The Casual Blog

Tag: democracy

A few reasons to quit being a Trumpublican

President Biden has certainly hit the ground running, with executive orders and actions addressing aspects of some of our biggest problems, including the covid pandemic, climate change, racism, xenophobia, LGBTQ discrimination, a stagnant economy, inadequate health care, right wing terrorism, and the nuclear precipice.  His cabinet and other new top officials appear to be experienced and sensible.  There are good reasons to be hopeful, and I’m trying to be.

But I’m still very worried.  Lately, and especially since the January 6 attack on the Capitol, our democracy  has been looking as fragile it’s ever been, and it’s still under threat.  A significant part of the country continues to believe the despicable lie that the election was a fraud.  Shockingly, despite strong evidence that Trump and his cronies supported the insurrection, Republican leaders continue to support the ex-President.  

The hostile takeover of the Republican Party by Trump seems a fait accompli.  If Trump should go to his reward, Cruz, Hawley, or someone even slimier will race to step into his role.  There are still some traditional Republicans who aren’t happy about what has happened, but very few of them have found the necessary courage and gumption for opposition.  

But for traditional Republicans who still care about our country and are considering whether to leave the Trumpublican party, I would ask, what’s keeping you?  I understand you want to weigh the pros and cons of leaving.  And of course there are some cons, like parting ways with old comrades-in-arms and the risk of becoming a target of deranged right-wing hate groups.  But let me suggest some of the pros.

Patriotism.  If we don’t give way to Trumpism, we may yet work together to realize and sustain our finest traditional ideals, including free and fair elections, the rule of law, equality of opportunity, checks and balances, freedom of expression and of the press, and peaceful transfers of power.

Honesty.  Trump took corruption in government from an occasional lapse to standard operating procedure.  He constantly lied about everything, as did many of his cronies.  It was dirty.  Wouldn’t it feel good to get cleaned up?  

Decency.  Scapegoating disadvantaged minorities and whipping up fear of foreigners was once considered something no decent person would do. Actually, it still is.

Reason.  Trumpism made considerable headway in obliterating the distinction between reality and fantasy, but reality isn’t going away.  It’s reminding us of this in various ways, including the ongoing deadly pandemic, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, and species going extinct.  Denying science when it doesn’t fit with our fantasies has made a bad situation worse.  See also Honesty, supra.     

Personal safety.  There are many things that seriously threaten our safety that are beyond our personal control, from collapsing dams and bridges to the possibility of nuclear war.  In the old days, we counted on our government to mitigate such threats, rather than to ignore or increase them.  Wouldn’t it be great to go back to those good old days?    

Future generations.  We owe much to our forebears, without whom we wouldn’t be here.  Hopes for the happiness of our children, our grandchildren, and their successors are part of what gives meaning to our lives.  The earth that has given us so much is in serious peril, which puts at risk the lives of our successors.  We could choose to make it worse.  Or better.   

Compassion.  While concern for those less fortunate used to mean giving a helping hand, under Trump it meant figuring out how to make them more miserable.  But apart from Trump himself, most of us feel badly when we’re aware of people who are hungry, sick, or otherwise suffering, and wish we could do something.  We used to look to government to help in such situations.  We still can.

Self respect. This one is self explanatory.

Starting a new year, with eagles and hope for renewing democracy

The last week of 2020 was mostly cold and cloudy here, with extended periods of rain.  I wanted to check on the eagles and other birds at Jordan Lake, but wasn’t sure the weather would work, or if I’d have the necessary willpower.  One morning, when it was still dark, I managed to drag myself out of bed, verified it wasn’t raining, put on long underwear, and drove out of town and down US 1.  Below Jordan dam, there were lots of big birds:  eagles, herons, vultures, and gulls.  

I found a promising spot to set up my tripod, directly across the river from a couple of young bald eagles perched in a pine tree, and hoped to get a shot of them catching fish.  One of them took a dive close to me — too close to shoot with the long lens — but they caught no fish while I was there.  Still, I liked the rushing water, and the many birds flying and calling.  

Last week I learned that one of my favorite nature writers, Barry Lopez, just died at age 75.   These last few months I’ve been reading some of his nonfiction writing on the Arctic and other challenging environments, as I planned my own trips to Alaska and Antarctica (postponed because of the pandemic to 2021).  

Lopez insists that these wild places matter, even when there are no humans in the vicinity.  He’s in favor of animals, rocks, ice, and wind. His writing has an austere beauty and clarity.  I was glad to see he got an admiring obit in the NY TImes, which compared him to Thoreau and Muir.  There was also an appreciative obit in the Economist of January 2d.

I was also pleased to see that another of my helpful sources, Heather Cox Richardson, got some mainstream recognition in the NY Times.  A few months back, Sally put me on to HCR’s daily email newsletter on political matters.  She basically gives a high level summary of the most worrisome news of Trumpworld, with the calm explanatory voice of a professor of American history.  She provides persuasive evidence that sanity persists.

A couple of months back I listened to HCR’s latest book, How the South Won the Civil War.  I expected the book to focus on the post-Reconstruction, Jim Crow era.  In fact, it’s a lively and dramatic overview of American history from colonization till now, with special attention to enslaved and indigenous people.

HCR’s discussion of Western settlement after the Civil War was particularly interesting, with persuasive evidence that both anti-Black and anti-Asian racism shaped the political framework.  She also traces the rise of Movement Conservatism, from Barry Goldwater, through Ronald Reagan, and to the Republican leadership today.  

Richardson shows that our current political system is closely related to the oligarchical and racist system of the antebellum South — a system that never really went away.  It’s a difficult and uncomfortable lesson.  

But she doesn’t seem to have given up on the democratic ideals that have also long been part of the American system.  I’m sure she’d agree, there’s still a chance we can make a better democracy.  With the inauguration around the corner, it could be a good time to renew our vows to build on what’s good in that system.