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Saturday, June 25, 2016

"How did we get here?" An essay on the state of Republican politics, Pt. 10- conclusions

The start of the week brings us a raft of latter-day Trump endorsers who now have the look of a base-runner caught between 1st and 2nd after a miracle line drive catch. They already committed; no easy way back.
Josh Marshall, “Caught Out,” Talking Points Memo, June 6, 2016
For conservatives in this moment, that’s the other half of the picture worthy of scrutiny. Lacking a blatantly dangerous target to explode, the task before us is rediscovering not what we stand against—that’s obvious—but why exactly we’re opposed to what we stand against.
Jonathan Bronitsky, “Six Lefts Make A Right,” The American Conservative, June 8, 2016

As I was closing in on the end of this long meditation, I had two more Facebook messages from my friend at the start and end of April:
When I reached out to you back in February in hopes of an understandable, manageable explanation of the political chaos I was watching, I now realize that I was really asking you for wise assurance that things would be ok.  I was expecting you to tell me that we'd regain our national balance, that there would be some restored national sense of equipoise and balance.  I no longer believe that is possible.  I am resigned and frankly, sickened, by what is happening.  Upon Trump's nomination, I will be changing my registration to unaffiliated.  I cannot, I will not, vote for Trump or Cruz.  I'm done.
The second put the period on the sentence:
Seeing a campaign yard sign the other day reminded me of just how much politics -- and my life -- have shifted.  I live in the newly configured 13th congressional district.  Primary is next month.  I am seeing signs for GOP congressional candidates in MY district that I don't know and never even heard of.  Even two or three years ago, it would have seemed unimaginable for me to be that disconnected from politics in my own back yard.  I am checking out of the Republican Party and changing my registration to unaffiliated on July 22.
A confession, on my way out. My friend didn’t need me to explain anything. All posing the question did was to articulate what had been rattling about in my head, to scrawl the theorem on the whiteboard and begin working out the proof to its logical end.
On the off chance he actually did think I would have something useful to say, well, he was being nice, but he shoulda known better.
But asking was useful for me. It gave me the chance to put three months of moments here and there into making sense- a little- of two-thirds of my life.
The Republicans resolved all doubt for me, however, on the weekend of June 12, 2013. They were animated by conservatives and evangelicals trying to make the Orlando murders a terrorist issue. Or a gun control issue. Anything but what it was.
Many, among the 2800 comments I read at Franklin Graham’s Facebook page, were laudably open in their hatred and spitefulness. The gays deserved what they got was a common refrain, perhaps picked up from the viral posts to that effect by Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (once they were being spread for him by thousands of others, he claimed it was a coincidence his pre-selected scripture was so perfectly relevant to the day, and took it down. Then he published a long defense of how it was, if unintended, still perfectly correct.

To those keen to deny the Republicans’ antigay animus all through this presidential campaign- remember Perry, Cruz, Carson, Jindal, Huckabee, Rubio, Santorum?- refocusing on Muslims was a handy way to change the subject.

The day and evening were then filled with the ritualized “thoughts and prayers” tweets of politicians. What is striking about this event’s crop is how not a single congressional Republican- nor Governor McCrory, closer to home- mentioned the LGBT community the murderer targeted with an assault rifle that killed or wounded 37% of the patrons of the club in a matter of minutes. The more than fifty men and women who died there- and fifty or who were maimed- were reduced to “the victims”.

For pols who have blistered Democrats for not using the magic words, “Radical Islamic Terrorists”, the omission is not accidental.

Democrats, to a man and woman, expressed sympathy for, and empathy with, the LGBT community by name. To people who have spent their lives demonized and marginalized, every step of legal progress contested if not rolled back, gestures matter. When we are named, we exist. When we are not, North Carolina Republicans can proclaim “We don’t want to discriminate against anybody!” as they have done over and over in the wake of saddling the state with HB2.

Somebody- somebody smart- pulled an all-nighter that bloody Sunday. The word went out to the GOP: you can have it both ways.

And thus we discovered that Ted Cruz, who lasted the longest and brayed the loudest his intent to roll back the rights of LGBT Americans- wants us to be free, if nothing else, of fear of murder because of who we are, if only by Radical Muslim Terrorists:
"What we need is for every American – Democrat and Republican – to come together, abandon political correctness, and unite in defeating radical Islamic terrorism. 
"ISIS doesn’t just target soldiers. They don’t just target Republicans. Or Jews. They also target Christians and fellow Muslims. They target each and every one of us. As we saw this morning, they target the gay and lesbian community. Their objective, which they broadcast worldwide, is to murder or forcibly convert every single American. 
"For all the Democrats who are loud champions of the gay and lesbian community whenever there is a culture battle waging, now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians. ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars) regularly murder homosexuals, throwing them from buildings and burying them under rocks. This is wrong, it is evil, and we must all stand against it. Every human being has a right to live according to his or her faith and conscience, and nobody has a right to murder someone who doesn’t share their faith or sexual orientation. If you’re a Democratic politician and you really want to stand for LGBT, show real courage and stand up against the vicious ideology that has targeted our fellow Americans for murder."

Marco Rubio said he didn’t need an investigation to know the LGBT community was being targeted in Orlando, before hinting he might rethink his retirement from the Senate. Within days he discovered the brass ring was a lot closer atop a pile of bodies.

And then, mid-afternoon, came a speech by Donald Trump, who has sworn to appoint supreme court justice to overturn LGBT rights, and was against HB2 before he was for it:

Our nation stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando's LGBT Community.

This is a very dark moment in America’s history.

A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub not only because he wanted to kill Americans, but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation.

It is a strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation.

It is an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want and express their identity.

It is an attack on the right of every single American to live in peace and safety in their own country.

We need to respond to this attack on America as one united people – with force, purpose and determination.

...Many of the principles of Radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions.

Radical Islam is anti-woman, anti-gay and anti-American.

…I refuse to allow America to become a place where gay people, Christian people, and Jewish people, are the targets of persecution and intimidation by Radical Islamic preachers of hate and violence.

It’s not just a national security issue. It is a quality of life issue.

If we want to protect the quality of life for all Americans – women and children, gay and straight, Jews and Christians and all people – then we need to tell the truth about Radical Islam.

...The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why we should admit anyone into our country who supports violence of any kind against gay and lesbian Americans.

Hillary Clinton can never claim to be a friend of the gay community as long as she continues to support immigration policies that bring Islamic extremists to our country who suppress women, gays and anyone who doesn’t share their views.

She can’t have it both ways. She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress them.

How does this kind of immigration make our life better? How does this kind of immigration make our country better?

Why does Hillary Clinton want to bring people here—in vast numbers—who reject our values?

Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words? Clinton wants to allow Radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country—they enslave women, and murder gays.

This is brilliant politics, and breathtaking cynicism. Who, after all, need foreigners to harm gays by force when one is the head of party dedicated, root and vine, to doing it in law?

It’s a ludicrous, contemptible, and false Faustian bargain. The Republicans are offering LGBT Americans a choice of third-class status alive, or majestically even-handed equality of death. “We won’t kill you,” is the hashtag. “Muslims will.”

I leave to others whether they want to spend their remaining days, and consign those of their posterity to, a life organized around fear, endless unsupervised surveillance, and authoritarianism. It may be new to them, and present a certain novelty.

I do not. I will not.

I have lived that way most of my life. A write called Kristen Becker has put it better than I can:

The media is awash in coverage of the terrorism angle of this tragedy. But to understand the impact of the shootings in Orlando, one must understand what gay bars really mean, especially in conservative areas.

To live and work as a member of the LGBTQ population in a conservative area means to not hold hands in public. It means to learn how to alter your pronouns on Monday morning so you don’t accidentally out yourself at the water cooler and lose your job. It means renting a two-bedroom apartment, even if you only need one.

Day in and day out, you spend countless hours of energy containing yourself. Keeping who you are hidden, until you get to a safe space. Nine times out of 10, that safe space is a bar. Often those bars have really vague names and minimum signage. Better safe than sorry. No need to draw attention.

This is the trickle-down hate effect. Many of this country's lawmakers have spent the last year spending our tax dollars to push anti-LGBTQ legislation through their respective state governments. One after another, laws aimed to de-humanize the LGBTQ community were brought forth under the guise of “religious freedom.” There will be many right-wing Christians who will jump to the front and say, “The shooter was Muslim!”

The man who pulled the trigger might have identified as Muslim, and a perversion of Islam even so, but Christian rhetoric really killed 50 people on Sunday — the fruit of the last two years of conservative vitriol lays on an Orlando dance floor this morning, covered in innocent blood.

This week, the LGBTQ community will rally around itself. We excel at taking care of one another. We are accustomed to making our own way. Take for example, the gay and bi men who faced the AIDS epidemic with many a lesbian by their side, nursing them when no one else would. We have holidays with our chosen families after our blood relatives disown us. We pass through life while sharing secret side-glances with strangers, looking out for each other when we can.

June 12, 2016 will go down as the day we stopped accepting our furtive lives. We're told to keep our lives private and then we're killed in our private space? Americans can't expect things to go back to the way they were. Muslim beliefs, Christian beliefs, Atheist non-beliefs — whatever justification is made for homophobia just doesn't fly anymore.

Not sure how to tell your kid why two men are holding hands? Not our problem. Don’t like that Target allows us to relieve our bladders in peace? Suck it up. Two women in love, showing affection for one another and now you have to have a weird moment of silence with your mother-in-law? Tough shit.

We have spent decades attempting to let religious homophobes and transphobes evolve, but they're taking too long and we're losing too much. I’m sure this will be hard for you to hear, but our existence doesn’t need to be sanctioned by you.

Who is the “you” I speak of? You know who you are. So do we.

To what does it all come down to? I think, to this:

The conservative notion of democracy has changed. No longer, in their universe, do ideas contend.

Now there are people who are right, and people who are enemies.

Democracy is no longer about compromise and cooperation. It is about destroying the Other, and ruling forever. It is not so many years ago since my old teacher, Karl Rove, declared a permanent Republican majority, in a world where the victors make their own reality.

The elected opposition merely takes up space and collects a paycheck. Judicial review is to be eliminated. Courts exist, in the new democracy, to validate what the majority enacts.

The party that wins a working majority shall rule by decree, and all the means by which it can remain in power- voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the nimble application of tax donatives to the counties and cities that pay court- are fair game.

When the argument cannot be own on its merits, change the subject. Thus the North Carolina Republicans have unveiled, for the November ballot, a trifecta of pandering to its base: constitutional amendments for everyone!

One will enshrine the right to carry a gun pretty damn much anywhere.

One will enshrine the ability to hunt pretty much anywhere.

And one will cap state income tax rates.  The first two are to get out the vote in November; the last is to keep it turning out.
A cap on rates, in the New Normal, extended low growth, guarantees that gain in the economy go to the most well off. It ensures that normal growth in state expenses- salaries, pensions, and services- will be, increasingly, stunted.

City and county governments will, increasingly, be forced to look to local taxes on sales and property to make ends meet. Elderly white, angry, racially tinged voters- America’s Brexiters- will do the rest,  out local government in coming elections.

This is not why I started being a Republican.

It is why I stopped being one.

I hope my friend will agree.

Whether he does or not, I aim to fight like hell.

I aim to leave American better than I found it, not just to maximize my profits while I am alive.

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