Confronting the Abyss


“On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” – H.L. Mencken

The next “election for America’s soul” is taking place in two weeks on November 3rd, through whenever (or if) the election is finally decided.

One view holds that Donald Trump, the orange goblin and looming fascist, must be defeated to save our sacred indispensable democracy lest he becomes Vladimir Mussolini in his second term.

The opposing view is that Joe Biden must be stopped before he paints the White House green, and then orders Rachel Maddow and Antifa to execute all the conservative white people across the land.

Both views are ridiculous.

Two Morons

Trump might like the power of an autocrat if it enriches him or keeps him out of jail, but he is too lazy, too ignorant, and has too little an attention span to actually become one. At the same time, for all his tough talk, he’s basically a childish blowhard who is too weak to actually follow through on his promises.

Biden talks like he’s going to be the reincarnation of FDR, and he claims to be Lunch-Bucket Joe, but in truth he’s a creature of the credit card companies; he’s a neoliberal who values “reaching across the aisle” more than positions and principles; and he’s supported every war the US fought throughout his Senate career.

A Biden victory is marginally better for the country and the world than a second Trump term, but he’s no prize. And he will be eventually sucked into the cesspool of corruption and scandal that surrounds his troubled son Hunter.

Biden has already promised his rich donors that nothing’s going to change. So he’s not going to change the healthcare system; he’s not going to actually address climate change; he’s not going to relieve the suffering of those millions who lost their jobs and futures in the COVID-19 pandemic; and he’s not going solve the intractable problems of class and race in this country.

Biden will continue the policies that got this country to where it is now – an economy dedicated to the elites and a foreign policy that is outmoded for the realities of a 21st-century world. The best hope is that he organizes the Federal government to finally address the COVID-19 pandemic and that he elevates the level of discourse to something approaching coherent sentences.

Both men represent the rot in the society that created them – but unfortunately one of them is going to be elected/reelected President.

Congressional Morons

The situation is no better in Congress.

Nancy Pelosi is likely already restocking her office refrigerator with gourmet chocolate ice cream as she is headed for another term as Speaker of the House. From there, she can do what she does best, which is to maintain her smug sanctimony as being an astute politician and wise leader.

As an aside, it should not be forgotten that Pelosi was the one who limited the scope of the Trump impeachment to the the single issue of solicitation of foreign interference – based on allegations that no one seemed to care about outside of DC. As a result, Trump emerged unscathed and with unlimited sense of his power and prerogatives.

The Senate appears, at this point, to be headed to a slim Democratic majority. That would mean that Chuck Shumer, knight errant of the New York bankers, will become Majority Leader. The Senate will continue with its usual business, which is global empire and unrestrained capitalism.

Those Republican senators losing office will hobble off into well-compensated directorships at various corporations and think tanks.

Mitch McConnell, who will be reelected due to another unsuccessful challenge from a corporate Democrat, must choose either to continue as an obstructionist as minority leader or return the chamber to the club it has historically been.

As an obstructionist he would essentially exercise veto power as the Senate still requires 60 votes to even vote on pizza, unless the Democrats follow through on the ‘nuclear option’ and return to simple majority rule except where required by the Constitution. One can hope.

But if issues arise, expect McConnell to rise to the obstructionist in chief of the Senate. That will allow him again to demonstrate who’s smarter between him and Shumer; and if it isn’t clear it’s not the Senator from New York.

Things move quickly in this political season and there have been three major developments causing further chaos: Ruth Bader Ginsberg died a month ago; the New York Times has reported on Trump paying little to no taxes over many years; and inevitably, Trump has been diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19.

Some comments on those developments.

Amy Coney Barrett

The Supreme Court is one of three co-equal branches of government in spite of what the pundits suggest, and its decisions can, and have had, significant and long-lasting impacts.

However, in the last several decades it has gained an out-sized role as Congress (both House and Senate) have become partisan echo chambers more interested in optics and sound bites than in legislation.

None of that is good for the country no matter when Amy Coney Barrett takes her place on the Supreme Court. Consider – the pending case over the Affordable Care Act could have been avoided by a simple change to the law, something Congress chose not to address.

One thing to contemplate is that since 1970 there have been 15 nominees by Republican presidents and only 4 nominees by Democratic presidents. Also during this time there have been three Chief Justices of the Supreme Court: all Republicans (Burger, Rehnquist, and Roberts).

The Court has moved hard right on most issues during these decades – particularly related to business and corporations. The Citizens United ruling was only one in a long series of decisions favoring big-money interests.

Future Justice Barrett appears to be a very conservative jurist whose decisions on the Court will be consistent with the majority of her new colleagues. That’s where the Court is.

The Republicans have played the long game on the judiciary and in electoral politics for many decades, with the Democrats running around with their heads in the wrong place. An observation the conservative author Kevin Phillips made about the political parties is on the mark: the Republicans go for the jugular, the Democrats for the capillaries.

And remember, Saint Ruth could have retired in 2014 when the Democrats had the numbers to control her replacement; at that point she already had been diagnosed with cancer. Instead she decided to hang on as she saw no one worthy of replacing her.

Trump’s Taxes

Trump’s taxes are what was to be expected.

He’s a developer who uses the laws written for his industry for his own gain – something true for all developers no matter their political leanings. He may have committed fraud in some deductions and expenses – something that is being investigated and hopefully prosecuted.

But I don’t think it’s as big a story as the Democrats tried to make it. Remember the comment attributed to Upton Sinclair: the Democrats and Republicans are two wings of the same bird of prey.

They serve the same masters of the donors/owners. And, they are the same class that benefits most from the various laws and tax policies that benefit the rich.

That is the truth no matter what the two political parties would like you to believe.

Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis

As was inevitable given his cavalier attitude toward COVID-19, Trump tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized for three days.

He appears to have recovered, though given the experimental drugs he was administered; the unknowns of COVID-19; and misleading and contradictory information from the White House, nothing is certain. What is probable is he and the majority of Republicans will continue to treat the virus as a divisive political issue.

As Trump’s medical coverage has waned, non-stop coverage of this year’s election and what may or may not happen continues, and once the election is finally over (please God, let it be over sometime with a minimum of violence), attention will turn elsewhere.

Blame Games

After the loser’s blame games – for the Democrats it will be the fault of Bernie and the voters; for the Republicans it will be the “Fake News” and the “Deep State”, attention will turn to 2024.

Candidates jockeying for the lead likely will be: Nikki (Haley), Mike (Pence), Tom (Cotton), Ben (Sasse), and perhaps even Don Junior – on the Republican side, and Kamala, Stacey (Abrams), and Mayor Pete on the Democratic side.

That 2024 election, along with the personalities and drama within the next presidential administration, will be the political theater and focus of the news media.

And behind the political theater and media show will be the continued efforts to confront COVID-19, which is not going away anytime soon; there is an economy that has collapsed and left millions – particularly the young – in desperation, and little hope for their futures; a political system that has failed everyone but the owners, and a climate collapsing in front of us.

How bad could this all get?

The Abysss

COVID-19 projections were already close to 400,000 deaths in the US by year end 2020, and that was before Trump performed his walk on water return from Walter Reed hospital to the White House .

Given his reaction to his illness, and the likely response from Trump’s political base, it’s possible the projection will be low. I fear that for the majority of those of our fellow Americans who are Trump true believers, COVID-19 is just going to become background noise unless or until there is death in their family.

Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs, with many of those jobs permanently eliminated. Tens of thousands of businesses are gone, with the majority never to return. Evictions and homelessness are on the rise. And we are entering the winter where an inability to pay utility bills could lead to cutoffs of life-saving heat.

Any recovery at the individual level will take many, many years, if ever. And the young – Millennials and Generation Z – may find themselves permanently excluded from the life they thought they would have.

This is a generational crisis with profound implications for the future US society that has yet to be fully appreciated let alone understood.

The political system is dysfunctional.

Elections are increasingly meaningless for many of the reasons I’ve outlined above. Even through the worst crisis this country has faced in decades, Congress and the executive branch focused on political advantage rather than helping the large number of desperate citizens of this country. (And could we agree that we are all citizens first – not consumers?)

Partisan conflict is fraying the social fabric of our society.

Political differences, even within some families, have grown extreme and uncompromising. Hatred is expressed for those with opposing views. Men and women show up for “peaceful protests” armed with rifles as if they were on a combat patrol in Fallujah.

We face a similar condition as Athens and Sparta did in the fifth century BC, as the historian Thucydides observed about the causes of the Peloponnesian War: “The Greeks did not understand each other any longer, though they spoke the same language.”

US foreign policy is depraved, based as it is on always having an enemy to justify the massive and never-ending defense expenditures. The commons – schools, arts, public space, and the essential infrastructure – continue to collapse while new weapons systems are purchased, and a belligerent foreign policy treats surrounded adversaries as being the aggressors.

The climate crisis is now in our face with fires across the West, increasing numbers of large hurricanes, flooding through the grain belt, and weather extremes not seen in most people’s lifetimes.

The mix of US foreign policy and the climate crisis present a clear and present danger to life on Earth.

Consider that one of the primary causes of the decade-long Syrian civil war was a drought that pushed over one million Syrians villagers and farmers from their lands. The US and Russia were lucky (through diplomacy by Vladimir Putin) to avoid direct conflict.

But what happens as the climate continues to degrade, and mass migrations and wars for natural resources – particularly fresh water – grow? What happens when regional powers get involved in conflict and the world’s nuclear powers get drawn in?

Those are the grim possibilities – that is the abyss we face.

Things do not look promising and this election will change nothing if we continue on our present trajectory.

I do not have an answer or solution for any of this.

But perhaps we might start with two thoughts.

We need to understand that freedom is about the rights of everyone; self interest without responsibility for others is anarchy. That is true for both individuals and nations.

We need to see the humanity in those who disagree with us – cut everyone some slack to have their own views and experiences.

So vote in two weeks, as it’s an entitlement of citizenship – but know that none of the the morons running for President or other elected positions are going to save us.

Each of us have to become leaders working for a better future for everyone.

That is the real choice we all have to make: work together for everyone’s benefit – or face the grim future that awaits.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” – William Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III

Author: Tom

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