Politics

This Land of Hope and Dreams

It’s been slightly over 96 hours since Joe Biden took the oath of office and became the 46th president of the United States.

Four days.

And while it may be unrealistic and even unfair to expect much of a change in only four days… the world today feels very different to me than it did last Sunday. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say… I feel very different. I have literally felt my body unclenching little by little over these past four day. Relaxing. It’s been rather like what I experienced after I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes; as the medications took effect and I returned to something resembling how a normal human body is supposed to function, I was surprised by how different I suddenly felt. You know how people describe getting angry as “seeing red?” Well, before my blood pressure was regulated, before I knew it needed to be regulated, I literally did that. It was as if a red lens dropped over my eyes whenever I got irritated about something. And I never questioned it because I thought it was just something that happened to everyone. But now it doesn’t happen anymore and I understand that it was a warning sign. In short, I never realized how bad I used to feel all the time until I started to feel well. And the same type of thing is happening now that Trump is gone.

I’ve spent the last four years feeling angry, constantly angry, every single day. Every day, there was a new outrage, a fresh source of irritation and loathing, as the wanna-be mafia don in the Oval Office and his team of deplorables — yes, I said it; Hillary was right on with that description when it comes to the likes of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Rudy Giuliani and all the other scumbags that comprised Trump’s inner circle — kicked the supports out from under everything that progressives value and have fought so hard to build over the last 90 years. Those feelings ramped up in the two months following the election as the hardheaded narcissist refused to concede and his sycophants in Congress and on the TV talking-head shows spread the Big Lie that the election was somehow rigged. (If that was true, if the Democrats had really pulled off some kind of massive conspiracy to swing the election in their favor, does it make any sense at all that we wouldn’t have arranged for an overwhelming majority in the Senate as well? Come on… ). And then on January 6, as the barbarians raged through the halls of the Capitol building — our Capitol, We the People’s Capitol — with their Confederate treason flags and their ridiculous cosplay outfits, my anger became white-hot fury, and then as inauguration day approached, I had a sick certainty that something was going to happen…

And then it didn’t. No assassination attempt, no car bomb, no riots. Biden and Harris just took their oaths and before the fireworks flew that evening were already busy at work trying to undo the damage the previous administration has wrought. The whole tone of business changed almost instantly. We have press conferences again and a press secretary who wants to work with the media instead of antagonizing them. We have scientists back in charge of the pandemic. Trump toadies within the civil service are being invited to leave. It’s all so… I hate to use the word “normal,” because I hesitate to believe anything will ever be normal again, but the news has become so… quiet. And competent. It feels like the grown-ups are back after an unruly school class has trashed their room.

Now, I’m not a fool. It has been, after all, only four days. Biden has an ambitious agenda and is confronted with a hell of a lot of fires to put out, and logic and cold experience dictates that he’s not going to be able to do all of it, or even most of it. The Republicans are already pushing their usual disingenuous bullshit around the concept of “unity” (i.e., that “unity” means “do it all our way or we’ll scream that you’re not serious about healing the nation”); Mitch McConnell remains intransigent about blocking the Democratic agenda any way he can (“promise not to nuke the filibuster or I’ll filibuster!”); the MAGA nation is still out there screaming about election fraud and socialism; and the media is already doing their part to undermine a Democratic president by publishing stupid shit like that article about Biden’s Rolex (am I supposed to feel a burst of class-based outrage that he has a nice watch and a classic Corvette when the previous occupant of the White House craps in a gold-plated toilet?). So while rolling back the most egregious of Trump’s activities with executive orders of our own feels mighty damn satisfying, any genuine, long-lasting progress is going to be an uphill battle to achieve. I know all of this. And I know that Trump himself is still out there, too, lurking somewhere in the shadows, along with all of his shallow-gene’d, cokehead, would-be dynastic offspring, waiting for their chance to lurch back into the light and stir the shit up again, if not incite another coup attempt.

But you know… we’ve had four glorious days of not having to hear about him or hear him, of not having to see his ugly little sphincter-mouth all over my social media newsfeeds, and that has really been enough for now. His absence has been blissful luxury.

(Incidentally, I know this entry is considerably less… measured… than my usual political posts. I usually try hard to not deliberately provoke my conservative friends. But I can’t hold it back anymore. The last four years have tested me, and tested this country, almost to the very limits of our endurance. And I’m tired of playing nice just to avoid an argument. So, while I don’t wish to hurt, anger, or fight with anyone who might be reading this, I’m also not going to muzzle myself. Not anymore, not on my blog. You don’t like the tone? Take it up with Donald Fucking Trump, the worst president this nation has ever endured, may he rot down there at his ticky-tacky Florida compound.)

In closing, I want to share Bruce Springsteen’s performance from the Celebrating America special that aired on various networks and platforms on inauguration night. As with so many Springsteen songs, it aches with a world-weary melancholy, but there’s a hard, warm little kernel of optimism at the center of it. That’s where I am right now, where I have been since the morning of January 20. It’s not going to be easy for Joe Biden… but I do believe he’s going to move heaven and earth to try to make things better. And after the last four years of selfish exploitation and creeping authoritarianism, he’s going to look like goddamn hero for it.

Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder’s rolling down the tracks
You don’t know where you’re goin’ now
But you know you won’t be back
Darlin’ if you’re weary
Lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry
And we’ll leave the rest
Big wheels rolling through fields
Where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

 

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A Moment’s Respite

Joseph R. Biden is now the president of the United States.

I feel like an anvil has been lifted from my head.

And yet… you know what I keep thinking about today? There’s this one particular moment in the old Empire Strikes Back radio drama made for NPR back in the ’80s… what’s that? You don’t know about that? Well, if you’re a Star Wars fan who hasn’t heard the radio dramas, you really owe it to yourself to seek them out. You wouldn’t think that movies with such a strong visual identity and relatively little dialogue could be successfully adapted to a strictly audio format, but these work extremely well, thanks to strong scripting by the late Brian Daley (who wrote the early tie-in novels about Han Solo and Chewie), original music and sound effects from the films, and some very talented voice actors, including Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams. The radio dramas actually deepen the familiar stories in a number of interesting ways; I personally prefer the radio version of how Leia came into possession of the Death Star plans to what we see in Rogue One.

Anyhow, in the Empire adaptation, the Battle of Hoth takes up an entire half-hour episode, ending on a terrific cliffhanger as the Rebel base falls and our heroes are forced to run for their lives. The action builds and builds, with Leia in the command center barking orders, artillery fire rattling the base, the music swelling, and then a distorted voice comes over the comm system: “Imperial troops have entered the base! Imperial troops — ” There’s the sound of a blaster shot and a burst of static. Han Solo tells the princess this is it, they’re out of time. Leia gives the evacuation order, and there’s even more commotion, a klaxon ringing, controllers shouting, the music rising…. and then a sudden moment of silence. The only sound effect is of dust falling. It’s like the story is pausing to catch its breath… and then the music returns, insistent, more frantic than ever… the sound effects come back with a roar of blasterfire and explosions as Vader’s theme pounds out… and then the narrator gives us the closing blurb about the Rebels struggling to keep the light of freedom from going out forever… cue the closing credits for that week.

Well, friends, today feels to me very much like that moment of silence during the radio version of the Battle of Hoth. The story has paused, the dust is settling, and we’re all letting out a collective exhale. But the pandemic is still raging; the QAnon cultists and white supremacists and anti-government militias are still out there, and I don’t expect they’re going to just melt back into the shadows; the Supreme Court is now solidly conservative, and Mitch McConnell is no doubt already scheming a way to gum up Biden’s agenda; and there is so, so, so much damage to repair. And I expect the battle against all of that to fade back in as soon as tomorrow morning.

But that’s tomorrow. For now, let’s just… exhale. And enjoy the quiet sound of dust settling…

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24 Hours

Tomorrow at 12 noon EST (10 AM where I am), the Trump presidency will be formally over. (Actually, I think you can argue pretty convincingly that it’s been over since election day; certainly, Trump hasn’t made any pretense of actual governance since then, preferring instead to sulk on the golf course, pursue quixotic lawsuits, and of course incite a failed coup attempt.)  The miserable trainwreck of the past four years, which have felt more like 400, will finally, at long last, be over. In my head, the countdown clock is now running.

However, given the ominous threat of more MAGA shenanigans, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitating a socially distanced inaugural ceremony unlike any in living memory, I find myself imagining a very specific countdown clock, with a very specific sound effect…

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“I Understand”

I had thought to do a little compare-and-contrast between the Thanksgiving address delivered by President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday and the comments made by the outgoing president yesterday, but I’ve reconsidered. Trump’s petulant outbursts already get more than their fair share of media attention, and I personally can’t wait to never have to hear from him again, so I’m going to focus on someone who knows how to be presidential.

As I’ve said before, Biden isn’t always the greatest of speakers. There were times in his Thanksgiving speech when it sounded like he needed a drink of water; his voice had a thick, dry-mouthed hesitation. And there were times when the words were even a bit slurred. (Before anyone starts, I do not believe this is a symptom of any mental impairment; I think he’s just an old man whose voice isn’t what it used to be, and who has to focus hard on suppressing his stutter. I see no sign that he’s any less competent than anyone else, certainly no less so than the current occupant of the White House and, in my opinion, a damn sight better.) But there were also moments when he seemed to catch fire and say exactly what needs to be said in exactly the way it needs to be said.

I know the Republican-held Senate is going to be a huge impediment for him, but I also believe he’s going to try his damnedest to make this country a better place for everyone. Even those who already despise him.

Here are what I consider to be the highlights:

Looking back over our history, you’ll see that it’s been in the most difficult of circumstances that the soul of our nation has been forged.

Now, we find ourselves again facing a long, hard winter. We have fought a nearly year-long battle with a virus in this nation. It’s brought us pain and loss and frustration, and it has cost so many lives. 260,000 Americans — and counting.

It has divided us. Angered us. And set us against one another. I know the country has grown weary of the fight. But we need to remember we’re at a war with a virus — not with each other.

This is the moment where we need to steel our spines, redouble our efforts, and recommit ourselves to the fight. Let’s remember — we are all in this together.

For so many of us, it’s hard to hear that this fight isn’t over, that we still have months of this battle ahead of us. And for those who have lost loved ones, I know this time of year is especially difficult. Believe me, I know. I remember that first Thanksgiving. The empty chair, the silence. It takes your breath away. It’s hard to care. It’s hard to give thanks. It’s hard to look forward. And it’s so hard to hope.

I understand.

Our country is in the middle of a dramatic spike in cases. We’re now averaging over 160,000 new cases a day. And no one will be surprised if we hit 200,000 cases in a single day. Many local health systems are at risk of being overwhelmed. That is the plain and simple truth, and I believe you deserve to always hear the truth from your president.

We have to try to slow the growth of the virus. We owe that to the doctors, the nurses, and the other front-line health care workers who have risked so much and heroically battled this virus for so long. We owe that to our fellow citizens who will need access to hospital beds and the care to fight this disease. And we owe it to one another — it’s our patriotic duty as Americans.

That means wearing masks, keeping social distancing, and limiting the size of any groups we’re in. Until we have a vaccine, these are our most effective tools to combat the virus. Starting on Day One of my presidency, we will take steps that will change the course of the disease.

The federal government has vast powers to combat this virus. And I commit to you I will use all those powers to lead a national coordinated response. But the federal government can’t do it alone. Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can to slow the virus. Every decision we make matters. Every decision we make can save a life.

None of these steps we’re asking people to take are political statements. Every one of them is based in science.

The good news is that there has been significant, record-breaking progress made recently in developing a vaccine. Several of these vaccines look to be extraordinarily effective. And it appears that we are on track for the first immunizations to begin by late December or early January. Then, we will need to put in place a distribution plan to get the entire country immunized as soon as possible, which we will do.

But it’s going to take time.

I’m hoping the news of a vaccine will serve as an incentive to every American to take these simple steps to get control of this virus. There is real hope, tangible hope. So hang on. Don’t let yourself surrender to the fatigue. I know we can and we will beat this virus. America is not going to lose this war. You will get your lives back. Life is going to return to normal. That will happen.

This will not last forever.

I’ve said it many times: This is a great country and we are a good people. This is the United States of America. And there has never been anything we haven’t been able to do when we’ve done it together.

Think of what we’ve come through: centuries of human enslavement; a cataclysmic Civil War; the exclusion of women from the ballot box; World Wars; Jim Crow; a long twilight struggle against Soviet tyranny that could have ended not with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but in nuclear Armageddon.

I’m not naïve. I know that history is just that: history. But to know what’s come before can help arm us against despair. Knowing the previous generations got through the same universal human challenges that we face: the tension between selfishness and generosity, between fear and hope, between division and unity.

Americans dream big.

And, as hard as it may seem this Thanksgiving, we are going to dream big again. Our future is bright. In fact, I have never been more optimistic about the future of America than I am right now. I believe the 21st Century is going to be an American Century.

We are going to build an economy that leads the world. We are going to lead the world by the power of our example — not the example of our power. We are going to lead the world on climate and save the planet. We are going to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s and diabetes. And we are going to finally root out systemic racism in our country.

On this Thanksgiving, and in anticipation of all the Thanksgivings to come, let us dream again. Let us commit ourselves to thinking not only of ourselves but of others. For if we care for one another — if we open our arms rather than brandish our fists — we can, with God’s help, heal.

[Bolded emphasis mine.]

That’s how a president should speak. Not spitting out nuggets of sarcasm that drip with contempt for one’s political opponents. And definitely not displaying tone-deaf indifference for the suffering of American citizens. “I understand” are the two most powerful words in this seven-minute speech. And I believe that he does understand, I believe his empathy for ordinary people is real. And I believe that that matters, and that it’s what we need right now. Not only because of the virus, but because of the corrosive partisanship that has been consuming our society for decades.

I’ll confess that I’m dubious about Biden’s ability to do much about that. I know the Republicans aren’t interested in playing nice, and I think one of Obama’s biggest failings was continuing to believe that they would someday come around and be willing to work with him. And I’ll further confess that I am angry right now, every damn day, and that I want to see some real consequences for the havoc and chaos of the last four years. I want the Trump administration, the Trump organization, the Trump family, and every single Republican congressperson and bureaucrat who enabled them investigated to within an inch of their lives, and then I want them indicted and punished for any and every transgression that can be made to stick. I want the Republicans punished. I want payback for how they treated Obama and Merrick Garland, and for all their gloating and smug triumphalism and the constant mewling that they’re somehow being persecuted when they’ve effectively held the reins of power for years, regardless of who was sitting in the Oval Office. I know that what I’m saying here isn’t very high-minded or intellectual, and I know it’s not conducive to healing anything. But I’m not the president-elect, now, am I? We’ll see what actually happens once his administration gets going; I have a hunch that Biden is smart enough to be the diplomat while letting others be the bulldogs.

Of course, I’m always a sucker for the stuff about how people are essentially good and all the problems we’re going to fix, even though it’s pretty hard to still believe in my Star Trek-ian ideals after the last 12 years of tribal rancor. But I still like to hear it, even if it’s just a nice fantasy.

The moment in this speech that really grabbed me, though, was his exhortation to not lose hope about the damn virus. To hang on just a little longer, because we will win the war against the coronavirus. That his administration will win the battle. This struck me as very good politics, selling his goals and reminding people that the current guy has utterly failed, while also doing what the best presidents, from Obama to JFK to FDR to Abraham Lincoln, have always done in times of turmoil and fear: to give the tired and anxious people of the nation a life raft to cling to. His words made me feel better. They provided me at least with badly needed comfort.

He’s already a better leader than the thin-skinned, belligerent fool he’s replacing.

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“It’s Easier to Be a Parent This Morning”

It’s done. Thanks to the Great State of Pennsylvania, Joseph R Biden is the president-elect of the United States of America, and Kamala Harris will be the first woman and the first person of color to become vice president. (And, I predict, the 47th president after Biden! That’s right, folks, you read it here first, right here on Simple Tricks and Nonsense!)

Donald J Trump is finished. He hasn’t accepted it, of course. He’s raging petulantly on Twitter that no, in fact, he won. He did, he did, he did! He won! Bad things happened… illegal votes (whatever the hell those are!), stolen election! He WON! Classy to the end, Don. But it doesn’t matter. Whether he can pull it together enough to walk out of the White House on January 20 with a modicum of dignity or will need to be carried out by men with butterfly nets, his time is done. I’m seeing videos of cheering throngs in New York and San Francisco. The mayor of Paris has tweeted “Welcome back, America,” and I’ve seen reports that church bells are ringing in Munich. I remember a lot of jubilation when Obama won, and Bill Clinton before him, but this… this feels different, doesn’t it? It feels something like I imagine V-E day must have. Maybe because we know, on some level, that we dodged the same authoritarian horror that was put to rest that day.

I’m not going to gloat, though, or let the celebrating get too far out of hand. For one thing, like I wrote the other day, I know that the next few years are going to be an uphill battle for President Biden to get anything of substance done. And Trump is still going to be around for two more months and who knows what kind of rat-fuckery he might get up to in that time? He will, without a doubt, call for recounts or attempt some kind of lawsuit. I don’t believe either of those efforts will change anything… but at the very least, the rhetoric is going to be brutal for the next couple months. I hope he doesn’t try anything crazier than those last-ditch gambits. Maybe someone should consider taking the Nuclear Football away from him?

But that’s something to think about later, perhaps. For now, I’m going to leave with this clip of CNN correspondent Van Jones. I think he says everything that needs to be said on this historic morning. This morning isn’t a victory so much as a relief for a hell of a lot of people. As bad as the last four years have been for me, they’ve been a genuine nightmare for people of color, immigrants, homosexuals… basically anyone not-white and male. I raise my glass to you people. You’re still here. You made it. We all made it.

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The View from the Other Side

As of this moment — 7:30 PM on Thursday night, November Fifth in the accursed Year of the Plague Two Thousand and Twenty — I am reasonably confident that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States of America. Votes are still being counted in a handful of states and everyone in the nation — hell, everyone in the world — is chewing their fingernails to the quick waiting for the final tallies, but the numbers are all trending solidly in that direction. My candidate appears to have won. The long, exhausting reign of Donald J Trump will soon be over.

But I have to be honest, I’m not feeling very triumphant right now. This is probably going to seem a bit silly, but… do you remember the scene in Return of the Jedi when the Super Star Destroyer, aka Vader’s command ship, the Executor, is destroyed? It’s a turning point in the big space battle at the film’s climax; a Rebel fighter plows through the Executor‘s bridge and the out-of-control juggernaut heels over and pierces into the Death Star below, exploding in a gargantuan fireball. On the bridge of the opposing Rebel cruiser, a cheer goes up from the officers in the backgrounds… but Admiral Ackbar doesn’t join in. Instead, he looks downward and then slowly leans back in his seat. His expression — as much as you can read the expression of a latex space-salmon — is curiously somber. Even a bit sad. I’ve always interpreted this as Ackbar mourning the waste of the hundreds of thousands of lives that were surely aboard that destroyer, sailors not unlike his own crew, just doing their jobs for their service and their government. They may have been enemies, but Ackbar is an empathetic creature in my view and takes no pleasure in the things the war demands of him. And of course, the battle isn’t over yet.

Do you understand where I’m going with this? I am Admiral Ackbar in this scenario. I’m watching the Executor go down but there’s no pleasure in it for me because I know the cost of this victory, all the wasted lives lost to COVID and god knows what else, and the war is going to rage on. Perhaps literally, if Trump manages to entice the Proud Boys or other, shall we say, low-information types to violence. At the very least, he’s not going to concede and extracting him from the White House will be… frustrating. As will be a Biden presidency with Mitch McConnell still in charge of the Senate. My liberal dreams of quick action on healthcare, climate change, voting reform, and a thousand other things all slammed into a brick wall when the Democrats failed to crack the Republican majority. And even with Trump himself gone, Trumpism isn’t going anywhere. His base will make him a martyr, and I don’t expect their awful behavior is going to be shamed back into the shadows anytime soon. These hardheaded loudmouths will be spewing their conspiracy theory garbage and making life difficult for anyone they perceive as different from them for a long time to come.

So yeah, my guy won, but it’s something of a Pyrrhic victory.

Still… Trump will soon be gone, or at least out of the spotlight. And what a relief that will be, just to have a respite from the daily outrage and the constant, constant nattering…


The Destruction of the Executor on Disney Video

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Election Day

It’s here at last. The Day of Reckoning. We’ll either save democracy today, wrest the levers of power away from the rapscallions and scoundrels and, yes, the fascists… or we won’t.

I find myself thinking of Bill Murray’s character at the climax of Ghostbusters, when the Stay-Puft marshmallow man is marauding through New York and the boys decide the only chance of defeating him is to cross the streams of their proton blasts — the one thing they’d been warned never to do because of the danger that entails. Facing near-certain doom, Venkman gets an almost beatific look on his face as he says to his friend and colleague, “See you on the other side, Ray,” before pulling his trigger.

Yeah. That’s where I am right now. Come what may, see you on the other side…

 

 

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Reclaim the Country

Bruce Springsteen recently asked us during his SiriusXM Radio show to consider what’s gone missing in the last four years:

“There’s no art in this White House. There’s no literature, no poetry, no music. There are no pets in this White House. No loyal man’s best friend, no Socks the family cat. There are no images of the first family enjoying themselves together in a moment of relaxation: no Obamas on the beach in Hawaii moments, or the Bushes fishing in Kennebunkport, no Reagans on horseback, no Kennedys playing touch football on the Cape.

Where’d that country go? Where did all the fun, the joy and the expression of love and happiness go? We used to have a president who calmed and soothed a nation, instead of dividing it. We are now rudderless and joyless.

We have lost the cultural aspects of society that have always made America great. We have lost our mojo, our fun, our happiness, our cheering on of others— the shared experience of humanity that makes it all worth it. We need to reclaim that country once again.”

“Rudderless and joyless” so perfectly describes the last four years, doesn’t it?

To be fair, this bleak hellscape we find ourselves enduring isn’t really the doing of any one individual. This didn’t just happen suddenly, much as it may seem like it. It’s taken a lot of people, a lot of enablers and dirty-tricks artists, and frankly a lot of apathetic and just plain stupid voters, across a span of 40 years to push the United State of America to this point of near total breakdown. But all that negative karma, all that mean-spiritedness and hard-headedness and emptiness of soul that has washed over our land since 2016, although it’s been building for a long time, was finally instantiated in and catalyzed by one man. One man who, like an abscess, has provided a center for all that horrible inflammation to accrete around and, finally, to erupt through.

I have often theorized that there’s an alternate universe someplace where another Donald J. Trump, born without money but otherwise suffering the exact same pathologies, ekes out a shabby living by dealing a penny-ante game of three-card monte on a folding table down at the very end of the Atlantic City boardwalk, the end that only the most gullible and wide-eyed hayseed tourists ever reach. He’s a con artist through and through, right down at the molecular level, no matter which universe we encounter him in. Unfortunately, we live in the universe where this vulgar, ignorant, greedy, hateful man somehow got himself into a position where he could poison the whole country — the whole world, really, as everything is interconnected — with his sociopathic, insatiable narcissism.

But tomorrow we have a chance to lance the boil and hopefully drain some of that pus out of our system. We can toss out that immoral, sexist, racist bully with the ridiculous combover and the strange orange makeup and the too-long tie and the schlubby suit, that wanna-be mobster, the Con Man in Chief and his whole damn Trump Crime Family. We can be rid of coke-fiend Don Jr and moron Eric, both so desperate for daddy’s love, both so confused that no amount of cocaine or endangered-animal heads on the walls seems to fill the hole in their souls. We can be rid of Steven Miller, the reptilian neo-Nazi Wormtongue who’s been whispering in Trump’s ear, and Bill Barr, who will give you that jowly hang-dog expression and tell you that he is the one being persecuted even as he guts the justice system. And we can be rid of the princess Ivanka and her dead-eyed, greasy-haired consort. Boot them all to the curb, and take their power-hungry bootlicking enablers in Congress with them. If there is any justice at all in this universe, the whole damn Republican party is about to be massively repudiated and sent to the metaphorical desert to think on their sins for the next 40 years or so.

At least that’s my hope. I have a hunch that it just might happen. I don’t think the GOP understands how righteously pissed the left, as well as a whole lot of moderates and even members of their own party, really are about the travesty of the last four years, how tired we all are of the neverending psychodrama shitshow chaos that surrounds and emanates from this White House.

We’ll see, of course. We’ll see.

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Biden’s Closing Argument

Confession time: I didn’t watch the presidential debates. What would have been the point? We already know these men, we know what they’re about and how they conduct themselves. Anyone who claims to be undecided at this point is simply being obstinate or hasn’t been paying attention. Also, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to handle sharp things or have access to the car keys.

That said, I did review the highlights of last night’s debacle, and if I somehow had been among the obstinately undecided, Joe Biden’s final statement would’ve closed the deal for me. The question posed to him at the end of the event was “What will you say during your inaugural address to Americans who did not vote for you?” And here’s his response:

“I will say, I’m an American President. I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me, and I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope. We’re going to move; we’re going to choose science over fiction. We’re going to choose hope over fear. We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities, enormous opportunities to make things better.

We can grow this economy, we can deal with the systemic racism. At the same time, we can make sure that our economy is being run and moved and motivated by clean energy, creating millions of new jobs. That’s the fact, that’s what we’re going to do. And I’m going to say, as I said at the beginning, what is on the ballot here is the character of this country. Decency, honor, respect. Treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I’m going to make sure you get that. You haven’t been getting it the last four years.

Bolded emphasis is mine, because those are the bits that matter the most. Science over fiction, hope over fear, decency, honor, respect. And treating people with dignity. That’s what I want America to be, that’s what I want from my government, that’s my definition of “presidential”… and all of these things are demonstrably beyond the current occupant of the White House, and of his party in general. The Republican Party, whatever it may once have been, has become the party of ignorant cruelty, and I want to see them crushed. I don’t know if I will. After 2016, who the hell knows what’s going to happen? But it’s what I want. Every last one of those filthy bums, from Trump to Mitch McConnell to my own senator, Utah’s self-appointed “constitutional expert” and all-around douchebag Mike Lee, need to be ousted from their positions of power and exiled to the desert for 40 years to think on what they’ve done. Enough of the playground bullies and smug gloating knaves. Just enough. I refuse to believe that neo-Nazis and know-nothings outnumber people who want this country to work for everyone. The only question is whether or not the GOP will be able to cheat their way into another victory. I hope the Democrats are prepared for that this time… that they’ve finally gotten it through their heads that the other side is not honorable and is not going to work with them. Ever. Until they are made to. We’ll see.

And in the meantime, I will cling to the ideals, as liberals tend to do, as I have so many times before: Science over fiction, hope over fear. Decency, honor, respect, dignity.

Debate transcript courtesy of Rev.com

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Barack Unbound

Former president Barack Obama spoke at a drive-in campaign rally in Philadelphia tonight. And while it’s always a pleasure to listen to this dapper, articulate man deliver a speech — especially these days, after four years of that other man’s blustering, sneering, nonsensical word salads — this one was especially entertaining. Obama is finally — finally! — displaying some of the pent-up frustrations that he and every Democrat and so many other decent-minded people have been feeling. He was on fire tonight, by turns incredulous, as if he just can’t believe the bullshit that’s been going on; blunt, as he scored hit after hit on the flailing Con Artist in Chief’s record of incompetence and graft; and finally, in that way that he has always been so good at, hopeful.

As I said, he landed a lot of on-target blows against the current president, everything from his failure to rise to the responsibility of the office he holds to his condescending attitude the previous night toward the very state where Obama was speaking to the new revelation of a secret Chinese bank account and the fact that the president doesn’t pay as much in taxes as a working American. If you despise Donald Trump, there was a lot of red meat here for you to savor. But the topic that really earned Obama’s ire was the Trump administration’s utter failure to handle the pandemic:

We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook that would have shown them how to respond before the virus reached our shores. They probably used it to I don’t know, prop up a wobbly table somewhere. We don’t know where that playbook went. Eight months into this pandemic, cases are rising again across this country. Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself. Just last night, he complained up in Erie that the pandemic made him go back to work. I’m quoting him. He was upset that the pandemic’s made him go back to work. If he’d actually been working the whole time, it never would’ve gotten this bad.

So, look, here’s the truth. I want to be honest here. This pandemic would have been challenging for any president but this idea that somehow this White House has done anything but completely screw this up… it’s just not true. I’ll give you a very specific example. Korea identified its first case at the same time that the United States did. At the same time, their per capita death toll is just 1.3% of what ours is. In Canada, it’s just 39% of what ours is. Other countries are still struggling with the pandemic but they’re not doing as bad as we are because they’ve got a government that’s actually been paying attention.

And that means lives lost. And that means an economy that doesn’t work. And just yesterday, when asked if he’d do anything differently, Trump said, “Not much.” Really? Not much? Nothing you can think of that could have helped some people keep their loved ones alive? So, Joe’s not going to screw up testing. He’s not going to call scientists idiots. He’s not going to host a superspreader event at the White House. Joe will get this pandemic under control with a plan to make testing free and widely available, to get a vaccine to every American cost free and to make sure our frontline heroes never ask other countries for their equipment they need.

Republicans [have] tried to repeal or undermine [the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare] more than 60 times.

And when they’ve been asked about it, they keep on promising, “We’re going to have a great replacement.” They said, “It’s coming.” It’s been coming in two weeks for the last 10 years. Where is it? Where is this great plan to replace Obamacare? They’ve had 10 years to do it. There is no plan. They’ve never had one. Instead they’ve attacked the Affordable Care Act at every turn, driving up costs, driving up the uninsured. Now, they’re trying to dismantle your care in the Supreme Court as we speak, as quickly as they can in the middle of a pandemic with nothing but empty promises to take its place. It’s shameful. The idea that you would take healthcare away from people at the very moment where people need it most, what is the logic of that? There is no logic. Joe knows that the first job of a president is to keep us safe from all threats, foreign, domestic or microscopic.

The entire speech is worth listening to if you have the time and inclination, but that’s the important part right there. COVID-19 is the albatross around Trump’s neck. It should be his downfall. It looks like it will be his downfall. I pray that it is his downfall. We desperately need a president who gives a damn about other people.

On another note, it’s good to see America’s first Vulcan president worked up about something. I really wish we’d seen more of this President Obama during his term. Things might have gone very, very differently if he’d called out Mitch McConnell on his perfidy or defended the ACA as vigorously as he does now that it’s in danger of being obliterated, instead of just trusting that the American people would inform themselves and make wise votes based on the issues…

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