Thursday, June 27, 2019

A wildness in the land - 'People with guns have involved themselves in a legislative dispute while the officials of one of the political parties was rooting them on'

Jennifer Rubin, in the Washington Post, observes that Americans in the age of Trump: Less tolerant. Here is some of the evidence she cites.

In a disturbing new poll, the Public Religion Research Institute finds that “while at least two thirds of Americans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse products or services to minority groups based on their religious beliefs, a small but increasing proportion of Americans think it should be permissible to turn away customers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or race.”

As one might expect, the big uptick in those willing to refuse service comes among Republicans, but Democrats aren’t immune from the trend to declare that one’s religion permits discrimination against others. …

[But] the difference between the parties is stark:

Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to support religiously based refusals to serve gay or lesbian people (47% vs. 18%), transgender people (44% vs. 19%), atheists (37% vs. 17%), and Muslims (32% vs. 14%).

And now 19 percent (up from 12 percent) say it is fine to deny service to Jews, and 15 percent (up from 10 percent) say it is acceptable to deny service to African Americans.

Let’s be clear: President Trump and his evangelical fan base have never been interested in religious freedom, but rather in domination of their own religious beliefs. …

This PRRI poll is not the only troubling sign that Trump’s xenophobic, nationalistic and racist rhetoric has had an impact on popular opinion. In April, the Anti-Defamation League released its survey. “The U.S. Jewish community experienced near-historic levels of anti-Semitism in 2018, including a doubling of anti-Semitic assaults and the single deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history,” …

Pursuing a similar theme, Sahil Chinoy, a graphics editor for The New York Times Opinion section, asks What Happened to America’s Political Center of Gravity? The answer is a bit shocking.

The Republican Party leans much farther right than most traditional conservative parties in Western Europe and Canada, according to an analysis of their election manifestos. It is more extreme than Britain’s Independence Party and France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front), which some consider far-right populist parties. The Democratic Party, in contrast, is positioned closer to mainstream liberal parties.

"That’s the tragedy of the American two-party system,” [said Mr. Thomas Greven, a political scientist at the Free University of Berlin who has studied right-wing populism.] In a multiparty government, white working-class populists might have been shunted into a smaller faction, and the Republicans might have continued as a “big tent” conservative party. Instead, the Republican Party has allowed its more extreme elements to dominate. “Nowhere in Europe do you have that phenomenon,” he said.

The Republican Party’s position among the European far right is especially striking because of the United States’ two-party system, which leaves less room for fringe groups. As a result, parties are “forced to deal in platitudes, usually in competing for the center,” said Richard Bensel, a professor of political science at Cornell.

But, he added, there’s “something very strange happening in recent American politics”: Theory says that two-party systems generate “moderate, unprincipled parties,” but the Republicans and Democrats have grown more distinct.

“Democracy doesn’t work with that kind of polarization,” he said.

So where might all this be headed? Charles Pierce says “something is building in our politics”, a “wildness”, and a president “more than willing to give that wildness a purpose and a focus.”

Thanks to Sherry Moreau for the tip on the next article by Pierce reprinted from Esquire by Reader Supported News (and now reprinted in full here, with block-quoting suppressed).

The Insanity in Oregon Is a Glimpse of Our Very Dark Future

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

25 June 2019

People with guns have involved themselves in a legislative dispute while the officials of one political party cheer them on.

In these times, everything looks like an ill omen. The capitol is crowded with crows. But it is not an exaggeration to say that if you’re not following the ongoing insanity in Oregon, you are missing a look into a very dark future. It begins with a not-at-all-unusual squabble between the Republicans in the Oregon legislature and the Democratic Governor, Kate Brown. At issue is a huge bill aimed at dealing with the climate crisis. On Thursday, every Republican member of the Oregon state senate took a powder, denying Brown and the Democrats a quorum and effectively killing the bill.

Now this is not an unusual tactic. Not long ago, Democratic lawmakers in Texas and in Wisconsin blew town for the same purpose—to throw sand in the gears of a legislative act of which they did not approve and could not stop by conventional means. In Wisconsin, it was to slow down an anti-union measure. In Texas, it was about a redistricting map that gerrymandered the Texas legislature into a farce. The legislative lamsters all had a good time, taking goofy videos in what appeared to be Holiday Inn lobbies while Republicans back home fumed. (The Texans, it should be noted, won a temporary victory.) What makes Oregon different is what the fugitive Republican senators did.

The Republican senators—with the full support of the Oregon Republican Party—made common cause with armed domestic terror groups. (Calling them a militia is a misnomer, regardless of what they may think of themselves.) When a Republican state senator named Brian Boquist heard that Brown was sending the Oregon state police after them, he told a local television station:

Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.

Almost immediately, the local domestic terror groups sprang to Boquist’s defense. From ThinkProgress:

A member of the Oregon 3 Percenters — a militia group whose members have vowed to combat what they perceive as constitutional infringement — said they would act as the senators’ de-facto bodyguards against the state police. “We have vowed to provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need,” they wrote in a Facebook post. “We will stand together with unwavering resolve, doing whatever it takes to keep these Senators safe.”

In Idaho, where some of the lawmakers have supposedly fled, the state’s 3 Percenters group was similarly willing to defend the Republicans as well, posting threatening memes on its Facebook page. “This is what the start of a civil war looks like,” the group wrote in one post. “Elected officials seeking asylum in a friendly jurisdiction.” Speaking to ThinkProgress, Eric Parker, president of the group Real 3 Percenters Idaho, said the group was currently networking to figure out if Brown had asked for any “out of state resources” — such as help from the FBI or Idaho State Patrol — and were willing to assist the the Republican senators in any way necessary.

And you could find a way to wave this off as well, except for what happened on Saturday. From the Oregonian/OregonLive:

A spokeswoman for the Senate President confirmed late Friday that the “Oregon State Police has recommended that the Capitol be closed tomorrow due to a possible militia threat.”

An “Occupy The Senate” rally on Sunday, sponsored by the local and state GOP, seems to have fizzled. (Jason Wilson on the electric Twitter machine is your go-to on this, and he has pictures, including one of a chainsaw the size of a Saturn V.) That doesn’t calm me down at all. There has been a wildness in the land for a while now and, at this moment, at the top of the government, we have a president* who’s more than willing to give that wildness a purpose and a focus.

People with guns have involved themselves in a legislative dispute while the officials of one of the political parties was rooting them on, and one session of a state legislature was cancelled because of it. Roll that around in your head for a while and see where you end up. Something is building in our politics and now I wish I hadn’t watched that series about Chernobyl. We may be exceeding the tolerances of all our systems.

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