Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Lesson of Conor Lamb

To listen to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and countless Republican surrogates, Conor Lamb, who stunned the GOP with his surprise win Tuesday in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, is a Republican. Apparently denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, himself facing a tough challenge from Democrats Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers, said Lamb ran as a "conservative."

And speaking at a private fundraiser in Missouri Wednesday night, Trump broke his unusual silence about the special election which has sent the Republican Party into a tailspin:

“The young man last night that ran, he said, ‘Oh, I’m like Trump. Second Amendment, everything. I love the tax cuts, everything.’ He ran on that basis. He ran on a campaign that said very nice things about me. I said, ‘Is he a Republican? He sounds like a Republican to me.’”

The problem for the president and his party is that this "Republican" also just happens to support Obamacare, unions, Social Security and Medicare, medical marijuana, expanded background checks and a woman's right to choose... and who opposes Trump's tax cuts and wants to dethrone Nancy Pelosi. Sounds like a real right-wing MAGA!-hat-wearing ideologue, huh?

One of three explanations exist for the president's eye-popping spin: he actually believes what he's saying.  Believes that everything is just fine heading into the November midterms; that his 'popularity' will carry the party to eventual victory; and that what happened in PA is an aberration.

Or that he thinks he can actually change the narrative, and therefore the momentum, just by saying whatever incoherent, disingenuous drivel pops into his head because he's the great and powerful Trump

Or perhaps he's utterly panicked and humiliated and simply throwing a face-saving hail-Mary to his brainwashed base in a desperate attempt to hang onto the one loyal group who he can go to for love when it appears everyone else can't stand him.

To be sure, what Conor Lamb is most definitely not is the stereotypical tree-huggin', Suburu-drivin', bleeding-heart liberal who's been the GOP's punching bag for decades. Republicans know how to define and defeat those candidates. But they don't know what to do with newcomers like Lamb, who just might finally be redefining the party and what it means to be a 'Democrat' in the age of Trump.

What happened Tuesday in PA 18 was no fluke. The seat has been controlled by Republicans since 2003. Mitt Romney won the district by 17 points in 2012. Trump carried it by 20 points. Not only should Lamb have lost, but he should've been trounced. If Republicans can't win in a district Trump won by 20 points, on the heels of steel tariffs in steel country, their prospects for victory in other red districts (where either Hillary Clinton won or Trump carried by 10 points or less) is, as Larry David would say, pretty pretty bleak.   

Lamb won because he doesn't fit the traditional mold. A former Marine and prosecutor, he's a law and order patriot and man of faith who supports gun rights and therefore rightfully scares the shit out of the GOP. 

But can the party of zealous progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren adapt to also be home to moderates and centrists like Lamb? Will the party recruit and support candidates, especially those is traditionally red districts and states, who can win back the Democrats Ronald Reagan stole 37 years ago and who Bill Clinton attracted a decade later?

The lesson from Lamb's momentous victory is that not only can Republicans be defeated and defeated big, but defeated on their own turf with the help of disaffected Trump voters. That 'buyers-remorse' is setting in and can be critically exploited.

And that this election, like those before it in Alabama, Virginia, Kansas, North Carolina, Washington and Georgia, was without question a major referendum on Trump. A blatant repudiation of the dysfunction, chaos and lies that afflicts his administration. An incontrovertible rejection of his sexism and racism that's poisoned America. Of the sullying of the office by the most unqualified, unfit, unpresidential president in history.

The biggest question is, given this incredibly fertile midterm-election ground, will Democrats successfully change the game-plan and surf that massive blue wave we keep hearing is coming or, as in the past, will they deftly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Trump Administration Help-Wanted Ad?

HELP WANTED: White House Aide(s)

The most accomplished administration in presidential history (especially one that's done more in just one year than any other president) seeks bright, articulate aides offering varied opinions and perspectives that will most likely fall on deaf ears. No political experience necessary (in fact, the more unqualified you look on paper the better).

Applicants must be willing to be subjugated by a petty, belittling, mean-spirited, abusive boss and be stripped of their self-worth, dignity and pride (did we mention the merciless bullying yet?). Ideal candidates will be highly insecure with low self-esteem and and even lower expectations. Loyalty is a must. Irrational, blind, self-destructive loyalty.

If hired, you will work for a truly unique president. A self-styled "counter-puncher." A, like, smart man (a stable genius, actually) who knows words; has the best words. Who knows more than the generals. A master negotiator and deal-maker. An astute businessman who never met a bankruptcy he didn't like. Someone who brings opponents to their knees with a simple degrading nickname. Someone with strong vision but who's not afraid to change his mind every 10 seconds if presented with a compelling argument by the last person he talks to. A billionaire not beholden to special interests (unless you include corporate lobbyists, evangelicals, the Koch brothers, the NRA and...does Vladimir Putin count?). The "I alone" president who doesn't need anyone (especially you).

As great as this opportunity sounds, it does come with risk: candidates will almost assuredly be subjected to (mostly on Twitter) public ridicule, mocking, humiliation, condemnation and cringe-worthy personal attacks relating to their most vulnerable qualities including height, weight, looks, hair, speech, family, sexuality, career. You'll be brutally pitted against other aides like gladiators in the Roman Colosseum (the boss loves "conflict"). And you'll likely be publicly contradicted and undermined and made to look like an absolute ineffectual fool who's constantly asked by friends and family "why the hell are you staying there!??"

Ideal candidates must also be immune and desensitized to constant media glare, public scrutiny and political/federal investigations involving various scandals including sex with porn stars and Playmates; enabling domestic violence; sucking up to neo-Nazi's, KKK and white nationalists; and treason. No conscience, and being ethically and morally bankrupt, is a plus. 

Even if hired, your spirit will be broken almost immediately and you'll likely "resign" within 3-9 months. When you run a successful ship like ours it's normal to have an historically high 43% turnover rate. Constant churn and burn. Keeps the staff fresh. On their toes. Uncertain. And paranoid. Paranoia's good. We want you afraid. Looking over your shoulder. Backstabbing. Leaking. Becoming unnamed White House sources for authors and journalists (the boss also loves chaos!) ( we even need to mention the merciless bullying at this point?).

Full disclosure: working for the Trump administration will likely destroy your career, your reputation and your soul...and you may eventually face indictment and imprisonment. You'll likely be left a shattered shell of a human being. Your spouse might leave you and your kids may hate you. You'll become a sad, tragic footnote in history. And the butt of Jimmy Kimmel jokes.      

So are you ready to take this awesome leap!? Are you man or woman enough? Or are you just a pathetic low-life loser? Don't pass on this opportunity of a lifetime! 

Send resumes to:

Donald J. Trump,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
(the boss is also a control-freak)

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Why Trump Gets Away with Everything

It's been terribly frustrating for Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents alike who bristle at Donald Trump's stunningly durable teflon coating. How the president appears to dodge seemingly undodgeable career-killing bullet after bullet. How his unprecedentedly offensive, abnormal behavior would've destroyed any other politician in history. So how the hell does he get away with it all?

Simple. Donald Trump is a bully. A perpetually frightened, paranoid, insecure, thin-skinned, self-loathing narcissist coward who exploits his financial and political power to verbally beat others into submission. His secret? He's created a climate of fear among Congress, the media, Democrats and members of his own party terrified of becoming the target of his wrath. His swift and brutal missives, mainly over Twitter, petrify those who would love to fight him but are woefully mismatched (**cough Marco Rubio cough**).

Trump has no filter. No boundaries. No shame. No fear. And that scares the shit out of people. He's menacingly erratic and unpredictable. So people cower. Afraid to speak up. Or speak out. Because he's great at not playing fair. Because they're afraid of public excoriation and humiliation. Because they fear having their most vulnerable qualities shamelessly mocked (their height, weight, looks, disabilities). Because they know they'll lose. And he can smell this fear, and he exploits it to the max.

Just like a bully.

Which is why Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell largely avoid anything resembling serious pushback, righteous indignation or ethical/moral condemnation. If they went head-to-head with Trump in any truly meaningful, courageous way they and other key Republicans know they'd likely wake up to a horrifyingly inappropriate tweet which attacks their reputation, career, faith, family and/or sexuality. And it wouldn't matter if the salvos were untrue.

Which is why Democrats refuse to get in the ring with Trump. They fear the disparaging branding. Just ask Crooked Hillary, Crazy Bernie, Little Adam Schiff, Pocahontas Warren, Sneaky Diane Feinstein, Al Frankenstein, Crying Chuck or Wacky Congresswoman Wilson. And they remember how Trump made Little Marco appear really little and embarrassingly ineffectual. They know Trump's a way better streetfighter, and that you never show up to a gunfight with a cuticle scissor. And they know that once Trump brands you, you'll never lose that pejorative distinction.  

Which is also why evangelicals shockingly still support the most scandalous, sinful leader since Caligula.  Especially when logic and reason dictate they'd be much happier with a true religious fanatic like Mike Pence, not a preacher in pimp's clothing like Trump. Would Pence not be protecting their 'religious freedom' to discriminate against gays? Would Pence not have given them a right-wing Supreme Court nominee like Neil Gorsuch? Wouldn't Pence represent their pious interests more than the pussy-grabbing sexual predator who attacks the Pope when he's not bangin' porn stars and strippers? But, they're afraid. Afraid of the decimating Tweets. Which might include a cringe-worthy accusation of cavorting with hookers or underage boys.

Which is why many in the media are also afraid of Trump. Just ask Crazy Jim Acosta, Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd, Dumb as a Rock Mika, Psycho Joe and Crazy Megyn. Why else would they subject themselves to his daily insults, lies and efforts to silence them? Why wouldn't they hit back hard, even if it meant getting tossed from the briefings? Why do they play by Trump's rules? Since they have absolutely nothing to lose from those daily lie-fests, how about walking out of them? Or not showing up at all? Wouldn't that send a powerful message that they won't tolerate a brazen, craven assault on our Constitutional right of a free and open press? Desperate measures for desperate times, right? Fat chance.

Bullies can immobilize an entire group of people even if they hugely outnumber him. Bullies paralyze people with fear. It explains why 50 people on a subway car will stare at the floor when a lunatic boards and acts in a threatening manner rather than band together to kick him off at the next stop. It's why 50 people can listen to a bully mercilessly berate someone and not come to his or her defense. And it's why hundreds of politicians would rather allow Trump to turn America into a shithole instead of collectively taking action to get rid of the madman they all deep down believe is the worst, most dangerous president in history.