Monday, September 25, 2017

Not Yet Tired of Winning

Who's afraid of the big bad Trump? Steve reflects on the debt ceiling, DACA, healthcare, and the NFL, and sees that people are pushing back, and winning.

Perhaps the climax of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign hyperbole was his claim that once he became President, we would all “win so much” that we would “get tired of winning.” Full disclosure: I was keenly skeptical about this particular epochal vision. As a lifetime follower of the New York Jets, I could not imagine a circumstance in which I would become “tired of winning.”

Then, with the election, Republicans seized control of the executive branch, the House, the Senate, and soon after Mitch McConnell succeeded in stealing control of the Supreme Court. I became convinced that if someone was about to get “tired of winning,” it was not going to be me.

Imagine my shock and awe when I realized that of all of Donald Trump’s campaign promises, this is the one that turns out to be the one closest to being correct. 

Now, to be fair, one reason this one has a chance of being the most accurate campaign promise is because the rest are lying in the Capital morgue.  There is no wall, no Muslim ban, no tax reform, and we have not “handled” North Korea.

The second reason why this campaign promise may be true is because it is not the Republicans, nor the Tea Party, nor the white supremacists, and not the neo-Nazis who are winning, although the latter two groups can make a stronger case than the former.

It is actually the progressives.  The Democratic Party enjoyed a September winning streak that was surpassed only by the world-beating Cleveland Indians.

The streak began when Donald Trump sat in the Oval Office and flipped the bird at Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, reaching his hand across the aisle to agree to the Democratic proposal for raising the debt ceiling. Perhaps simply tired of losing, Trump brushed aside his seemingly ineffectual Republican colleagues so that he could at least bask in the temporary glow of being able to say a piece of legislation had actually been passed in the Trump administration.

DACA, DACA, gimme the news! Giddy with the glowing feedback his debt ceiling deal scored from the mainstream media, Trump doubled down with Democrats to navigate a way out of the tropical shit storm he had created by ending Barack Obama’s DACA program. Trump quickly huddled with new BFFs Pelosi and Schumer to cook up a legislative solution that would enable Dreamers to stay in the United States.  Trump -- who had centered his campaign on a draconian immigration stance from the minute that he entered the race by announcing that Mexicans were rapists -- finally found the elusive issue that could actually rattle his base.  Legendary patron witch of conservative cruelty Ann Coulter -- who only last year authored “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” – greeted Trump’s leftist-loving DACA-nalia with a stone cold tweet: “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?” Ann Coulter trash-talking Donald Trump seems as alt fact as if Ed McMahon had gone rogue on Johnnie Carson. 

Tired of winning yet?

Then there was the Emmy moment when Stephen Colbert sent Hollywood jaws agape by bringing Sean Spicer onstage to announce that the viewing audience “will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period -- both in person and around the world," a brazen echo of Spicer’s original lie as White House Press Spokesman.  In a classic face-off between the super silly and the supercilious, progressives were typically split, with the Chris Matthews contingent laughing it off as just an entertaining gag, and the Frank Bruni wing arguing that Colbert had committed a grievous sin by providing a forum for Spicer’s rehabilitation.

Neither side seemed to see the larger point.  Without ever needing Spicer to actually say the “L” word, Colbert had created a device that allowed Donald Trump’s White House spokesperson to essentially admit to a huge national television audience -- far larger than Fox even dreams of -- that he knew damn well he had been forced to lie early and lie often in the service of Donald Trump.  Put another one up in the “win” column.

Not tired yet?

In yet another anthem to the growing political power of the “Gang of Late” – Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, and Seth Meyers  -- this week’s latest, last gasp, desperation Hail Mary attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare was played out according to the criteria established by a late night talk show host. Jimmy Kimmel spoke in May of his infant’s heart surgery and then made a plea for preserving the pre-existing condition clauses of Obamacare, thus spawning the “Jimmy Kimmel Test” for the worthiness of proposed healthcare legislation: would the law provide comprehensive coverage for the medical needs of an infant born with a congenital heart condition for the first year of life?” This week, Graham-Cassidy bill author Senator Bill Cassidy learned that it is not a great idea to flame a man who owns a very big microphone. Kimmel pummeled first the legislation and then the Senator for having “lied to his face.” 

For four consecutive nights, Kimmel used his monologue to rip Graham-Cassidy to shreds, which MSNBC ‘s Chris Hayes subsequently pointed out was probably the largest amount of time and audience devoted to the national healthcare debate anywhere on television. For months, Stephen Colbert has been the most scathing political critic of the Trump White House. This week, Kimmel took his place alongside Colbert in the fight for honesty, sanity, and reason.

As the inevitable healthcare train wreck became apparent, it was once again John McCain who surveyed the landscape and gave his Republican colleagues the look of a man who has just smelled fresh turd. Thumbs down, again. The Republicans have a very short window to attempt to turn Senators Rand Paul, Lisa Murkowski, or Susan Collins, and as of now those odds are very steep. Obamacare may survive yet another Republican onslaught, and if this issue indeed lands in the “win” column, they simply don’t get much bigger than that. 
Getting tired of winning? Probably not…

Then came the news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is asking for documents that specifically pertain to the actions taken by Donald Trump as President of the United States. This request establishes that Mueller is collecting evidence for what can only be the purpose of determining whether a sitting President committed a crime while in office. The document production request specifically calls for all materials relating to discussions about the firing of James Comey, which would be a charge of obstruction of justice. The Congress of the United States has previously established (see Nixon, Richard) that “obstruction of justice” rises to the Constitutional definition of an impeachable offense.

Learned observers sense that the pace of Mueller’s investigation is rapidly quickening, and that his team is skipping over steps in the usual process (for example, personal interviews before subpoenas) in order to proceed at full throttle. One can only hope that Mueller’s renewed urgency is borne of a realization that the sooner we get to endgame the better: keeping Trump’s fingers away from the nuclear codes is now becoming an existential issue for humanity.

By Friday, you may have felt some sense of weariness from the all this winning. You may have sensed the weekend coming on, and all you wanted is to wind down and seek a quiet respite from the images of catastrophic destruction in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean, and find a way to soothe the nerves still jangling from the infantile nuclear saber rattling between Kim Jong-un and Trump. Perhaps all you wanted to do is curl up and to spend Sunday in front of the television, escaping all the stress of politics by enjoying an NFL game.

Nice try.

Speaking in the bleeding red state of Alabama, Trump dished up a super-high cholesterol serving of red meat in an ear-piercing dog-whistle to his bigoted base by ferociously demeaning NFL players who choose to kneel during the national anthem as a protest against inherent racism in American society.  The direct quote from the President of the United States: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired.'" 

Over the course of the next 48 hours, the President of the United States found himself swirling wildly in the devastating hurricane winds of a rapid succession of tropical storms, only these ones had names like LeBron James, Steph Curry, and even Tom Brady. Donald Trump triggered an astonishing show of solidarity among not simply African-American NFL players, but essentially all NFL players, the broader community of professional athletes, and even the Republican National Football League owners who have given big money to Trump’s campaign. On television screens all across the United States, from the morning broadcast of a game played in London to NBC's prime time telecast, Americans saw the players, coaches, and owners of the National Football League with locked arms, unified and defiant. When Trump loyalist Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, scolds Donald Trump, it’s like, uh, well, what can I say? Why, that would be worse than if Ann Coulter dumped on Trump.

I never thought I’d say it: Ann Coulter is right. At this point, who doesn’t want this guy impeached?

Yes, justice, compassion, fairness, and principle had a couple of decent weeks. 

We are a long way from done. And despite seeing the crocuses of sanity springing through the pavement in areas like DACA, healthcare, and even in race relations as embodied by the actions of the NFL, it of course does not really feel like winning yet.

There is grave danger still before us. We must continue to listen to Donald Trump talk about “totally destroying” North Korea. We must listen to him defend Nazis. We must listen to him lie daily and accuse truth tellers of “fake news.” We must observe him make each and every policy decision based on whether it will either eradicate a legacy of Barack Obama or help the image of Donald Trump. Sadly, things will probably get worse before they truly get better.

It may not always be linear, clear, certain, or uninterrupted; it may take too long, but in the past two weeks, we may have felt Martin Luther King’s very long arc of the universe bend, ever so slightly, toward justice.

How do I know?

Yesterday, I got an unbelievably clear sign from the cosmos, an absolutely crystal clear message from the almighty herself that my liberal ideals and progressive cause is just, righteous, bold, and will, as sure as the sun rises, will win over the long term.

Yesterday, the New York Jets won.  

Ok, JK.

No, the sign from the cosmos was that yesterday, the score was decided before the NFL games started. Yesterday, the good guys won. Everyone in the NFL locked arms, some knelt, and they demonstrated the astonishing power of unity in diversity, idealism in the face of cynicism, and defiance in the face of bigotry.

No, President Trump, we are not yet tired of winning.

And we will never be tired of winning until we overcome the huge obstacle that stands between us and our better angels, stands between what we are now and what we can be, and stands in the way of the unity in diversity that is actually what can make our country great again.

That obstacle, President Trump, is you. 

This battle will continue to be exhausting and frustrating.

But when it is all over, you will be able to say that you kept one campaign promise.

You’re making us all tired of winning.

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