The Lower Half of the Ticket

Harris possesses a formidable intellect, is very well spoken and, using complex but comprehensible and complete sentences on rarely hears in politics today, and is not prone to gaffes, and have proved herself an indefatigable campaigner. She was regarded well enough as the California State Attorney general to win one of the state’s Senaate seats, and has earned a national profile in that position.
On the other hand, she doesn’t seem to bring any political advantages to the ticket. She’s from California, but Biden or any other Democratic nominee needn’t worry about that state’s 55 electoral votes. She’s a woman, but Biden already has the support of a majority of women voters an Harris isn’t likely to attract any distaff supporters of President Donald Trump. By current Democratic standards she’s considered a moderate, but she’s sill far left of the average Republican and won’t be seen as a moderating influence on the ticket. She might even wind up dispiriting some far-left Democratic voters who consider Biden insufficiently Democrat.
Given the current state of Democratic politics, Harris’ reputation as a tough-on-crime attorney general will probably alienate much of the party, and it won’t win over any Trump supporters. He will find it hard to attack her as part of a nefarious plot to stop enforcing the law entirely, but he’ll try anyway.
Harris is black, too — actually part Indian and part Jamaican, which qualifies as black by current rules — but in this race that won’t make much difference. Like any other Democrat Biden can count on at least 90 percent of the black vote, and while there are still a lot of racists in America they were all going to vote for Trump anyway.
Perhaps the 77-year-old Biden thought her the most qualified President of the United States should he be unable to serve a full first team. We don’t share that assessment, but we can’t think of anyone on the current political scene who is up to the job.

— Bud Norman

Three Cheers for the GOP’s “Human Scum”

Lately we’ve been binge-watching videos from both the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump, as they make us feel lonely and give us hope that the Republican Party might eventually recover from President Donald Trump.
If you’re not familiar with either organization, you probably will be by Election Day. The Lincoln Project is a political action committee formed by some prominent Never Trump Republicans, including conservative lawyer George Conway, now best known as the husband of senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, former managers of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaigns Steve Schmidt and John Weaver, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party Jennifer Horn, and former California Republican Party political director Mike Madrid. Republicans Voting Against Trump is a more grass roots organization posting videos of dozens of disillusioned rank-and-file Republicans explaining the conservative and Republican reasons they’ll be voting against Trump.
Both groups make a more persuasive case against Trump than anything the damn Democrats have come up with so far, and both are a problem for the president.
The well-funded Lincoln Project’s videos are very professionally produced by political professionals who know a thing or two about how to make an effective attack ad and can speak to Republicans in Republican language. Last time around Trump had the advantage of running against spineless Republicans who didn’t want to alienate his supporters during the primary, and then against an inept Democratic nominee whose long history prevented her from exploiting Trump’s moral weakness. This time around he’ll presumably be running against presumptive Democrat nominee “Sleepy” Joe Biden, whose blandness will contrast favorably with Trump’s overly energetic persona, and he’s also got to contend with some bare-knuckle political pugilists who won’t be intimidated by a “tweet.”
All the YouTube views being racked up the Republican Voters Against Trump should be more worrisome. They’re not at all slick, just ordinary-looking Republicans looking into a video camera and stating their reasons for voting against Trump. Most of them have stories about how they’ve been Republicans since Trump was a Democrat, several talk about their military service and careers in law enforcement and their time in public office as Republicans, others talk about their Christian faith and belief that character counts, and none of them come across as “human scum,” as Trump has called any Republicans who don’t support everything says and does. They talk about how Trump has abandoned traditional Republican positions on free trade and maintaining the alliances that have largely kept the world peaceful and prosperous since World War II and lowering federal deficits and telling the truth, and as they rack up thousands of “views” on the internet they’re bound to win over more Republicans.
With coronavirus cases spiking and unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression and peaceful protests and the occasional riot popping up around the country because of racial injustice, Trump is betting that his defense of the the lost cause of the Confederacy is the best thing he’s got going for him. That will appeal to a certain segment of supporters, but we can’t see how it will win him any new voters nor appease any of the disillusioned Republican voters who continue to believe in the Grand Old Party’s traditional-since-its-founding pro-Union stance.
Most Republicans still like Trump, which we attribute to the fact he’s the Republican nominee, like it or not, but all the polls show that party support slowly eroding. The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump likely accelerate that trend, and Trump will be hard-pressed to recruit replacements.

— Bud Norman

In Search of Good News

Everyday we spend an inordinate amount of time reading and watching news from a wide variety of sources, always hoping for some glimmer of good news, but for most of this year it’s been a desultory task. We can only imagine how depressing it must be for President Donald Trump.
Coronavirus cases continue to mount in many states, including Oklahoma and Arizona, where Trump recently had large crowds gathering together indoors and mostly without face marks, and in such crucial states as Texas and Florida. All the stock markets suffered significant losses on Wednesday because of the scary coronavirus numbers, and the estimated 50 million workers who are now out of work can’t to expect things to change soon. There are still peaceful protests and lawless vandalism going on around the country about racism and police brutality, and although Trump has promised racism can be “quickly and very solved,” we don’t expect he solve that problem by Election Day.
Trump got big applause at his appearances in Oklahoma by calling coronavirus “the Kung Flu,” even though many Asian-Americans have voiced their objections, and he still likes to call Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” despite the objections of many Native Americans, and his latest cause is a defense of the statues and other honorifics to the slave-holding traitors of the Confederate Sates of America. This is good news for Trump’s most die-hard defenders, but it’s bad news to the rest of the country, and doesn’t seem likely to end racism by Election Day. There are fears from the experts that the coronavirus will be worse by then, and that the economic numbers will be just as dire. Unless you’re Trump or one of his die-hard fans the only good news is that all polls show presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading by wide margins nationwide and in crucial swing states.
The only other news is about Trump politicizing the Justice Department and letting his cronies off easy and going after prosecutors nosing into Trump’s business, but he’ll surely have some explanation for that will satisfy the die-hard fans.
Election Day is still four months away, though, and almost anything could happen in that time. We’re not hopeful, though, and neither should Trump be.

— Bud Norman

Trump’s Trip to Tulsa

We’ve never failed to have a good time on our many visits to Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is one of America’s most musical cities and one of those places that has its own weird vibe, but President Donald Trump wound up having a very bad day there on Saturday.
Trump had hoped restart his reelection campaign with one of of his famously jam-packed and raucous at the 19,000-seat Bank of Oklahoma Center in downtown Tulsa, but starting with the announcement it proved a public relations disaster. The campaign was widely criticized for packing unmasked people into a crowded building during an ongoing pandemic, including by the mayor and public health officials hospital workers in Tulsa, which has lately seen its coronavirus cases spiking. Others noticed the rally was scheduled for June 19th, which millions of black Americans celebrate as “Juneteenth” to commemorate when the last Americans slaves in Texas learned they were free, and given that it was shortly after the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 when white Tulsans murdered at last 300 black Tulsans and largely burned down the city’s prosperous black district, and given that most black Americans consider Trump a racist, it was another controversy.
In a rare concession to public opinion Trump rescheduled the rally to the next day, and boasted that he “made Juneteenth famous,” then announced that all the rally-goers would be provided one of those face masks that he refuses to wear and has discouraged others from wearing. He also required that rally-goers sign a form waiving liability against the campaign if anyone was infected during the rally, and the rally wasn’t getting the coverage Trump hoped for. Shortly before the rally the press was reporting that six campaign workers who’d been doing advance work the event had tested positive for coronavirus, and Trump was reportedly furious that it was being reported.
Still, Trump flew into Tulsa with high hopes. His campaign manager had boasted that one million people had applied for tickets, and Trump promised he would not only pack the arena but have thousands more supporters in a makeshift stadium outside the arena waiting for another speech. When the Tulsa fire marshal estimated that 6,200 people were inside and only a few dozen were milling about outside, it was embarrassing. Unwilling to call the Tulsa fire marshal a Trump-hating liar and unable to refute all the “fake news” footage from every outlet including Fox News and One America News Network the campaign blamed the media for stoking coronavirus fears and left-wing protesters scaring away families and blocking the doors, but the protests were also smaller than expected and far more peaceful than Trump might have preferred, and it was another rough news cycle for Trump.
The campaign boasted that 5 million or so people watched it on the internet, which might well be true, but we doubt it won Trump many new voters. The speech was a typically meandering harangue, with some weirder than usual moments. He attacked presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a number of nicknames and some seemingly contradictory accusations, criticizing Biden for supporting the tough-on-crime 1994 Crime Bill and also predicting that a President Biden will defund the police and allow criminals to run amok. He also bragged at length about how strong the economy had been before the coronavirus came along, and how great it will be when the coronavirus magically fades away, and he blamed the Chinese for the current unpleasantness, and said he’d told “his people” to stop testing so often to slow the rate of reported cases. Before the speech was even over the White House press office released a statement explaining that Trump was only joking, but couldn’t explain why it was appropriate for a President of the United States to joke about a disease that has already killed more than 120,000 Americans. He didn’t mention the national debate about racism and police brutality, except to criticize the commissioner of the National Football league for allowing players to kneel during the national anthem in protest.
He also did an extended monologue about the widely seen videotape of him very gingerly and uncertainly descending a ramp after a graduation ceremony at West Point, which made for an embarrassing news cycle a week or so ago and is the kind of thing most politicians would happily left fade from memory, and although we found the explanation further embarrassing the crowd seemed to think it the funniest comedy routine since the heyday of Bob Hope. He’d also been videotaped using two hands to drink from a cup of water, which he blamed on having saluted 600 cadets individually, and when he demonstrated that he could indeed drink from a glass of water with just one hand the crowd went wild at the feat of strength. Again, the fans love it, but it’s not likely to win any new voters.
When Trump returned to the White House aboard the Marine One helicopter he was videotaped walking across the lawn with his tie undone and a Make America Great Again ball cap in one hand, looking very exhausted and unhappy. That quickly made the rounds, delighting Trump’s many critics, and will probably fuel a few nights of late night comedy show monologues and lots of “memes” on social media. Meanwhile, we haven’t heard any spin from the White House press office that is at all convincing, and are eager to hear what they might come up with.
Tulsa’s a fun town full of good people and great architecture and real-deal American music, that horrific episode back in ’21 notwithstanding, and if you get the chance we urge you to visit. We don’t expect that Trump will be eager to return, though.

— Bud Norman

Trump and the Changing Times

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects an estimated 650,000 “dreamers” who were illegally brought in the country as children from deportation, is itself illegal. If it had happened a few months earlier, we suspect, it would have been a bigger story.
Trump’s promise to rid the country of illegal immigrants by any means necessary helped him win his upset victory in the 2016 election, and had hoped it would help him win reelection, but the issue has lately faded from the news cycle. What with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic catastrophe and all the protests and occasional riots about racism and police brutality, some 650,000 people who can’t be blamed for being here and have proved that they’re going to school or working at jobs and in many cases helping hospitals cope with the coronavirus don’t seem so scary.
Public opinion polling shows that most Americans — and even most Republicans — are sympathetic to the “dreamers” and not eager to deport them to countries they can’t remember and where they don’t speak the language, so Trump should be glad that the Supreme Court spared him all the heartbreaking stories that would have run in the media about mass deportations of well-scrubbed college kids and military veterans and emergency room workers. The big, beautiful border wall that Trump promised Mexico will pay for has a few hundred miles than American taxpayers have payed for, and drug gangs are sawing holes in it, and when was the last time you saw a story about that?
Instead, after losing a decision a day earlier that ruled it is illegal for employers to fire homosexual and transexual workers because of their homosexuality or transgenderism, Trump “tweeted” out “Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” and warned that if he doesn’t get another four years to appoint more justices the Second Amendment would also be threatened by a court of liberals and squishy moderates. That should rile up some of the faithful, but he’d be well advised not to press the “dreamers” issue, as it won’t win him any of the votes he lost time around.
In the wake of the biggest public health crisis since 1918 and the worst economy since the Great Depression and the most unrest in the streets since 1968, several of Trump’s favorite issues seem to have lost their salience. A couple of years ago Trump did well cussing about National Football League players who kneeled during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality, but after a couple of months of endlessly replayed videos showing blatantly racist police brutality the NFL has apologized for banning the protest and the protesters are polling better than Trump. For now, he’s losing the culture wars.
The president continues to defend honorifics to the Confederacy, even as the Marines and the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and even the good ol’ boys at the NASCAR stock racing circuit are banning displays of the Confederate battle flag. His tough-guy “law and order” rhetoric seems to be backfiring as well, with even some skittish Republican politicians criticizing him for using flash grenades and pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse a mostly peaceful protest in Lafayette Square to post for a photo with a Bible in his hand at a nearby church. Most people have become accustomed to having gay and lesbian co-workers, and only a very few know anybody transgendered, too, and most people currently have more pressing problems to worry about, so advocating for mass firings won’t win Trump many new votes.
Although he lost the popular vote by some three million ballots Trump was able to eke out an electoral college victory with an undeniably ingenious ability to discern the cultural climate, but it seems to be failing him this time around. He can order some rather half-hearted police reforms while praising most police officers, and decry racism while promising he can “quickly and easily” end it, but after so many years he’s ill-suited to the role of racial healer. It’s also a bit late for the boastfully pussy-grabbing politician to win back many of the suburban white women who have been abandoning the Republican party in droves, or convince any homosexuals that he’s a “friend of the family,” or win any non-white voters.
At this point Trump needs to make the coronavirus “magically disappear” as long promised, followed quickly by a V-shaped economy recovery like no one’s ever seen before, and hope that everyone’s so happy about it on Election Day they forget his past enthusiasm for Confederate-style racism and police “not being too nice” when arresting suspects. That’s going to be difficult to achieve in the next five months, though, and at the moment Trump is not even trying to pull it off. Instead he’s defying the wishes of local politicians and health officials by holding a crowded indoor rally in Oklahoma despite the past week’s doubling of coronavirus cases in the state, boasting that by moving the date one later he made the “Juneteenth” celebration of black slaves being belatedly emancipated more famous, and doing little about the economy other than signing off on unprecedented deficit spending.
There are a couple of well-regarded polls that correctly predicted the popular vote in the last which now show Trump losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 14 points, and the Fox News poll is similarly bleak, and even the Trump-friendly Rasmussen poll has him losing by 11 points. Trump’s instinct is to play to his diminishing base, but in these strange times he’ll likely need a lot more than that.

— Bud Norman

The Ever-Present Eyes of the Cell Phone

Several of the non-coronavirus stories that have somehow penetrated the news are a result of those ubiquitous cell phone cameras. They’ve captured the shooting on an unarmed black man in Georgia, a Minnesota policeman with his knee pressed against another unarmed black man who died during his arrest, along with a couple of widely disseminated nonviolent but seemingly racist encounters between white and black people.
One might conclude that there’s been a recent viral outbreak out of racism, but our guess is that these incidents aren’t any more common but are more likely to be videotaped and posted on the internet. All sorts of obnoxious behavior is winding up on the internet these days, often resulting in public shaming and even more severe consequences for the miscreants, ranging from losing jobs to being charged with crimes.
One might hope that this phenomenon will have some deterrent effect against people behaving obnoxiously, but so far we haven’t noticed that happening. Most of our interactions with other people, which have been somewhat limited the past few months, are quite pleasant, bolstering our hope that people of all ages and sexes and races and class are basically OK, but there still seems to be the usual number of them who just don’t get how awful they’d look on a viral video. By now most of them have cell phone cameras of their own, and will pull them out to make you look bad, but if you keep your calm and act reasonably they’ll still wind up looking awful.
We have a still camera and a video camera on our old-fashioned and relatively dumb “flip phone,” but being defiant Luddites we’re proud to say we have no idea how to use them, much less upload anything visual on the internet, and we mostly regard these newfangled machines as another annoyance of modernity. People use them to show their friends the fancy meal they’re eating and share “selfies,” that quintessential neologism of the moment, and to our admittedly Gutenberg-era conservative way of thinking it has a aggravating effect on an already self-obsessed culture. We’d also hate to have our worst moments be videotaped and go “viral” on the internet, although we do our best not to do anything virulent, and wonder about a brave new world where our every venture into the public space is watched by both public and private cameras.
Some good might come of it, we grudgingly admit. There are now a couple of cases of white men allegedly killing black men for no apparent reason that might have been swept under the racial rug if not for some seemingly damning cell phone footage. In the Minnesota case the videographers were bystanders who caught it from different angle, and in the Georgia case it was captured by a man now accused of being an accomplice.
When President John Kennedy was assassinated in broad daylight in the public square there happened to one guy in the crowd who caught it on a hand-held film camera, and the footage has been argued about ever since. We truly hope nothing like that ever happens again, but if it does we expect the investigations and commissions and historians will have thousands of videotapes from every possible angle. All these videos might well result in the guilty being punished and the innocent exonerated, and we hope that comes to pass.
We don’t hold out much hope that human nature will be much improved by it, though.

— Bud Norman

On a Stormy Day at Home

Stuck at home on a cold and stormy Kansas day, we spent most of it reading the news. Needless to say, it did not cheer us up.
Turning to Facebook, which is the closest thing we have to hanging out with friends, we found some of nutty right wing friends recommending the latest conspiracy theory video and insisting that the coronavirus death toll is being grossly exaggerated if not entirely fabricated to further a left-wing “deep state” plot to keep everyone at home. They’re all avid supporters of President Donald Trump, so we wonder if they’re disappointed that their hero hasn’t yet thwarted this dastardly plot and locked up the conspirators, but for now they don’t say and we don’t dare ask.
One day Trump will tout the strict guidelines his administration came up with for easing the emergency restrictions, the next day he’ll be “tweeting” his encouragement to states to reopen businesses, and when he’s not vacillating between the positions he’s blaming China and President Barack Obama and distracting Democratic oversight hearings for the problem, and noting that things could be worse. What he hasn’t done, so far at least, is embrace the conspiracy theory that most of the executive branch of the federal government he’s in charge of, including the expert scientists Trump has praised and allowed to speak freely, are carrying out the most elaborate conspiracy in the history of conspiracies.
We also have many friends who are pretty loony left, but for now even the looniest of them are sounding compartively sane. They’re all posting words of encouragement to keep up the social distancing and hand-washing and face-masking-wearing to fight what they perceive as a major public health crisis, and we give them credit for posting ample amounts of information from credible sources to refute the conspiracy theories coming from sources of very dubious repute. They have their own theories that Trump has underestimated the threat posed by the coronavirus and is urging a premature return to business as usual for purely self-interested political reasons, but damn it, we find it harder to argue that.
One of our loony left friends is a very gentle and generous and loving soul but possibly the looniest of them all, and she’s still siding with Trump’s endorsement of hydroxychloroquine even after Trump and his allies on Fox News and talk radio have abandoned the cause, but we noticed all the comments tried to dissuade her and had ample amounts of information from credible sources. We were surprised to see a couple of liberal friends charge that there is a plot to create a false crisis and keep us all at home, but that Trump is in on it, but most on the left prefer the theory that the crisis is real and Trump has failed to adequately respond.
In a rare non-coronavirus story, charges against former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn were dropped by the Department of Justice. What one makes of that is also determined by whether he’s looking at it from the right or the left. If you’re on the overwhelming majority of what’s now the right that supports Trump no matter what it’s a victory for justice, a happy case of a solid soldier and good man prevailing over false accusations wrought by President Barack Obama’s conspiracy with corrupt federal officials to bring down Trump. If you’re on the left, it’s a case of a man who had already pleaded guilty to lying to public officials and was getting money as a lobbyist from Turkey while he advised the president on foreign getting a get-out-of-jail card from a politicized Trump Justice Department.
The other non-coronavirus news that penetrated the front pages and was talk of our Facebook friends circle was that two man have been charged for the murder of a 25-year-old man named Ahmoud Arbery in Georgia. Arbery is black, the two men charged with his murder are white, and as always in America that matters.
By all accounts so far Arbery was an average unarmed American guy with no criminal record out for his daily 2 mile jog when he was gunned down on an empty stretch of road between a forest. The two men charged with his murder are an ex-sheriff and his son, who by all accounts roamed the roads as an unofficial patrol, and there’s video that’s surfaced of them confronting Arbery as a burglary suspect and Arbery being subsequently shot, which after more than two weeks led to the arrest of the two men after two local district attorneys recused themself an the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over.
The left is calling it another example of America’s racist strain, and rightly so, but the right isn’t disputing that. Georgia’s Republican governor praised the GBI’s work, Trump said that Arbery’s death was “a very sad thing,” and no one we know is posting any offensive “memes” about Arbery’s deaths. Our diverse group of black friends often have diverse opinions about the topics of the day, but they all share the same worry that Arbery won’t get justice in an American court, and we try to reassure them that this time will be one of the many times justice has prevailed in America.
Perhaps the worst thing we hate about the Trump era even before all this coronavirus catastrophe is how often find ourselves siding with those damned Democrats we’ve been squabbling with for years, since way back when Trump was a Democrat. At this peculiar moment in history we find ourselves stuck at home and on the political sidelines, our only rooting interest being our hope the center somehow holds. We hopefully retain some hope in the principles and the institutions and American spirit that have somehow guided this nation toward greatness through hard times, no matter what sort of corrupt and incompetent officials had been elected to high office.

— Bud Norman

On Trump and Christianity Today

Since its founding by Rev. Billy Graham in 1956 the magazine Christianity Today has been an influential voice in evangelical circles, but little noticed by the rest of the world. That changed on Friday when it ran an editorial urging that President Donald Trump be removed from office, which got so much attention the magazine’s internet site briefly crashed in the unprecedented traffic.
The editorial was newsworthy because poll after poll has shown that Trump enjoys overwhelming support from white self-identified evangelical Christians, with such self-proclaimed evangelical leaders as Graham’s son Franklin Graham among his most obsequious defenders, and Trump’s critics have long been perplexed by the phenomenon.
Trump boasted in “The Art of the Deal” about the many married women he’s seduced, his third wife is a former nude model, he broke federal laws to cover up an affair with a pornographic video performer, he ran casinos and strip clubs, often curses in front of the kids, once tried to kick an elderly widow of her longtime home to build a parking lot for his limousine, and has earned a reputation for stiffing his employees and contractors and investors. He tells at least two or three outright lies a day, his family was recently barred by the New York courts from running a charity because his foundation had stolen money from a children’s cancer program, he pridefully “punches back ten times harder” rather than turn the other cheek, and while running for the Republican nomination he told a Christian forum that he’s never felt the need to ask God’s forgiveness for any of it.
So far as we can tell, Trump’s white evangelical supporters believe he’s punching back ten times harder on their behalf, and therefore deserves a pass. Although he was a staunch advocate for abortion rights through most of his life, he’s kept a promise to appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges who might overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that made first-term abortions a constitutional right. He moved the America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and given his blessings to his expanded Israeli settlements in disputed territories, and has otherwise been a staunch friend to a country that is now more important to America’s evangelical Christians than to its most secularized Jews. Trump has also sought to revoke the Johnson Amendment that forbids tax-exempt churches from advocating for political candidates such as himself, and his controversial Secretary of Education has sought to prevent restrictions on the free speech rights of students.
More importantly, we suspect, is that Trump is despised by the same snooty Hollywood and academic and media types that many evangelicals feel have been sneering down at them during the past many decades of cultural revolution. He longs for a 1950s economy of coal miners and steelworkers and stay-at-home moms, and a return to that same halcyon era when football players stood at attention during the national anthem and protestors were treated roughly and Christianity was a more dominant force in American culture. Trump might not be an exemplary Christian, some of our white evangelical friends will admit, but they note that David was beloved by God and a great leader despite his rather extraordinary sins, and that the Persian King Cyrus negotiated a treaty that protected his kingdom and also gave freedom to the Israelites, so they have faith that Trump is one of those mysterious God ways with which works His will.
We’re white and regularly attend services at a strictly-by-the-Bible low church over on the west side and not embarrassed to evangelize for Christ, and in fact are ashamed by how little we do it, but better Christians than ourselves have never persuaded us to support Trump with any of these arguments.
David had demonstrated his love for God in mortal combat against Goliath and pleaded God’s mercy for his sins, and Trump’s bone spurs and prideful nature have prevented him for doing either. That deal Cyrus struck with the Israelites only forestalled the diaspora and the destruction of the temple and the pogroms and the Holocaust and all the difficulties that still beset a reconstituted Israel. For all its virtues the ’50s was a time of disgraceful institutional racial and sexual inequality, and for all the destructive influences that have been unleashed since we’re glad that the era’s dissenters weren’t beaten into submission. That steelmaking and coal mining economy isn’t coming back, nor are the trade union dominance and high top-bracket tax rates of the era, and we figure it’s better the public should focus on the inevitable high-tech and air-conditioned and less brown-lung-inducing and more female-inclusive industries of the future, and how to get along with one another in a population that will become increasingly diverse no matter what walls Trump builds. Even if Roe v Wade is overturned, the matter will simply be turned back over to the states, where the liberals will likely win lots of elections on the issue.
We’re as appalled at the current state of the American culture as any of our white evangelical brothers and sisters, but the scriptures tell us to put not our faith in princes, and as princes go we’re especially suspicious of this unrepentantly vulgar and profane Trump fellow. He seems to epitomize the Hugh Hefner and Rat Pack hedonism of the ’50s, as well as the decade’s pushy racism and sexism, and his complaints about what have come since seem disingenuous except when they’re overtly racist and sexist or obviously self-serving. God allowed Trump’s election to the presidency, just as he twice allowed President Barack Obama’s, but we believe that in both cases He was granting American mankind its postlapsarian free will and the opportunity to once again screw things up beyond recognition.
At this point, and as always, even the most cocksure Americans of humankind can’t bring about paradise on Earth, so we figure the Church should remain focused on sending as many individual souls as possible to a better place. Having the faith identify itself with its allegiance to Trump won’t help the effort. As the editorial in Christianity Today notes, there’s no disputing the evidence that Trump’s unabashed amorality has led him to abuse the powers of office and obstruct officials to find the truth about it, among other odious things, and there’s no explaining that to the skeptical sinners in need of salvation.
“To use an old cliche, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence,” the editor-in-chief wrote. “And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.”
We’re not saying any damn Democrat would be any better, but we share the hope of Christianity Today and Christians everywhere that there’s something better on the far horizon.

— Bud Norman

Another Bloody American Weekend

America had another bloody weekend, with a mass shooting on Saturday in El Paso, Texas, and another on Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, with a combined death toll of 29 people and scores more seriously injured. The incidents were the 31st and 32nd mass shootings of the year, and the second and third in the past week.
The shootings in Ohio seem to have been the result of a personal grievance the shooter had with at least one of his victims, but the far deadlier spree in Texas is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism by a shooter motivated by hatred of Latino Americans. There have been several mass shootings and single murders in the past three years linked to white supremacist ideology, at synagogues and mosques and mostly black churches, with an American death toll exceeding that of radical islamist terrorism over the same time.
The racial aspect of the El Paso massacre is largely dominating the political debate this time around, of course. Many Democrats have been quick to say that President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies have emboldened his racist supporters, and although most Republicans have defended Trump they’ve often embarrassed themselves in the effort.
Over at The National Review, which has long been the preeminent journal of intellectual conservatism in America and has lately struggled to stay true to its principles in the age of Trump, the editors opined that white supremacy “deserves to be treated by the authorities in same manner as has been the threat posed by militant Islam.” This strikes us as inarguably true at this point, but many readers took to the comments board to make the most absurd arguments. One common response was to ask what about all the anti-white racism on the left, and why the National Review editors weren’t writing about that instead of the white guy who just shot and killed 20 brown-skinned people at an El Paso Wal-Mart. Others seemed to suggest that if we’d just deport all the brown-skinned people, and stop making all the potentially murderous racists feel so marginalized, there would be no need mass shootings by white supremacists. Even though the editorial made no mention of Trump, several readers objected to what they considered an implied criticism of their dear leader.
Which is not the Republican party or conservative philosophy we signed up for.
There is indeed an anti-white strain of racism in certain corners of the left, but what about it? Just as Hillary Clinton’s alleged and proved misdeeds don’t justify anything Trump has done, the white guilt mongering on the left in no way justifies someone shooting 20 random people at an El Paso Wal-Mart or driving a car into an anti-racism protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Getting rid of all the darker-hued people is not the solution to racism, but rather an extreme act of racism. Trump can’t be held responsible for the act of a deranged racist in Texas, but he doesn’t seem to be helping to counter an increasingly bold and deadly white supremacist ideology the way an American president should.
We freely admit we have no solutions to the peculiarly American epidemic of mass shootings, and wish that both sides of the debate would be as frank. The left’s gun control solutions seem futile and likely to restrict the important right of self defense, but the right’s ideas about institutionalizing the mentally ill also seem far-fetched and likely to deprive entirely innocent and only slightly wacky Americans of their liberty. We think it might help if Hollywood made more movies that weren’t about murder and mayhem, and mass shooting video games were less common, but that’s unlikely to happen and any effort to force it would run into First Amendment problems. A respectful and deliberative discussion might yield some idea that would be helpful, but for the moment neither side seems much interested in that.
Most of these all-too-common mass shootings don’t have a racial aspect, but the ones that do should always be met by widespread condemnation of any racist ideology, and if it’s white supremacy it should be denounced by name, with no moral equivalence talk of what about the other haters. Perhaps Trump will get around to that today, as his daughter and advisors are urging him to do, and perhaps he’ll even start making a less explicitly racist case for some of his more sensible immigration policy ideas, and stop making jokes when his rally-goers shout “shoot ’em”¬†as he talks about immigrants.
We surely hope so, as we’re growing weary of all the hatred and bloodshed that are such a part of American life.

— Bud Norman

Rats, Rocky and Other Racial Matters

As usual, President Donald Trump finds himself in a few “twitter” feuds that are racially-charged. One is with black Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings and the mostly black district of Maryland that he represents, and more surprisingly another is with the very white government of the very white country of Sweden.
Cummings is a frequent critic of Trump, so it wasn’t surprising at all when president “tweeted” that Cummings is a “brutal bully” and his part of Baltimore is a “disgusting and rat and rodent infested mess.” Naturally it’s caused an argument for the talk show talkers to talk about and the opinion writers to opine about, and both sides of the argument seem to relish it.
The “tweet” does contain at least a kernel of truth, as there are definitely parts of Baltimore you’ll want to drive through quickly and with the windows up and doors locked on your way to that world-class seafood restaurant we know in one of the better parts of town, and there’s something to be said for frankly acknowledging that unhappy fact. Trump is always brutally frank about his opponents, even if he’s far less forthcoming about his own shortcomings, and his fans love him for it.
The other side has its own arguments, and as always is not intimidated to make them. The part where Trump calls Cummings a “brutal bully” is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black — if you’ll forgive the possible racial implications of that cliche — and there’s plenty to argue about with the rest of it. Trump’s “tweets” were provoked by Cummings’ criticisms of the conditions at the detention camps where the Trump is keeping illegal immigrants and legal asylum-seekers, but his argument that the detainees are better off than Cummings’ free-to-leave-with-their-families-intact is arguable at best. Trump also “tweeted” that Cummings’ long tenure in the House hasn’t solved all of Baltimore’s problems, which is inarguably true, but his suggestion that Cummings should spend less time in Washington futilely arguing for federal help doesn’t make much sense.
It’s one thing to argue that much of Baltimore and many other cities run by black urban machines are a mess that deserves federal attention and a different kind of local leadership, but it’s another thing to suggest, as Trump seems to do, that those jurisdictions deserve what they get and don’t deserve the rest of the country’s consideration. Trump’s fans will love it, but the rest of the country might see it differently. There’s also a Washington Post story some of the rodent-infested apartment buildings in nearby Baltimore are owned by presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Meanwhile, Trump seems to be currying favor witha black Americans by funding with Sweden’s prime minister on behalf of someone who calls himself A$AP Rocky. Being of a certain age and just as white as the Swedish prime minister we had not previously heard of this Rocky fellow, but apparently he’s a popular “rapper” with the “hip hop” crowd, and for some reason was recently in Sweden, where he was arrested for assault and battery in a street brawl for some reason or another. He’s also apparently a friend of bona fide nutcase and popular rapper Kanye West, who is for some reason a good friend of Trump, as well as the husband of Trump’s friend and fellow reality star Kim Kardashian, and Trump has taken a peculiar presidential interest in the case.
Trump apparently requested the Swedish prime minister to release Rocky forthwith, and “tweeted” that he was “disappointed” the prime minister replied that his nation’s constitution wouldn’t allow him to interfere with an independent judiciary. Trump further “tweeted” that the prime minister had betrayed America’s black community by upholding the Swedish constitutional order, and he seemed to care less about Swedish public opinion than how it might curry favor with black voters in America’s most rat and rodent infested neighborhoods.
The fans won’t mind, and might even appreciate how the right-wing talk radio hosts argue it proves that they and Trump aren’t the least bit racist toward well-to-do and well-connected black people. The rest of the country probably won’t be much impressed, on the other, and we think that Trump might be overestimating black America’s emotional investment in someone called A$AP Rocky’s fate at the hands of the previously uncontroversial Swedish justice system.
From our old Republican white guy perspective here on the political sidelines in a fashionable and left-leaning yet well-run Riverside neighborhood here in other conservative Wichita, Trump looks ridiculous on all fronts. Although we don’t want to prejudge Rocky’s case we wouldn’t be at all surprised if the report videotape evidence proves that a prominent American “rapper” committed assault and battery while on vacation in Sweden, and we’ll leave it to the Swedes to sort it out. Trump expects any old Swede or any other foreigner who comes to America to obey our laws and submit to our justice system if accused of a violation, and he should expect the same of Americans who travel abroad no matter who he might know, and he shouldn’t expect any other head of state to act differently than he would if some tourist from Sweden or anywhere else wound up in an American jail.
We’d happily defend any Republican who made a compassionate rather than racist case against the racial resentments and identity group politics and social pathologies and socialist economics that have done so much to make Cummings’ portion of Baltimore and so much of the rest of urban America undesirable places to live, and offered old school culture ideals and free-market ideas and nose-to-the-grindstone educational solutions, but Trump doesn’t seem to have any ideas about how to help and is clearly more concerned with shoring up support from his white base in rat infested neighborhoods with racial resentments of their own.
When we leave our fashionable and left-leaning and inordinately homosexual and almost entirely white yet will-run neighborhood here in Wichita we travel through all sorts of neighborhoods, each with their own political leanings and racial resentments and social tensions, but every journey proves uneventful and friendly. We have no problem with the black and brown and yellow and red folks we encounter daily, and are always happy to open the door for them at the convenience store, and they’re always happy to do the same for us if they arrive at the door first, and we’re sure we’d all do the same for any Swedish tourist who somehow happened to be in Wichita.
That’s how we mostly deal with all these very complicated race and class and sex issues here on the ground level in Wichita, and we’d very much like for Trump and those damned Democrats to do the same.

— Bud Norman