Republicans plead for civility


Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant, an incident that became a flashpoint in the culture war.

For three years, Donald Trump has dominated America’s cultural conversation. In that time, he has accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug dealers over the border, mocked a disabled reporter’s handicap, encouraged his crowds to physically assault protesters, and labeled journalists the “enemy of the people.” As President, he has done all he can to shred America’s life-saving social safety net, banned Muslims from entering America, and held migrant children hostage in cages. Now, Trump and his enablers are asking for one thing: civility.

The calls for peace come after a series of incidents involving Trump Administration officials in public spaces. Amid the political fallout from Trump’s family separation policy, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, because of her collaboration with an “inhumane and unethical” administration. Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s family separation policy, was heckled as a fascist while dining at a Mexican restaurant. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kiersten Nielsen, who lied repeatedly about the family separation policy, has been met with protests in public and at her own home. Politico even ran a feature on young Trump Administration staffers who can’t find dates because of their work.

Conservatives argue that these incidents demonstrate the left’s intolerance of political disagreement. Worse than that, they accuse the left of openly endorsing violence against the right. The most popular target of conservative angst is Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who recently encouraged protests against Trump Administration officials who are out in public, saying, “You get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called on Waters to apologize, saying, “When we, in this democracy, are suggesting that because we disagree with people on political views, on policy views, on philosophical views, that we should resort to violence and harassment and intimidation that’s dangerous for our society, dangerous for our democracy, and she should apologize and there’s just no place for that in our public discourse.” Waters never called for violence or physical assault.

Ryan and the far right willfully ignore the reality of modern America. The Republican Party is not a normal political party with principled disagreements. It is a fascist machine with no regard for human rights or the truth. They are in the business of hurting people – especially nonwhite, non-Christian, non-citizen, LGBTQ people. Calling for civility in response to such an adversary is like holding a boxing match where one fighter has to talk the other out of hitting him.

counter protest

A right-wing protest sprung up outside the Red Hen, driven by neo-Confederates, KKK members, and Christian fundamentalists.

To take only the most recent outrage, the Trump Administration enacted a policy deliberately designed to destroy Central American families seeking asylum in the United States. Those who support and enforce that policy have more than a simple difference of opinion with those who oppose it. One side denies the fundamental humanity and existence rights of the other. Such people deserve no expectation of a peaceful meal, and especially are not entitled to the services of those they oppress.

Since the rise of Trump, the work of German historian Hannah Arendt has enjoyed renewed relevance. Arendt argued that the lies of the Nazis were not actually meant to convince anyone of a falsehood; they were meant to convey an intention. Fact-checking Nazi propaganda was mostly ineffective, because its purpose was never to win a fair argument. Its purpose was to incite supporters, but more importantly, it was to numb ordinary Germans into indifference at the atrocities going on around them.

Trump repeatedly calls out the press as “fake news,” echoing the popular Nazi phrase, lügenpresse.” It doesn’t matter that the media, for all its myriad faults, tells the truth far more often than Trump. His relentless attacks are intended to rile his base and muddy the waters so that enough Americans won’t know who to believe. By mainstreaming that hostility to the press, Trump also allows the more fringe, white supremacist elements of his base to go even further.

Earlier this week, The Observer reported that Milo Yiannopoulos, a far-right columnist and rabid Trump supporter, sent text messages to reporters reading, “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.” Yiannopoulos then posted a screenshot of his texts to his Instagram with the caption, “Where is the lie?” On Thursday, a gunman strolled into the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, and killed at least five people. The shooting appears to be unrelated, but it’s sickening to know that Yiannopoulos got his wish.

Examples abound of conservatives inciting and committing violence. During campaign rallies, Trump regularly called for violence against protesters. Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte actually bodyslammed a reporter in 2017, an act of violence that was celebrated ecstatically by far-right propaganda outlet Breitbart. Last year in Charlottesville, during a white supremacist demonstration, an alt-right Trump supporter drove his car through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing activist Heather Heyer; Trump argued there were “very fine people” on both sides. Street-level acts of violence and bigotry are being emboldened by Trump all over the country.

Far-right violence and incitement goes way beyond the left’s incivility. After her calls for public protests against White House officials, Trump rather ominously warned Congresswoman Waters, “Be careful what you wish for.” Waters has since had to cancel an event because, she claims, “Individuals threatened to shoot, lynch, or cause me serious bodily harm.” Outside the Red Hen restaurant, which politely asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave, a small contingent of dedicated Trump supporters have handed out KKK business cards, waved a Confederate flag, and held a sign reading, “LGBT – Let God Burn Them.”

Americans should always strive to maintain civility amongst our friends, coworkers, and neighbors, regardless of politics. But the far right isn’t interested in a reasoned debate on Trump’s brutal, dehumanizing, violent policies. Anyone who supports Trump with full knowledge of his actions and policies is a moral derelict, at the least. And anyone who actually works for Trump is willfully bringing America toward a fascist collapse. The appropriate response to Trump’s enablers isn’t violence, but it isn’t civility, either.


Right-wing snowflakes outraged over Michelle Wolf’s anti-elitist standup routine


Comedian Michelle Wolf performs at the White House Correspondents Dinner, mere feet away from the targets of some of her most brutal jokes.

Comedian Michelle Wolf delivered a risqué performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner last Saturday and became a hot topic overnight. The annual dinner, which is typically a stuffy affair, brings together Democratic and Republican politicians and media personalities for a night of awkward, elitist camaraderie. Wolf’s performance, laced with explicit references to President Trump’s scandals and sexual history, earned the ire of the far-right – a rich irony, given that group’s crusade against political correctness. Continue reading

The Second Amendment, the NRA, and the quest to militarize American life


Parkland shooting survivor-turned-activist Emma Gonzalez (left) grills NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch on gun control.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the most hotly debated pieces of text in history. For devotees, it guarantees the most important freedom ever enshrined in a government document. For critics, it is a dangerous relic of colonial history with little relevance to modern life. Continue reading

Republicans abandon all pretense of public service


President Trump appears with two powerful members of his administration, both Goldman Sachs alumni. Gary Cohn is on the left and Steve Mnuchin is in the middle.

If there’s one thing the Republican Party can be counted on to do, it’s lower the tax burden of wealthy Americans. They’re in the midst of an effort to do so right now, and one bill recently passed in the House of Representatives. But the bill is massively unpopular, with only 25 percent of Americans approving of it. Republicans have a remarkably candid response when pressed as to why they are pushing such unpopular and destructive legislation: it’s to please their donors. Continue reading

A tale of two responses: Trump on attacks in Vegas, Texas and New York

Trump somber

The president adopts a voice of calm after white terror attacks, and a voice of venomous outrage after Muslim ones.

Three high-profile atrocities have occurred on American soil in the span of five weeks. On October 1, a man opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel window and shot more than 600 people, killing 58 of them. On October 31, a man drove a truck into a crowd in New York City and killed eight people. And on November 5, a man shot and killed 26 people at a church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

At least since 9/11, the protocol for atrocity in America is militarism and nationalism if the perpetrator is a dark-skinned Muslim, thoughts and prayers for the victims if the perpetrator is white. In these recent events, President Trump’s tweets gave us a healthy sample of each. Continue reading

With Trump criticism, Limbaugh reveals the core of Republicanism


Rush Limbaugh in a customary pose.

On his radio show last week, far-right commentator Rush Limbaugh used the word “dictatorial” to describe President Donald Trump’s demands that NFL team owners force players to stand for the National Anthem. Said Limbaugh, “There’s a part of this story that’s starting to make me nervous, and it’s this. I am very uncomfortable with the president of the United States being able to dictate the behavior and power of anybody. That’s not where this should be coming from.”

Limbaugh’s comments were covered giddily by much of left-wing media. Headlines and commentary suggested he had broken with Trump. But even if the remarks did represent a break from Trump – Limbaugh stressed repeatedly that they did not – there’s still no cause for celebration. Because Limbaugh’s real point isn’t that President Trump was out of line, but that if anybody is going to restrict First Amendment rights for the players, it should be the team owners.

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America needs a shrink


A new book by mental health experts examines the deteriorated psyche of the American president.

Last week a group of psychiatrists released a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. It caused a controversy not only because of its claims about the president, but also because the psychiatrists appeared to break with their profession’s ethical tradition and diagnose a public figure from a distance. They aren’t alone. Some 60,000 mental health professionals have signed a petition stating, “Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States.”

Plenty of Trump observers might think that obvious, but it’s a stunning development. Never before have so many mental health professionals warned us about a public figure. And members of Trump’s own party have come to similar conclusions. Senator Bob Corker recently called the White House an “adult day care center” and charged Trump with recklessly setting the nation “on the path to World War III.” The mental instability of the man in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal is well worth taking seriously.

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Carnage in Las Vegas makes the need for stricter gun control clearer than ever


People scramble for cover as a gunman opens fire on a crowded concert from his hotel room window.

Mass shootings are so commonplace in America that news outlets can practically recycle old stories verbatim, changing only the names of the suspects, the locations, and the number of dead. When pundits are summoned to give their opinion, those responses, too, are predictably rote. Whether it’s said once or it’s said a thousand times, though, there is only one solution to America’s epidemic of gun violence: stricter regulation of the weapons in question. Continue reading

Trump hijacks NFL protests, misdirects America


Players for the Baltimore Ravens take a knee during the National Anthem to protest police brutality, stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, and spite President Trump.

George Carlin once said, “I don’t get all choked up about yellow ribbons and American flags. I consider them to be symbols, and I leave symbols to the symbol-minded.” But to many Americans they mean an awful lot, and President Donald Trump is using that to create even more divisiveness. In a tirade at a rally last weekend, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.’”

Since then, social media and the American people have been deeply engaged in a conversation about the flag, the National Anthem, and the proper way to respect both. NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick admirably forced the pervasive issue of police brutality during America’s national pastime last year, but that’s been completely replaced by Celebrity-in-Chief Trump’s voluminous ego and desire to distract the American people. Continue reading

The socialist claim to liberty

fistBy Kyle Schmidlin and Eldon Katz

Everyone has friends or family members who define themselves as “socially liberal; but fiscally conservative.” The conservative libertarian views their ideology as a mature, pragmatic, and disciplined compromise, the best way to get as many people what they want and maximize everybody’s liberty and opportunity.

But this vision of liberty is perverted and one-sided in favor of the powerful. It grants people the freedom to exploit, but not freedom from exploitation, effectively treating the liberty of the powerful as absolute but anyone else’s liberty as flexible. As Bertrand Russell put it, “The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.” Continue reading