Why Do They Hate Us?

Why Do They Hate Us?

You’re driving along the freeway, listening to some great music or peacefully chatting on your cell phone with a friend. Suddenly, a dusty, beaten up old car pulls up alongside you, the driver’s eyes wild, his face contorted with hellish fury. He appears to be swearing at you, he’s flipping you off, he swerves his car slightly into yours. You react defensively by swerving to avoid him, and you hear the fender of your previously undamaged car scrape along the center divider. Your anger at him immediately matches his toward you, and the battle is on. In truth, that man had already had a lot to be upset about that day, but he had actually been outwardly quite calm just a few seconds earlier. Then you had cut him off when you changed lanes without noticing him, and he had almost crashed. You were completely unaware of that: you were busy enjoying your music or talking with your friend. The fact that you weren’t paying attention now has both of you locked in a potentially deadly conflict.

The election of President Trump is like a road rage incident. Mainstream Democrats had been going along peacefully, thinking that they understood the correct focus-tested messaging and statistical analysis of the issues to run a successful Presidential campaign. Then a group of people that they hadn’t been paying attention to came out of nowhere and started ramming into them with a bizarre orange egomaniacal authoritarian in populist’s clothing (clothing purchased and custom-tailored for him at the priciest stores in Manhattan). Bewilderment turned to rage as this erratic new ruler pushed forward racist and xenophobic policies and began dismantling every institution of government necessary to the continued functioning of American civil society. Trump’s supporters defended his every move or at most shrugged, immune to all arguments that Democrats put forth, every scandal that the President created, every hypocritical act, every idiotic or offensive or even dangerous tweet. The worse it got, the more strange the non-reaction  of the Trump voters seemed, and the angrier Democrats became.

Just underneath anger often lies other emotions: fear, envy, pride, sadness, a sense of injustice. The anger of the man in the road rage incident was sparked by fear: you had nearly killed him when you cut him off and almost caused him to crash. Your lack of awareness of what you had done as you drove blissfully along in your relatively nice car prompted further outrage: he had recently been laid off and was two months behind on his rent, facing eviction, and on top of it all, someone like you was so unaware of people like him that you had almost killed him without even noticing. The fact that the current conflict could now result in his death (fear of which had ironically started the incident moments before) is of little importance to him: all he wants now is to see you punished.

Likewise, your anger at him was provoked when he threatened your life by swerving at you. It was intensified when you realized that his bizarre actions had needlessly resulted in your car being damaged. Not only had his behavior endangered you: he had also cost you money in car repairs or potentially higher insurance rates. The fact that your car could possibly get totaled and you could get killed as you engage with him on the freeway is now of little importance to you: all you want is revenge.

Similarly, the anger on both sides of the Trump divide has other emotions underneath. For many on the left, like you in the road rage incident, those who elected Donald Trump have needlessly endangered your life in profound and ongoing ways. You have been thrust into living with a scandal-ridden President who seems mentally unstable, who has made the possibility of nuclear war seem real and imminent for the first time in decades, who seems bent on the destruction of essential institutions of government, who is undoing key relationships with our allies abroad, and many of whose decisions seem particularly mean-spirited toward the least fortunate among us.

For Trump supporters, like the guy in the other car, the anger was simmering decades before the election. The grievances have varied – small towns being hollowed out and brought to their knees by unemployment and addiction, hard-earned tax dollars being handed over to undeserving “others,” a long-standing cultural and economic structure upended by progressive causes like civil rights and immigration, a soft stance on the mortal danger of terrorism, or just outrage over a reakingly corrupt government. But in the end, the enemy is the same: “the system” and those in the mainstream who have been keeping it in place – both Democrats and Republicans. For almost all Trump voters, Hillary Clinton was the quintessential embodiment of the out-of-touch, cosmopolitan system of corrupt career politicians.

Just as you had been driving along peacefully in your car without noticing the havoc that you had created for other driver, you had not noticed how some significant systemic issues were (in reality or in their imaginations) endangering the lives of Trump voters. As small towns silently buckled, you instead encouraged government to help the equally needy and deserving inner cities. As people in rural America had to drive long distances to their jobs and to get groceries, you advocated paying for infrastructure repairs with a gas tax increase that would hit rural people disproportionately hard. As terrorists (whom many Trump supporters equate with “all Muslims”) waged deadly attacks against our country, you asserted reasonably that not all Muslims were terrorists, which in the minds of some Trump voters made you not only woefully naïve, but putting American lives in danger with your idiotic “tolerance.”

The guy who swerved into you on the freeway didn’t see his action as a way for him to get a new job or a way to pay his rent, but his act was partly an expression of his rage and despair over those problems. Similarly, Trump voters did not necessarily see their vote as a solution to their festering problems, but rather as an expression of long-standing anger and despair over those festering problems, and over the system that inflicted them. Going at least as far back as Timothy McVeigh, it was a kick in the nuts to the guy with the boot on their neck. The goal was simply to impose some sort of damage to the system, to hurt it. The fact that Trump supporters will likely experience even greater hardship under Trump than they would have under Clinton, the fact that the other driver could get killed antagonizing you on the freeway – it all has little relevance. What’s important to them is that punishment is inflicted, that you feel some of what you have unwittingly inflicted on them, and that you are not able to continue ignoring them and their pain. Your outrage, fear, confusion, or despair is all just an indication that the punishment is having the desired effect. Regardless of the impact on their own lives, there is satisfaction among some Trump voters in what they see as the justice of you having to lament the collapse of your democracy (they haven’t felt like it was theirs for a long time), your damaged fender.

In the road rage incident, if you and the other driver were to pull over and get out of your cars, the ensuing conversation would almost certainly be unproductive at best. You would yell about your fender, which the other driver couldn’t care less about: he would see it as just desserts for your endangering his life. He would yell at you about cutting him off, which would seem disproportionate compared to his overblown reaction and the bill that you are now facing for body work on your car. You would essentially be talking past each other, having two different conversations at the same time in which neither person could hear the other.

Most attempts at dialog between Trump supporters and those on the left are similarly unproductive. Many on the left consider Trump’s election to be primarily about racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and ignorance. Many of Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, consider his election to be about geographic and economic unfairness, political corruption, over-involvement abroad, strength toward foreign enemies, religious issues, and working class dignity. When Trump supporters and those who oppose Trump debate each other, they are therefore often having two different conversations at the same time. They shout past one another, neither hearing the other. It is why Steve Bannon says that he’s happy to debate “identity issues” all day long, because he knows that as long as polarization remains, he wins.

There is no easy way to heal our political divide. Many news outlets, social media trolls and craven political opportunists have found it profitable to feed division rather than seek to resolve it. A constant flow of information or misinformation supporting whatever reality each American wants to believe is certainly an obstacle too. But one thing is for certain: giving each other the simple courtesy of listening cannot hurt. When an angry person knows that they have been listened to and genuinely understood, the intensity of their anger diminishes dramatically, and they can begin to hear the other person.

Listening does not mean agreeing with the “other side,” letting go of principles, or stopping the important work to further deeply held values. It merely means hearing a different perspective and trying to put onesself in someone else’s shoes. At this point, the goal of listening is not some kumbaya moment where everyone hugs it out and moves on in harmony. The goal is to lower the intensity enough that we don’t total the car.

– rob rünt

The GOP’s Trap for Dems in the Tax Bill

The GOP’s Trap for Dems in the Tax Bill

The Republican tax bill that passed the House and Senate has Democrats outraged, and rightly so. According to the Tax Policy Center, by 2027 a full 83% of the bill’s benefits will go to the wealthiest 1% of the population – a reality which most Americans seem at least vaguely aware of. CNN finds that only 33% of Americans favored the tax reform bill that just passed.

The bill makes its tax cuts for corporations permanent (reduced to 21% from 35% – in the 1950s it was over 50%), but the tax cuts for individuals are scheduled to expire. This was an adjustment that Republicans describe as necessary to comply with a legal technicality, and which they will fix later. Democrats claim that this provision is proof that Republicans care more about corporations than people, and doubt that there is any intent to fix it.

Even under the rosiest of conditions – assuming a sustained long-term increase in economic growth – the tax bill is expected to add about $1.5 trillion to America’s federal deficit over the next 10 years. And with this transfer of money to the wealthy becoming institutionalized by the tax bill – something that can now be treated as unchangeable like the weather – Republicans will be able to cry poor when it comes to “entitlement programs” like Medicare and Social Security that help the needy.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declared on the Senate floor that “This tax bill will be an anchor around the ankles of every Republican,” and many Democrats believe that the unfairness of this bill will unquestionably be the final death knell for Republicans seeking re-election in 2018 and beyond.

The reality on the ground, however, may not be quite so clear. Human nature tends to forget and eventually accept even the most outrageous life changes as the new normal. For example, how often do you think about the African American woman who was shoved and spit on during a Trump campaign rally last year? How often do you think about Chris Christie basking with his family on an isolated beach after he ordered New Jersey beaches closed? How often do you think about Citizens United?

The Republican tax bill will result in an extra $172 each month for a median income family of four. While it may grate somewhat on the average American that the rich are getting far more, for many, the $172 will be an appreciated positive nudge to incomes that have been stagnant for years. Most outrage or resentment will die off and even seem baffling as the short-term benefit of the tax cut feels like a real, concrete improvement to people’s lives. Americans will accept the new tax structure as a normal – and actually not that bad – part of their lives. Further, few will associate any new deficiencies in government services and programs with their extra $172. They will instead look at those situations case by case and blame government inefficiency or lazy poor people looking for undeserved handouts.

Now comes the trap.

In response to concerns that the corporate tax cut are permanent while the individual tax cuts expire, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “We have every intent of making those permanent — because of the Senate rules, you know why that sunset is there.”  Democrats should take Paul Ryan at his word and plan ahead.

The issue of making tax cuts for individuals permanent will likely be brought before the legislature in 2018, long after Americans have grown accustomed to the extra money in their paychecks. It may even come shortly before the 2018 election that Democrats are currently feeling so confident about.

And as Republicans advocate for making the tax cuts permanent, Democratic legislators will suddenly be placed in a very uncomfortable, no-win position: vote in favor of a fiscally irresponsible policy that drains resources from crucial programs and services for the poor, or be seen as the party that wants to take money out of the pockets of American middle class families. Republicans will, of course, take advantage of this PR nightmare, playing it for all that they can, and no matter how Democrats may cry foul, the facts of the decisions that they make – in either direction – will be inescapable.

As Democrats look forward to the 2018 election they need to start planning now for the coming legislative vote to tweak the Republicans’ tax reform, and to begin strategizing how they might turn the tables on Republicans – or at least how to come out of the vote without a stain that can impact their chances in the 2018 election. If they wait until they are faced with the legislative vote, it will be too late to head off the damage.

Far brighter political minds than mine can be put toward this strategy, but at a bare minimum, the Democratic response to a bill to make permanent the individual tax cuts should be that they do want to make the middle class tax cuts permanent, but will be presenting their own bill after the 2018 election – contingent on their winning a majority in either the House or Senate – that will include some additional provisions:

  • Make the middle class tax cuts permanent
  • Restore the corporate tax to what it was in 2017 – especially if the current corporate tax cut can be show to have little or no impact on jobs or pay increases
  • Restore the tax on people in the highest tax bracket to what it was in 2017
  • Repair any damage done by Republicans between now and the 2018 election to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid

Democratic legislators can use the Republicans’ trap in the tax bill to secure an electoral foothold in 2018 and expose the Republican/Trump agenda as being solely serving the interests of the wealthy and big business, but only if they choose to be proactive and anticipate what is waiting for them.

– rob rünt

GOP Backing Roy Moore is About Keeping the Presidency, Not Just a Senate Seat

GOP Backing Roy Moore is About Keeping the Presidency, Not Just a Senate Seat

How low can Republicans go, some may ask. After months of looking the other way as Donald Trump toys with nuclear war, alienates our international allies, reaps millions in profits from his Presidency, and tweets falsehoods on a regular basis, many thought that the Republican Party had hit rock bottom. Until they endorsed accused pedophile Roy Moore for the US Senate.

Multiple women have alleged that Roy Moore dated them or engaged in sexual activity with them when they were teens. At the time, Moore was a District Attorney in his 30s in Alabama. In his defense, Moore recently asserted on Fox’s Sean Hannity’s show that he had never dated any girl without first getting “permission of her mother.”


Alleged messages written by Alabama District Attorney Roy Moore to Debbie Gibson and Beverly Nelson when they were teenagers.

How can the Republican Party, which for years had sanctimoniously proclaimed itself the party of God and morality, throw its endorsement behind someone who appears to have sexually preyed on children? Is keeping one Senate seat really so important to them that they are willing to throw aside all pretense of integrity? Yes and no.

Republicans currently hold a slim majority in the Senate, and they would no doubt like to maintain that majority. But there is an office that is far more important to them to hang onto: the Presidency.

The tie-in here requires a look at the immediate circumstances of the President, the Mueller investigation, and what kind of political process could prematurely end that investigation.

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has recently subpoenaed and received Donald Trump’s financial records from Germany’s Deutsche Bank. Aside from being one of the few financial institutions willing to lend money to Mr. Trump after one of his bankruptcies, Deutsche Bank was also fined $630 million by the US government in January of this year for laundering over $10 billion for wealthy Russians in a stock fraud scheme. (Money laundering means running illegally obtained money through some process to make it appear legitimate). My personal suspicion is that, prior to his life as a political figure, Donald Trump engaged in real estate transactions that assisted others, including wealthy Russians like oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, to launder or hide their money. Such assertions have been made in the infamous “dossier” compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.

Vladimir Putin would no doubt be aware of such illegal activity, and could use that knowledge to blackmail President Trump, which would explain the President’s baffling reluctance to criticize Putin while attacking virtually everyone else, including the US intelligence community.

As Mueller ”follows the money” and gets closer to areas that can bear fruit in his investigation, many Republicans, who initially supported the selection of Robert Mueller (a Republican with an excellent reputation within the legal community for his dogged investigative practices and impeccable integrity) have suddenly begun turning on the Special Prosecutor, now calling him “corrupt” and “the head of the snake.” The President has made no secret of his dislike of the Mueller probe, calling it a “witch hunt.”

Yet if Trump were seen as directly trying to remove Robert Mueller after already having fired FBI Director James Comey, it would be viewed as a blatant obstruction of justice. Republicans have discovered another way to get rid of Mueller, and it requires the election of Roy Moore to the Senate.

The Special Prosecutor would ordinarily be appointed by the US Attorney General. However, in the current situation, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (former Alabama Senator) had recused himself from the Russia investigation, due to his potentially being considered a witness in that case. So instead, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was given the responsibility to appoint a Special Counsel. He chose former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Rosenstein would be the most appropriate person to remove Mueller from the case, but seems unlikely to do so, and Sessions cannot do so, because he has recused himself.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has been encouraging Alabamans to write in Jeff Sessions when they vote. He has also said that if Roy Moore is elected, the Senate will immediately begin an ethics investigation into the allegations of the various women against Moore. Such an investigation will likely find that these women are in fact telling the truth about their teenage encounters with Roy Moore, and such findings will likely result in the Senate expelling Moore or demanding his resignation.

When a Senator leaves office prematurely, that state’s Governor is empowered to appoint a replacement. Some Republican political operatives have advocated for Moore to be replaced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, essentially putting Sessions back in his old job as one of Alabama’s two Senators. It would seem a natural choice.

Yet the resulting absence in the US Attorney General’s office would allow the President a “mulligan” on appointing an Attorney General – enabling him to select a new Attorney General who would not need to recuse himself/herself from the Russia investigation and who would therefore have the authority to remove Robert Mueller and either replace him with a new Special Prosecutor or declare the investigation over.


Currently, Roy Moore is ahead of his Democratic opponent Doug Jones in the Alabama polls. If Moore wins, the wheels can easily be put in motion for a premature end to the Russia probe, or for an investigation that avoids looking in the most meaningful and damning areas.

– rob rünt