Requiem For A Vocal Terrorist.

Fox News ran hours of tributes. Republicans called for the nation’s flags to be flown at half mast as if Rush Limbaugh was some sort of national hero. But he did not earn the accolades any more than he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom that was hung around his red neck by Trump’s tiny fingers.

What Limbaugh rightfully earned, instead, is the never ending contempt of all those who believe in truth, science, courtesy, patriotism, and reason.

He was not, as some claim, a conservative icon and a patriot. He was neither. He more rightfully should be remembered as a domestic terrorist. He may not have fired a weapon against his country (other than his feral mouth). Still, he did more damage to our nation than Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh combined.

When the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, Rush saw an opportunity to build an audience by filling the airwaves with baseless conspiracy theories and lies. His audience, comprised mostly of blue collar workers, ate them up. They believed him when he told them they were overtaxed, that immigrants were coming for their jobs, that it was Democrats and pointy-headed liberals keeping them from attaining the wealth and respect they deserved.

He portrayed large cities as dangerous hell holes filled with “welfare queens” and drug dealers. He vilified drug users even when he, himself, became addicted to opioids. He told his audience that the Clintons were criminals and murderers and that President Obama was a foreign-born Muslim. He told them that Washington D.C. was a swamp.

Sitting behind his tacky gold-plated microphone, Limbaugh taught his millions of listeners – his “ditto heads” – to hate. To hate the poor. To hate people of color. To hate the LGBTQ community. And, most of all, to hate our government. He was part Senator Joseph McCarthy, part Tokyo Rose, and part Joseph Goebbels combined. But, instead of aiming his hatred at communists, socialists, GIs, and Jews, he aimed it at Democrats, liberals, and civil servants. He destroyed countless lives and helped divide our nation as never before, all the while filling his bank accounts with millions.

Moreover, as the Pied Piper of aggrieved white nationalists and the radical far right, he paved the way for dozens of other radio hatemongers, as well as Fox News, NewsMax, OANN, and Breitbart. He set the table for Donald J. Trump to become the most treasonous and corrupt president in history. And he no doubt perpetuated the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Have Republicans Confused Democracy For Democrats?

Republicans and Democrats have long been political rivals. But, beginning in the 1980s, Republicans began to view Democrats as enemies…as over-educated elitists hell-bent on destroying America. More recently, the GQP (Grand QAnon Party) has created a narrative that Democrats are evil…part of an international cabal of pedophiles and cannibals.

That was bad enough. But thanks to Trump and his propaganda network, the GQP now seems to have conflated Democrats and democracy believing they both must be defeated at all costs. A majority of Republicans have been convinced that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. With absolutely no evidence to support the claim, they believe that their own state election officials are lying and that millions of illegal votes were cast for Biden. Never mind that Republicans gained seats in those same states.

Are we supposed to believe that the election was rigged for Biden, but not for other Democratic candidates?

Not satisfied by facts or reason, the GQP is now determined to undermine our electoral system to make sure that no Democrat can ever be elected again. Since the first of this year, the GQP has introduced more than 100 bills in 28 states to make it more difficult for Democrats, especially those of color, to vote. A report by the Brennan Center for Justice states, “These proposals primarily seek to: (1) limit mail voting access; (2) impose stricter voter ID requirements; (3) limit successful pro-voter registration policies; and (4) enable more aggressive voter roll purges.” And these proposals are on top of dozens of existing measures intended to disenfranchise voters.

For example, in Arizona, the GQP House proposed a bill that would have purged an estimated 100,000 voters from the state’s early voting lists. And though the vast majority of Arizonans happily vote by mail, GQP lawmakers want to make it more difficult. One bill would require voters to have their signatures on mail-in ballots notarized. Another bill would make mail-in ballots one-way. The county elections offices would mail out ballots. But voters could not return the ballots by mail. And yet another bill would make it illegal for anyone to conduct voter registration drives but county elections officials.

In Georgia, another state that Trump lost by a narrow margin, the GQP introduced nine bills to make it more difficult to vote, including ending automatic voter registration, doing away with no-excuse absentee voting, and eliminating mail ballot drop boxes. In other words, the GQP is saying, “If our candidates can’t win on merit, we’ll keep the supporters of their opponents from voting.”

That’s not only un-Democratic. It’s undemocratic.

Our Broken Criminal Justice System.

Trump’s acquittal for inciting an insurrection and his pardons of some of the most treacherous criminals in our nation’s history only serve to call more attention to the inequalities of our justice system. The contrast is particularly stark in comparison to the treatment of people of color over the past year.

The truth is, the US incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth (2.1 million as of 2018) and a higher percentage of its citizens than any other nation (639 per 100,000). Moreover, our prison populations are disproportionately people of color. And people of color are disproportionately subjected to police violence.

Why?

As with most things, the answer is: It’s complicated. Certainly, the color of one’s skin does not make one more prone to commit crimes. It does not make one more violent. Similarly, not all white people and white cops are racist. But the answer is rooted in our history of slavery, Jim Crow, and our continuing systemic racism.

For example, numerous studies have found that students of color are disproportionately affected by suspensions and punishments in schools. And the inequity begins early. Though black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, they represent 42 percent of students who are suspended once and 48 percent of those suspended more than once.

The impact of such bias is long-lasting. Suspended students are less likely to graduate on time. They are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, or become involved in the juvenile justice system. And, once in the system, it is difficult for them to escape. A 2018 study published in the Boston University Law Review found a profound racial disparity in the misdemeanor arrest rate” for drug possession, theft and simple assault. In addition, they are disproportionately subjected to police violence. This disparity was borne out by the Department of Justice investigation into the City of Ferguson, Missouri following the slaying of Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man.

That report revealed a pattern of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department that violated the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments. In short, the investigation found that the city’s administration, its police force, and its municipal court system viewed its largely black population less as residents than as sources of revenue. Residents were arrested for minor crimes and given fines they could not afford to pay. When they failed to pay the fines, the amounts were increased. Ultimately, they were jailed until they could come up with the money to obtain their release.

And Ferguson is not unique. You can find the same pattern in the poorest neighborhoods of almost every US city.

Further, as abundantly demonstrated by the George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, and untold others killed by police, there is significant racism within the police ranks. Young black males are killed by police at a rate 5 times greater than whites. And more than double the rate of Latinos.

Even if the police are not intentionally racist, many have preconceived, subconscious biases. Many assume people of color are guilty of something. They see expressions of free speech as unlawful disobedience. They see innocent movements as threats. And they too often resort to excessive force. Yet, although the number of documented cases of police abuse has grown as a result of the availability of cellphone video, the overwhelming majority of cases still go unreported for fear of retaliation.

There are many contributing factors for the problems: Police leadership – both at the top and within the ranks, flawed hiring practices, and inadequate or over aggressive training. Police are too often expected to deal with situations, such as mental health crises, for which they are unqualified and unprepared. And they are often the victims for poor communication from dispatchers. Police are also victims of our nation’s runaway gun culture. Any American can obtain a gun. And many have more firepower than the responding officers.

Other factors are the militarization of our police forces through the purchase of surplus military equipment. To keep these items, they must prove that they use it. That tends to escalate the violence. And we can’t overlook the police federations that make it difficult for Police Chiefs to enforce meaningful disciplinary actions against abusive officers.

Our court system is equally at fault.

The United Nations Sentencing Project found that US operates two distinct criminal justice systems: One for the wealthy. Another for the poor.

While people like Trump and his friends can afford high-powered attorneys to avoid or delay justice through complicated and expensive motions, the poor, especially people of color are treated very differently. Since the courts and public defenders are overwhelmed with caseloads, prosecutors are often able to intimidate defendants into accepting plea bargains. If they plead to a felony, they are often placed into a prison system focused on revenge rather than rehabilitation and education. Once they’re released, they’re still viewed as dangerous. In many states, they can’t vote. And they find it difficult to get jobs. All too often, that leads them to commit other crimes.

If their crimes involve mental illness, they may be even worse off. The US has all but eliminated mental health facilities. So, the mentally ill are relegated to jail cells. When they act up or become violent, they are placed in solitary confinement, which, in essence, becomes a life sentence.

We can’t make America great again. Because it never was. And it won’t be until we eliminate systemic racism and redesign the criminal justice system from top to bottom.

Welcome To The GQP.

No, that is not a typo. The Republican Party, once led by Abraham Lincoln who held the Union together and emancipated slaves, by Theodore Roosevelt who broke up corporate monopolies and established National Parks, and by Dwight D. Eisenhower who led the defeat of Hitler and helped build America’s middle class, has become the party of bizarre, and delusional, conspiracy theories – the Grand QAnon Party (GQP). Once dedicated to fiscal conservation, the party is now dedicated to conserving white power, institutional racism, and the massive wealth of billionaires.

Instead of constitutionalists, it’s led by radical insurrectionists dedicated only to gaining and retaining power.

The change didn’t happen overnight. It began when the wealthy in the John Birch Society began using their resources to elect compliant officials. It took root with the nurturing of “Christian” evangelicals who selectively used Bible verses to justify discrimination against minorities and to use so-called social issues to gain political power. It grew more radical under the watch of Newt Gingrich who, as Speaker of the House, demanded complete unity and fealty of his caucus on the penalty of being “primaried.” Its members became increasingly dangerous and delusional under the tutelage of the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Jeanine Pirro, and Alex Jones. The Internet and social media allowed the infection to spread unchecked. And the asylum doors were thrown open by Donald J. Trump.

In the 1970s, we saw Richard Nixon divide the nation and undermine our electoral process with the burglary at Watergate. In the 1980s, we saw Ronald Reagan destroy the middle class with his Trickle Down Economics and circumvent the Constitution and Congress with the Iran-Contra affair. In the 2000s, we saw George W. Bush use falsehoods and disinformation to lead us into war. In 2010, we saw members of the Tea Party lie and bully their way into Congress and threaten to shut down our government unless they got their way. In 2014, we saw congressmen and legislators run to the side of Cliven Bundy and his militia who had aimed their weapons at government officials acting on a legal court order. Beginning in 2016, we saw racism and corruption on full display at the highest levels of our government. We saw our president playing footsie with our nation’s enemies at the same time he verbally attacked our military heroes. And, on January 6, we saw the inevitable result of conspiracy theories, hate, racism and a violent sense of privilege run amok.

That shameful event – the worst attack on democracy in our nation’s history – should result in those who inspired the attack being sentenced to prison. It should result in all members of the GQP paying a steep political price. It should end with Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell and others of the Sedition Caucus being removed from office. But it likely won’t.

Instead, we will almost certainly see Donald J. Trump acquitted by GQP members of the Senate. Not because he is innocent of the charges. But because a majority of them still wish to curry favor with their treasonous autocratic leader.

It’s clear that we are now perched on the precipice of a second Civil War. But this time, the division isn’t over slavery. It’s over reason and truth.

Why InfoWars, The NRA, Rightwing Media, And The GOP Should Be Labeled Terrorist Organizations.

Following the insurrection at the Capitol, the FBI classified the Proud Boys as a terrorist group. Even prior to the attack on our democracy, the FBI warned Congress of the threat posed by domestic terrorists. But no one in the Trump administration or in the GOP seemed to listen. Why? Because they had been inspiring domestic terrorists for many years.

Indeed, I believe the violent insurrection of January 6, was the inevitable result of decades of racist, anti-Democrat, anti-government rhetoric.

For example, the GOP reached out to white supremacists as early as the 1960s. The so-called southern strategy was to embrace southern racists who were unhappy with Democrats following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Racists have been a reliable part of the Republican base ever since.

In 1968, Nixon and Agnew ran as “law and order” candidates as a way of courting white voters. (Ironic isn’t it, given their own crimes?) In 1980, Ronald Reagan served up racist dog whistles to assure southern support. And, by ending the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, he made the rightwing propaganda network possible, opening the airwaves to people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin, Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity, and others to spout anti-government, anti-immigrant, and anti-Democrat hate 24/7. As more Americans tuned in to their hateful rants, the GOP lurched further and further to the extreme right. But not even those hatemongers could have envisioned what was to come.

Once Alex Jones entered the arena in 1999, the Republican Party began its descent into the dark sewers of politics. Jones used his InfoWars radio platform to peddle bizarre conspiracy theories and mostly worthless junk. InfoWars made Jones rich. But it also incited the lunatic fringe, which by then had become the base of the Republican Party. He claimed President Obama was a foreign-born Muslim terrorist. He dismissed mass shootings, including the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook Elementary, as “false flag” events staged by Democrats and liberals in order to institute gun control measures. He claimed a US military training exercise in the Southwest was an Obama plot to institute Sharia law. A master of getting attention, he further convinced his followers that Democrats and liberals were the root of all their problems; that they were actively trying to destroy America.

The rhetoric of Jones and the rest of the Republican propaganda network led to a series of angry confrontations between elected officials and armed Tea Partiers at Town Hall Meetings. It likely inspired the armed confrontation between the Oath Keepers and Bureau of Land Management officers at Cliven Bundy’s “ranch.” It almost certainly led to the armed standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

These events seemed to serve as preliminaries for the insurrection to come and ushered in the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

From the time Trump descended his faux gold escalator to announce his candidacy, he pandered to racists by labeling immigrants as rapists, murderers, and thugs. And by calling for an end to political correctness, he was emboldening white supremist groups that were inclined to violence. In cities and towns nationwide, people of color were subjected to verbal and physical abuse as never before. People were berated, told to go back to where they came from, and beaten or killed. Brown babies were ripped from their parents’ arms and thrown in cages. Refugees from predominately black and brown countries were banned from entry. The violence of the racist mob in Charlottesville was dismissed by Trump stating there were “fine people on both sides.” Black Lives Matter protestors were called “very bad people” and “thugs.” And the almost mythical Antifa (short for Antifascists) was called worse.

Throughout, the NRA has continued to provide arms to potential terrorists and insurrectionists under the guise of freedom. Acting as a carnival barker for the gun industry, it pushed for more permissive gun laws and ever more lethal weaponry as a “guard against tyranny.” It made violent militias such as the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois, the Oath Keepers, QAnon, and others possible. And it supported the campaigns of increasingly anti-American GOP candidates such as Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko, Jay Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Josh Hawley, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

All of these people and organizations, as well as the billionaires who fund them, set the stage for the violent attempt to overthrow our democracy in favor of an autocracy to be led by president-for-life Trump.

Trump and his GOP enablers called his electoral defeat the result of fraudulent voting. They incited their violent followers to overturn the election using rightwing media as their megaphone. They told them to fight, to march to the Capitol and take back their country. Alex Jones and others called for a civil war against liberals and Democrats. And those who were inspired to attack the Capitol and Congress, were armed by guns made available by the NRA.

They are terrorists, plain and simple, who have caused more harm to Americans than al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban combined. If they were Muslim or a foreign-based terrorist group, we would be readying drone strikes or preparing for all-out war. Instead, Republicans are asking us to move on, to simply forgive and forget. That is not only unrealistic. It’s unthinkable. All of them should and must be held accountable.

Trump’s War On Democracy.

January 6th was the latest, and hopefully the last, step in Trump’s plan to become president for life. To fully appreciate the seriousness of his attempted coup, it’s helpful to look at his actions leading up to the election and the plan to overthrow our government by assassinating congressional Democrats, independent Republicans, and even Vice-President Pence.

Following are the highlights or, more appropriately, the lowlights:

1 – More than a year ago, Trump attempted to weaken his likely election opponent by illegally withholding aid to Ukraine unless the nation announced an investigation of Hunter Biden and Joe Biden. It was this action that led to his first impeachment.

2 – Trump used his compliant Attorney General to announce an investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation claiming that Obama and Biden illegally “spied” on his 2016 campaign.

3 – Trump refused to say that he would accept election results unless he won. He repeatedly claimed that Democrats were trying to rig the election.

4 – Trump and his Republican supporters attempted to block all mail-in ballots claiming that it would open the election to widespread fraud. This was a transparent attempt to block Democratic votes, since Democrats had encouraged supporters to vote by mail to minimize their exposure to Covid-19.

5 – Trump replaced the Postmaster General with one of his donors and sycophants who apparently set about delaying and obstructing mail-in ballots, especially those in the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. At the same time, the Trump campaign sued to block states from counting ballots received after election day.

6 – Trump replaced the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security with inexperienced sycophants likely hoping that he could count on military support for his coup and a weakened response to his hostile takeover.

7 – Prior to election day, Trump claimed that the true winner of the election would be the candidate with the most votes by midnight and stated that any votes counted after that time would be fraudulent.

8 – On the night of the election, Trump claimed victory saying he won in a landslide.

9 – When Trump’s then-favorite TV channel, Fox News, called Arizona for Joe Biden, Trump went ballistic and ranted that it was fake news – that he won Arizona.

10 – When the media eventually called the election for Biden, Trump again claimed that it was fake news and claimed the results were fraudulent.

11 – Before states certified results, Trump demanded recounts in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

12 – When the recounts failed, Trump called Republican legislative leaders and governors in swing states demanding they reject Biden’s slate of electors and appoint their own.

13 – Trump’s lawyers filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts to overturn the election results. He organized “Stop the Steal” protests at state capitols across the country. And he tweeted that the election was rigged no less than 157 times. None of it worked.

14 – Trump called governors and secretaries of state to encourage them to overturn the election. When that didn’t work, he threatened them. He called Georgia’s Secretary of State 18 times before the Secretary finally accepted the call during which Trump asked the secretary to “find” enough votes for him to win.

15 – Trump promoted a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C. for the day Congress was to certify the electoral votes, tweeting, “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” (Interestingly, the rates for Trump’s Washington hotel were raised to $4,200/night for the rally.)

16 – Trump tweeted that V.P. Pence could reject “fraudulent” electoral votes on January 6th. He told supporters to “fight like hell.” He also tweeted, “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules.”

17 – Prior to the rally, Trump supporters and domestic terrorist groups exchanged plans for the rally on social media. Many of the social media posts called for violence which caused the FBI to warn of an impending “war” at the capitol.

18 – It has been reported that, prior to the coup attempt, a foreign entity (Vlad, was that you?) transferred $500,000 to some of the violent groups that were ultimately involved.

19 – Astonishingly, Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies seemed woefully unprepared for the “war” on January 6th. The reason for their lack of preparedness is still unclear. Was it because of the inexperienced leadership that was installed by Trump? Or was the lack of preparation ordered by Trump?

20 – On the day of the rally, thousands of Trump supporters (including members of at least seven hate groups) descended on Washington to hear Trump, Don Jr., Giuliani, Mo Brooks and others claim that the election was stolen. Giuliani called for “trial by combat.” Trump encouraged the crowd to march to the capitol to “take back our country.”

21 – It is now clear that many of the terrorists had knowledge of the floorplans and the location of the offices of Democratic leadership. Many chanted “We want Nancy” and “Hang Mike Pence.” Some came with flexcuffs obviously intended to capture, restrain and likely murder members of Congress.

22 – As most Americans watching coverage of the insurrection recoiled in horror, Trump waited hours before calling for his followers to go home. But he refused to denounce the violence. Instead, he tweeted that he “loved” the terrorists.

23 – Trump and a majority of congressional Republicans have yet to admit that there was no election fraud despite the fact that many of those who confirmed and certified the election results are Republicans. And despite Trump’s own appointee to oversee election security declaring the 2020 election as “the most secure in US history.”

We still have much to learn about the violent coup. But we don’t need a crystal ball to divine the intentions of the mob and its wannabe dictator. Since Trump failed at his re-election, almost certainly, he intended to retain office by force. And his “soldiers” are already planning their next assault.

The Failure Of Language In The Age Of Trump.

As a professional writer who has a journalism degree and as someone who taught writing at the collegiate level, I believe words matter. Unfortunately, I feel too many journalists, politicians, and elected officials failed us during the administration of Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, I believe their choice of words to describe his outrageous behavior have both encouraged and enabled him.

For example, in the era of Trump, empathy, politeness and humility have been labeled as “political correctness.” Right-wing propagandists are dismissed as “conservatives.” Domestic terrorists are labeled as “extremists.” Violent militias and hate groups are labeled as “radicals.” Seditionists are known as “patriots.” And insurrectionist politicians are part of “the freedom caucus.”

Voter suppression is “enforcing voter ID laws.” Voter disenfranchisement is “updating voter registration.” Civil rights marches and protests are “riots” while threatening gatherings of armed militias are “demonstrations.”

When Trump bombarded us with lies and disinformation, far too many reporters referred to the lies as “factually incorrect” or “untrue.” When he made racist statements and encouraged violence, reporters called them “an attack on political norms.” Even when he called journalists enemies of the people, few reporters were willing to acknowledge his behavior as that of an autocrat.

When Trump ordered children to be ripped from their parents’ arms, too many reported that he had increased “border security,” instead of calling his order what it really was: child torture. When he refused asylum to political and economic refugees, he was “tough on immigration.” But, by sending them back to almost certain death, he was acting as an accomplice to mass murder. And both the Russia investigation and Trump’s first impeachment were labeled by some as “witch hunts.”

Yet, never has the issue become more obvious than in aftermath of Trump’s attempted coup.

Though the assault on Congress was clearly an effort to kidnap and murder those elected representatives who refused to do Trump’s bidding by overturning the election, the language was quickly softened. Instead of calling it a coup, an insurrection, or even domestic terrorism, many described it merely as an “attack,” a “riot,” or a mere “demonstration.” Some of the buffoons on Fox News even said, “America had it coming.”

Let’s be clear. We can never heal this nation until we have a shared truth. That requires precision of language – language that accurately describes what we have collectively seen and experienced. We must do better.

The Origins Of Insurrection.

As I watched our Capitol – the cathedral of democracy – invaded by a collection of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, militias and conspiracy theorists under the banners of Trump, QAnon, and the Confederacy, I was both horrified and transfixed. But it was clear to me that the seeds of insurrection and hate were planted years earlier and nurtured by many…

– By the GOP southern strategy of the seventies that embraced racism for political gain.
– By the criminals Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon and Spiro Agnew who brought corruption to the West Wing and who tried to subvert elections.
– By Ronald Reagan who fomented distrust of the government and whose economic policies hollowed out the middle class and moved many into poverty.
– By Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and other religious leaders who called for discrimination against gays and women who chose abortions over childbirth.
– By Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the entire GOP propaganda network who used their media platforms to incite their audiences into an anti-government fervor by claiming Democrats and liberals were enemies of democracy.
– By Republicans who, in an attempt to repay Democrats for Nixon’s forced resignation, conducted a seven-year and $70 million hunt for dirt on the Clintons.
– By the racists, including Donald J. Trump, who refused to accept that Barack Obama was born in the US and, therefore, eligible to be president of the United States.
– By the Tea Party, including congressional representatives and senators who promoted false claims that the Great Recession was created by President Obama and that he was acting unconstitutionally.
– By Alex Jones who used his radio and Internet platforms to create and circulate bizarre conspiracy theories aimed at fomenting distrust of government and hate for Democrats.
– By GOP members of Congress who promoted conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and conducted seemingly endless and outrageous investigations into the tragedy at Benghazi.
– By Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media that hosted a toxic brew of hate and anti-government conspiracy theories.
– By the Trump 2016 campaign that began with an appeal to racists and reached out to Russia for support and aid.
– By the mobs that chanted “lock her up” at every Trump rally.
– By the mainstream media that gave hours and hours of airtime to a reality TV “celebrity” and serial sexual assaulter in their insatiable quest for ratings.
– By the GOP that nominated and enabled a candidate who was clearly unfit and unqualified to become president.
– By former Attorney General William Barr who mischaracterized and dismissed the obvious crimes enumerated in the Muller Report.
– By GOP senators who refused to convict and remove Trump from office during his impeachment proceedings.
– By the outgoing occupant of the Oval Office who is clearly guilty of sedition.

Yet those most responsible, by far, are the Trump voters and supporters who put a conman in office, who excused his avarice and his obvious crimes, who supported his racist attacks on refugees and American citizens of color, who verbally and physically attacked journalists for reporting the truth, and who prioritized party and hatred of “the libs” over country.

They are all complicit in this assault on democracy.

Part John Gotti. Part Vladimir Putin.

That is the takeaway from Donald Trump’s hour-long call with the Georgia Secretary of State, in which he begged and bullied Brad Raffensperger, telling him he was “taking a big risk” unless he is able to “find” 11,800 votes that would give Georgia’s electoral votes to Trump.

The message was clear. Trump wanted Raffensberger to rig the election for his benefit.

Indeed, the whole tone of the recorded conversation was what you’d expect from a mafia boss speaking to a member of his mob. It’s also what you might expect from dictators such as Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban, Bashar al-Assad, Nicolas Maduro, Kim Jong-un, Abdullah Aziz al Saud, or the late Saddam Hussein.

The call was not unlike the “perfect” call Trump made to the newly elected president of Ukraine in which he threatened to withhold US foreign aid unless Zelensky agreed to announce an investigation of Hunter Biden to help Trump win the 2020 election.

If you are familiar with Trump’s background, his attempts to defraud American voters should come as no surprise. As a developer in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Nevada, Trump long played footsie with the Mafia. He was schooled in the ways of the mob by his late attorney, Ray Cohn. (Cohn’s clients also included Joseph Gambino along with other Mafia figures and the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy.) With Cohn’s mentorship, Trump was able to perfect the art of the con, which helped him defraud those who were enthralled by Trump’s “celebrity” to enroll in Trump University, to donate to Trump Charities, and to purchase overpriced Trump real estate. Ultimately, it’s what put him in the Oval Office.

Cohn taught Trump to exaggerate and lie. (On average, Trump has lied more than 23 times a day while in office.) Cohn and his successors helped Trump cheat at every turn, which may explain why Trump’s name appears 3,450 times in the Panama Papers, a database of those who avoid taxes by investing in offshore tax shelters. And, under Cohn’s tutelage, Trump learned to never admit failure or a mistake. Instead of apologizing or facing the consequences of his actions, Trump learned to bully, threaten, and sue to get what he wants. That’s why Trump has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits.

Like a mob boss, Trump has surrounded himself with loyalists to do his unconstitutional bidding. When they have been caught, he has used his pardon power to keep them quiet. While following the tyrant’s playbook, he has used every lever available in his efforts to stay in power. And, in doing so, he has created more damage to our democracy than any of our external enemies could hope to do, which must make his current mentor, Vladimir Putin, very proud.

Will he ever pay for his cons and for the harm he has done to our nation?

At this point that’s unclear. He will likely try to pardon himself from his federal crimes. But that won’t save him from state crimes. And, given that the Southern District of New York is investigating his businesses for potential bank fraud and tax fraud, he may well end up like another crime boss – Al Capone.

Our Greatest Strengths May Also Be Our Greatest Weaknesses.

Since its inception, the US has been celebrated for its guaranteed freedoms: Most notably the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to own a gun, and the freedom to choose our leaders no matter how flawed and unqualified they may be. But those freedoms come with a cost.

Under our Constitution, profiteers and ideologues such as Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and the mysterious Q are free to distribute a torrent of half truths, mistruths, and outrageous lies intended to divide us and to weaken our nation. As a result, there are no shared truths. Not even the need to deal with the horrors of a pandemic has been able to pull us together. Far too many have been willing to take the word of pundits and politicians over that of caregivers and scientists. Even after nearly 350,000 deaths, they continue to believe the pandemic is a hoax. By refusing to wear a mask, they are making a political statement. And they are convinced that vaccines have been created as a way for the government to track them or, worse, poison them.

White supremacists, white nationalists, and other hatemongers hide behind our freedom of religion to discriminate against those of other religions, colors, cultures, and sexual preferences. They even use their religions to deny women the freedom to control their own bodies.

The gun lobby uses the 2nd Amendment and fear tactics to expand gun ownership. Not for hunting. But for “protection.” This is despite the fact that more gun owners are likely to be shot with their own gun than to use it for self-defense. And despite the overwhelming number of gun deaths enabled by easy access to guns. Further, as hate and division have grown, millions of Americans have assembled arsenals with the expectation of using them against their political “enemies” and their own government!

As for our “free” elections, consider the fact that many American citizens are routinely denied the freedom to vote. Especially those Americans of color and those living in poverty. They have not only been victimized by reduced polling places, reduced voting hours, and the purges of voter registrations. Many have been required to take time away from work and drive long distances in order to obtain necessary voter IDs. And one need look no further than the chaos created by Donald J. Trump to see the consequences of electing greedy, unethical, and unqualified government outsiders.

It’s not hyperbole to state that our freedoms may also lead to our nation’s demise.

The question is: How can we address the weaknesses of our system while maintaining our Constitutional freedoms? How can we prevent the liars, the unethical, the profiteers, and our enemies from using our own Constitution against us, especially now that our Supreme Court has been politicized?

We can end division by, once again, demanding that media report the truth. That could be accomplished by a return to some form of the Fairness Doctrine, which required radio and television channels to operate in the public interest by clearly labeling opinions and separating them from the news. The same rules could be applied to all other media.

We could also take the politics out of religion by enforcing current laws that take away tax exemptions for churches that routinely engage in political activities. We should also tax churches that collect millions in donations, permitting their pastors to live in mansions and travel in private jets.

We can address our gun problem by instituting national gun laws, including universal background checks and red flag laws. We should also end the sales of military-style weapons, such as AR-15s, AK-47s, 50 caliber sniper rifles, and large capacity ammunition clips which add to the killing power of mass shooters. And we should conduct buyback programs to recover those already in our citizens’ hands.

Finally, we should reform our electoral system by eliminating the Electoral College, by instituting universal voter registration, and by standardizing elections from state to state. In addition, we should demand that anyone running for national office submit to extensive background checks and release all financial information, including 10 years of tax returns.

Do I think any of this will happen? No. But if we don’t make any changes, it’s pointless to continue to spend trillions on national defense. Before any external enemy can destroy us, we will likely destroy ourselves.