Thursday, February 4, 2021


         Storms bring an aftermath, sometimes a strange fruit. It is that way in nature pristine, and in human behavior. We'll explore these in this post. 
     Storms also bring change, sometime destruction and upheaval.

The mighty can be brought low

        Political winds are blowing. The Biden administration has moved forthrightly to undo and repair. So have the caretakers of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria.

      The fallen are dispatched. Dead wood, like dead policies, are discarded. The initial repair of the United States government continues. Deep work will be more arduous, painstaking and undoing the toxic.
       Contrived though it is by this writer, there is a symmetry we seek here. We observe how nature, left to its own heals and cures in a way that is both stunning and mystical. We wonder how human behavior metastasizes to bring us to where we are.

        Below you'll see the outward signs of nature's enablers. They are, to a degree, angels of death, though in a very good and life providing way. They are part of an underground world of mycelia, a network of tendrils and life that converts the dead and decaying to new earth, new life. There is beneath us an internet of sort providing a connectivity to all life.

An elfin saddle 

        This woods, on this day after the storm was a bounty of mushrooms and fungi, some of this world's oldest life, tireless and dependable in doing transformation. What we see is merely the above ground evidence of the work of changing death to life, involving communication via mycelia.    
        It is an appropriate visual support as we trace the decayed Trumpism to it's surprising origins. 

republican civil war

        The Republican party is at war with itself, the Impeachment moves to a Senate trial, Republican values are on the scales. They are the party that attacked the Capitol. They are the people who sought to kill at the citadel of liberty. They are the party of Trump jihadists.
        Republicans did this to themselves and you could see it coming since Richard Nixon.

    Republicans tend to look out for American business and industry and those who reap the profits. They are anti tax but favor tax cuts for the wealthy. Stinginess for welfare and public works projects, anti union, in favor of a small government with large defense budgets is there modus operandi. They used to bluster about national defense.
    There was a time when the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, was much better on issues of civil rights than the Southern Democrats who were avowed racists and state rights fomenters and old confederates.
    In fact Richard Nixon had a better history on civil rights than JFK, who beat him in 1960. But when Nixon reemerged the Republican party began building the monster that became Trump. It started with the "southern strategy."

                                             Richard Carson/AP

        Desegregation, after the Supreme Court Decision, Brown Vs. Board of Education, was active in the US as Nixon began his new bid for the Presidency.
        "The Republican Party placed its major activities toward
    winning southerners' votes in order to change the majority in the US Congress, slowing down the desegregation process, creating alternatives to public school desegregation, (such as school choice option,) and making conservative appointments to the federal judiciary."
      Frank Brown author
Nixon's Southern Strategy and Forces Against Brown

      Republicans were on a track to racism, nationalism and domestic terror. They borrowed tricks from the old southern racist democrats and became the party of voter suppression. 

      Once republicans sustained liberal, moderate and  conservative wings. Conservatives captured the party and nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964. Despite their landslide loss they worked to build a power base and began attracting one issue zealots and activists, and those on the right wing fringe. They began to change the balance, while driving toward a dark future.

    Enter Lee Atwater. A young political operator who got around.
Trump and Atwater

        There is prophesy in these photos. Strom Thurmond, one of the longest serving members in US Senate history ran for President as a segregationist and states rights candidate in 1948. When Democrat Lyndon Johnson pushed Voting Rights and Civil Rights, Thurmond left the Democrat party for the  Republican party in 1964.  Republicans continued to lock in racism. 

    Atwater was a campaign specialist. He was chairman of the Republican National Committee, an advisor to President Reagan and campaign director for George H.W. Bush

        Atwater ordered the infamous Willy Horton television spot  that helped destroy Michael Dukakis's lead in the 1988 Presidential Campaign. Of that ad about Dukakis Atwater said he wanted "to blast the bark of that little bastard."

republican family jewels

       The most honest revelation came from Atwater when he betrayed the family jewels of Republican campaign strategy.
        "You start out in 1954 by saying "nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"-that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, state's rights, and all that stuff and you're like getting so abstract. Now, your'e talking about cutting taxes, and all these things your talking abut are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites..."We want to cut this, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh and a hell of lot more abstract than "nigger, nigger."

Washington Post 
Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Atwater 

     The dark future of the American Republic was foreshadowed on that day.

        Most Americans who lived through the Reagan years do not associate hard racism with him, but he was masterfully handled and he was a much better pitchman and performer than Trump. He built on the Nixon foundation.

    Candidate Reagan put the world on notice when he chose a speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia Mississippi to say "I believe in state's rights."
    As his advisor Atwater acknowledged, " can't say nigger, you say stuff like busing and state's rights..."It was a signal, the Republicans were using the Southern Strategy again.

        The affability and likability of Reagan was a mask for his frequent use of coded language about "welfare queens," "busing," and "affirmative action." Read his speeches, follow his narrative, and you see the trail.

    Possibly Reagan's most insidious act in building the inevitability of a direct attack on the federal government was his own barrage against the very government he lead. It was 1968 when he first used what became one of his famous and frequent lines;
    "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help."
    The genial actor drew laughs but he was relentless in building an anti-federal government case. He created an anti-tax attitude, and talked about big government spending, while raising taxes and running up the deficit. A hallmark legacy of his administration was selling the idea the government can't solve problems. 
      Attacking the credibility and at times even the purpose of the Federal government became Republican gospel. A generation of increasingly conservative party operators began to spread a belief that Federal government and Federal programs were bad. 

     Reagan used another code word and one that came from more ancient Republican Strategy, "Socialism is a great evil."
    Old time Chamber of Commerce and Capitalist Republicans used the threat of socialism and communism as a way to bust union power and to hold back tax increases. For years Democrats have campaigned for health care, education and other safety net programs that would require federal money, often designated as coming from increased taxes on high earners. Democrats had the support of labor unions as well. That prompted the old Republican trope of "evil socialism."
    "Socialism only works in two places-Heaven, where they don't need it and hell, where they already have it."  Again Reagan would draw smiles, and agreement.
     For decades Republicans have tried to blur the lines and the distinctive differences between socialism and communism. An increasingly lazy electorate has lacked the intellectual curiosity to know the difference and to actually examine nations where those systems are in place, and in varying degrees. Socialism is not a gateway drug to communism, though that has been Republican mantra. The VA, Medicare, Social Security, interstate highways, national health care are socialism, and as we all know it affects the bottom line.

    Reagan was an American icon and his popularity added a halo effect to hardening Republican anti government, anti welfare, anti busing and other dog whistles.
    By now Republicans had hardwired their hard edged brand of stubbornness  and conservatism. It created a prevailing attitude that would eventually denigrate to cult of personality populism. The storm needed seeding of thunder.

    A corrosive bludgeoning prophet who fed the monster was Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House. The Republican Revolution he engineered is a leading cause of the dysfunction that grips Capitol Hill.
    Gingrich brought legislative combat, winner take all obstructionism, the weapon of name calling, distortion and lies.
Gingrich made deception a party tool. He poisoned the body politic.
    "One of the great problems we have in the Republican Party  is that we don't encourage you to be nasty,"  is a Gingrich mantra. 
    You know who was listening.

    The final body part of the monster was the loyalty of the evangelical right wing. George W. Bush had success in building the  evangelical base. He had a ready appeal to southern states, rich with right wing evangelicals. They tightened their attraction to the Republicans during his 8 years. He explained it in an interview with the Washington Times;
    "I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person...I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is."

     The Southern Strategy, playing to the confederacy and the notions of white supremacy, the clever use of code language and dog whistles, voter suppression, distortion, building a climate to attack the purpose and function of the Federal government, were as former Republican strategists acknowledge were the Republican soul. 
    Attacking the media, trying to erode the credibility of examination or challenge was a Nixon tool, all those years ago. Roger Ailes who founded Fox News was a propagandist who worked for Nixon and Reagan. It was there he hatched the idea of a right wing Republican news network with the audacious slogan "Fair and Balanced."  Lazy viewers, fed a party line over and over, repeating Republican mantras and the stage was set.

    Donald Trump is a creation of the Republican Party. At no time during his mendacious administration did Senate Republicans challenge him, try to limit his insanity, listen to those who worked for him and quit, or take a cue from the path he was charting. They did not convict him, which emboldened his criminality. There was no attempt to challenge his increasingly seditious behavior. Even when the election was known, and all the court challenges rejected, even by fellow Republicans, Mitch McConnell continued to aid and abet his lies, and insurrectionist threats. 
    The racist history of the party came fully born in Trump.
The moral bankruptcy of lies and distortions, code language and dog whistles came into full view. 
     Are there good and decent Republicans, those who disavow their cult rites? Yes, but not many in Washington. The idiot gaggle in the House even tried to unseat a hard core conservative named Cheney who voted to impeach.
      Good Republicans who served the party and the nation well, are dead, or old, or retiring but Missouri's John Danforth speaks for them. He calls the current party and its leadership "grotesque." A party that seats Taylor-Green, that allows Cruz, Hawley, Jordan and the weasel ways of McCarthy is a cancer in the body politic. If it is not excised it will spread. It has already made this Republic ill.

    So we end this long tome by returning to the metaphor of the fungi. There is a beauty in these transformers of life, emerging from the detritus of a forest floor, springing to life in the wake of death, decay, swamp, mud and upheaval. We can hope this for our nation, and for the party who gave us Trump. They got exactly what they wanted. But America did not deserve it.
     Rot away Republicans, transform yourself.

      Before he died of a brain tumor Lee Atwater apologized to Dukakis and to the nation for his "naked cruelty."  
      He told an interviewer "I didn't invent negative politics but I am it's most ardent practitioner."
      Some in the evangelical movement have come to see the absurd paradox of supporting Trump. 
       There were many honorable Republican election officials and state leaders who stood up to the attempt to subvert the election. So there is an opportunity to again be respectable, but first, the dead hearts and deal morality must fall.

       Stay safe. Stay well.

       See you down the trail.


  1. Outstanding! Thanks, so much, Tom. I appreciate your historical explanation.

    1. Thanks Sal. History still matters. Best to you.

  2. The National Football League is socialistic in its player-drafting system: the "poorest" teams (i.e., worst won-loss records) draft first while the "richest" (best won-loss records) draft last. Also, their network television contracts spread the dollars proportionally, if not equally.

    1. Shared revenue too. I can't remember the sports writer called the NFL, "the world's most perfectly crafted socialistic system"

    2. Yes, proportionally. Equality and equity have not caught up with the NFL, yet.

  3. When you mentioned Lee Atwater, I immediately thought of his apology and then got to the last paragraph. So many in the GOP have no commitment to integrity that later on try to minimize their words. Trump's 30K, Marjorie Greene's "regret", Lindsey Graham's "use my words against me" -- it's a very long list. This post is absolutely amazing. For those who appreciate FACTS and historical perspective, you spell it all out Tom. This gets a bookmark in it's own folder.

    1. Thanks Mike. Contemporary media, for the most part, has it's focus on the bouncing shiny object. We need to sit at the side of the road once in a while and look at where we've been. Paying attention to history, and an historic perspective are sorely lacking.

  4. Tom:

    As always, I thank you for your words. They are so meaningful and true.

    Have you ever written anything with regard to Theodore Roosevelt? I am asking mostly about his wonderful work related to National Parks but also other aspects of his presidency? If you have, I would like to read your perspective.