May chose capitualtion, the British people resistance

I just watched the opening statements of British PM Teresa May and Trump at a join press conference in the UK. Trump’ statement didn’t surprise me, full of self-congratulations and lies, while never mentioning the political bombs that he had dropped, including a broadside against May, since his arrival a day ago.

But what did was May’s groveling remarks that made no mention of Trump’s intervention into the national politics of the UK as well as his dismissive putdown of her. Instead, she acted like a supplicant, paying homage to Trump, papering over the differences that arose in the past week between Trump and European leaders, and failing to defend herself and her country from Trump’s outrageous threats and interference in its national affairs.

I know it wasn’t a performance that is comparable to Neviile Chamberlain’s in Munich, Germany in 1938. Chamberlain back then proudly declared on the heels of signing (with France as well Germany) a “peace” agreement that sanctioned the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and the transfer of its Sudeten region to an increasingly aggressive, Nazi war machine, “I believe it is peace for our time”. Four months later war broke out across Europe as Hitler invaded Poland and then France.

But May’s performance was cowardly nonetheless. It was an attempt to appease and mollify Trump, to find common ground. Trump, however, isn’t about to be appeased or mollified. He doesn’t care about common ground, old understandings, and past arrangements. His overarching disposition is to bully, to dominate, to rule unchallenged, to run roughshod over democratic norms, values, and institutions. His contempt for democracy — even the post WW II social and economic order — is writ large in his actions and behavior.

Moreover, he is assisted by the Republican Party dominated as it is by right wing extremists. At the same time, Trump is increasingly aligned with a loose network of right wing strongmen worldwide, Putin being one of them. While Trump’s policies heavily favor capitalists in many ways, large and small, he also operates more autonomously than presidents in recent memory from them.

But to get back to May. She wasn’t up to the task today — and I guess no one should be surprised by her abject behavior — but the British people will have their say too as they crowd the streets of London at this very moment. And, unlike May, they will surely call out the imperial and imperious bully from across the pond in no uncertain terms. For they know (as we know) that the only fitting response to an authoritarian leader is resistance, not appeasement, struggle, not capitulation.


Trump and political instability

Anyone who thinks Trump’s bullying in Brussels is part of a campaign to reform NATO and the EU is seriously misinformed. Whatever their problems — and there are serious ones — Trump won’t solve them. What he is doing is creating political instability across Europe, and to the degree that he is successful, such instability favors a revenging right in Europe that for the moment has the wind at its back. If that were to happen, that is, if the right in Europe moves from the doorstep of power to capturing its citadels, more than supra-national institutions, like NATO and the EU, would be in the cross hairs of this anti-democratic, ultra-nationalist, authoritarian contagion.

To catch a glimpse of what Western Europe might look like in this event requires only a glance at what is happening in some of the Eastern European states, such as Poland and Hungary where authoritarian regimes have gained and consolidated power.

Bad advice

Bret Stephens in an oped column in the NYT advises the Democratic Party to concede to Trump and his Republican counterparts the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. He claims such a fight is not only futile, but counterproductive. This strikes me as bad advice. If I had Stephens’ platform, I would have advised a full bore campaign against the nominee, but with an accent on making a case — patiently and persuasively — against it to the American people. Outrage alone — and there is a place for that — isn’t enough. And while each of us has a “skin in the game,” no one is better situated to do this than the Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee. The hearings will command television coverage and reach an audience of millions. We should insist that they step up!



The incredible irony of Trump declaiming that Germany is a captive of Russia.

Unnerving and Propitious

Blocking Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court is an uphill fight. But that shouldn’t lead either the Democratic Party or the larger democratic movement to consider it anything but a critical field of struggle nonetheless. Even if Kavanaugh in the end is confirmed by the Senate, the confirmation process nevertheless provides a unique opportunity to reveal the class and anti-democratic nature of Kavanaugh and his hard right wing mates on the court who would become a nasty majority for years to come.
But no less important, it also gives Democrats and democratic mined people a platform to unmask the Republican Party and Trump, who are, after all, the architects of this constellation of right wing, anti-popular power. It is no secret that their judicial rulings would mirror — or, more accurately, give legal sanction (as they have) — to the politics and values of Trump and Congressional Republicans.
That it overlaps with the midterm elections is fortuitous, not something to bewail. It can serve to concentrate voters minds in this crucial election on the many dangers of the concentration and entrenchment of hard right wing power in every branch of government. At the same time, it can reinforce the overarching imperative of defeating the Republicans in the fall. The future of the country, as we have known it, may well depend on our success in November.
While the immediate dangers to women’s reproductive rights, health care, and LBGTQ rights should figure prominently in both campaigns, tens of millions should also be reminded over and over that NO rights are safe as long as the court, Congress, and White House are in the hands of this wrecking ball of authoritarian right wing power. It will be a hard fight for sure, but one that each of us can engage in a practical way. And while it isn’t the only way, volunteering for the Congressional race in the districts where we live is perhaps the most productive thing that we can do at this moment that is both unnerving and propitious.


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