Sunday, January 17, 2021

YVETTE HERRELL GIVES NM DISTRICT 2 AN EARLY WARNING

With the support of the oil and gas industry, Yvette Herrell has shown herself to be both oily and gassy.  Like others with the interests of party or its supporters to advance or protect, she has violated her oath of office in the earliest days of the 117th Congress.  That violation is an early warning of her political inclinations—to overturn democracy.


The Constitution gives states, not Congress, exclusive authority over their elections.   Yet Herrell accepted repeated falsehoods about Pennsylvania’s election procedures and ballot counting, and the resulting disenfranchisement of New Mexican voters.  To explain her position, she would sully the truth because Pennsylvania law and New Mexico facts are against her.  To defend it, she would invoke her loyalty to a president despite his being impeached for a second time, wanting to remain in power, and seeking to wield it without restraint.  Her vote to reject Pennsylvania’s election results violates her oath.


Two down-to-earth questions for Herrell are how does she know that claims of voting irregularities in Pennsylvania are true and substantial; and how does she, a recently elected, first-term representative from New Mexico know more than Pat Toomey, a three-term representative and two-term senator for Pennsylvania?  And then there is the judge. 


U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann in Williamsport [PA] turned down the request for an injunction by Trump’s campaign.  In his ruling, Brann said the Trump campaign presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations … unsupported by evidence.  In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. ... Our people, laws, and institutions demand more.”


Sen. Pat Toomey, the [sic] Republican from Pennsylvania, recognized the decision and called on Trump to “accept the outcome of the election. ... With today’s decision by Judge Matthew Brann, a longtime conservative Republican whom I know to be a fair and unbiased jurist, to dismiss the Trump campaign’s lawsuit, President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania. …” (AP, 21 Nov)


Case closed.  Yet Herrell defies the knowledge and judgment of a conservative Republican judge well qualified and positioned to know the law and the facts.  She displays not only arrogance and ignorance undesirable in any elected official, but also reflexive complicity with or obedience to Republican radicals, some Congressional colleagues, meaning to overthrow a free and fair election, and establish an apartheid autocracy in America.


We need to understand that Herrell’s early voting has given us an early, though no doubt unintended, warning.  It warns us that she is an elected official who cannot be trusted to act on facts and logic as the basis of truth and serve public interests.  It warns us that she is a tool serving the interests of her party and its financial supporters.  We in New Mexico’s Second District must not ignore this early warning as government agencies ignored early warnings before 9/11 and 1/6.  We had better pay close and continuous attention to Herrell; we had better publicize, criticize, and condemn her efforts which disregard New Mexico’s interests and betray America’s constitutional democracy.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

WILD WEST BECOMES WILD EAST

An Exemplar for These Times, Wild Bill Elliott


When I was a boy, my grandfather used to take me to the Sunday afternoon matinee.  The program was a newsreel, a cartoon, an oater (i.e., a Western), and the feature film, though maybe not in that order.  I remember liking Bob Steele, who would mount a horse with a spread-legged leap from the rear, and Wild Bill Elliott.  It seems that every Elliott oater found a way for him to declare early that he was a “peaceable man.”  Yet just about every Elliot oater found a way for him to be the last man standing after a bloody shoot-out in a corral or a saloon, with dead bad men lying every which-a-way.


Barack Hussein Obama was a “peaceable man,” but he achieved no peace in.  In 2012, he announced a “red line”  about the use of chemical weapons in Syria—good.  Bashar al-Assad crossed it—bad.  Obama did nothing, and Assad did everything to maintain his minority’s rule over his country’s people.  In 2016, when a mob of armed men occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, Obama did not demand that federal forces remove the occupiers, who remained for over a month.  Bundy-like terrorists and insurrectionists have learned the lesson: authorities who seek peace in confrontations lack the will to enforce the law, which they abate or abandon, especially if enforcement requires the use of force against white men.  The result: such peacemakers achieve no peace and enable future confrontations.  So how much peace do peacemakers make?


The same goes for national unity at any price or payment by one side only.  After the 6 January assault on Congress, radical right (aka, “Republican”) representatives have resisted censure, invocation of the 25th Amendment, and impeachment—all on the claim that they promote division.  They propose that Democrats abandon these means to deal with Trump’s incitement of insurrection for the sake of national unity.  Democrats seem not to take the proposal seriously because they have not asked the proposers what they would abandon as their contribution to unity.  For one, would they publicly renounce their lies which fomented distrust, resentment, anger, and rebellion?  Their speechifying in the House impeachment debate says they will never.


Meanwhile, the rioters, a part of the base on which Trump relies, to which he appeals, and over which he holds sway, are not going away when he goes away, however he goes away.  The Tea Party did not go away; its candidates or others whom it supported won elections.  Its members and their successors have urged radical right (“Republican”) members of state and federal legislatures to pursue their white-supremacist, anti-democratic agenda, with tactics of demagogic rhetoric, intimidation, and violent action.


Yesterday’s impeachment vote in the House shows that radical right representatives are not going to change their course, much less change their hearts or minds.  They are not going to respect the results of an election two months earlier and sustained by state and federal courts ruling against over fifty frivolous legal challenges.  They are not going to denounce the attempt of a mob to seize the Capitol and reverse the election by whatever means occurred to its rioters on the spur of the moment.  They are not going to tolerate dissent even within their ranks.  And, if it turns out that some of them aided and abetted the rioters, as a few Democratic representatives allege, the proof will be positive of their unyielding determination to overthrow constitutional democracy and establish an apartheid autocracy.


The radical right is going to get only more radical, more rebellious, more dangerous, even if, perhaps because, it encounters defeats in skirmishes and battles; it will hang on to win the war.  It does not care about issues, as the lack of a “Republican”  platform for the 2020 presidential campaign makes clear.  It cares about one thing only: dominance by any means necessary to acquire it, that is, force or fraud.  So any “peaceable” person had better be prepared to be the last person standing; otherwise, he or she will be among those lying strewn any which-a-way with others of a Panglossian, pacifistic persuasion.



Saturday, January 9, 2021

THE SECOND AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

 [Note: I do not reprint this column from nearly 8 years ago to say "I told you so."  I reprint it because I want it to suggest that what transpired on 6 January 2021 was, except for its cinemagraphic details about troop engagements, etc., entirely predictable from the trajectory of Republican ideological reassertion of its inherent core values.  The Obama presidency acted as a catalyst triggering latent Republican allegiance to inequality, mainly in racism, and antipathy to democracy, with its core value of political equality of all people.  The moral of this story is that Trumpism is just the label given to the more recent and recognizable reassertion of modern Republicanism--which means that it will not abate after Trump without concerted efforts to persuade his followers that democracy is better for them as well as for other Americans.]

13-02-16


The Second American Civil War (2)


[NOTE: The paranoids are making me paranoid.  Aware of, if not alarmed by, this development, I think that the best therapy is an exercise in "creative writing."  However, rather than offer narrative, not my forte, I offer the conceptual overview and underlying themes which I hope can prompt truly creative people to develop plot and characters.  Dr. Strangelove meet Wayne LaPierre.  I shall gladly sign over any and all rights to movies or books which my seminal ideas may prompt!  I am inclined to think that an coordinated civil war is less likely than random terrorist acts.  But a scenario may be worth a moment's amused consideration.


Perhaps what is most worrisome is the Republican inability to adjust to the reality of Obama's re-election.  My theory du jour is that Republicans did not believe that McCain, unloved as he was by them, would lose to a black man and junior senator in his first term.  Under the scorched-earth leadership of Mitch McConnell, Republicans then attempted to make Obama an aberration, as if the tide of demography could be turned by one black man's defeat.  So they did not believe that Romney, unloved as he was by them, would lose to a black man whom they had tried to demonize in every way possible.  By believing their own fictions of success, they set themselves for failure.  Now they are in stunned disbelief that Obama is no aberration and that the tide has turned, but still against them.  Having lived by a Southern strategy and all the bigotry and ignorance underlying it, they are now dying by it.  Good riddance to those--McConnell, Boehner, McCain, Graham, Cantor, Inhofe, Cruz, prominent among many others--who have neither decency nor integrity, and are willing to cripple a country which they cannot control.]


With various elected Republican officials calling for periodic bloodshed every century or so, “Second Amendment remedies,” or a “second American Revolution,” I thought that I would fantasize or forecast something a little different: a Second American Civil War.  I understand the Republican desire to align such hostilities with the American Revolution; it purports that the party’s rebellious impulses are patriotic, not traitorous, and supports its paranoid delusions about a “tyrannical government.”  Washington, with Obama as president, is like London, with George III as king.  Thus, they talk.


But the real parallel is the treasonous rebellion of Confederate pro-slavery states against democratic states of different political positions—South versus North—on basic questions of America’s political unity, the precedence of Constitutional and federal law, and the Creator’s grant of equality to all men.  However, the Second American Civil War will be fought less along geographic than socio-economic lines: country versus city; and less between armies and navies from two different regions than loyal and disloyal units of the three main Military Services supported by paramilitary units of the National Republican Army (NRA), with civilians drawn in as war comes to their neighborhoods. 


A parallel is the Yugoslav Wars, which involved conflicts between military units of the provinces of Yugoslavia as that country disintegrated.  These territorial battles between provinces also degenerated into ethnic and religious conflicts on a smaller scale by paramilitary units and free-lance groups.  In their effort to maintain the unity of Yugoslavia and their dominance within it, Serbs from rural areas attacked, raped, tortured, and killed residents of mixed-population urban areas.  The Yugoslav Wars gave rise to a new coinage, “ethnic cleanings,” which referred to violent assaults on non-Serbs and which resemble, in toned-down form, the Republican idea and implementation of Hispanic “self-deportation.”


A novelist is better prepared than I to represent the possible, perhaps the plausible, contours which such a civil war would take in 21st-century America.  My imagination is insufficient to specify the events prompting the alliance of military and paramilitary units, and the outbreak of hostilities.  But the Right’s increasing volatility and violence of language and its growing incivility and hostility to the Left are preparing the emotional, mental, cultural, and social conditions for physical mayhem.  Despite the mindless efforts of the media and the mendacious exertions of Fox News, the asymmetry of abuse is clear: the Right is increasingly extreme in word and deed.


The forces for a second revolution are already in place in the “red” states, in which talk about “tyrannical government” is particularly vivid, vociferous, and violent.  The volunteers who constitute the majority of officers and enlisted personnel of the Military Services are disproportionately from or stationed in the “red” states of the South and the southern Great Plains.  Most of the country’s largest forts are located in these former states of the Confederacy or states adjacent to them like Kentucky and Oklahoma.  Practices advancing evangelical Christianity at the military service academies, with distinct anti-Semitic tendencies, imply that America’s officers support neo-conservative politics and policies which fuel statements of states rights, nullification, interposition, or succession—the doctrines which rationalized the racism of rebels in the first civil war and which Republican officials articulate today without rebuke from within their party.


Other loosely associated paramilitary groups constitute a National Republican Army, which includes many former military personnel, which prevails in the “red” states, and which is doing everything it can to grow in numbers and arms.  The spread of military-style weapons to these active groups bodes ill for domestic peace and tranquility.  Their rallying cry is, of course, the Second Amendment, and the cause of its rallying is its fear and loathing of President Obama.  But it will not diminish its activities once he leaves office.  Its anti-Democratic, anti-liberal, anti-progressive, anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-fascist—these first six “anti’s” applied interchangeably—, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-feminist, anti-minority, anti-GLBT, anti-abortion, anti-contraception, and other forms of “anti-ness” will not dissipate when Obama leaves offices or even with the (unlikely) election of a Tea-Party-friendly Republican president.  They are indelibly etched into the NRA’s culture.


Two facts suggest an affinity between military and paramilitary organizations in this country.  One, they share a love of arms.  America’s defense budget is greater than the combined defense budgets of all other countries.  And Americans own more guns per capita than the people in any other country.  Two, they share some of the same arms.  America is one of the very few countries which allow civilians to own and operate military-style arms.  Given the NRA’s fear that the Obama administration intends to confiscate guns—its evidence is the fact that the administration has indicated nothing of the sort—it is a short step from a fear of losing them to the effort to use them.


The ascendency of the Right to control of the Senate and the presidency would mark the demise of democracy in America.  It is occurring in state governments controlled by Republicans since the 2010 elections.  With thirty-seven state governments in Republican control, the Right can, if it coordinates its efforts, call for a Constitutional convention and can, if it adds only one more state, can approve a radically amended or new Constitution, perhaps as drafted by ALEC.  Fortunately, for the Right, the Left is clueless or complacent about this possibility.


Given their monopoly of power in so many state parties, the Right no longer respects election results, popular opinion, common sense, and truth at any level of government.  For example, no sooner did Michigan voters reject a proposed state constitutional amendment allowing governor-appointed city managers than the lame-duck legislature passed and the governor signed a measure restoring that power in a law which cannot be amended for 2 years.  In place of, and in defiance of, the inconvenience of voters’ wishes or established facts, Republicans respond with, and act on, fabrications and falsehoods on issues with implications not to their liking—examples: recession-fighting stimulus spending and human-influenced global warming.  They use contra-factual or fact-free propaganda to justify unpopular or repressive legislation or administrative rulings.  To oppose abortion on grounds of rape, they claim that female physiology ensures conception-free rape.  To oppose the “consent of the governed,” they claim voter fraud as spurious grounds for efforts to discourage or prevent voting not only by minorities, students and the poor, but also by seniors, who are even less likely to be involved in voting irregularities of any kind.


The controversy about illegal immigrants is part and parcel of the Republican effort to debilitate democracy.  Eleven million Hispanic immigrants have lived and worked in this country for years, even decades, and contributed to the economy.  Only as the political implications of a changing demography have come to the fore, and only as xenophobia has driven them to offend these small-time malefactors, have Republicans made the issue of illegal immigration an important one.  In line with their anti-democratic proclivities and despite their phony outrage at the idea of “class warfare,” Republicans in the House of Representatives prefer a solution which would create a second class of residents by denying citizenship to these Hispanic immigrants while taxing them without representation.


So, too, the Republican initiatives to infringe upon the Constitutionally sanctioned right to abortion.  Totalitarian states make control of sex and reproduction central to control of citizens.  George Orwell’s novel 1984 featured the state “anti-sex league.”  But his fiction was not stranger than historical fact.  Nazi Germany anticipated his novel in its state engineering of reproduction of a “master race,” its incarceration of homosexuals, and its research and practice of eugenics generally.  Communist China has adopted and enforced a one-child-per-family policy.  In this totalitarian vein, Republican are enacting or proposing legislation to limit or deny opportunities to women to exercise their right to an abortion; to require doctors to lie or misinform their patients; and to require them to perform unnecessary, intrusive, and thus abusive medical procedures.  (Since most, though a diminishing number of, doctors are Republicans, they and their AMA do not, on basis of medical ethics and the integrity of the patient-doctor relationship, oppose such legislation—which exposes their lack of ethics and integrity.)  These Republican efforts accord with totalitarian impulses and give the lie, a really Big Lie, to Republican claims to promote freedom and personal responsibility, which, by definition, implies the freedom to choose for oneself.


What the Second American Civil War comes down to is a war, not about slavery or states rights, but about democracy and its first and fundamental belief that “all men are created equal.”  Republicans no longer accept this American belief, and their words and deeds contrary to it are moving them to discredit and ruin democratic institutions now and, if they believe it necessary, to rebel against democratic government later.  With the fraud of fabrications and falsehoods preparing for the force of arms, Republicans are turning against America and its democracy.


Are there a producer and a screenwriter out there daring enough to make a film about this Second American Civil War or do they fear boycotts, bullets, and bombs?

Friday, January 8, 2021

LAS CRUCES LAW OFFICE PLAYS GAMES AND LOSES, AND AN UPDATE

[NOTE: I am not going to make a promise because I am not considering a run for office (though, were I elected at 81, I might be a “first” something or other).  But I am probably at or near the end of my blogs on police reform related to my case.  I have done as much as it is possible for one citizen to do to that imperative objective.  If one blog remains, it deals with a matter under negotiation between the City Manager (with the City Attorney looking over his shoulder) and me.  That statement leaves me free to write blogs on police reform not related to my case.


I want to make one point about the way in which the Las Cruces Police Department in my case (and, no doubt most, if not all, others) and the Law Office conduct or contract investigations: to develop one side of two sides of the story.  The LCPD seeks only to confirm an accusation against a citizen or to exonerate itself of a complaint.  The Law Office seeks to condemn its suspects whether criminal offenses are discovered or not.  Neither display an interest in ascertaining the facts, much less the truth, by a fair, balanced, and impartial proceeding.  The City pays for the abuse of such investigations.]

                                                                                                                                                                                            


In my 6 January blog, I declared that I was not bluffing about going to court to have the Law Office release four documents in response to my IPRA request.  Because it refused to identify author, audience, topic, and date of two withheld documents, I inferred that they were sent outside the chain of command, probably to the Mayor.


I already had the law on my side.  Last spring, City Attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown, through her senior assistant Robert Cabello, had claimed an exemption from IPRA on the grounds that the redacted portions of two documents and the entirety of two withheld documents contained protected discussions of opinion and the officer’s employment relationship with the City.  I filed a complaint with the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, the Law Office restated its claim, I rebutted it, and, on 2 December, the NMOAG found it likely that the Law Office had not complied with the law.


On 7 January, I received all four documents—I trust them to be the real thing—in their entirety and without redaction.  They surprised me.  First, none of them contains anything which matches the reasons claimed for their exemption.  Second, none of them left the chain of command.  My suspicion based on the inference that refusing disclosure of their distribution concealed an impropriety was wrong.  Nothing went to the Mayor.


If I am right, the Law Office’s withholding all but 18 records, then all but 5, then all but 4 and some basic data was a game played with lies for no purpose other than to tease and frustrate a citizen critical of LCPD conduct.  I played because I knew that I would win and believed that I would expose Law Office mendacity.  I did win but exposed instead its trifling with the law and squandering public resources.  They include the taxpayers’ money spent on the time and energy not only of City employees Vega-Brown and Cabello, but also of at least three lawyers in the NMOAG.


I have sent these documents to my NMOAG point of contact for consideration.  I doubt that he will be pleased by the conduct of these officers of the court.  I do not know whether he will take any action or, if he does, what it will be.  But I believe that the City Manager and perhaps Council should take a McHard look at Vega-Brown and ask her whether she thinks that fun-and-games with a citizen’s IPRA request is an appropriate way for her to conduct herself as an employee and representative of Las Cruces.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

LAS CRUCES GOVERNMENT SHIELDS POLICE MISCONDUCT

This “law-and-order” guy believes that no law enforcement department or agency is above criticism for bad polices, practices, or conduct.  If ignorance, indifference, denial, or defiance are indications, authorities in Las Cruces—City Council, Police Department, and Law Office—disagree.  But, then, I am a Type-A soul in a Type-B society.


I had no idea that exposing professional deficiencies in the LCPD because of an officer’s false, fact-free, or fabricated allegations of minor code violations would expose political deficiencies in Council and legal deficiencies in the Law Office.  I expected LCPD resentment but not Council inaction or Law Office obstruction; after all, public safety is a primary government function.  I certainly did not expect Mayor Miyagishima’s insulting rebuke of Councilor Bencomo that she might make “false” criticisms of the LCPD.


No Councilor has used information about LCPD misconduct detailed in my blogs since August 2019 to question an LCPD officer when the opportunity arose.  In a June working session on Eight Can’t Wait proposals, Deputy Police Chief Dominguez said that many people distrust the LCPD—no Councilor asked why—and that the LCPD admits its mistakes—no Councilor asked for an instance, not necessarily mine.  When I wrote him about my case in view of these statements, he did not reply.  When I made an IPRA request for case-related documents, the Law Office, headed by City Attorney Vega-Brown, released innocuous ones and redacted or withheld four sensitive ones.  When a citizen wrote the Mayor and Councilors to urge that they address my case and right LCPD wrongs, not one responded.


Council, instead of admitting and addressing government mistakes, considers only concerns, issues, and problems to avoid personal accountability.  It sets the example of stonewalling citizens with complaints about police conduct; the LCPD and the Law Office follow it.  This stonewalling reinforces the Law Office’s combative risk-management approach to citizens’ cases or complaints.  Its responses to my IPRA request for complaint-related documents seem intended to protect Council and the LCPD from embarrassment or worse.


Item one: The LCPD suppressed confirmation of my complaint about those faulty allegations in two redacted documents, both internal memorandums to Police Chief Gallagher.  IA Sgt. Mullen’s 5 February states, “Mr. Hays’ warning notice had several violations marked to which there was no physical evidence or proof an actual violation had occurred.”  But IA Lt. Kinney’s 19 February letter closing my complaint omits this finding; the LCPD refused to admit that it was wrong and I was right.  (Take note, Chief Dominguez.)


Item two, a speculation: The Law Office withholds two documents with distribution so sensitive that it refuses even to identify writers, recipients, topics, or dates—information not exempted from IPRA.  A likely recipient, someone outside the chain of command for concurrence with LCPD’s responses to my complaint, is the Mayor.


This cover-up may be worse than the crime.  I complained about the Law Office’s IPRA violations to the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General.  After its investigation, the NMOAG emailed a 2 December six-page legal opinion, with a two-paragraph conclusion:


Because we have remaining concerns about the City’s responses to Mr. Hays’ requests dated March 5, 2020 and April 9, 2020, we strongly recommend that it reconsider both requests so as to ensure that it has fully complied with IPRA [emphasis added]. The City should again scrutinize the two records it withheld and the two records it redacted. Most importantly, these records should only be redacted (or withheld) to the limited extent they contain matters of opinion, as we have previously explained. And, after conducting this review, if the City maintains that it has properly withheld those two records in their entirety, it should reevaluate whether they may be redacted so as to provide Mr. Hays with the records’ “date, topic, author, and audience.” If this is not possible, the City could, in the interest of transparency, nevertheless provide the requested information to Mr. Hays notwithstanding the fact that it is not legally obligated to do so. 


For your reference, a copy of the IPRA Guide is available on the website of the Office of the Attorney General www.nmag.gov [emphasis added]. If you have any questions regarding this determination or IPRA in general, please let me know. 


That is, start over and get smart.  Clearly, the Law Office displayed either incompetence in not comprehending the law or contempt in defying it—and represented Las Cruces government not even up to its usual level of mediocrity.


The Law Office has neither reconsidered the NMOAG opinion nor replied to my 21 December letter of inquiry about its intentions: compliance or court.  I expected its discourtesy and confrontation in its belief that I am bluffing.  I am not.  I have a strong case made stronger by a strong NMOAG opinion.  The Law Office runs big risks of an unfavorable decision, expensive penalties, and the very disclosures which it wants to prevent.  The Mayor and Councilors, the Police Chief, and the City Attorney may prefer pay-outs for incompetence and dishonesty to reforms of police and law operations.  If so, their pieties about reforms serve as a PR front comforting others who also talk reform and also do not take it seriously.  Meanwhile, I shall keep calm and carry on.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

THE ENEMY WITHIN: REPUBLICANS FOR AN APARTHEID, AUTOCRATIC AMERICA

    Notwithstanding its pledge of allegiance, America has never, ever, been “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  It has always been a collection of diverse peoples from different countries, with different histories, cultures, languages.  Not surprisingly, they settled in enclaves, both rural and urban.  When they have moved or migrated, they have mixed but not compounded with others, with a resulting sense of isolation and instability in their neighborhoods or communities.  For many, the antidote is compensatory alternatives, many inherently competitive, offering a shared, unifying experience, like sport-team fandom and, now, more than ever, political partisanship.  Those not understanding these psycho-social dynamics in the context of American history are not going to understand the nature, magnitude, and urgency of the problems in dealing with their political manifestations now threatening American democracy.

Most mainstream media commentators have largely passed over the facts of this past for a fascination with the present.  So they mainly describe rather than explain, the political phenom of our times.  Yes, Donald Trump is a vivid, revolting spectacle of psycho-social diseases and disorders on the political stage.  More importantly, he is an acute manifestation of an endemic disease in the American body politic, one which traces itself back to the beginning of this country: resistance or opposition to democracy.  What has survived and spread for centuries is not going to shrink when he leaves office or disappear in the course of a few elections.  It is important to understand why.


Today’s post-election commentary reflects a tardy recognition that Republicans are waging an accelerating campaign against American democracy, its lofty values in The Declaration of Independence, and its structures and operations in The Constitution of the United States.  Accordingly, recent decisions by a Republican-majority Supreme Court which equate money and speech, declare racism dead in formerly Confederate states, and curtail voting rights and voting disproportionately affecting minorities reinforce anti-democratic practices.  But these are only recent, intensified developments.


Yesterday’s news—that is, history—show that today’s Republicans descend from those who have opposed democratic values from the beginning to the present.  Many of the men who signed both foundational documents agreed on a contradiction: the idealism of human equality and the actuality of legal slavery.  During the American Revolution, the population split into thirds: one-third supported the rebellion; one-third; the monarchy; and one-third stood aloof from the struggle.  Although these divisions did not closely correlate attitudes about equality and slavery, regional differences existed.


The Civil War converted the contradiction into a conflict.  Although racism was prevalent north and south, the North had ended slavery more than half a century before fighting began and resisted the expansion of slavery beyond the South.  Neither the Union defeat of the Confederacy nor Reconstruction ended racism, its spread, or its poisoning of politics.  Worse, the North’s generosity and forgiveness in victory were repaid by the South’s resentment, resistance, and revenge in defeat.  The North tried no Confederate leader for treason and punished few for other illegal conduct during the war, but it was clumsy in liberating slaves and enabling liberated slaves to positions of political and economic power.  To counter their rise and restore white supremacy, the South resorted to Jim Crow laws and the KKK.


Meanwhile, endemic Southern poverty, increased by wartime devastation, economic disruption, and social and political dislocations, prompted more poor whites to abandon Dixie and migrate on the Oregon Trail to the Northwest, where its bigotries metastasized.  These destination states—Idaho, Oregon, Washington—became home to militant groups of bigots, xenophobes, isolationists, and Aryan or Christian culture warriors.  They took with them their hatred of the “Union” and nostalgia for Dixie.  White Southerners and sympathizers rued the loss of, romanticized about, and yearned for a restoration of, the “Southern Way of Life.”  They honored the “Lost Cause” by erecting monuments to and statues of traitors to the United States.  Their message: “the South will rise again.”


The influx of European immigrants in the decades just before and after the turn of the century prompted the KKK revival in the South.  The Depression between the two world wars propelled another wave of poor Southerners, white and black, to the North Central states.  There, whites, abetted by new KKK groups, polluted politics by exploiting the racism of mid-nineteenth-century European immigrants to reduce competition from blacks for jobs in heavy industries.  Political acrimony and instability resulted in part from this racial animus.


The “Second Reconstruction,” as racists perceived it, began slowly with Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, continued with the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s, and seemed to triumph with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Then the racist reaction once again set in.  Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, campaigning for the presidency, led Republican delegates at their national convention to oppose the act.  Four years later, Alabama governor George Wallace, famous for urging “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," demonstrated the political appeal of racist rejection of civil rights, in Upper Midwest states like Michigan and Wisconsin, and in Dixie-bordering states like Maryland.  To counter his appeal and convert Dixie racists from Democrats to Republicans, Richard Nixon adopted a “Southern strategy.”  Ever since, Republicans have been the white peoples’ party.  Today, another third of the nation, much of it with Southern roots, supports the attitudes and values of “Dixie.”  It constitutes Trump’s “base” and will continue support of his anti-democratic successors.


Thus, America is divided, with Democrats accepting and promoting democracy, Republicans decrying or repudiating democracy.  They know that the dynamics of demographic growth are generally unfavorable to them; most people of color (except macho Latinos or anachronistically anti-communist Latinx) are going to constitute a majority-minority electorate and dominate American politics in a few years.  To retain political power and remain politically viable, Republicans know, as Trump himself has admitted, that they must not rely only on their advantage in the Electoral College, but use additional anti-democratic means in attempts to win elections.  They know that, failing to manipulate elections to elect Republicans, they must turn to courts and Republican legislatures with fact-free or fabricated claims of large-scale voter fraud and numerous ballot-processing or vote-counting irregularities to justify overturning popular elections.  Trump’s efforts, based on just such blatant but baseless claims failed in 2020, but similar efforts in future elections might prevail.  Of course, the purpose of these efforts is to rig elections for Republicans or to delegitimize elections of Democrats.  If they succeed, they would transform America from a constitutional democracy into an apartheid autocracy ruled by a shrinking minority of whites.


*       *       *


This summary of relevant history rebuts the mainstream media storyline that, during the Trump administration, Republicans in Congress are afraid to admit the truth about the election or public-spirited in trying to soothe Trump's ego to help him save face and ease him out the door without doing more damage to democracy.  Far from being afraid or public-spirited, Republicans are backing Trump’s rebellion against democracy.  The latest give-away of latent racism is that, even as his time in office runs out and his hold of presidential power nears its end, House Republicans—most leaders and about half the rank-and-file members—signed their support of the Texas case to the Supreme Court to overturn Biden’s election, which, in the targeted states, targeted metropolitan areas with large, Democratic-inclined, minority populations.  Some people think that the Court’s prompt rejection of that case will end Republican coup attempts against democracy.  They let the wish father the thought.  The down-ballot results in state elections should chasten such reckless hopes.


One conclusion is inevitable.  That anti-democratic, necessarily racist, third of the electorate is not going away and is likely to become more determined, more skilled, and more effective in its opposition to democracy and its core values: equality, justice, and liberty.  Unless checked, it will increase in numbers, strength, and daring.  Mainstream media bromides about civility, decency, respect, reason, truth, et cetera, et cetera, alone will be of little help in resisting this trend.  For Trump has transformed this silent but restrained minority into a loud and unleashed pack.  His behavior has released those aggrieved and resentful in the middle class from its inhibiting norms of respectability.  The Right has abandoned that ethos, the Left is forsaking it, and the path away from it leads to political chaos, civil disorder, and the death of democracy.


The prescriptions to avoid this dystopian future are numerous.  Among the many, I offer a few suggestions.  First, let history give some hope of recovery and betterment, though its fulfillment will take time.  Patience and persistence must attend constructive efforts; the prompts to racism cannot be overcome in a minute.  Second, realize, not just read about, the core values and core social values of democracy; practice them in one’s private and public life, not least by thinking and treating all people as political equals in this democracy.  Third, give more attention to the foundational policies and practices of democracy: the census, voting rights and regulations, campaign regulations, and the reform of anti-democratic provisions in the Constitution and in Congress.  To that end, do not be content to contain anti-democratic forces but commit to their reduction in numbers and strength.  The main strategies should be enhanced political education at all times and broadly acceptable reforms.


Post-election political education should focus on public accountability of Trump’s and his administration’s conduct.  Vengeance may be the Lord's, but accountability is ours.  Since Republicans deny the truth, Democrats must realize that forgiveness leads to forgetfulness if not tacitly accepted falsehood.  All Americans, those who revile Trump and those who revere him, need to know the truth to better guide us as a democracy.  Otherwise, silence amounts to denial of or complicity in its demise.  I rephrase Jefferson: the price of democracy is eternal vigilance.  I add that freedom in America includes an end to racism and equality for all.


Public accountability is necessary without mandating civil or criminal prosecutions—and shouted down as political vendetta.  An irony, even a silver lining, of Trump’s pardoning many likely involved in illegal activities is that they can be subpoenaed to testify about their conduct without fear of prosecution—ergo, no vendetta.  The pardon voids appeals to the Fifth Amendment but does not protect them from prosecution for contempt for refusing to testify or perjury for lying under oath.  So Biden can charge the Department of Justice to create a truth commission independent of the White House yet enable civil or criminal investigations against those not pardoned.  This charge would affirm the government’s commitment to truth and the rule of law, and set a standard by which justice should be done.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

BIG YUCK! FIGHTING COVID-19 WITH INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM AND PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

Big Yuck!  Fighting Covid-19 with Individual Freedom and Personal Responsibility


I thank Steve Pearce, head—and epitome—of the New Mexico Republican Party, for prompting this blog.  In a recent statement, Pearce opposed Governor Michelle Grisham’s efforts to slow, stop, or reverse the spread of the coronavirus which has sickened or killed thousands of New Mexicans.  Like most Republicans—north of 90 percent of them support the president; north of 70 percent support his positions on the pandemic and the election—, Pearce opposes her efforts on ideological grounds.  Individual “freedom” and “personal responsibility” resist steps toward government tyranny, matter more than human lives lost to disease and death, yet are a better approach to dealing with covid-19 than public requirements for face masks, social distancing, and restricted gatherings.


Pearce is either cynical and deceptive or naive and self-deceived.  I suspect all of the above.  He has held these Republican slogans so long that his ability to think critically about them has just shut down—so, too, other Republicans.  As a result, Republicans have no idea what responsibility means because they have debased this moral concept by transforming it into a political vacuity.  So let me tell him and them.  It is a moral agent’s willingness to be accountable to themselves or others for acts committed or omitted—that is, to accept judgment, praise or blame, reward or penalty—for acts committed or omitted because of their consequences.  The agent can be an individual, an organization, or an institution, as we know from litigation which determines responsibility or accountability.


In contexts of cause-and-effect, responsibility is clear-cut.  If I back into someone else’s car and dent a fender or break a taillight, I am clearly the responsible agent.  So, too, if I run a red light and get hit by a car with the green-light right-of-way.  But, in contexts of statistical co-occurrence of widely distributed effects like infectious diseases, the identity of the infecting person is hard to know and responsibility hard to establish.  With rare exceptions, the widespread distribution of the disease makes it hard for people with the best will in the world to know whether they are infected, have infected others, and, if so, which ones.  It is as hard for others to trace infections to their sources.  Unlike causing traffic accidents, infecting others is anonymous, unaccountable, antithetical to moral or legal responsibility.  Taking “personal responsibility” is an impossibility, and exercising individual “freedom” from public requirements is a political license to take no responsibility for endangering others, and to disregard a fundamental principle of law: liability for damages.


In this larger sense, Pearce’s advocacy of these lofty abstractions “freedom” and “social responsibility” puts him squarely in opposition not only to “law and order,” but also to the good of society.  By contrast with the Preamble to the federal Constitution, which articulates a purpose to promote the “general welfare,” the Preamble to New Mexico’s Constitution asserts a contradiction.  “We, the people of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty, in order to secure the advantages of a state government, do ordain and establish this constitution”—“the blessings of liberty” versus “the advantages of a state government”—about which the drafters assure us without agreeing on what they are.  Even so, public health has been historically accepted as one such advantage.  Pearce dissents; he would have us act as if individual “freedom” and “personal responsibility” are better prophylactics than sound medical and health-care advice.


More generally, Pearce denies the “advantages of a state government” and opposes its efforts to realize them.  Instead, he believes, not in the public good, but only in private goods, profits, and prosperity.  Accordingly, he has no sense of society, no belief in a fair distribution of wealth, no commitment to “liberty and justice for all,” necessarily with equal political rights, and little appreciation of the value of human life.  Worse, he and most Republicans believe that anything which unites people in joint action to support those in need is socialist—another word and its cognates whose meanings are unknown in the Republican Party but which can be used to exploit others’ ignorance and fear.


    One reasonable conclusion about his opposition to efforts to minimize the effects of the coronavirus pandemic is that Pearce does not care about public health or your health, only theirs.  Pearce knows that, if he or any member of his family contracted covid-19, he or any of them would go to the head of the line, get the best treatment—case in point: Rudy Giuliani—let his bills be paid largely with money from those at the back of the line, who expect long waits and trust to luck.  So he advocates individual “freedom” and “personal responsibility” for suckers who buy into the morally vacuous, corrupt slogans of Republicans everywhere.