Should we be hasty about Trump’s impeachment or removal?

mikepence

Many people are demanding Trump’s impeachment, if not for probable Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, then for mental incompetence.   I certainly agree with that.   In fact, I just ordered the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a compilation of essays from 27 mental health professionals, including those who specialize in Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorder (there’s a consensus he has both — when they appear together we call it malignant narcissism), that explain why Trump’s impulsivity, general abusiveness, lack of conscience, and lack of empathy is all wrong for the presidency and is in fact extremely dangerous to the planet and all life on it.   I’m happy that so many psychologists and psychiatrists are abandoning the Goldwater Rule, which for decades meant that unless a leader was officially assessed in a clinical setting, a mental health professional could not offer a diagnosis.    The book, a project of Yale University’s “Duty to Warn” project, is gaining momentum in the mental health community and is a New York Times bestseller.   The conclusion of all the authors is that Trump must be removed from office under the 25th Amendment.

I wholeheartedly agree with these professionals, but there is one glaring problem I have with Trump’s removal:  Mike Pence.

On the surface, Pence appears to be a less dangerous choice to have in the White House.  He’s even-tempered, cool under pressure, doesn’t lash out at his real and imagined enemies on Twitter, and seems willing and able to work with others.   He’s probably a lot less likely to start nuclear war.

He’d also be able to get a lot more accomplished.   Hardline Republicans who dream of dismantling our institutions, removing healthcare from millions, and giving tax breaks to the most wealthy would be able to actually get their agenda through under a Pence presidency.

Pence would be dream come true for the religious right.   Pence has made no secret of his contempt for homosexuals and his desire to remove their civil rights and make them undergo conversion therapy, a brainwashing process that has been deemed by mental health professionals as both ineffective and traumatic.    Pence would also be able to pass legislation that would make womens’ healthcare, including birth control, harder to obtain (if not outright illegal).

Pence is a far right evangelical, and also a dominionist.  Christian dominionism/reconstructionism is an extreme form of Calvinism/neo-Puritanism:  it’s a religio-political cult whose ultimate goal is the replacement of our Constitution with Old Testament biblical law, including the return of slavery, the stoning of homosexuals and adulterers, capital punishment for dissenters, the abolishment of public education, and the dismantling of the civil rights women have gained, including the right to vote.   Dominionists believe that the wealthy are wealthy because God is rewarding them and has given them “dominion.”   They believe if you’re poor, it’s because of your “moral failures” and therefore it’s wrong to interfere with God’s will by providing governmental safety nets.  They believe environmentalism is a form of earth-worship or paganism and that’s why they think it’s okay to keep raping and pillaging the planet.   After all, God will clean it up.  Their attitude reminds me of entitled teenagers who trash the house while their parents are away and don’t think they should have to clean up their mess because “my parents will do that.”

There is a lot of rhetoric among far right evangelicals and dominionists about religious freedom, but this has been redefined from the freedom to worship as you choose, to the “freedom” to impose your beliefs on others.   They think their inability to enforce or legislate their religious beliefs means they are being persecuted.  They trot out phony non-issues like the “war on Christmas” or the teaching of evolution in schools as proof of how persecuted they are.  This is a dangerously Orwellian mindset and unsuspecting evangelicals have bought it hook, line and sinker.

Christian dominionism/reconstructionism  is basically a Christian version of the Taliban,  with its own terrifying form of Sharia Law.   Their “Christianity” isn’t based on the Gospels or the New Covenant; instead it borrows heavily from the harsh Judaic legalism of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.   Dominionists talk a lot about the need for Jesus, but rarely quote from the Gospels and certainly don’t follow anything Christ taught during his ministry.    In fact, what they propose is the opposite of anything remotely Christian, and their toxic legalism and religious fascism is turning a lot of good people away from Christianity (isn’t that the way Satan would operate?).

While overall this fringe group of Christians (really a cult) is a tiny minority of the population (even among conservative evangelicals),  there are many dominionists and reconstructionists very high up in government right now, including Mike Pence, and they wield a scary amount of power.     Donald Trump, in spite of his own beliefs (or lack thereof) is enabling these religious extremists (and vice versa) and he welcomes their support. They actually believe Trump is “opening the door to Christ’s kingdom” and has been “anointed by God” to destroy our democracy, which they see as satanic.  This, of course, gives Trump massive narcissistic supply and the effect is to embolden him even further.   Trump, having no real ideals or positions of his own, embraces whatever group gives him the adulation he craves, no matter how damaging their agenda.   That being said, these extremist evangelicals haven’t been able to get much or any of their agenda through due to Trump’s combativeness, talent for creating chaos and discord even within his own party, and general incompetence.

There’s another group of hard right Republicans that are also a tiny minority and have an overwhelming amount of power:  hardline fiscal conservatives, or “federalists,” who aren’t so much religiously motivated, but are instead motivated by the gospel of Ayn Rand.  Instead of an angry, punishing old Testament God, they find their spiritual mentor in the Koch Brothers and other billionaire oligarchs.    Their goal is the same as the religious extremists: replacing our democracy with a “federalist” regime that would favor property owners and the wealthy — and punish and oppress the most vulnerable.   Nancy MacLean’s exhaustively well-researched book Democracy in Chains (you can read my review here), outlines their entire terrifying agenda.    The federalist oligarchs wielding all this power aren’t necessarily religious (in fact some are atheists, like their mentor Ayn Rand was).  They don’t concern themselves much with social issues or hard right “family values,” which has come to mean being anti-gay and anti-abortion and that’s about it.    They are willing though, to ignore this as a mere inconvenience and work with the dominionists if it means they can get their cruel agenda through and gain even more power and wealth than they already have.    To them, the end always justifies the means.  If that means they have to hold their noses and put up with religious oppression (which wouldn’t effect them anyway, because their wealth would give them immunity from oppression), then so be it.  The alliance between the federalists and the dominionists is evil to the core, and their agenda is frighteningly close to being fulfilled.  Religious demagogues and white supremacists like Alabama’s Roy Moore are becoming more common in high government positions and their outrageous claims and hatred of those not like themselves are becoming normalized.  This is extremely concerning to those of us who value our freedom and democracy.

Pence is fully on board with both groups of far-right conservatives.   He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,  and slimy as they come.   There’s something sinister about a man who addresses his wife as “Mother” and refuses to be in a room alone with another woman for any reason.  I believe if Trump were removed from office — whether through impeachment or the 25th Amendment — a Pence presidency could be even more dangerous to democracy, because the man is more politically savvy and less likely to sabotage his own goals.    I think he’s just as sociopathic as Trump, but more purely psychopathic than narcissistic,  and thus will be able to get Congress and Senate Republicans to work with him.   Trump’s narcissism and fragile ego stands in the way of his being able to pass any agenda.     Pence might be less likely to start nuclear war, and might be less appealing to Trump’s racist base, but he’d have a lot more clout with those who can pass legislation that would destroy our democracy.   So be careful what you wish for.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure if living in a real-life Handmaid’s Tale would be preferable to the threat of nuclear holocaust.      We can and should demand Trump’s removal, but Pence must go with him.  Better yet, the entire cabal must be taken down and a new election must be held.

If nothing else, we must wait this travesty out, but we cannot afford to be apathetic about the next election, or even the midterm (2018) elections.  The stranglehold the hard right has on both Congress and Senate must be loosened, and ALL of us voting is the only way to do that.

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The benefits of socialism.

Twenty or even ten years ago, if you mentioned single payer healthcare, even to Democrats, people would look at you like you had three eyes.  Single payer healthcare, in case anyone doesn’t know, is the system the rest of the developed world enjoys — one that is more efficient, costs everyone less, covers everyone, is less complicated, and is far more humane than our profit-based system that relies on middlemen (the insurance companies) who interfere with and undermine the doctor-patient relationship (because they exist not to keep people healthy, but solely to make a profit off human misery — which is inherently immoral).  No one in the developed world envies our unnecessarily complicated, cruel, mercenary, immoral, and unfair “healthcare” system, in which the quality of care you receive (or if you receive any at all) depends on how much you can afford to pay.

But in 2017, things have changed.    Recent polls show that a majority of Americans (52%) support single payer healthcare, with 69% of Democrats, and 35% of Republicans supporting it (not a majority, but still pretty impressive).  Even CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations are beginning to wake up to how single payer would benefit them by freeing them of the obligation to provide healthcare to their employees or pay a penalty if they don’t.

As the hardline (“Freedom Caucus”) Republicans and the Trump administration double down on their efforts to repeal and replace Obama’s signature achievement (his attempt to make healthcare more affordable for more people), many people are finally waking up to the fact that single payer is really the only option we have left — and the only option that will actually work.   Obamacare is definitely an improvement over nothing at all and now more Americans are covered than were before 2010, but since it was originally a Republican plan developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation (and later used by Mitt Romney for his Massachusetts constituents), it still is based on a system of delivery where healthcare is funneled through profit-oriented insurance companies instead of the government, as it is in all other developed countries.

Now that Senator McCain has said he will vote “No” on the latest incarnation of Trumpcare (which means “no-care” to most of us), the GOP Senate is in full panic mode.  They’re so desperate for a win that they are trying to scare people into supporting their abomination of a bill.  Their latest scare tactic is to scream about “Berniecare” (a reference to Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill) being socialism and how it will destroy America.   They incorrectly insist that the ACA is a step toward socialism and a slippery slope to complete government control over our lives and everything we do.  They tell us that any kind of socialized healthcare or any socialism at all will lead to dictatorship and the removal of all our freedoms and the death of free enterprise.  They say that the only way to “freedom” is to kill the ACA and go back to the bad old days of having no healthcare plan at all where “personal responsibility” (code for ability to pay) was the only factor that decided whether you would receive care or not.

But they are gaslighting and projecting onto us.   It’s almost laughable how hypocritical these claims are.  It’s ironic that the party that is screaming about dictatorship and loss of freedom is the same one whose president is an intolerant, fearmongering demagogue who displays all the signs of being a budding dictator, who discredits and wants to silence the free press, who encourages police brutality and the militarization of police departments, who is backed by a party that is trying to roll back civil rights and freedoms, as well as consumer protections and protections for the environment. It’s laughable that the party that screams about freedom doesn’t want freedom for anyone but the rich, white, conservative, and Christian.   If you’re poor or even middle class, non-white, liberal, or don’t subscribe to a viciously authoritarian and aggressive form of Christian evangelism (Christian dominionism) that believes the “elect” have been favored by God with wealth and power (and aims to replace the Constitution with Old Testament law),  you aren’t worthy and you deserve to have all your freedoms and rights — or sometimes even your citizenship — taken away.

To these “federalists,” freedom means three things:   property rights, the right to bear arms, and “freedom of religion” (to them, this means not what the Founding Fathers — who were products of the Enlightenment and believed in the separation of church and state — meant by it, but the freedom to force your religious beliefs on others using the law to do so).   They talk about “small government” and believe the government should be responsible only for policing and the military (while closely monitoring and meting out punishment for the private behaviors of the people).   Concepts like freedom from harm, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” apply to them only.    If they had their way, they would outlaw any speech, press, or anything else that opposed their draconian, authoritarian, backwards views.  To them, freedom means if you’re wealthy, you shouldn’t have to pay taxes or contribute to the common good.   If you’re a corporation, it means you shouldn’t have to obey laws that require you to pay your employees a fair wage, not pollute the environment, or test products for safety before selling them to the public.

Capitalism works best when it’s leavened by socialism.   Uncontrolled capitalism quickly becomes tyranny.  What we have now is no longer a democracy.  It’s an oligarchy, where corporations are “people” with unlimited power, money is “free speech,” and the very wealthy and powerful are above the law and don’t have to abide by the same rules the rest of us do.  They can pollute, exploit, extort, abuse, and lie to the American people to their heart’s content.   They can infiltrate politics and buy votes.   That’s why the wealthiest .01% have so much power and we’re in the mess we’re in right now.   This sad state of affairs started insidiously with Reagan’s tax breaks for the wealthy, the war on labor unions, and removal of corporate regulations.   Now we have capitalism run amok, with our current government bought and paid for by the wealthiest corporate interests and assisted by an aggressive and powerful group of religious extremists.   Far from being a road to freedom, theirs is a culture of narcissism, entitlement, greed, and exploitation that oppresses everyone except themselves and their wealthy donors.

 

“The definition of fascism is the marriage between the corporation and the state.”

— Benito Mussolini

 

They have gaslighted us all along by convincing people the government is our real enemy, when all along it was the corporate and moneyed interests who were buying our government. Now we have all three branches of government hamstrung by the most hard right of Republicans to the point we are nearly a one-party country.

Think back to FDR and the New Deal.   After World War II, we became a world power like none before or since.  Of course, winning World War II helped our economy immensely, but had it not been for New Deal policies and labor unions that narrowed the gap between the richest and poorest, relieved people from the ravages caused by the Great Depression, and made it possible for young families to buy a home and move into the middle class (and also freed them from the burden of having to house and provide round the clock, at-home medical care to an aging parent thanks to social security and Medicare), I doubt we would have become as prosperous in the postwar years as we did and the envy of the free world.   These government programs and labor unions freed people from the burdens that kept people mired in toil, poverty, and hopelessness in the past, and allowed them to be able to move up into the middle class and even higher.    They allowed older people to live longer, which increased our collective life-span.   Hardliners rant about these programs being socialism, and they are right about that.  But these “socialist” ideas have helped millions of people live freer and healthier lives.

Do you like having a post office?  Do you like having access to libraries, parks, community pools, and museums, which are free to all?  Do you like the national parks and monuments that are the envy of the world and create a thriving tourism industry?  Do you like having bridges, tunnels,  interstate highways (instead of toll roads or dangerous makeshift dirt roads like they have in third world countries), police departments, fire departments, efficient air traffic control, and the assurance that your aging parent won’t have to move in with you and force you to quit your job so you can provide them round the clock care?   Do you like knowing that if your house is on fire, you don’t have to pay a private company to come put it out or watch it burn down and spread to other houses if you lack the money?  If you’re a person of limited or modest means, do you like knowing your child has access to a free public education?   Do you like knowing that the air you breathe and water you drink is safe, and that the food you eat is free of toxins that could kill or sicken you or your loved ones?   Do you like knowing if your area was affected by a natural disaster, that you and your family would receive help from the federal government to get back on your feet? Do you feel secure knowing that there are scientists doing research on deadly contagious diseases that could become plagues without their efforts to combat their spread?  Do you like the fact there are laws that keep factories from dumping toxic waste into your drinking water?  Do you like the fact that companies by law can’t make you work for whatever they want to pay, which might be a dollar a day?

“The test of our progress is not how much we add to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

–Franklin D. Roosevelt 

 

All these things are socialism.  Now try to imagine what things would be like if these services and protections didn’t exist, or if you had to pay a private company or individual to get any of these things.    Not very pleasant to contemplate, is it?  You’d be looking at a country with a quality of life more closely resembling countries like Cambodia, dictatorships in central Africa, or banana republics in South America than to any developed western nation.

Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland are the four happiest countries in the developed world.    They are also countries that are social democracies — which means they combine capitalism and socialism.  There is nothing wrong with capitalism as long as regulations to keep it contained exist, there is progressive taxation (the rich pay more), and there is a general recognition that not everything can or should be privatized.  Some things simply work better and are more morally sound when they’re not privatized and are administered by the government instead.  Things like police departments, fire departments, prisons, interstate roads, air traffic control, and the military  should never be privatized.  Some services (like long-term care for the elderly, treatment for serious chronic illnesses like cancer, and safety and environmental regulations) cannot be adequately administered by private charities either.

Healthcare and education should always have a public option, even if a private option is also available.  In America, we have both public and private education.   The right wing complaint about “school choice” is bogus, since no one is forced to send their child to a public school, if they’d prefer to pay for a private one, but the public option is available for those who choose it or cannot afford to pay for the private option.  And that is as it should be, even though our current government is actively trying to dismantle public education.  As for healthcare, in Germany, you can buy your health insurance on the private market if you wish, but most people opt for single payer.  Socialist policies keep countries humane and civilized, and they counteract the negative, oppressive, malignant effects of unbridled capitalism which eventually lead to fascism and tyranny, as it is right now in the United States.

I think the problem so many people have with socialism is they equate it with communism. The Cold War led many of us to take a dim view of communism, which was an extreme form of socialism in which people were not allowed to own private property and all services were centralized and run by the government.  So, instead of being able to choose a doctor and have the government pay the claim (as it works in social democracies who have single payer insurance), you’d actually see a “government doctor” in a clinic-like setting and receive less than ideal care.   You could only watch State TV or listen to state-run radio or read state-run newspapers.  You had to stand on long lines to obtain government issued food, and of course there were always shortages.  None of these things are the case with European-style socialism.

Some extremists on the far right argue that countries such as Canada with “socialized medicine” require long wait times and that people die before they get to see a doctor.  But this is a lie.     Most Canadians (and people in other countries with single payer healthcare) are happy with the care they receive and knowing they won’t go bankrupt or risk reaching a “lifetime cap” or be denied care at all because they have a “pre-existing condition.”    In fact, they laugh at us for being so backwards that we refuse to recognize that good health is a human right, and not a luxury that only the rich should be able to afford.   If there are “wait times” in social democracies, it’s for services like cosmetic plastic surgery, gastric bypass surgery, or hip replacements — procedures that aren’t life and death emergencies and where there may be less invasive options that can be explored.  In America, of course, there are long wait times too — even for medically necessary procedures in which you are forced to wait for a health insurance company that cares only about profit to “authorize” a procedure and possibly deny it.

Authoritarianism has no ideology.  It can arise on the left or the right.  Communism is on the extreme left; fascism is on the extreme right.  Socialism (or social democracy, if you prefer) is more in the middle of the scale, although more to the left than capitalism.  Extremes of any ideology lead to tyranny and oppression.   Socialism taken to its extreme becomes communism; capitalism taken to its extreme becomes fascism. Both are caused by (and lead to) government corruption and both lead to the same terrible outcome:  short and brutal lives dominated by oppression, hopelessness, fear, illness, violence, and widespread poverty.   Balance is necessary for a system to work, and for a capitalist society to work for all its people, it must be balanced with socialism.   Other developed countries recognize this, and until the Reagan years changed everything, so did we.

Supporters of unbridled, unregulated capitalism like to tell us “the markets” will fix everything, but this is not true.  It has only led to disaster in the past, the most recent one being the housing crisis of 2008.   The markets are not God, and leaving the markets alone to fix themselves only leads to both economic and social ruin.

When people scream about socialism, I wonder if they’ve ever been to western Europe, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand — countries which may not be world powers, and where people may have to pay higher taxes (but not as high as you might think), but where there is more equality, more tolerance of diversity, and where people enjoy better health, live longer lives, get paid a living wage, and are never burdened with the possibility of bankruptcy or being denied coverage should they or a loved one become seriously ill.   Countries where people are generally happier, have more peace of mind, and where there is less hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, and selfishness. Countries where the common good is still valued more highly than power and greed.  Countries that don’t deny scientific fact or the right of its people to have a free education, clean air and drinking water, and basic no-cost healthcare from cradle to grave.

People in these countries can start companies and engage in free enterprise and with a lot more ease too because they’re not burdened with the fear of losing their insurance if they quit a job to start their own business.  They can leave a job they hate for a better one without fearing a “gap in coverage.”   They are still just as “free” as we are, if not more so (and now they are leaving us behind as they move ahead in the global economy because they recognize that sustainable industry that respects the planet and all life is the wave of the future).  The difference is they recognize what real freedom and real morality is — not the fake version of “freedom” that has come to mean “I got mine, so screw you,” and the fake version of “morality” that condescendingly tells us, “I’m better than you, so the rules I impose on you don’t apply to me.”