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The Republican Party Is Now Anti-American

by D.J. McGuire

For 25 years, I called myself a Republican, proudly. That ended in 2016 when it became clear the primary voters decided they preferred Donald Trump instead of actual policies that would advance America. Over the next four years, I saw the Republicans continue to devolve into a personality cult. So it shouldn’t have surprised me that nearly all of the party would refuse to acknowledge that Joe Biden is President-elect and will replace Trump on January 20th.

Yet somehow it did – and in the process, the Republican Party attacked our democracy, put forth wildly ridiculous accusations of “voter fraud,” and did more damage to America’s reputation than her enemies could have even dreamed was possible.

One Russia expert – Michael McFaul – put it far better than I could:

To those Trump supporters ranting falsely about a stolen election, you sound exactly like Putin’s media outlets, exactly like the kinds of Putin proxies with whom I used to refute as US ambassador to Russia when defending our nation’s honor & integrity. Stop it.

I would also note that chief among the very few leaders who have not congratulated President-elect Biden were Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. The tyrants of the world are seeing yet another chance to deal a crippling blow to the democratic world…

… and the Republican Party is helping our enemies to do it.

Putin and Xi also looking to force America into retreat around the world and to damage our alliances with our fellow democracies. They know greater instability here at home helps their agenda abroad …

… and the Republican Party is helping them to do it.

A fellow who in previous times would be called a “confidence man” spun up a false story about the USPS backdating

Finally, our enemies know that our greatest source of “soft power” has been our efforts to support democracies around the world. Watching Trump move away from that has been a god-send to them. The only thing that would have been better was spreading misinformation that would question the integrity of our democracy itself …

… and the Republican Party is doing it for them.

There is no escaping this truth. By indulging Trump’s fantasy of a “stolen election,” the Republicans are damaging America’s reputation, advancing the interests of our enemies, and corroding support for democracy around the world. These are not the actions of a party that supports America.

In fact, no one who supports Trump’s “stolen election” narrative should be able to call themselves an American in good standing. As far as I’m concerned, they are agents of a foreign, tyrannical power (in particular, the Kremlin).

It hurts me to type these words. I still look back at my time in the Republican Party fondly. However, I cannot escape the logical conclusions of the actions of the overwhelming majority of elected Republican officials. The Republican Party is no longer interested in democracy. It is no longer a bulwark against authoritarianism. Indeed, it is an enabler of authoritarianism.

The Republican Party is no longer an American party, but rather an anti-American party. It is the fifth column, the enemy within, Tokyo Rose writ large. No American who loves their country could give it their time, their funds, or their votes.

Furthermore, as far as I’m concerned, no one who supports Trump or his enablers is allowed to call themselves an American in good standing.

This Is What Abuse of Power Looks Like

by D.J. McGuire

Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense Friday night; if his defenders would rather I stop saying that, then he needs to stop doing them. This particular abuse of power and offense to the Constitution was his commutation of Roger Stone’s jail time.

I’m not going to provide chapter and verse on Stone’s role in Russia’s interference with the 2016 election, largely because David Frum whipped up an excellent cliff-notes version in The Atlantic. Here are his key takeaways (emphasis in original):

It is not illegal for a U.S. citizen to act or attempt to act as a go-between between a presidential campaign and a foreign intelligence agency, and Stone was not charged with any crime in conjunction with his Trump-WikiLeaks communications. But it’s a different story for the campaign itself. At a minimum, the Trump campaign was vulnerable to charges of violating election laws against receiving things of value from non-U.S. persons. Conceivably, the campaign could have found itself at risk as some kind of accessory to the Russian hacks—hacking being a very serious crime indeed. So it was crucial to the Trump campaign that Stone keep silent and not implicate Trump in any way.

Which is what Stone did. Stone was accused of—and convicted of—lying to Congress about his role in the WikiLeaks matter. Since Stone himself would have been in no legal jeopardy had he told the truth, the strong inference is that he lied to protect somebody else. Just today, this very day, Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman why he lied and whom he was protecting. “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.” You read that, and you blink. As the prominent Trump critic George Conway tweeted: “I mean, even Tony Soprano would have used only a pay phone or burner phone to say something like this.” Stone said it on the record to one of the best-known reporters in Washington. In so many words, he seemed to imply: I could have hurt the president if I’d rolled over on him. I kept my mouth shut. He owes me.

And sure enough, Trump did owe him. Trump commuted Stone’s 40-month sentence. Roger Stone will not go to prison. Stone’s former business partner Paul Manafort is likewise keeping silent. And so the American public will likely never know what use the Russians made of the Trump polling information that Manafort shared with them. Manafort has extra reason to keep quiet, for he must feel new confidence that his pardon is coming.

Now I’m sure several of Trump’s defenders will populate the comments below with the closest thing they have to an intellectual defense on this: the president’s “right” to pardon or commute sentences for convicted federal criminals. The fallacy behind that is rather easy to expose.

The president has no “right” to exercise authority in the Constitution. The Constitution gives him the power to do several things – including pardon and commutation power. Having said power does not allow him to use it to obstruct justice. The ordinary American with a driver’s license has the power to operate an automobile. That doesn’t absolve one who drives the getaway car in a bank robbery, or transports an abductee, or even violates speeding limits. If one is using power to prevent themselves from being exposed for criminal behavior, then the power is being abused.

As it happens, Stone himself was brazen enough to present the evidence of abuse of power: “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”

Donald Trump can pardon whomever he wants. He can commute the sentence for whomever he wants. However, if he commits a crime in the process, it is an abuse of power that requires his impeachment and removal from office.

There’s no need to take my word for it; here’s Senator Mitt Romney: “Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”

That from the lone Republican Senator who voted to convict Trump for abuse of power – and thus to remove Trump from office – over the Ukraine fiasco.

Simply put, Donald Trump abused his power – again. His actions warrant impeachment, conviction, and removal from office – again. I fear that outside of Mitt Romney, members of his party will deny this truth – again.

Restoring the American republic is up to the electorate in November.

Investigate Police Departments for White Supremacy … and Russian Espionage

by D.J. McGuire

There has been a lot to process over the last few weeks – and that’s an understatement. We saw yet another homicide of an African-American by police officers. We saw more protests in response. We saw more people – almost all of them white, from the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen – take advantage of this to get some violence in. More than a few of them were other police officers. It’s the last of these that caught my attention, for a slew of reasons, many of which discussed by John V. Last of The Bulwark (I subscribe to his daily email, The Triad):

Regarding the middle sub-bullet, I fear one more reason must be added: foreign espionage – in particular, the Putin regime.

We know that white supremacists have tried and succeeded in infiltrating local police departments across the nation (PBS).

In the 2006 bulletin, the FBI detailed the threat of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police in order to disrupt investigations against fellow members and recruit other supremacists. The bulletin was released during a period of scandal for many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including a neo-Nazi gang formed by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who harassed black and Latino communities. Similar investigations revealed officers and entire agencies with hate group ties in IllinoisOhio and Texas.

Problems with white supremacists in law enforcement have surfaced since that report. In 2014, two Florida officers — including a deputy police chief — were fired after an FBI informant outed them as members of the Ku Klux Klan. It marked the second time within five years that the agency uncovered an officer’s membership in the KKK. Several agencies nationwide have also launched investigations into personnel who may not be formal hate group members, but face allegations of race-based misconduct.

Social media has made it easier to expose white supremacists who serve in law enforcement. In September 2015, a North Carolina police officer was fired after a picture of him giving a Nazi salute surfaced on Facebook. And as recently as August, the Philadelphia Police Department launched an internal investigation after attendees of a Black Lives Matter rally outside the Democratic National Convention spotted an officer in charge of crowd control with a tattoo of the Nazi Party emblem on his forearm and posted the image on Instagram.

What gets less attention is the ties between white supremacy and the Kremlin.

On one level, it’s about the usual Moscow aim of destabilizing the United States, as professed by Alexander Dugin, leading intellectual in Putin’s regime (Daily Beast):

“It is generally important,” Dugin wrote, “to introduce geopolitical chaos within the American daily experience by encouraging all manner of separatism, ethnic diversity, social and racial conflict, actively supporting every extremist dissident movement, racist sectarian groups, and destabilizing the political processes within America.”

But as Brandon Hawk noted in the Washington Post, it’s more than that for Dugin (and thus, for Putin):

His Eurasianist ideology is grounded in a fundamentalist religious nationalism that seeks to create a Christian empire that unites Europe and Asia in a quest to restore a “traditionalism” rooted in conservative Orthodox Christian values and white supremacy.

To Dugin, Christian imperialism is an ideal political form that secures racial purity. He looks to Rome as the empire to which Eurasia needs to return, an alternative to the liberal modernity of today. He praises Constantine for founding a Christian Roman Empire and calls for a “Third Rome,” believing that the Roman Empire and its medieval European successor are the best models for combating liberal modernity. His view of the Roman Empire and medieval Europe exalts the triumphs of monolithic white, Christian nationalism.

I would also add that labelling Moscow as “Third Rome” was a Russian Czarist staple.

American white supremacists have taken notice (Hawk again).

These are not just rhetorical links to American white supremacists. There are clear connections between Dugin and prominent right-wing figures. His works have been translated by Arktos Media, which proudly claims that he “has served as an adviser to Vladimir Putin.” He also shares ties to Richard Spencer and his wife, Nina Kouprianova, who has translated some of Dugin’s works into English. Additionally, there are connections between Dugin and David DukeMilo Yiannopoulos, Stephen Miller and even President Trump.

Dugin himself took part in a video lecture at Texas A&M University, hosted by white supremacist Preston Wiginton – who lives in Moscow part-time (SPLC). The leader of the violent supremacist group “The Base” – Rinaldo Nazzaro – now runs it from Russia. “Law enforcement sources have indicated on background that Nazzaro is believed by some agencies to be working for the Russian government” (Guardian).

To recap: we know white supremacists have infiltrated local police departments and established ties to a hostile foreign power. Is it really beyond the pale to think said hostile foreign power hasn’t used this to recruit assets and agents within the police departments themselves?

To be clear, I am not saying that Russian espionage is a bigger problem than white supremacist groups. I am saying they are the same problem. I am further saying we need to get a handle on how deep this hydra-headed problem has gotten into our local police departments.

Specifically for this issue, we need counterintelligence investigations into local police. More generally, we need to recognize that white supremacy does more than just poison American society; it also advances the interest of a hostile foreign power. Both of these requires federal leadership that recognizes this is a problem. Sadly, that won’t happen before January of next year, at the earliest.

Impeachment Turmoil on Ukraine Cannot Distract Us From Putin’s Game There

by D.J. McGuire

“You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you.” – Leon Trotsky

One of the apparent consequences of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump over his attempt to strong arm Ukraine into smearing Joe Biden is the fading of Russia and of Vladimir Putin from the drama. Putin himself celebrated his regime’s return to the shadows recently (NBC).

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he’s pleased that the “political battles” in Washington have put on the back-burner accusations that Russia interfered in U.S. elections.

“Thank God,” he told an economic forum in the Russian capital on Wednesday, “no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore; now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

Of course, this is exactly what Putin wanted. The worst case scenario is part of what he’s getting now – less attention for what he had his regime do in 2016 to help Trump amid the arguments about whether Trump committed impeachable offenses (spoiler: he did). On top of that, Putin knows that millions of Americans are gaslighting themselves into believing he didn’t interfere, but rather was framed as part of a Rudy Goldberg scheme hatched out of Ukraine. So he’s already playing with house money.

That does not mean, however, that Putin has stopped paying attention to Ukraine, or to Washington. In fact, Putin is slowly getting the very thing Robert Mueller reported Russia wanted vis a vis Ukraine when its intelligence apparatus reached out to the Trump campaign in the first place.

Lest we forget, this is what Mueller reported back in April:

Separately, on August 2, 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met in New York City with his long-time business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a “backdoor” way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine; both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump’s assent to succeed (were he to be elected President).

What was that “peace plan”? Mueller answered thusly:

Under the Yanukovych-backed plan, Russia would assist in withdrawing the military, and Donbas would become an autonomous region within Ukraine with its own prime minister. The plan emphasized that Yanukovych would be an ideal candidate…

According to Mueller, Manafort claimed he “had said to Kilimnik that the plan was crazy.” Yet Mueller also reported that Manafort lied to him on numerous occasions, an assessment backed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson (CNN).

How did Judge Jackson come to this conclusion? Mueller answers in a foot note:

In resolving whether Manafort breached his cooperation plea agreement by lying to the Office, the district court found that Manafort lied about, among other things, his contacts with Kilimnik regarding the peace plan…

So we know a Russian intelligence agent reached out to his associate in the Trump campaign about a plan to cement Putin’s control over Eastern Ukraine, meaning it was a priority for Putin. Recent events are showing us something else: battered by the revelations regarding Trump, Ukraine’s president is close to giving Putin what he wanted (DW).

The Ukrainian government signed an agreement Tuesday with pro-Russia separatists, Russia and European monitors that will allow a local election to be held in separatist-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine.

The agreement was signed after the parties met in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, and is seen as a major step by the new Ukrainian government under President Volodymyr Zelenskiy toward resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kyiv and pro-Russia separatists.

In preparation for the election, the Ukrainian government and separatist leaders said they would withdraw troops from two locations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions next week.

… The president has faced criticism that Ukraine is giving concessions to Moscow and for following a policy of appeasement with Russia.

That came less than a week after the memorandum of the Trump-Zelensky call was released to the public.

One might also note that Manafort’s assertion that he blew off Kilimnik’s plan has an additional weakness: Germany has long been a fan of it, minus Yanukovych (Reuters). Indeed, it was originally called the “Steinmeier formula” – after Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who first floated it in 2016. As the Kyiv Post notes, it has never been popular in Ukraine itself.

That hasn’t stopped Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel from pushing it, however. Meanwhile, whatever Trump might think of the idea himself, those who might tell him why it’s a bad idea have been … otherwise occupied, as the editors of the Washington Post noted over the weekend:

Virtually every senior official who worked on the relationship in the past two years has resigned or testified in the impeachment inquiry and been denounced by the president.

That makes it a lot more difficult for anyone serious about resisting Putin’s irredentism from having Trump’s ear …

… which is just another benefit to Putin of this scandal.

D.J. McGuire – a Never Trump neoconservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Robert Mueller Exits the Stage…For Now

by D.J. McGuire

Robert Mueller is no longer the Special Counsel to the Justice Department. That doesn’t mean it’s the last we’ve heard from him.

To be clear, Mueller himself would rather it be otherwise. In his statement this morning, he showed that he stood by his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible cooperation between the Trump campaign and interfering Russians, and the obstruction of his investigation of both. He flatly said, “the report is my testimony,” while indicating, were he asked to testify, he would simply cite the report, in whole or in part, over and over again.

Having read the report, I can certainly understand Mueller’s assertion. Having seen the reaction to his statement, it’s pretty clear to me he won’t get his wish to avoid testifying.

Nothing in Mueller’s statement deviated from his report – no surprise, as Mueller cited it repeatedly – but outside of those few of us who have read it (and those whose distrust of Trump is such that they believe the worst of him), there is some surprise at what Mueller said today. When Mueller wrote in his report that Department of Justice policy against indicting a president closed off that door, while leaving Congress in the role of taking the information and moving under the constitutional instrument of the impeachment process, I read it and it had quite an impact. When he repeated that this morning, the rest of world took notice. My twitter feed is full of foreign journalists (mainly to follow their reporting on their home countries). The most knowledgeable about American politics (without directly covering it) is Dan Hodges of the UK. This was his response on Twitter:

Killer Mueller quote: “If we had confidence the President did not commit a crime we would have said so”.

For those of us who call ourselves political geeks, that quote hasn’t been “killer” since it survived William Barr’s creative interpretation of the Mueller report from two months ago. That it still packs a punch is a reminder of just how many people do not know what’s in the report.

So, if I were a Democrat in the House of Representatives, the conclusion is inevitable: Robert Mueller needs to talk about what’s in the report. As Eric Swalwell (who actually is such a Democrat) put it, “It’s the difference between seeing the movie and reading the book” (far more people would do the former than the latter).

In Mueller’s world (as a longtime political appointee of numerous Justice Departments) – and in mine (as a political geek) – the report would indeed speak for itself. In the – well, the real world – reports are always louder when their authors are talking about them. Whether Mueller wants to do that or not, Congressional Democrats will likely conclude – if they haven’t already – that he needs to do it.

They’re probably right.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Trump Leaves Syria With Fight Against Daesh Unfinished and With Putin Ascendant

by D.J. McGuire

Those who know about my long and strange trip through Election 2016 know that I landed on my eventual choice (Hillary Clinton – yes, for those of you who didn’t know, thatHillary Clinton) due to one issue – Syria.

A quick refresher:

…I saw reports from the United States (Reuters) and from the region itself (al-Hayat, although the Jerusalem Post has a better translation, it also gets Akram al-Bunni’s name wrong). They revealed the preference of the Syrian opposition – the real opposition, not the Iraqi Ba’athists who keep Daesh operating – for Mrs. Clinton.

That tipped the balance, and countered Johnson’s superior positions on economic matters, at least to me. This year has been a long-running internal conflict between my inner neoconservative and my inner libertarian…and in the end, the neoconservative won.

For the analyst in me, this is a real leap of faith, but if there is a chance of a free Syria, I have to take it. If that means voting for Hillary Clinton, then God help me, that’s what I must do.

Obviously, we never got to see if Mrs. Clinton lived up to that. Her Republican opponent, by contrast, insisted that all he cared about in Syria was ISIS. He even contradicted his own running mate’s critique of Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad (CNBC).

Only we now know Trump was more interested in the appearance of defeating Daesh (as ISIS is known in the locale) than the reality of defeating Daesh – for he claimed a premature victory this morning and announced he was pulling troops out of Syria (CNN).

Trump issued his first public comments on the decision Wednesday evening in a video message posted to Twitter, in which he pointed to the sky to reference US military personnel who have been killed in Syria.

“We have won against ISIS,” Trump said. “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land and now it’s time for our troops to come back home. I get very saddened when I have to write letters or call parents or wives or husbands of soldiers who have been killed fighting for our country.”

There was only one problem with Trump’s assertion: it was a lie – as folks in his own Administration acknowledged:

Resistance to the move was strong among some in the administration. A senior administration official told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the President’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria is “a mistake of colossal proportions and the President fails to see how it will endanger our country.”

“Senior officials across the administration agree that the President’s decision-by-tweet will recklessly put American and allied lives in danger around the world, take the pressure off of ISIS — allowing them to reconstitute — and hand a strategic victory to our Syrian, Iranian and Russian adversaries,” the official said.

No matter, Trump wants his victory lap – and he’ll have it even if the race is still going on.

In the meantime, Russia and Iran now know there is no one to stop them from propelling Bashar Assad to regain total control of Syria. Any attempt to use the area we controlled to allow Syrians to build a future free of Ba’athismis out the window.

Oh, and in case anyone – anywhere – tries to discount the accusations and evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime with the what-did-Putin-really-get-for-it question, we have the answer right in front of us.

Putin got Syria. He got his chief client state in the region (the Tehran mullachracy) as the pre-eminent power in the northern Middle East. The forces of tyranny are ascendant in the region (and worldwide) as we retreat.

Once again, for emphasis, the battle with Daesh was notover (CNN).

Tobias Ellwood, a minister in the British Ministry of Defense, said in a tweet that he “strongly” disagrees with Trump’s comment on Wednesday that ISIS had been defeated. “It has morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive,” Ellwood wrote, while the Defense Ministry told CNN there would be no immediate change to its current operation in Syria.

If anything, the only real surprise here is that people are surprised. Trump has been an isolationist for decades, and has always preferred the big splash of symbolism over the hard work of real action. He has repeatedly promised to pull our troops out of Syria; it has been his staff that pulled a Sir Humphrey Appleby and prevented it until now.

I also understand and appreciate those who are concerned about the lack of Congressional authorization. One could argue that this deployment was consistent with the anti-al Qaeda authorization of 2001, given that Deash was once al Qaeda in Iraq, but even I consider that a slender reed on which to lean. A far more robust argument should have been made by Trump himselffor Congressional authorization against this specific enemy at the very least. Instead, Trump is pretending the battle is over as a cover for his decision to cut and run.

When it became clear Trump had defeated Clinton two years ago, I hoped against hope that I would be able to say I was wrong, and that Trump had confounded my very low expectations of him. Instead, he validated them.

Again, this was the issue that led me to switch from Gary Johnson to Hillary Clinton. I knew it was a leap of faith then. I have been proven right now – in the worst way imaginable.

Donald Trump lost Syria – check that, he gave Syria away.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Unseating Trump

by Kevin Kelton

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.
–Sen. Mitch McConnell, 2010

Every opposition political party has a duty to try to oppose and, when justified, defeat the party in power, and that starts with its highest leaders. Just as the Republicans worked their tails off to unseat Barack Obama in 2012, Democrats have an obligation to their voters to do everything in their constitutional power to unseat Donald Trump.

The question is, How?

For one, Democrats should not be afraid of impeachment and so cowered by the right as to turn the mere mention of the word into a taboo. The “I word” is not a curse; it’s a constitutionally sound legal process that The Founding Fathers created for just this reason. The House is fully in its constitutionally mandated oversight rights to investigate potential high crimes and send articles of impeachment to the Senate if justified. Yet with a “jury” comprised of 53 Republican senators, it’s doubtful (though not inconceivable) that body will achieve the requisite 2/3 vote to remove Trump from office. 

But that does not mean an impeachment trial would be in vain. While the decision to vote for or against an impeachment conviction is a political calculation made by each senator, the damning testimony and evidence that would likely be unearthed in an impeachment proceeding would greatly inform the 2020 election.

The 2018 midterms showed that most Americans have lost patience with the lack of character and moral compass of this president. The revelations that could come out during an impeachment trial would greatly add to that impatience. Like the Titanic taking on water, Trump’s presidency cannot float forever. With each dirty revelation that surely would come out, each compartment of Trump’s illicit ship of state will begin to flood, and the entire administration will quickly submerge.

From Paul Manafort to Michael Flynn to Michael Cohen to Roger Stone – and maybe even Jared Kushner and Don Jr. – the wrong-doings that would come out during testimony in a public impeachment trial will send the Trump dominos falling. The president himself would probably survive thanks to his GOP firewall in the senate, but his presidency would be mortally wounded and on life support just as it heads into the 2020 primary season.

The idea that Trump might emerge from an impeachment acquittal victorious and vindicated is nonsense. He is not as likable as Bill Clinton, and his high crimes will prove much more than a sordid sexual affair. And it cannot be overlooked that even with a bump in Clinton’s approval ratings after his acquittal, that still didn’t stop his vice president, Al Gore, from losing the presidency in 2000.

One could even anticipate a GOP primary challenge to Trump on moral grounds. His poll numbers might get so bad that Trump would be compelled to forgo a re-election run, handing the nomination to Mike Pence in an effort to salvage some scraps of his presidential legacy. (A Hail Mary pass that didn’t work so well for Hubert Humphrey or Gerald Ford.)

But invariably, we will have to unseat Trump (or Pence) at the polls. While right now the pundit banter seems to flitter around who is the most progressive candidate or who is the new, younger face the party needs, I suspect that an impeachment process will change that equation. Voters often lurch from one extreme to the other – from Reagan-Bush old stodginess to Clinton young dynamism; from Clinton philandering to George W. Bush family values; from Bush II recklessness to Obama coolness.

If Trump is proved in a senate trial to be a dirty con artist who scammed his way into office and continues to profit illicitly from it, decency and honor may be the commodity 2020 voters crave.

Joe Biden is well-positioned to make that case. Just as George W. Bush was able to run on restoring honor and dignity to the Oval Office, Biden could run on honor, decency and competence. So might another Democratic candidate who can project a similar sense of honor and character in a way Hillary Clinton could not. A Trump-weary electorate might flock to that message and messenger.

The way to unseat Trump is to hammer his faults relentlessly and then offer a clear contrast. An impeachment trial in the senate, even one ending in acquittal, would magnify that contrast.

Trump’s policies may resonate with conservative voters, but his bankrupt character is what will ultimately defeat him.

 

Kevin Kelton is the founder of Open Fire Politics and cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast.

White Supremacy and Vladimir Putin: They’re the same problem

by D.J. McGuire

The two issues regarding the Trump Administration that have frightened more Americans than anything else seem to be polar opposites: his fealty to Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia and an a blind spot (or even sympathy) to white supremacy in America. However, if one looks beyond the United States (especially to Europe), it becomes clear that the two matters are linked there – and, in all likelihood, here as well. That leads to some disturbing questions that we need to ask.

While most Americans pay little attention to the rest of the world (save the occasional social media meme where a European country appears to support a policy we like), the situation in Europe bears some problematic parallels to recent years in the United States. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been openly evangelizing for “illiberal democracy” (AEI) while taking aim at nearly every Republican’s favorite bedtime scary story – George Soros – with “posters that brought back memories of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s” (same link). Poland is suffering a similar slide toward authoritarianism, complete with an attempt to rewrite Holocaust history (Reuters). Both governments are also getting increasingly cozy with Putin (AEI, The New Republic).

That hasn’t stopped Putin from building ties to outright racist groups like Jobbik in Hungary (Reuters). He has recruited or accepted (depending upon how one sees it) similar far-right allies in France, even as the main center-right opposition also tacks his way (Foreign Policy).

What has enabled Putin – an old KGB bureaucrat – to stretch his regime’s tentacles into democratic Europe? John Henley provides the anodyne answer in a Guardian column from last year.

…variations on a theme of nation-first politics, support for economic protectionism and immigration controls, mistrust of international alliances and institutions such as Nato or the EU, and a rejection of globalism and the liberal consensus

To be fair, the “liberal consensus” has deserved more than a few of the dings its received recently, as any astute observer of the EU will tell you. However, the first three items on the list are part and parcel of a much deeper and sinister common facet among Jobbik, Le Pen, and Putin: white supremacy.

While most of the focus on Russia in the 20th Century centered on its Sovietization, leaders from Stalin on down also emphasize Russian “nationalism.” Terrell Jermaine Starr reveals how Putin inherited – and is using – those supremacist weapons (Washington Post). Others have noticed, including alt-right poster child Richard Spencer and his ideological grandfather David Duke (Newsweek). In fact, the Russian adviser behind Putin’s supremacist policies – Alexander Dugin – is already well-known in alt-right circles (same link), and while nearly everyone remembers the Charlottesville torch-bearers shouting, “You will not replace us,” far fewer also noted their insistence that “Russia is our friend” (same link again).

All of this comes amid mounting evidence that the Putin regime put a thumb on the scales during the campaign, and that the Trump campaign itself – whether or not it actually succeeded in linking up with Moscow’ efforts – certainly tried (Newsweek). Meanwhile, according to the Anti-Defamation League, white supremacists murders “killed more than twice as many people in 2017 as they did the year before” (Huffington Post). Most would consider those two matters a coincidence at best, a sign of Trump’s worst two instincts at worse.

But what if the connection goes deeper than that? Have white supremacist groups become the American equivalent of Jobbik? Has the upswing in white supremacist terrorism been due to more than just the emboldening of these groups from Trump’s election?

In other words, have American white supremacist groups themselves become tools of the Putin regime?

To be clear, this is not a rhetorical question. I ask because I truly do not know. Sadly, I don’t expect this Administration to find out. I would like to see the opposition ask these questions, and if my worst fears are confirmed, present policies accordingly.

Even if my worst fears are disproven, we are facing an increasingly globalized supremacist movement (Franklin Foer has further details in The Atlantic). Russophilia and supremacism are in fact the same problem. Whether Putin is the diabolical leader or fortunate figurehead is an open question that needs answering to determine the best tactical response.

Alt-Wrong (Ep. 113)

On this week’s More Perfect Union podcast, the gang looks at the constitutional right of peaceable assembly in the wake of the deadly white nationalism riot in Charlottesville, the fear factor caused by the Trump Administration’s nuclear showdown with North Korea, and the potential repercussions from the FBI raid of Paul Manafort’s home.

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And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

The Hillary Treatment (Ep. 108)

In the first part of this week’s “The More Perfect Union” podcast, the gang discusses former President Jimmy Carter, the Don Jr. meeting with the Russians, and how the Trump Administration is getting “the Hillary treatment.”

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And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Alliance for Securing Democracy: We Need More of This

by D.J. McGuire

Listeners to our podcast know that when the subject of Russia comes up, I’m the one trying desperately to ensure at least some bandwith goes to discussion about the Putinist threat to American interests, human rights, and democracy beyond just attempts to impeach Donald Trump. I’ve tried to make that case here, too.

So, naturally, I am thrilled to hear that the German Marshall Fund has launched the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which will “develop comprehensive strategies to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions.”

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WrestleMania (Ep. 107)

Episode 107 of “The More Perfect Union” podcast series features discussions about the Trump-CNN Logo wrestling video controversy, the Trump family at the G20 Summit, revelations of yet another previously unreported meeting between Russian lawyers and members of the Trump campaign, and we end with some funny political chants.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.