Never Trump Fatigue and the No Man’s Land in between Enemy Lines

As we careen toward Election Day in a world that might rival Alice in Wonderland for its oddities, I have been thinking about the effect of the criticisms of Trump in the press and on social media. Actually, I have been thinking about it since before the last election, but my thoughts are gaining traction now.

Prior to the last election, the press latched onto everything (so it seems) Trump said and did. It didn’t matter that 14 Republicans were in the running at one point; the press couldn’t get enough of Trump. He was a novelty, a media circus. What seemed like a side show to begin with became the spectacle in the center ring..

I assume that Trump was good for the news and media businesses. They like train wrecks and that sort of thing. It sells.

I was thinking as I watched the Republican primary lurch and stutter that the media gave Trump all the fuel he needed to become the front runner. He couldn’t have possibly asked for or gotten more press than he did. I assume that someone like Trump likes any press is good press. Without shame, the more the merrier.

I was aggravated at all the press coverage during the primary because, it seemed to me, the media was ignoring more solid candidates and handing Trump the Republican nomination. As the Primary was settled and the presidential campaigning shifted into high gear, the media attention turned increasingly more judgmental, but it didn’t matter. It was all fuel to the fire.

It was a kind of symbiotic relationship. Trump was propelled along by the inertia of press coverage, and, let’s face it, Donald Trump sold the news.  They played virus and host to each other in the truest of symbiotic dances.

I will never forget the looks of chagrin on the faces of the media pundits as the numbers came in on election night. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing, but I could. They created this Frankenstein and shouldn’t have been wondering at the power they gave him.

By the time Trump became the Republican frontrunner, the press was decidedly weighing against him. He wasn’t just an amusement anymore. Many of the stories carried their own moral weight, but those in the press who were aghast didn’t trust the public, the common people, to judge rightly what they were seeing. Facts, themselves, are apparently no longer sufficient to carry their own weight.

People are smarter than the average bear (to mix another metaphor). They know condescension when they see it. Americans, in particular, don’t like to be told what to think or do. We love our freedoms. We boast about them. Americans are nothing, if not free, right?

Another element at play was the unending, unceasing, constant and continual criticism of Trump by all the Clinton supporters and Trump haters (who were not necessarily the same people). Trump couldn’t do anything or tweet anything or say anything that wasn’t immediately denounced, condemned and decried. Not that they had any lack of ammunition.  

The Trump critics have proven to have the stamina of a racehorse and marathon runner combined. They don’t stop. They never stopped.

For over four years now, going back well before the last election, and continuing to the present time, the Never Trumpers have carried their torches boldly and loudly and often, posting unceasingly to all the world everything Trump says and does wrong on a daily basis. Not that they have lacked for material.

As the next Election Day approaches, it seems to me that Never Trump Fatigue set in somewhere along the line. I have been seeing it for awhile. People are tired of hearing it. People seem to have begun wondering, perhaps, whether the Trump critics doth protest too much.

I am not talking about the Trump supporters, who have been emboldened as the constant drone of criticism has continued to whine and increase. People on both sides of the divide have become more vocal as people in the middle, looking for some common ground or reprieve or sense of “can’t we all get along”, seem to be left, abandoned in the no man’s land in between.

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When the Meanings of Words Change at the Speed of Light

So this happened yesterday in the confirmation hearings. Senator Diane Feinstein asked nominee Barrett if she would “vote to roll back hard-fought freedoms and protections for the LGBT community.” Barrett replied, “I have no agenda. I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.”

The comment triggered a virtual fire storm of reaction, beginning with follow up comments from Hawaii Senator, Mazie Hirono. She took the opportunity to state that “sexual preference” is a term “used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not,” she said. “Sexual orientation is a key part of a person’s identity.”

That idea has been around since the assertion that people are “born that way” that I remember going back to the 1970’s. Though, it was a novel idea then, the groundswell of common opinion seems to side with it, now, 40 some years later. I wasn’t aware that it was scientific fact, but I might have missed that discovery.

Regardless whether it is fact or popularly accepted theory, Barrett replied, “I certainly didn’t mean and would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community.” Her initial response was that she “would not ever discriminate” on the basis of sexual preference. By my way of thinking, if she wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of preference, she would be even less likely to discriminate on the basis of “a key part of a person’s identity”.

But what do I know? Barrett’s words of clarification only seemed to fuel the firestorm of response that followed. 

That firestorm spread so rapidly that Webster’s dictionary online even changed the definition of sexual preference that same day (yesterday to be exact). The term is now officially defined as being “offensive” when used “to refer to sexual orientation” according to one of the venerable dictionaries of the modern age.

I would point out that the change occurred after Barrett made the statement, but it seems from the quick and decisive public response that she should have anticipated it.

Dictionaries, these days, change the meanings of words at the speed of light (or speed of sound, perhaps).  It’s hard to keep up, but one must ever be on guard to adapt and get out of the way of the tsunami that follows a misstep. In a culture that is increasingly attuned to what many have called “political correctness”, a person can never be too quick to change. Barrett is obviously behind the times.

Just for the record, though it wasn’t that long ago, according to the Washington Post, that people more attuned to such things, like Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose seat Barrett has been nominated to replace on the high court “also used the phrase”. (Should overlook the facts on grounds that the Washington Post is a right-wing publication?)

Only a couple years ago Leon Panetta, Obama’s Defense Secretary, wrote for CNN that “Trump is not who we are” since “we are all created equal under God, regardless of our race, creed, religion, color, sexual preference.” But what do I know, again? Maybe he didn’t mean by it the offensive connotation: “to refer to sexual orientation”.

Even if we take Barrett’s words at their most pernicious meaning (that sexual orientation is a preference and not an immutable characteristic), her statement is actually quite a bit less evil than the quickest objectors have speedily supposed. She seems to be saying that, even if gender is only a preference, it deserves protection, and she stands in favor of protecting that preference. That’s good, right?

It Never Should Have Come to This

Remains of Berlin wall, detail of old concrete wall, Germany

My family, on both parental lines of ancestry, have been in the United States for generations, and some of them for centuries. Still, the current immigration tension hits home with me. All my family were immigrants (unless I have some Native American blood in my ancestral lines, though I am not aware of any).

We live in a nation described as a “Melting Pot”. Various streams of immigration have occurred over the relatively short history of colonization that characterizes our past. The English, the Spanish, the French were the first streams of immigrants. At various times the Irish, the Chinese, the Italian, the German, the Puerto Rican, the Vietnamese, the Mexican and many other people groups have added to that stream.

I am neither a blind patriot nor a self-loathing radical when it comes to this nation’s history. This is no time for naked idealism. Our past indiscretions in the way we treated Native Americans shouldn’t be brushed under the rug, but the great Democratic experiment that has been a shining city on a hill to the world should not be discounted either.

The truth is nuanced. The truth is messy. Idealists doesn’t necessarily create falsehoods (though sometimes they do), but they emphasize the truth that serves them and ignore the truth that doesn’t. We should not be blind to any portion of the truth. As a wise man once said, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it” (or something like that).

The aspects of that experiment that shine a light in the world include the bedrock value of freedom and a welcoming attitude toward the streams of foreigners who have come here to make a better life. This has been a land of opportunity, if not always perfectly available to all, that is still exemplary in the world despite its warts…. until recently.

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Thoughts on Thoughts and Prayers


The phrase, “thoughts and prayers”, has become a touchstone of controversy in recent years. The phrase has become repeated so often that the meaning is stretched thin. In modern society in which social media provides instant, ready knowledge of the trials and tribulations that face people to whom we are digitally interconnected, the phrase has become trite.

Diagnoses of cancer and other health maladies, deaths of family members or friends and other circumstances that bring the pain and suffering of others to mind often evoke responses that include thoughts and prayers. It’s a polite, but increasingly empty, thing to say. Particularly in response to all the offerings of thoughts and prayers in response to mass shootings in the last few years, a backlash has even arisen against the use of that phrase.

I assume the sentiment includes the implication that something needs to be done about the problem, and thoughts and prayers don’t get done whatever it is that needs to be done. One CNN article observed after the Parkland shooting, “Among the earnest pleas for social and legislative action, the aftermath of each successive shooting inspires more and more memes and cynical jokes.” (How ‘thoughts and prayers’ went from common condolence to cynical meme)

The point, with the mass shootings, which is well-taken, is that offering platitudes isn’t enough of a response to such a systemic, serious societal problem. “The further [the phrase, thoughts and prayers,] is embedded in our post-tragedy lexicon, the more it’s mocked as a form of civilian slacktivism….”

Of course, part of the problem is that we can’t agree on whatever it is that needs to be done. For as many cries there are for more legislation to limit guns, there are calls for more guns to arm law abiding citizens to combat the lawless ones. In that context, the critical, cynical snarky remarks about thoughts and prayers expresses one particular political persuasion that promotes tougher gun legislation.

When powerful politicians (who are in a position actually to “do something” about the problem) offer thoughts and prayers, while deflecting talk of gun controls and opposing attempts at more effective gun legislation, the phrase takes on a “form of political obfuscation” that sparks the ire of people who want change.

On the other hand, that cynical response often looks like a shotgun blast, implying (or assuming) that all people offering thoughts and prayers oppose gun legislation (and have no intention of doing anything about mas shootings). It conjures up the stereotype of the gun-toting religious conservative.

God, country and guns may be one characterization of a particular political platform, but it certainly doesn’t include all the people who offer thoughts and prayers. Not all “religious people” are of the same color. If we are going to heal and advance as a nation against the scourge of mass shootings that has scarred our societal landscape in the last several decades, we need to bridge the gaps between people of good will and stop burning bridges.

In fact, I suspect that our growing insensitivity, incivility and lack of respect for people who “don’t think like us” contributes to the socio-psychological environment that spawns mass murderers. I don’t think that connection is a leap, though I can hear the counter voice in my head accusing me of “blaming the victims”.

If there is one thing that is sacred in modern American society, it is victimhood. I know that’s a snarky comment itself, but let’s be real here. I am not blaming the people who got shot. They didn’t “deserve” to get shot.

We have to get past the binary political attitudes. We can’t get anything done that will affect a real societal change by objectifying, vilifying and pissing off half the population. We need to find common ground.

My hope is to start building a bridge with this piece by offering some thoughts on thoughts and prayers and suggesting some ways to work together, rather than against, each other. So, first my thoughts (and prayers).

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Fighting the New Cold War


As someone who tries to look away from the news that bombards me from every public and private corner, like a train wreck impinging on my better instincts, I catch bits and pieces of the news on a continual basis – kind of like an unwanted stream of consciousness – that I would rather ignore. But I can’t. Trump, of course, is lurking in just about every news corner.

Trump and Russia are two of the most persistent and pernicious news themes today. Trump is mentioned together in nearly every news story on Russia’s meddling in American politics. I don’t think I am speaking out of school to say that Russia’s meddling in American politics is fact. We are beyond that question, aren’t we? But there is more to this story than Trump.

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Skeptical Perspectives on Kavanaugh

LOS ANGELES, CA – JULY 12, 2018: Protesters showed up at Senator Diane Feinstein’s District Office to protest nomination Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice.

As I write this, Brett Kavanaugh is undergoing ongoing scrutiny for alleged sexual offenses committed against multiple women in his high school and college years. People have lined up along partisan lines for him and against him. Predictable and disappointing – as always.

I fear that that the allegations are true, and we will trample over them insensitively in the rush to achieve political outcomes, both sides using them against the other. I fear that the allegations are false, and we will destroy the name and reputation of a good man and the integrity of our democratic system in the political crossfire.

Due process is intended to prevent hangings, real or political, and to provide a fair, orderly and just way to get to the bottom of factual disputes so that the truth will win out. But that doesn’t always happen. Due process outside of a court of law is more like the wild west, and sometimes the court system doesn’t even get it right. Doe process, even when done right, doesn’t always uncover the real truth.

As the Kavanaugh fiasco teeters and totters forward, Bill Cosby was sentenced for the sexual crimes he committed in 2004. Ironic isn’t it? It’s still hard to accept the verdict that Bill Cosby is a sexual predator.

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