recession. He mobilized Congress to pass “The American Relief and Recovery Act” (ARRA), the stimulus bill. Biden had to deal with the Coronavirus Pandemic. He organized the vaccine delivery process and mobilized Congress to pass “The American Rescue Plan.”

Both Obama and Biden had to clean up messes created by their Republican predecessors. And, in both cases, the corrective legislation passed with little or no Republican support — In 2009, in the Senate, ARRA passed with only 3 Republican votes; in 2921, in the Senate, the Rescue Plan passed with 0 GOP votes.

In 2009, because of the objections of conservative Democrats, Obama’s ARRA was smaller than he wanted ($787B). During his first term, Obama did not prove to be adept at managing congressional Democrats. In 2021, Biden’s Rescue Plan was what he wanted ($1.9T) — although Biden did not get an increase in the minimum wage he wanted.

In both cases, the Democratic Presidents had to deal with adamant Republican opposition.  In retrospect, Obama seems to be have been ill-prepared for this.  Part of the reason that Democrats lost the House, in 2010, was the fact that Obama let the healthcare discussion be dragged down by Republican Senators.  Perhaps it’s too soon to tell, but Biden seems to be better prepared to deal with Republican intransigence.

(In a recent CNN interview (https://www.alternet.org/2021/03/obama-mistakes/?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=6756 ), Senate Majority Leader Schumer was asked if he thought Democrats should have done more to secure the votes of moderate Republicans such as Susan Collins.  Schumer replied: “No… We made a big mistake in 2009 and ’10’… Susan Collins was part of that mistake. We cut back on the stimulus dramatically, and we stayed in recession for five years. And what was offered by the Republicans was so far away from what’s needed, so far away from what Biden proposed, that he thought that they were not being serious in wanting to really negotiate.”)

Obama had a full plate but Biden’s is fuller.  Obama had to worry about the economy, healthcare, and divided government.  Biden has to worry about the pandemic, the economy, the aftermath of Trump (extreme polarization), climate change, and racial strife.

Early in his first term, Obama made two big mistakes: he took a “hands-off” attitude towards getting his healthcare plan through Congress and he was largely uninvolved in the Democratic Party preparation for the 2010 midterms.  (Obama also made a mistake having Tim Geithner be his Treasury Secretary, which led to the “too big to fail” treatment of big banks.)

Biden has a bigger problem with Republicans.  In 2009, Obama faced a united GOP, inhabited by members that a) thought he had not been born in the US and b) was a muslim terrorist.  In 2010, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said that the top GOP priority was “to make Obama a one-term President.”

Biden has a more complicated problem.  First, two-thirds of the Republican base feel that Biden “stole” the election.  (https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/540508-majority-of-republicans-say-2020-election-was-invalid-poll)  Second, because of gerrymandering, most of the Republican members of Congress come from deeply “Red” districts; their constituents don’t want them to cooperate.  Third, Republicans aren’t responding appropriately to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Biden administration inherited a pandemic mess: while vaccines had been developed — thanks to “operation warp speed” — the vaccine-delivery system was in shambles, and the White House message incoherent.  The Biden White House has done a good job fixing the delivery system — at the moment, more than 2 million Americans are being vaccinated each day — and delivering a coherent message: “Wear a mask, socially distance, and get vaccinated.”  Nonetheless, the Republican electorate is resistant.  Many Trump supporters refuse to wear masks and about half of GOP men refuse to get vaccinated.  (https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/542814-49-percent-of-gop-men-say-they-wont-get-vaccinated-pbs-poll)

Biden is doing a better job preparing for the 2022 midterms: So far, Biden seems to be working hand-in-hand with Democratic congressional leadership (Pelosi and Schumer). It appears that, in 2021, communication is much improved over what it was in 2009.

In 2009, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine was (part-time) leader of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).  For a variety of reasons, Democrats lacked energy in 2010 and suffered devastating losses: six Senate seats, 63 House seats (and control of the chamber), and six governorships.  In 2021, Jamie Harrison is leader of the DNC and Democrats appear to be better prepared than they were in 2009.

In the coming weeks, Biden plans to tour the nation, speaking about pandemic progress and the virtues of the American Rescue Plan.  The Administration must continue to sell their plans to the American people.

Joe Biden is doing a good job.  Democrats can’t let up.

 

Perseverance

Ten thousand hours
To become proficient
Activate your higher powers
Nonetheless, insufficient
To ensure you’re omniscient.

Years of practice
Focused execution
Avoiding what distracts us
And dissolution
To reach the desired solution.

There are many examples
Emily Dickinson comes to mind
Among modern samples
Beatles and Bill Gates we find
Dylan and Stoppard intertwined.

8760 hours in one year
Means ten thousand is a lot
Eons of sweat and tear
Many efforts come to naught
Angst over what fate has wrought.

To write and rewrite
Go blank, then start again
Searching for a path that’s right
Forgetting food and pain
Hoping inspiration does not wane.

Let’s not forget talent
Not always the winning card
One may start out gallant
Find the going hard
Be “Hoist with his own petard.”

For every famous person
A thousand dead troubadours
The path can often worsen
Narrow to gated doors
Blocked by critics one abhors.

A toast to perseverance
Those who serve their time
Escape their disappearance
Make the arduous climb
Celebrate their prime.

Trump 2.0

Donald Trump’s February 28th Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) speech gave us a good idea of what to expect from him for the next two years.  The speech introduced Trump version 2.0; not all that different from Trump 1.0.  Bad news for the GOP.

Here are the big themes in Trump 2.0 and their implications for the 2022 midterms.

1.Trump’s continuing to push “the big lie.”  Throughout his CPAC speech, Trump contended he won the November 3rd election: “I got more votes…they used COVID as a way of cheating… The Democrats used the China virus as an excuse to change all of the election rules without the approval of their state legislatures…This election was rigged and the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”  [Audience response: “You won. You won…”]

Trump will continue to push the big lie.  It may help him with his base but for the other 75 percent of the electorate it’s old news.

To remain a political power, Donald needs media attention.  The big lie won’t get him air time anywhere other than the usual GOP propaganda outlets (Fox, OAN, and Newsmax) — Trump’s CPAC speech wasn’t carried by the other media outlets.

2. Republicans will use their experience of the 2020 election as an excuse for voter suppression.  Trump said, “Another one of the most urgent issues facing the Republican Party is that of ensuring fair, honest, and secure elections.”  He outlined several steps: “One election day.”  In other words, no early voting or mail-in voting.  “We must have voter id.”  “We need universal signature matching.”  Trump contends that he lost the 2020 election because of voting abuses.  (The CNN fact-checker (https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/28/politics/donald-trump-cpac-speech-fact-check/index.html) pointed out that Trump’s claim has been refuted.)

Question: In 2022, What will Republicans stand for? Answer: Voter suppression.

3. Trump wants Republicans to purge their ranks of GOP Senators and Representatives that voted for his impeachment:  Senators Burr, Cassidy, Collins, Murkowski, Romney, Sasse, and Toomey;  Representatives Herrera-Beutler, Cheney, Gonazlez, Katko, Kinzinger, Meyer, Newhouse, Rice, Upton, and Valadao.  Of the 7 Republican Senators, only Alaska Senator Murkowski is up for reelection in 2022.  (Burr and Toomey are retiring.)

Of the ten Republican House members that opposed Trump, all ten can expect Trump-based primary opponents.  Congressman Valadao represents California swing district 25.  Valadao defeated his opponent, T.J. Cox, by 1500 votes — after losing to Cox in 2018 by a smaller margin.  In 2022, if Trump finds a proxy to run against Valadao, that probably ensures a Cox victory.

Taking revenge on Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment is not a winning strategy.  It will further diminish the GOP.

4. Trump defined “Trumpism.”  “What it means is great, great trade deals… It means low taxes and eliminating job-killing regulations… It means no riots in the streets. It means law enforcement.  It means very strong protection for the second Amendment…. It means a strong military and taking care of our troops… We stand up to political correctness… we reject cancel culture.”  (Trump conveniently ignored the January 6th insurrection  when he said, “[Trumpism] means no riots in the streets.”)

From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means loyalty to Trump.  Trumpism doesn’t subsume a distinct set of policy objectives; except for cutting taxes, opposing immigration, and (of course) not wearing masks.  In 2022, Trumpism will not be a winning strategy; Voters will be most concerned about jobs, healthcare, and climate change.

5 Besides complaining about the 2020 presidential election, Trump spent the largest portion of his 90-minute speech talking about immigration.  “When I left office, just six weeks ago, we had created the most secure border in U.S. history… Joe Biden has triggered a massive flood of illegal immigration into ur country, the likes of which we have never seen before…Biden’s radical immigration policies aren’t just illegal.  They’re immoral.”

Trump pivoted to Biden’s “pathway to citizenship” initiative and argued: “The democratic immigration bill is a globalist con.  You take a look at the corporatist, big tech attack on hardworking citizens…”

From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means opposition to Biden’s immigration policies.  Once again, this will not be a winning issue in 2022.  (By the way, most voters approve of Biden’s pathway-to-citizenship initiative (https://www.pollingreport.com/immigration.htm).)

6. Despite the recent surge of ultra-cold weather in most of the U.S., Trump didn’t talk about climate change.  (Of course.)  But he did reiterate his opposition to the Paris Climate accords.  “Joe Biden put the United States back into the very unfair and very costly Paris Climate Accord without negotiating a better deal….I could have made an unbelievable deal and gone back in, but I didn’t want to do that.”

From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means opposition to Biden’s climate policies.  Not a winning position.

7. Trump didn’t talk much about Biden’s proposed “American Rescue plan.” Trump said: “The Democrats now say we have to pass their $1.9 trillion boondoggle to open schools, but a very small part of it has to do with that. You know where it’s going…  it’s going to bail out badly run Democrats.”

From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means opposition to the American Rescue Plan.  Not a winning position — two-thirds of voters support this plan.

8. Trump presented a (familiar) cartoon image of Democrats: ” The mission of the Democrat party is to promote socialism… ultimately leading, unfortunately, to communism… Their party is based upon unvarnished disdain for America.”

From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means opposition to Democrats because they “socialists.”

9. Republicans have become the Party of “White Grievance.”  Writing in the Washington Post, Republican columnist Michael Gerson (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-gop-is-now-just-the-party-of-white-grievance/2021/03/01/67679480-7ab9-11eb-85cd-9b7fa90c8873_story.html) observed: “One of the poisonous legacies of Donald Trump’s presidency has been to expand the boundaries of expressible prejudice. Through the explicit practice of White-identity politics, Trump has obviated the need for code words and dog whistles… The party has been swiftly repositioned as an instrument of white grievance. It refuses to condemn racists within its congressional ranks. Its main national legislative agenda seems to be the suppression of minority voting.”

“White grievance” may be emotionally satisfying for Republicans, but it won’t produce a viable political movement.

Summary:  Besides complaining about the 2020 presidential election results, Donald Trump’s CPAC speech provided a sketchy outline of what it takes to be labelled a “Trumpism” candidate in 2022.  Above all, fealty to Trump.  Beyond that, opposition to all Biden policies,  Rejection of “cancel culture.” And white grievance.

Trump 2.0 is a tired reworking of Trump 1.0.  On November 3rd, Trump 1.0  lost by 7 million votes.  Trump 2.0 will appeal to Donald’s acolytes but no one else.

Bon Mot

I reached out for a witty word
Which slipped away unseen, unheard
Escaped from my writing fray
And left me feeling quite absurd.

I did not retreat that blighted day
Giving up is not my way
My heart barely missed a beat
Treated this as bizarre play.

The bon mot marshaled its retreat
Sauntered down the plucky street
Paused beneath a Bijou sign
Wilted swiftly in the heat.

I grabbed it gruffly by the spine
Wrapped it up with heavy twine
Made sure that it was mine
Treasured the moment, quite sublime.

(Apologies to “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”)

Un bon mot ne prouve rien.”

The Disinformation Party

Professor Michael Mann begins his important book, “The Climate War,” with this quote: “Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.” Although the quotation originated with a sixties tobacco executive, it could be spoken today by the leaders of the Republican Party, as their primary product is disinformation.

In George Orwell’s classic, “1984,” the ruling Party controls the people by systematic propaganda; “brainwashing” that Orwell described as “doublethink:”

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed.

1984’s ruling Party, “big brother,” uses the “thought police” to control the populous through disinformation.  Professor Michael Mann observes that Republican oligarchs — the Koch brothers, the Mercer family, Rupert Murdoch, and others — control the GOP faithful through disinformation.  Donald Trump is their willing servant.

Since the advent of Trump, political observers have noted that Republicans — who once focused on “conservative” ideology — have moved away from traditional Republican ideas and, instead, embraced the cult of personality: “Trumpism.”  Because Trump is a media personality and a pathological liar, enclasping him made it easier for the GOP to become the Party of disinformation.

In 2021, Republicans don’t stand for political notions; instead, they oppose Democratic policy proposals, offering disingenuous substitutions.  Consider these critical national issues:

Climate Change: Professor Michael Mann’s thesis is that extreme weather events have ended full-on climate change denial; opposition has moved from “‘hard’ climate denial to ‘softer’ denial: downplaying, deflecting, dividing, delaying and despair-mongering.”  We can see this in the recent Republican stance: “Yes, but…”  As in, “Yes climate change is real, but what about jobs or China or …?”

In this vein, it should be noted that most of the Republican oligarchs that support Trump in climate-change diversion, also support his disinformation in other sectors.  (Mann notes that Russia and Saudi Arabia — the world’s largest petroleum exporters — supported Trump’s climate-change disinformation campaign.)

Coronavirus Pandemic: The Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19 was a truncated version of the historic Republican response to Climate Change.  First, they denied it; at one point Trump called the pandemic “a hoax,” just as years before he had called Climate Change “a hoax”.  Next, Republicans minimized the pandemic; early on Trump claimed that the coronavirus was a minor issue; “it will disappear in a few weeks.”  Then, Trump focussed on blaming China.  In terms of a public health response, Trump foisted this on the states.  (At one point, Trump used a classic anti-Climate-Change tactic, the false expert.  GOP oligarchs have employed Bjorn Lomborg to dispute the severity of climate change; Trump used Scott Atlas to dispute the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.)

January 6th Insurrection:  Few Republicans attempted to deny the January 6th Trump-orchestrated attack on the Capitol.  Many responded by downplaying it or by artful use of deflection; for example, many claimed the attack was orchestrated by Antifa or “left-wing provocateurs posing as Trump supporters.”  Another Republican deflection was the claim that the insurrection was “no worse than the Black Lives Matter ‘riots” during the summer.”  Of course, the ultimate deflection occurred during Trump’s second impeachment trial when many Republicans claimed Trump could not be convicted because he was no longer President at the time of the trial.

Economic Relief: President Biden has made his first order of legislative business the passage of “the American Rescue Plan:”  (1) Aid to individuals: $1400 direct payment; Increase in unemployment insurance.  (2) Aid to families: extending the eviction/foreclosure moratorium until September; increasing child-tax credit. (3) Aid to states and local governments.  (4) Aid to schools.  (5) Funds for COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

Few Republicans oppose the general notion of pandemic-related economic relief.  Once again, they engage in “soft” denial: downplaying, deflecting, dividing, delaying and despair-mongering.  For example, Republicans complain the bill has “too much pork” or only contains aid to Blue states.

Democrats versus Republicans on the issues: Whether on jobs and the economy, reopening schools, dealing with racial tensions, or the other major issues confronting the United States, the same political dynamic exists: Democrats offer proposals and Republicans offer disinformation.  For example, Democrats offer concrete proposals to promote a more equitable society and Republicans counter by asserting “there is no problem.”  What we are seeing are not two different takes on the same issues, but rather a serious proposal versus a soundbyte.

Response to the pandemic provides a perfect illustration of this dynamic: the Biden Administration has launched a concerted effort to thwart COVID-19.  The Republican response seems to be: “You can’t make me wear a mask.”

Solutions: At the heart of our current political impasse is the Republican disinformation machine; the reality that “doubt is [their] product.”   Of course, some of this disinformation has been diminished by voting Trump our of office.  (And will further diminish as we vote other Republicans out.)  Nonetheless, the fundamental nature of the Republican Party has changed — and is antithetical to democracy,

Long range there are two solutions: one is to severely penalize the purveyors of disinformation. such as Fox News.  The other is to restrict the influence of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  Shut down the disinformation.