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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Sound of Silence

Last week, I wrote about some thoughts I had while watching the January 6 invasion of the US Capitol.  This week, I'm going to begin with the C-Span coverage of the debate on the only president to be impeached twice – by a majority vote of our representatives.  Every House member who wished to speak was given a designated amount of time by the floor leader of their party, usually thirty seconds.  The Republican in this position was former Ohio football coach Jim Jordan.  He repeatedly passed when it was the R's turn to speak, apparently because he didn't have anyone lined up to take the microphone.  When he eventually got that done, the most notable smart-aleck was Florida's Brian Mast. 


He represents the St. Lucie area, where too many wealthy newcomers automatically vote Republican.  Although an evangelical, he has been in trouble for various moneymaking scams, some of which involved Rudy Giuliani.  Mast quickly made his false-equivalent point, saying that the Black Lives Matter marches last summer were worse than the attack on the Capitol.  He asked if anyone disagreed and then paused.  I thought something had gone wrong with the sound, as Mast merely stood dramatically at the podium.  When his time was about to expire, he said, "I didn't think so," and smugly sat down. 


I'm sure he thought that his silent soliloquy competed with the most thoughtful orators – but trust me, it will not be in the historical record of great wisdom.  This a pattern with good ole boys:  they just cannot get over their jocular approach to government – and everything else.  I want to check with his sons in a decade or two and see if they are happy with their jokester father:  he named them Maverick, Magnum, and Major Mast.  Not a funny thing to do to a child.




My other chief observation was how much the Democratic speakers looked like America, while the Republicans looked like the men's locker room of a country club.  The Democratic speakers were disproportionately women, including a lot of black women.  The Republicans had none.  Their only female speaker I found notable was the recently-elected Marjorie Taylor Greene of rural Georgia, who lived up to her reputation as a conspiracy theorist. 


What I found most striking about her, though, was her long blonde hair.  Is there some kind of requirement that Republican women must have long blonde hair?  From Greene to recently defeated Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler to Virginia gubernatorial candidate Amanda Chase, these women ape Ivanka's style to the point that I wonder if she charges a copyright fee.  And then there's Kellyanne Conway and (I just googled it) eight of eleven female anchors on Fox News.  And oh yes, Florida's own Pam Bondi and Tiffany Carr, the Republican in charge of our domestic violence program who ripped it off for millions.  As a natural blonde, I really hate this.


Also re recent politics:  I want to quote a thoughtful columnist, Jamelle Bouie, in the New York Times.  (Yes, I read the NYT all the time now, as its print edition arrives on the day of publication.  I guess they send the digital copy to Lakeland, where it is printed and delivered just a few hours later.  Try it.)  Anyway, Bouie explored the question of whether "only GOP wins are legitimate."  It is true, yet seldom noted, that no one questioned the accuracy of counts in states that Trump won.


If Democrats somehow actually had pulled off the magically massive fraud that malcontents claim, then some non-presidential races also should have been negated – especially those of Republicans who won in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and other states carried by Biden.  Working secretly across the nation, these very smart Democrats cancelled Trump votes, but couldn't manage to wipe out his allies.  If you accept that, I've got some bridges for sale.

Yet millions of people do accept that, and so to the quote:  "Of the many stories to tell about American politics…one of growing significance is how the Republican Party came to believe in its singular legitimacy… It's a belief that now dominates conservative politics and has placed much of the Republican Party in opposition to republican government itself.  It's a story of escalation, from the relentless obstruction of the [Newt] Gingrich era…to the attempt to nullify the presidency of Barack Obama and on to the struggle, however doomed, to keep Joe Biden from ever sitting in the White House…


"It also goes beyond national politics.  In 2016, after a Democrat defeated the Republican incumbent for the governorship of North Carolina, the Republican legislature promptly stripped the office of power… Wisconsin Republicans did the same…and Michigan Republicans took similar steps against another Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, after her successful race for governor… [It's] a 30-year assault on the legitimacy of Democratic leaders and Democratic constituents."


But because of the strength of Stacy Adams, Nancy Pelosi, and other Democrats, the ball now is in our court.  We won't be as mean to them as they have been to us, and all will be well.  Maybe even for the long term, as young people of all races and genders lead the way to greater kindness.  As we said back in the sixties, "the times, they are a'changing."




Buried deep in the news was the fact that 2020 marked a 14-year low point for the US in international trade.  Despite Trump's jingoistic approach to Asia, Europe, Latin America, and almost everywhere, we Americans bought more stuff from other nations than in any time since 2006, when Dubya was in charge.  Of course much of this purchasing was due to the pandemic, but it nonetheless is proof that Trump's promises to bring mining and manufacturing back to the US were based in falsehoods. 

Like other psychopaths, he probably believed himself – but he never consulted with economists to understand reality.  You can't really expect the macho men of Kentucky and West Virginia who believed his mythical version of economics to actually look at global stats, but, dear reader, you should.  Please remember this:  a 14-year low in trade deficits, one of the most sacred markers of conservativism.  The promotors of "Make America Great Again" created this zenith.  Poor people were played like drums, and China was the big winner.


On another economic point, I want to emphasize the difference between stimulus checks and unemployment compensation.  Stimulus checks have gone to everyone, regardless of need.  I don't have too much of a problem with that, as the main point is to stimulate the economy, not to alieve personal problems.  Yet at the same time, many affluent people simply put their checks in the bank because there is nothing they really need to buy.  If we truly wanted to get money into the hands of those who will immediately spend it to stimulate the economy, we would write checks – bigger ones -- to the recipients of SSI, SNAP, and similar programs for the proven poor.  It would be easy to administer because we know who they are, but we prefer giving to those who don't need it.


It's interesting that those gratuitous checks – with Donald Trump's personal signature – went out very quickly, while Floridians have suffered endless problems getting the unemployment checks to which they are entitled.  This may have been just another inefficiency under the clueless administration of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, but nonetheless, the buck stops with him and his apparently incompetent people.  Or maybe his intentionally indifferent people.  Anyway, the point is that unemployment checks are not charity:  people paid into those accounts, and they should be able to easily access their own money. 




I've had this item from the Washington Post on my desk since early December, and this is the time to use it.  The title was "Seeing Links in Bigfoot, QAnon Fans," and the reporter was Meagan Flynn.  Her style is fun, and I'm going to quote what she said about a congressman from Virginia, Denver Riggleman.  He spent a lifetime in military intelligence, but at the state's 2020 Republican nominating convention, was ousted by another man.  The article began:


"There was a time in Denver Riggleman's life when…he was looking for Bigfoot… Or at least, others in his group were.  Riggleman, a nonbeliever who was then a National Security Agency defense contractor, had come along for the ride…to indulge in a lifelong fascination:  Why do people – and what kind of people – believe in Bigfoot?"


He and his wife went on their first Bigfoot hunt in 2004.  In the woods of Washington State, "they listened to Bigfoot-believing women sing nursery rhymes, banking on the widely held theory that women's singing voices would lure the hairy, behemoth forest dweller… Some attendees debated, with almost religious-like conviction, whether Bigfoot had a gluten allergy…


"By the end of the trip, Rigglesman, and especially his wife, couldn't believe that he had dropped more than $5,000 – much of which he paid to the expedition leader.  As he recalls the expense today, Rigglesman said it doesn't feel much different from Trump's allies seeking donations from fervent Trump supporters…  'If you look at the Giulianis or the Sidney Powells of the world, they are making money… in a mythological quest of things that can't be proven.'" 


Things that can't be proven.  That's what they believe in, because the lack of proof means they always are right – and exceptional.  They are members of a tribe, empowered to abandon logic.  Rigglesman, who does not regret the ouster from his party or from Congress, ended the interview by saying that there's probably "more proof of alien abductions" than of voter fraud. 


This was just a couple of weeks after the election, and I wonder what he would say now, a couple of months later.  But we will survive, and I'm grateful to those Republicans – especially Wyoming's Liz Cheney – who insist on the non-existence of voter fraud, as well as Bigfoot.  Let me know if you see him or the Loch Ness monster or the Abominable Snowman.  Or even Snow White.



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