Monthly Archives: June 2021

A Tale of Two Countries

In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Hmm.  Dickens was writing about the French Revolution but his words are relevant today.

The United States is teetering on the edge of revolution.

1.We’ve lost a governing consensus.  Perhaps I was naive, but after the election — particularly after the January 6th insurrection — I expected the American people to put aside their political differences and come together to support law and order and the Biden Administration.  This did not happen.  While most Independents, and a few Republicans, joined Democrats in an effort to try to move our democracy forward, the bulk of Republicans hardened their resistance.

The consequence is that in Washington, and most of the United States, there’s not agreement on basic issues.

2.The United States has become two nations, featuring two very different realities. One reality — the reality I represent — believes that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election.  We believe that the January 6th insurrection was deplorable and that it was probably planned by Donald Trump and his co-conspirators; we believe they all should be charged with crimes. (“Lock them up!”)

It’s not sufficient to say that those of us in “Biden land” — for lack of a better term — disagree with those in “Trump land.” We are immersed in a different reality.  In our reality COVID-19 was a terrible public-health threat and the correct way to deal with this was to wear masks, socially distance, and be vaccinated.  We believe that Blacks lives truly do matter and that serious steps must be taken to provide racial justice — and we do not equate the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations, following the death of George Floyd, and the January 6th insurrection.  (By the way, we do not trust the police to act properly in all circumstances.)

Suffice it to say, the denizens of Trump land have a different perspective.  There are very few things we agree on.

3. Republicans no longer believe in Democracy.  It’s one thing to believe in an alternate universe, where Donald Trump tells the truth, but a much more serious problem when that universe no longer believes in democracy.  That’s what has happened; The majority of Republicans no longer believe in the basic tenets of democracy.

A recent 2020 Kansas University election study ( observed: “[T]he [2020] vote was a complex reality in which many factors played a part, above all, attitudes.  And one of the attitudes that stood out statistically was a wish for a domineering leader who would ‘crush evil’ and ‘get rid of the rotten apples’ who disturb the status quo.” [Emphasis added]  Trump played “the dictator card” and it captured the fancy of a majority of Republican voters.

Usually when we accuse a large group of people of being anti-democratic, we characterize them as fascists — or communists.  Trump supporters aren’t coherent enough to be characterized as fascists, let alone communists.  They are united by white grievance. They believe that “non-whites” are getting ahead at their expense.

4. Conceptually, we are seeing a reprise of the issues that produced the American Civil War: racism and state’s rights.  Overt slavery is no longer an issue, but the life circumstances of most people-of-color remain unjust.  The majority of Republicans don’t see it this way.  They subscribe to “replacement theory:” the idea that Democrats are trying to replace white folks with “non-whites” — people of color, immigrants, Jews, and those with a non-traditional gender.

And, the dominant political sentiment of Trump World is to give states the power to make more decisions about civil rights and social programs. While Republicans want some Federal services, such as Social Security and a strong military, the predominant sentiment is to “blow up” Washington and return power to the states.

5. Hassles over slavery created the electoral college system and continue to plague us.  As part of a compromise to reconcile “slave” states and “free” states, in 1787, the Constitution framers created the electoral college system.  This specifies that the results of a presidential election are determined by state electors, not the popular vote.  In 2000 and 2016, Republican candidates won the presidency even though they lost the popular vote.

Republicans recognize that — because of demographic trends — they may never again win the popular vote in a Presidential contest — therefore their strategy is to strengthen their hand in the electoral college.  That’s why there are new Republican measures, in Republican-dominated states, to suppress voting and to make the legislature the ultimate determiner of who gets the electoral votes.

The 2024 Republican strategy is to win the presidency by taking advantage of the archaic electoral college system.

6. Expect violence.  Writing in the New York Review of Books ( ), Mark Danner observed “’January 6 was not an isolated event,’ FBI director Christopher Wray told Congress on March 2.  ‘The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now and it’s not going away anytime soon.’ After the Trump presidency, such domestic terrorism should be conceived not as a separable ‘problem’ but rather as the leading edge of a broader movement intended to delegitimize American institutions.”

Danner continued: “Trump is in the style of our moment: a man from nowhere, with no stake in the system, ignorant of history, incurious about our political habits and traditions, but happy to bash and to break old and precious things in exchange for a little attention.” [emphasis added]

7. Disinformation plays a big role.  Brookings researcher, Darrell West ( ), recently wrote: “Misinformation is a big part of our current polarization because it is hard to bring the country together when each side has its own facts and attributions of responsibility. It helps that some leading social media platforms have limited or banned Trump’s posting privileges, but that will not stop the spread of misinformation as Trump likely will move to other sites that have few limits on what he can post. His followers will share falsehoods on their own sites, and misinformation will continue to divide Americans and poison our political environment.”

Summary: I’m alarmed by the current situation, but believe that with hard work, we can yet save our precious democracy.  Briefly here are 5 suggested actions:
a. Get involved. Join your local political organization and support progressive candidates.
b. Support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — called HR 1 in the House version.
c. Do your part to get out the progressive vote.
c, Support lawsuits against state-level Republican voter suppression. (consider supporting Protect Democracy ( )).
d. Penalize sponsors of Republican disinformation — for example, major Fox News sponsors such as General Motors and Procter & Gamble.

Above all, pay attention!  We’re sliding towards civil war.


Rain streaks our bedroom window
The outside world is cloaked in mist.

The rain stops
Dark shapes emerge.

One distinct desiccated pine
A Chinese logogram

Après Trump, Le Déluge

DT won’t go away!  The most recent Quinnipiac Poll ( reports that 66 percent of respondents do not want Donald Trump to (re)run for President. Nonetheless, 66 percent of Republicans would like him to run again. (Not surprisingly, the same percentage of Republicans do not believe that Biden’s 2020 victory was legitimate.)  DT refuses to disappear and, as a result, the Republican Party keeps acting crazy.  What explains this?

Here are four explanations.

1.Psychological: DT is mentally ill; he has the  pathological variety of narcissistic personality disorder.  He craves attention and, therefore, since leaving the White House, he has been undergoing a form of withdrawal.  This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that Donald has been banned from Twitter and Facebook — as this was being written Facebook banned DT until at least January 2023 (

Losing the competition for the US presidency would be hard on anyone — reportedly, Hillary Clinton was very depressed after her 2016 defeat — but particularly hard on DT because he has never been characterized as “playing with a full deck.”  After all, this is the guy who suggested a possible antidote to the Coronavirus was to drink bleach.  DT asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.  He proposed buying Greenland. And on and on.

Since losing the 2020 election, Trump’s aberrant behavior has worsened. ( And, he’s taking the Republican Party down the toilet with him.  Congressional Republicans seem to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome: “where hostages or abuse victims bond with their captors or abusers.”

2. Anthropological: An alternative explanation is that since June of 2015, when Trump announced his run for President, he’s turned the Republican Party into a personality cult.  In effect, he’s created a pseudo-religion featuring himself as the messiah.  This religion operates by the DT rules:
a. The truth is whatever Donald says it is.
b. Winning is everything. Whatever you have to do to win is acceptable.
c. The American system is broken and only DT knows how to fix it. Trust him.
d. The mainstream media can’t be trusted; there is no honest criticism of DT.
e. Salvation is letting DT have his way.

Some studies have shown that uneducated white males trust capitalism more than they trust religion.  These pilgrims trust DT to fix their lives.  Trump is their role model; someone who beat the system by playing by his own rules. Trump devotees believe if DT triumphs, they will triumph.  (If you think this sounds like Totalitarianism 101, you’re right.)

3. Sociological: A slightly different explanation is that Trump has provided a vehicle for millions of white, male, less-educated Americans to channel their resentment.  Writing in the Washington Post, Republican columnist Michael Gerson ( 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.” [Emphasis added]

Trump devotees feel they have lost their shot at the American dream.  DT provides them with an acceptable narrative: What happened to them is not their fault: they haven’t lost out because they are poorly educated or insufficiently motivated; they’ve been cheated out of their deserved opportunity by a conspiracy — promulgated by Obama and the Clintons — that shunted them aside and favored undeserving women and people-of-color.  (And Jews.)

in this context, racism and misogyny is okay; because DT says it’s okay.  The Trump resentment express is a closed system that says and does unethical, un-American, and violent things and then justifies them on the basis that they either aren’t being reported accurately or the targets deserve payback.  The resentment express theme is not only that “anything goes” but also that DT validates any behavior seen as favoring him.

4. Political: Finally, there’s a political explanation; the Republican Party is intellectually bankrupt and has allowed itself to be taken over by DT because Republicans actually don’t have any ideas other than protecting the rich and powerful. Think hard: what policy ideas were promoted by DT during  his residency in the White House? (1) Cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy.  (2) Build the wall.  (3)….

Next time “mainstream” Republicans excuse DT by saying, “I never liked his tweets but he had a lot of good ideas;” ask them what ideas they are defending.  After cutting taxes for the rich and building the wall there were NO ideas.  Think about it.  Republicans were in total control of Washington for the first two years of the Trump regime.  All they accomplished was cutting taxes for the rich and powerful.  (And building a few miles of wall.)

When an American political Party is devoid of ideas they have no choice but to run national campaigns based upon personality.  So. Republicans were steamrolled by DT’s narcissism. At the time — 2015 — they felt they didn’t have a choice.  Since then Republican leaders have had lots of opportunities to chose the non-DT road but each time they have folded.  Because they are intellectually and morally bankrupt.

Writing in Mother Jones (, veteran correspondent David Corn observed, “Trump still will inhabit a supersized role in Republican—and American—politics because of two important factors: money and fear.”  (DT is by far the biggest money raiser in GOP land.)

66 percent of Republicans would like to see DT run again because he’s alive and their other GOP choices are zombies.  Out here on the Left Coast, the Republican party looks like it is going over the falls.

I am the Light of the World

Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world


Oh, you don’t believe in blessings
Yet now your life is saved
You found last year depressing
Without the warmth you craved..

So treasure your salvation
All the energy you can bring
View lockdown as gestation
New songs you can sing.

Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world

Grace is the key to heaven
And faith unlocks the door
The struggle starts to leaven
You rise from off the floor.

You found the strength to make it
Through the darkness and the fear
Although your confidence was shaken
As the hand of death drew near.

Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world

Hard times will take your measure
Tax your strength and wit
Make sure you pay attention
Prove you got some grit.

Y’all sing out now, rejoicing
Fortunate sons and daughters
Take pleasure in this voicing
Of triumph over troubled waters.

Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world
Just as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of this world

Polarization in California

The most recent Quinnipiac Poll ( illustrates how polarized the US has become: 66 percent of respondents do not want Donald Trump to (re)run for President. Nonetheless, 66 percent of Republicans would like him to run. (Not surprisingly, the same percentage of Republicans do not believe that Biden’s 2020 victory was legitimate.)  It’s a dismaying and, somewhat, disheartening statistic that illustrates how divided the United states has become.  To better understand this, it’s useful to examine polarization in California.

The May 26th poll by the Public Policy Institute of California ( ) confirmed the Golden State continues to favor Democrats.  California Governor Gavin Newsom has an approval rating of 55 percent.  57 percent of respondents would NOT vote to recall him.  Notably, 78 percent of Republicans would vote to recall Newsom.

On issue after issue, California Democrats and Republicans disagree.  For example, 62 percent of Californians agree that income inequality is a big issue.  But they split — by Party — as to whether government ought to do something about this: “Should the state government be doing more to reduce the gap between the rich and poor in California, or is this something the government should not be doing?”  83 percent of Democrats feel the government should do more, while 58 percent of Republicans believe the government should NOT do more.

California has a budget surplus of approximately $38 billion.  Governor Newsom has proposed that this budget surplus be used for stimulus checks.  When poll respondents were asked: “Do you favor or oppose providing another round of stimulus checks with $600 going to Californians with incomes under $75,000 and an additional $500 going to those with children?”  70 percent of Californians approved of this; 86 percent of Democrats but just 42 percent of Republicans.

When asked, “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way that Joe Biden is handling his job as president?” 66 approved; 88 percent of Democrats but just 21 percent of Republicans. When asked, “Do you think things in the United States are generally going in the right direction or the wrong direction?” 53 percent of respondents believed we are going in the right direction.  68 percent of Democrats but just 17 percent of Republicans.

Biden’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic is approved by 75 percent of poll respondents.  93 percent of Democrats approve but most Republicans (61 percent) disapprove.  Everything about the pandemic seems to be divisive.

Seventy-three percent of Californians say they have already received the vaccine (67 percent) or will definitely get the vaccine (6 percent).  Seventeen percent of respondents say they will definitely NOT get the vaccine (12 percent) or probably not get the vaccine (5 percent).  Republicans remain most likely to say they will probably or definitely not get the vaccine (38 percent).

What accounts for this polarization?  In California, this seems to be the result of the interaction of three factors: Party affiliation, race, and region.  Obviously, there is a substantial difference in perspective between Democrats and Republicans.  We can attribute this to the usual suspects: the two groups are in different media silos; for example, many Republicans get their political data from Fox News.

Race is a key determinant of polarization.  President Biden has the approval of 66 percent of all California adults, but there are significant differences based upon race:  the PPIC survey found: “Across racial/ethnic groups, overwhelming majorities of African Americans( 83%), Latinos (77%), and Asian Americans (73%) approve, as do 54 percent of whites.”  53 percent of respondents felt the US is going in the right direction, but there was a major difference in perception based upon race:  “Majorities of Latinos (68%), African Americans (60%), and Asian Americans (56%) say right direction, compared to 41 percent of whites.”

In addition, there are important regional differences in California.  The PPIC survey was taken in five distinct parts of California: Los Angeles, San Diego/Orange Counties, San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley (Shasta County south to Ken County). and the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino Counties).  The Inland Empire is substantially more conservative than the four other regions; for example, when asked, “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way that Gavin Newsom is handling his job as governor of California?” Only the Inland Empire has a net disapproval (37 percent approve to 53 percent disapprove).  

The Newsom recall petition had more than 1.7 million verified signatures.  More than half of these came from the five Southern California counties: Los Angeles 328K, Orange 285K, Riverside 186K, San Bernardino 130K, and San Diego 238K. (By the way, in 2020 Joe Biden carried all of these counties.) The California Secretary of State ( analyzed the verified signatures and found a disproportionate number come from rural counties.  For example, tiny Amador County — located east of Sacramento in the “Gold country” — has 25,989 registered voters; 4966 signed the recall petition (19.1 percent).  (Many recall signatories were unhappy with Newsom’s handling of the pandemic; particularly the mandatory lockdown.)

By the way, more men than women support the Newsom recall: “Men (48%) are more likely than women (32%) to say they would vote yes to remove Newsom.”

The most recent Public Policy Institute of California poll illustrates the extent of polarization in the Golden State and helps us understand it.  California Republicans don’t approve of Biden and don’t like how he handled the pandemic. (They don’t like masks and many of them will not get vaccinated.)  These Republicans are predominantly rural white men.

Resentful redneck Republicans.  As columnist Leonard Pitts recently wrote: ““The decisive reason that white, male, older and less educated voters were disproportionately pro-Trump is that they shared his prejudices and wanted domineering, aggressive leaders …” ( )


Special Handling

In the ministry of lost souls
My assignment is
Special Handling.

If you are
Come see me.

Find life a chore?
Knock on my door.

Lost your way?
Step in, out of the fray.

Mired in despair?
Sit down in my chair.

Feeling depressed?
Come cry on my chest.

We’ll fix you up
Get you back on your feet
Back in the game
Stridin’ down the street.

Want to know how we do it?
Read our leaflet
Don’t ask any questions
It’s all top secret.