Moral Civil War
Decency vs. Debasement
Seeking exit from the New Confederacy
by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2018 – Thomas Adcock
NEW YORK CITY, near America
Reasonable citizens trapped in the bedlam of Trumpistan are angry—or depressed, or disgusted, or distressed, or despairing, or drained of energy needed to absorb the drumbeat of cupidity and criminality emanating daily from a debauched White House. Some days, all these emotions meld into an existential sorrow: Cry the beloved country.
We limp through these last gasps of October in hopes that next month’s midterm Congressional contests may deliver righteous victory in the immediate battle, a pivotal one in a modern-day Moral Civil War in these United States—a philosophical war that presents a tinderbox threat to democracy itself.
The original domestic strife of 1861-1865 was a full-out shooting war, with clear demarcations: On one side, an agrarian South seceded from the union to form the Confederate States of America, dedicated to preserving a plutocracy reliant on African slave labor, mint julep patriarchy, and a white peasantry of ignorant rubes marching stupidly beneath the racist banner of stars and bars; on the other, an increasingly industrial and bourgeois North, which had abandoned chattel slavery (if not the underlying bigotry) in favor of expanding its labor force by welcoming immigration (northern Europeans preferred, “Chinamen” for railroad construction, Irish need not apply).
Some say the internecine conflict of the nineteenth century never really ended, that it simply became geographically diffuse.
Poverty and gross income disparity are pernicious modern-day forms of slavery, affecting blacks and whites alike everywhere between the Mexican and Canadian borders; stupidity remains an immutable force, corralled by and committed to plutocratic masters of Republican Party persuasion; cops who might as well be old-timey kluxers shoot to kill uppity blacks from coast to coast; the Confederate banner of hate and racial oppression appears unashamedly at Hillbilly Nuremberg rallies in support of a narcissistic vulgarian who muses about being president for life,
Today’s immigrants are mostly Latinos, and mostly non-English speakers. Fleeing violence and desperate poverty, they arrive in the United States with or without documentation; they have no other option. They have become punching bags, metaphorically and literally, for a cult of yahoos in thrall to an orange-faced xenophobic carnival barker. Consider:
- The president’s chillingly named I.C.E. agency (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) currently incarcerates nearly thirteen thousand children, according to government data reported in September by the New York Times. Some three thousand of the youngest, including infants, have been forcibly separated from migrant parents who await their fate in Republican courts.
Child detainees are held for indeterminate periods behind chain link fences or in military facilities—or, lately, in a pop-up tent city in the middle of a sweltering desert in West Texas. According to lawsuits brought against the government by the American Civil Liberties Union, facilities for imprisoned youngsters feature rotting food, brutal guards, and routine sexual predation.
- On October 9, agents of I.C.E. boarded a 4-year-old girl separated from her undocumented immigrant parents on an airplane headed back “home.” The girl flew unaccompanied. No one met her flight at a Guatemalan airport. Her father had been deported from the U.S.; as I write, his whereabouts are unknown, as is the girl’s mother—as is the girl herself.
As for patriarchy, witness September’s gobsmacking sham executed by the Republican majority that controls the U.S. Senate: the confirmation of Brett M. Kavanaugh, a right-wing partisan credibly accused of rape and attempted murder, as the fifth lifetime seat on a nine-member U.S. Supreme Court, thus cementing Republican domination for decades to come. Witness the Republican president, accused of raping the first of his three wives and of sexually violating another nineteen women, intimate that Mr. Kavanaugh’s alleged victim was merely one more hysterical female fibber.
Patriarchy is supremely in style.
American schoolchildren are taught in their history classes that the North—flawed as it was in the 1860s, albeit mindful of its better angels as Abraham Lincoln might say—won the Civil War of that epoch. I have doubts, however, certainly now that Republicans have remade America as the New Confederacy.
The question begs: How do we secede?
Will a wave of furious voters show up at the polls on November 6 to thwart Republican hegemony in Washington? Opinion polling suggests the electorate is good and mad, and clearly open to choosing Congressional candidates of the Democratic Party. Campaign operatives are confident that at least half the Congress—the House of Representatives, if not the Senate—may flip to rule by Democrats, whose leaders are anxious to exercise subpoena power that would call Republicans to account for the chaos and venality over which they preside.
The national mood is fraught in the lead-up to Election Day. For once, thankfully, Democrats are not sitting back politely in the raw face of routine Republican rudeness and crudeness.
In an interview last week aired over CNN Television, the losing 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, helped sound the party’s bugle call to action: “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for. If we are fortunate enough to win back the House, and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again. But until then, the only thing that Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength.”
Will a disputatious blow for decency allay the national debasement that the president and his Kremlin-approved crime syndicate have wrought? The whirlwind of cruelty and chaos that is the New Confederacy?
I put my faith in anger as an antidote to the nightmare of Election Day two years ago, when Donald J. Trump and a covert squad of Russian hackers and oligarchs riled up America’s ever-malleable rubes and yabbos, ignorantly aligned with the striped-pants boys in their mutual and separate causes of white supremacy and corporate indulgences.
With the approach of this year’s Election Day, which serves as a referendum on Trumpistan, comes potential for political redemption. The energy of anger beclouds America. Which is a good and healthy thing: anger as loud as thunder, anger yearning to breathe free and rightly encouraged to do so.
“If you’re not angry yet,” writes David Leonhardt, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times, “you should be.”
In a recent essay, Mr. Leonhardt outlined the case for outrage:
Decades ago, a businessman built a fortune thanks in large measure to financial fraud. His corrupt gains helped him become famous. He then launched a political career by repeatedly telling a racist lie, about the first black president secretly being an African.
This lie created an audience in right-wing media that made possible a presidential campaign. During that campaign, the candidate eagerly accepted—indeed, publicly sought—the illegal assistance of a foreign enemy. When national security officials raised alarm with Congress, before Election Day , leaders of the candidate’s party refused to act.
The foreign assistance appears to have been crucial to the candidate’s narrow victory. He won with only 46.1 percent of the popular vote…
[T]he Supreme Court…has already begun acting as a kind of super-legislature, throwing out laws on voting rights, worker rights, consumer rights, and political influence buying. Now the court is poised to do much more to benefit the wealthy and powerful at the expense of most Americans—and the planet.
This is not how democracy is supposed to work.
Mr. Leonhardt’s view is mild in comparison to the sentiments of cultural critic Henry A. Giroux, published October 10 in the online magazine Slate. A professor at McMaster University in Canada, Mr. Giroux opened a jeremiad with this:
Trump’s endless racist taunts, dehumanizing expressions of misogyny, relentless attacks on all provisions of the social state, and ongoing contempt for the rule of law serve to normalize a creeping fascist politics.
Moreover, his criminogenic disdain for any viable sense of civic and moral responsibility gives new meaning to an ethos of selfishness and a culture of cruelty, if not terror, that has run amok. Yet it is becoming more difficult for…mainstream media and pundits to talk about fascism as a looming threat in the United States in spite of the fact that…for some groups, such as undocumented immigrants, it’s already here.
The smell of death is everywhere under this administration. The erosion of public values and the rule of law is now accompanied by a developing state of emergency…An ecological disaster due to human-caused climate change has accelerated under the Trump administration, and appears imminent. Trump’s ongoing attempt to pollute the planet through his rollback of environmental protections will result in the deaths of thousands of children who suffer from asthma and other lung problems. …[H]is privatized and punitive approach to health care will shorten the lives of millions of poor people, uninsured youth, undocumented immigrants, the unemployed, and the elderly. His get-tough ‘law and order’ policies will result in more police violence against blacks while his support for the [armaments] industry…will accelerate the deaths of the marginalized, both at home and abroad.
Under the Trump regime, all bets are off regarding the sustainability of democracy.
When it gave up counting on August 1, the Washington Post had catalogued four thousand, two hundred and twenty-nine “false or misleading claims” made by Mr. Trump since his presidential inauguration in January 2017. This month, during a White House event on October 6, the championship liar hectored a gaggle of journalists on the sin of—lying. Said Mr. Trump, “You can’t go around, and whether it’s making up stories or making false statements (sic)—you can’t do that.”
The context of such presidential counsel was a farcical, daylong Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of September 27 that paved the way in completing a Republican takeover of the Supreme Court. The morning session heard from Christine Blasey Ford, professor of psychology at Palo Alto University in California, who recounted a horrible evening of her youth—thirty-six years ago in the summer of 1982 when she and Mr. Kavanaugh, then a 17-year-old prep school student, were in attendance at a rowdy house party in suburban Washington, D.C.
Her voice small and frequently quaking, Professor Ford recounted the most humiliating details of the worst moments of her life to the committee’s Republican majority members—all men. She told of a stumbling Brett Kavanaugh, drunk on beer, who grabbed her when she stepped out from a second-floor bathroom into a hallway, shoved her into an adjacent bedroom, jumped atop her, and ripped at her clothes while covering her mouth with his hand to stifle her calls for help, a nearly asphyxiating maneuver.
“I was afraid he might accidentally kill me,” said Ms. Ford.
Simultaneously, she further testified, Mr. Kavanaugh’s drinking buddy, the likewise inebriated Mark Judge, cheered him as he increased the volume of music on a nearby phonograph to cover what screams she could manage. Eventually, said Ms. Ford, the party was joined, so to speak, by Mr. Judge, author of a memoir about his addiction to alcohol and drugs.
Somehow, the teenaged Christine Blasey wriggled free and fled—and tried for years, unsuccessfully, to forget.
Today an adult versed in medical nomenclature, the psychology professor identified that which is “indelible in the hippocampus” of her brain: “The laughter,” she told the Republican senators. “The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
She added, “They were laughing with each other. I was underneath one of them while the two laughed—two friends having a really good time with one another.”
In the ornate hearing chamber, a pin could be heard dropping.
Then came the afternoon session and Mr. Kavanaugh. He was red-faced and finger jabbing; his testimony was disjointed, frequently incoherent and untruthful. He was convulsed in a mien of indignation rehearsed in White House consultations with Mr. Trump’s lawyers. He interrupted and insulted Democratic senators when it was their turn to ask questions.
From the hearing transcript:
This…[is] a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important rôle in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice (sic) and consent with search and destroy. This…has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear…has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record! Revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups!
This is a circus!
I never had sexual intercourse, or anything close to it, during high school, or for many years after that. …I was probably a little outwardly shy about my inexperience. Tried to hide that. …I was also inwardly proud of it.
I was at the top of my class academically. Busted my butt…Captain of the varsity basketball team. …Made it to Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.
Sometimes I had too many beers. I liked beer. I still like beer. Senator, do you like beer?
Donald Trump’s nominee for lifetime tenure on the highest court of the land was an almost mirror image of himself: a ranting boor, a liar about matters large and small, a son of privilege, possessed of Ivy League perquisite.
Unlike now-Associate Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump is not liable to formal charges of professional misconduct—as an odious politician, at any rate. The man who “worked his tail off,” on the other hand, is the subject of fifteen complaints of judicial misconduct related to his intemperance at the Senate committee hearing. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican, referred those complaints to fellow Republican Tim Tymkovich, chief judge of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado—a jurist on Mr. Trump’s short list of possible future Supreme Court nominees.
Gabe Roth, executive director of the Washington-based organization Fix the Court, said he “fully expects” Judge Tymkovich to dismiss all complaints about Justice Kavanaugh—complaints that Justice Roberts would not release for public consumption.
As for Professor Ford, she and her family continue living in a secret location in or near Palo Alto due to death threats.
Well in advance of selecting him for the high court, the president was firmly advised that Brett Kavanaugh would be a tough sell. According to the Gallup Poll at that time, public opinion on the Kavanaugh nomination was statistically tied: 46 percent of Americans in favor, 45 percent opposed, and 9 percent neutral. Further, according to the Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll following the Senate committee hearing, 45 percent of Americans believed Professor Ford’s testimony to be true versus 33 percent for Mr. Kavanaugh.
So why did Mr. Trump move heaven and earth to appoint an alleged sexual predator to the high court? Here are three murky reasons, in order of critical importance:
- While the world was entranced by the Republican mirage of Senate business, Donald Trump made use of the greatest gift a grifter may possess: the art of distraction. Hypnotized by the high-wire emotionalism of the Ford-Kavanaugh face-off, few in the TV viewing audience noticed what the majority Republican caucus was doing in Congress, at Mr. Trump’s behest. By a party-line vote, Republicans in the House advanced a bill that would add $3.2 trillion (€2.76 trillion) to tax cuts of $1.50 trillion (€1.30 trillion) enacted last December. Needless to say, it was a merry Christmas for millionaires and billionaires.
- Pending in this very term of the Supreme Court—recently joined by Justice Kavanaugh who owes his seat to Mr. Trump, and who favors a broad expansion of his presidential authority—is the matter of Gamble v. U.S., No. 17-646. The named plaintiff, one Terance Martez Gamble, was convicted in Alabama state and federal courts of the same crime—possession of a gun in commission of robbery—in accordance with the “separate sovereignty” exception to the “double jeopardy” prohibition under the U.S. Constitution. But since the federal government and the Alabama government are separate governmental authorities, Mr. Gamble was rightly convicted of the same crime in two different judicial venues. If Gamble prevails, thereby eliminating the separate sovereignty exception, the criminal investigation underway in connection with Donald Trump’s alleged illegal association with Russian intelligence officials could be hamstrung: Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller would be unable to persuade Trump operatives to coöperate with his federal investigation by reminding them of state indictments in lieu of his own—or in place of presidential pardons. Effectively, Mr. Trump could issue pardons in advance of potential or possible state legal action, thus allowing his cronies to keep quiet in the face of Mr. Mueller’s pressure. Further, Mr. Trump could issue pre-emptive pardons to himself and his circle of lackeys, freeing all from post-regime state prosecution.
- In accordance with the Roman Catholic Church, of which he is a committed congregant, Justice Kavanaugh is fiercely opposed to abortion. His belief dovetails with that of the Republican Party’s militant and powerfully influential “pro-life” base of anti-abortionists that has long demanded that the Supreme Court overturn its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion as a personal decision for women, free of governmental interference. Justice Kavanaugh has promised to consider Roe as “settled law,” though there is actually no such thing—and though he repeatedly lied in confirmation proceedings:
- During the aforementioned Senate committee hearing, he said he had “no connections” for admittance to the prestige of Yale University, where he spent four years as an undergraduate and another three in its law school; in fact, Brett Kavanaugh was a legacy student, going back to grandfather Everett Edward Kavanaugh, class of 1928.
- Also in committee, Mr. Kavanaugh denied having a problem with alcohol, contradicting the impressions of several Yale classmates. “Brett was a sloppy drunk,” Liz Swisher told Newsweek magazine. Chief of gynecologic oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, she added, “I know because I drank with him. He’d end up slurring his words, stumbling.” Lynne Brooks, a former pharmaceutical executive and a Republican, said of Justice Kavanaugh, “He’s trying to paint himself as some kind of choir boy. You can’t lie your way onto the Supreme Court…It’s about the integrity of that institution.”
The Kavanaugh episode is only the latest affront to decency. The beer-loving barrister’s benefactor, as famous a deadbeat as he is a liar, is sure to collect payback in the near future from the now solidly/squalidly Republican Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Donald Trump makes use of another of his grifter talents: psychological projection, a phenomenon well known to Professor Ford and her colleagues.
Of late, Mr. Trump damns all Democrats as adherents to “the party of crime.” Thus does he accomplish twin objectives: He projects forceful opposition to crime in general, and he obscures the increasingly obvious fact that he is himself a multi-count criminal.
Meanwhile, Professor Ford and her husband and children remain in hiding and under mortal threat, likely due to thuggish goons of one allegiant group or another drawn to Mr. Trump’s cult. Perhaps thugs of the Trump-adoring, misogynistic, Islamophobic hate group known as the “Proud Boys.”
On the night of October 12, the Proud Boys showed us exactly who they are—and, more importantly, who their allies are.
Minutes after Proud Boy führer Gavin McInnes finished delivering a racist speech at the New York Metropolitan Republican Club, housed in a pricey neighborhood of Manhattan, a gang of his brownshirts, waiting outside in the street, attacked three anti-fascist demonstrators. The Proud Boys beat demonstrators to the ground, kicking them repeatedly while alternately shouting, “Faggot!” and “We love beer!”
Police arrived on the scene, eventually, and allowed the Proud Boys to walk away from their crumpled and bleeding victims—right after the gang posed for a group photograph, in which they appeared flashing “white power” hand signals.
The world has seen such evil spectacle many times before, notably in nazi-era Germany. Will America learn from well-worn history?
On Election Day upcoming, voters must remember a warning from U.S. Navy intelligence analyst Malcolm Nance, who wrote last July, “We’re on the cusp of losing the American constitutional republic forever.” Failure to heed such warning would give currency to another one, that of German philosopher Georg Hegel (1770-1831): “What we learn from history is that we never learn from history.”
—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag