Sunday, November 27, 2016

Voluble Has Moved to Medium

Voluble has moved!  Please check us out at medium (, the platform where we'll be publishing from now on. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Resistance is Not Futile

This piece from Jamelle Bouie explains why Democrats' partnering with Trump on infrastructure is not okay. God, I cannot abide the unwillingness of the Democrats to play hardball, especially when lives are at stake. Harry Reid is a bad-ass fighter and the man stands up and his approach on this is the right one. Trump did not win the popular vote; to work with him is to thwart the will of the people (as well as basic democratic ideals), and to normalize even further the growing re-normalization of an unapologetic white supremacy.

Some context:

When Barack Obama was elected with over 53% of the vote in 2008 after Bush & Co had fucked the country to hell, the GOP acted in lockstep to obstruct Obama and the will of the people, even if it meant ruining the United States and people's lives in the short term. Obama had run on an explicit platform of health insurance and a stimulus program to fix the economy, among other things, and he won the popular vote and the electoral college. The GOP's goal was to make his presidency a failure -- though to do that, they needed to ensure that he was unable to fix the economy, and they were willing to let people lose their homes and suffer in a recession rather than allow Obama the ability to help the nation, on the theory that his failure would ensure them the White House again in 2012.

When Obama embraced many facets of the popular and successful Romneycare -- the conservative alternative to single payer and/or a public option, and thus a policy goal long-championed on the right, and which the president apparently thought would bring Republicans on board so that millions of uninsured Americans could get health care -- the Republicans opposed it in lockstep. This was their idea and they were for it until Obama was. Then they opposed it with all they had, lying about it and demonizing it, and their raison d'etre became repeal and replace, only they have never had anything to replace it with, because "it" was what they had wanted in the first place (to the extent they were willing to support health care insurance at all). They opposed it because they feared that a success with Obamacare would hurt their chances of retaking the White House, or undermine their attacks on government.

When, in an economic emergency, Obama sought a stimulus, the GOP opposed it in near lockstep (only three Republican senators, and zero House members, supported it).
Do you see how sick this was? The GOP rejected any ideas, even their own, ideas that would have helped the whole country, and indeed the world, because for them ruining the presidency of a Democrat, and in particular of this country's first African-American president, was more important than trying to solve this country's very real problems. This conduct was the essence of placing your party above your country, yourself over your constituents. Thwarting the will of the people, expressed through the clear and decisive popular and electoral win of Barack Obama, became the order of the day for eight years. And there was no legitimate principle -- zero -- behind this unprecedented level of obstruction.
That same obstructionist, partisan, anti-American thirst to destroy Democrats was behind the unhinged Republican response to Benghazi, a relatively minor (in terms of its scale) embassy attack in which, tragically, four Americans died. The GOP turned this tragedy into a weapon to be used against Obama while in office and against Hillary Clinton pre-emptively in the expectation she would run for office, for nakedly partisan gain.

Now, in 2016, we have the wise words of Michelle Obama, telling us, "when they go low, we go high." What I am saying, along with Bouie and others, is that working with Trump is NOT GOING HIGH. Refusing to normalize him and the white supremacist misogynist agenda on which he premised his campaign is going high. Lockstep obstruction of an agenda of hatred and bigotry is required; it is the very definition of going high. And doing so is not tit-for-tat, obstruction for obstruction's sake, as the GOP engaged in under Obama; to the contrary, because Trump's agenda is authoritarian, anti-democratic, un-Constitutional, bigoted, and wrong, opposing him does not represent a betrayal of our own progressive or Democratic or American values; it is standing up for those values.
Critically, moreover, opposing Trump is not thwarting the will of the people, it is furthering that will. Trump did not win the popular vote; only 25.8% of eligible voters voted for him (74.2% of eligible voters did not vote for him); and of those who did vote, 53% voted for someone other than him. He has no mandate. DO NOT LET HIS STOOGES OR THE PRESS CHANGE THIS NARRATIVE. Do not give in to this narrative. If the GOP could obstruct a popular president who adopted part of their own agenda to try to achieve good for all, even though that obstruction likely extended the recession, the Democrats can and must do all they can to stop Trump's racist and misogynist policies from becoming law. The Democrats also have a Constitutional obligation to ensure that all are treated equally before the law.

I fear that we will be so battered by the abuse and shock of learning, on a daily basis, that anyone gifted with the honor of the presidency would so willingly abuse it, that some of us will become supine and give up. The press will normalize him, as they already have and are. Obama and Hillary are even doing so, for the the broader end-goal of the peaceful transition of power, and the upholding of other critical democratic norms. I understand this, but the more everyone acts like this administration is normal, the more he and it will be normalized. Don't fall for it. Don't buy into to this notion that that "we" "owe" Trump an open mind. I admire and respect you, Hillary Clinton, but that is bullshit. I and we owe this grotesque charlatan nothing. He serves all of us. He owes us human decency, transparency, and a commitment to try to rise to the level of his office, despite his sordid personal history of sexual abuse, lies, fraud, corruption, cruelty, and racism. And so far, I see no evidence that any attempt to honor or respect the office of the presidency is occurring or will occur. Instead, the debasement of the office has already begun, as it appears he will attempt, and be permitted, to monetize the office for personal gain, and as he looks to shame the White House corridors with an explicit racist and misogynist and anti-Semite, Steve Bannon, or put a spitting, unhinged avatar of anger and resentment into the country's top diplomatic post, or nominate to a cabinet position yet another mediocre man who thought it was fine to publicly call Clinton the c-word.

So, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, I know you want to do good, but you must not do it on the backs of people of color. Listen to the bulldog Harry Reid, a fighter who has gotten more done in Congress than most congressmen combined and then squared. Listen to the voices of people of color, who know, as we all know or should know, that Trump's ideas and platform cannot be, and must not allowed to be, disaggregated from the explicit racialist message on which they are based. Stop pretending it can be, or you will become collaborators, and I do mean it in the 1930s sense. You think you "see" marginalized communities? Well, they sure see you, and they are not fooled. Stop fooling yourselves; fight like living hell for what's right. That is going high.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I will never call him President Trump.  It is childish and I know it.  But I cannot and will not.

I understand that he was democratically elected -- with the Wikileaks thumb on the scale, among other disgusting and frightening factors -- and I accept those results as I must.  My candidates have lost before and I have been really upset by those losses. Indeed, each Republican president that I opposed performed far worse in office, and wreaked far more significant and lasting damage, than I even dreamed of when I opposed their candidacies at the time.  (This does not augur well for the coming years.)

In those elections, however, I never once thought that our very system of government was at stake in a fundamental way.  And despite George W. Bush's significant contributions to the erosion of democratic norms and constitutional values that was at the heart of my loathing for him, in 2008, when I supported Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the primary, I did not think a McCain presidency was a referendum on every value that matters, including basic democratic government, that I believe this one to be.  Back then, I was repulsed by John McCain's feckless selection of Sarah Palin to be his running mate; I feared the racism and Islamophobia that Palin so gleefully stoked; and I worried the country's racism would enable a third Republican term -- but I also knew that Barack Obama was an incredibly inexperienced candidate with a shockingly thin resume, on whom the country was being asked to take an enormous chance, and I am not quite sure that I believed at the time that a McCain victory would send a signal that this country was not ready for an African-American president.  If you compared their qualifications, McCain ran circles around Obama,who had only two years in the U.S. senate under his belt when he ran for the presidency, no executive experience, no military experience, etc.  Barack Obama, in other words, was not the equivalent of Hillary Clinton -- he was not the most qualified person ever to run, the minority who had to prove himself 10 times better than the average white guy to even be considered.  Barack Obama had and has something else -- he is a once-in-a-century candidate, of extraordinary oratorical talent, a person whose grace and dignity and charisma and intelligence radiated from him.  If he had lost, I would have been devastated in the ordinary way that I would be devastated if, after what I considered to be a catastrophically bad presidency with terrible global repercussions, the country had stayed with more of the same. 

This is different. 

This is like nothing I have ever experienced.

This race was a referendum on basic human decency, and on who we are as a people. Our country has said yes to ignorance, hatred, fear, resentment, anger, brutality, cowardice, bullying, cruelty, extreme misogyny and unapologetic bigotry. It has also said yes to burgeoning fascism.  It has embraced a man who has promised the beginnings of an authoritarian state.  It has embraced a tax cheat, a fraud, a liar.  A man of unsurpassing selfishness, pettiness, and puerility.  After Barack Obama, who has ennobled the office of the presidency, we have elected a man who will debase it as he debases everything and everyone he comes across.  

I feel filthy, foul, hollowed out, smashed. I am sick in my heart and sick in my soul. 

Because this man has made no secret of who or what he is.  His personal depravity and repulsiveness has been on display from the beginning and as I have said, neither can be denied nor is in any real way, denied by those who voted for him and who have surrounded and enabled him. And he has won. 

He has surrounded himself, moreover, with the absolute detritus of the Republican Party, people, like himself, nearly wholly without personal decency or values, and the newly ascendant alt-right, a sickening hate movement whose foundational premise, like Trump's very campaign, is the denigration of others. 

College educated whites voted for Trump in high numbers.  So did women. Women were not Hillary's fire wall -- women of color were not enough to save us from the white women who vote like white men -- even college-educated white women in the suburbs who were supposed to secure her victory, broke for Trump.   33% of Latino men voted for Trump. 13% of African -American men voted for Trump. The hateful comments, rejection of Black Lives Matter, promises of deportation, abuse of women, pledges to violate the Constitution -- people voted for this.  Whites in particular voted for this, and 54% of white women voted for Donald Trump, a gaslighting abuser of women.  

I can't watch him speak.  I can't listen to his voice.  I am not even a rape victim and I feel assaulted when he speaks.  I feel silenced and obliterated and attacked and erased.  When I think of the survivors who have been traumatized by him during this election, I want to curl into a ball in solidarity with them and their pain.

All I heard last night on MSNBC is that this result is the scream of rural America against the "elites" on the coasts, or against "Washington."  Not a word about misogyny or racism. Not a word about why those suburban people doing so well financially were willing to risk the tanking of their 401ks, the reversal of Roe v Wade, and other outcomes, to put a sexual predator and pathological liar in the White House, a person whose words and actions they cannot ask their own children to ever try to emulate. These people are not roiled by trade agreements and opium addiction and lack of financial prospects -- they are doing well and they did very well under Obama.  They voted for Trump.

Clinton looks like she won the popular vote, but barely -- by maybe 140,000 votes.  Stein got 1.1 million and Johnson got 4 million.  I haven't seen a breakdown by state, but I would bet you the Johnson voters would break 75/25 Trump/Clinton had he not been in the race, whereas the Stein voters would have not voted or gone maybe 50% to Clinton.  If you distribute this across the states I doubt highly that the third-party vote made any difference and without it he might have done even better.  Not scientific and I'm sure the pundits will have something to say.

I say this because in going through my stages of pain and grief and despair and shock, I wanted to someone to lash out at and third party voters were a natural target. But it does not seem fair to me.  The returns show that in our deeply, deeply, deeply polarized country, the left-leaning went for HRC and the others went to Trump. There were also democratic voters who crossed over to Trump; I met several knocking on doors in Philadelphia.  

Last night, driving home from Philadelphia where I was a legal observer at a polling place, I was listening to MSNBC and I heard how close the race was in VA.  In that moment, I knew the election was lost. I had to pull off the road to a rest stop because I began hyperventilating with anxiety and fear.  (The night before, I had slept fitfully, awakening before my alarm to a nightmare that I was watching the returns and states projected to lean blue were each being awarded a red check mark for Trump.)   Throughout the general election I had had a deep, abiding fear that white people were lying about who they would support, that suburban voters would secretly vote for him and the polls would be wrong.  But at the same time, I also couldn't believe in my heart that the country that elected Barack Obama twice would elect a man who is in effect Obama's antithesis, and would elect someone so manifestly and unapologetically despicable, so flagrantly unfit to hold office, so dangerous and unhinged, so ignorant, so hypocritical, so vile.  It is not as if he hid these traits. He ran on them.

I called my husband sobbing from the rest stop. He told me I had to pull it together for the kids and get home.  He was right and I did.

When I opened the door to our apartment, my 14 year-old daughter rushed to the door to hug me, crying, telling me she was afraid he would win (at the time there were still 14 or so undecided states -- but I knew in my gut we were done). My son, just turned 13, could barely speak.  My husband was nearly catatonic with tension, frantically tallying each possible potential path to 270 as the path got narrower and narrower.

I slept on and off last night, waking up multiple times in despair.  I awoke to a feeling of black numbness with a pit of pain in my stomach. I have never felt like this after an election before. 

My husband and I did not sugar-coat things for the kids this morning.  They are in 8th and 9th grade.  They understand what has happened, and while they are well aware how lucky, how privileged, they are to live in the liberal enclave of Brooklyn, they are feeling fear for the first time in their lives.  Fear for their friends and for those who are not so lucky, and for what this means for us all.  They understand that the world as they know it is going to be under assault, including the very planet they live on, by forces of ignorance and bigotry, by denial of basic facts.  So we talked about the measure of character when times are difficult; we told them that it will be harder, but even more important, to resist bullying and stand up for what is right, and to do all we can to promote justice.  We are still reeling, and so are they.

I am not in a position right now to regroup.  I am gutted.  

I am gutted by this rejection of an immensely qualified woman, a rejection carried out by a majority of women themselves, and I believe this rejection is a combination of massive misogyny and racism, intertwined, which those who are engaging in it will never see, and never want to see.  There will be no reckoning with implicit racial and gender bias now. when we have elected a man who engages in open, unapologetic racial and gender bias.  My FB friends all think I love Hillary Clinton so much, when, in fact, this election long ago for me ceased to be about Hillary Clinton per se.  It is about Hillary Clinton as Everywoman, Hillary Clinton as avatar of what women are put through and how we are still not full members of the human race.  It is about the successful demonization to which she (as Everywoman) has been subjected, in combination with a repudiation of the legacy of our first African-American president,who is one of the finest presidents this country has ever seen or ever will see, that this is about.  That is, at least, how this feels to me.  It also feels like an embrace of ignorance and rejection of competence, the bully over the nerd, brute force over decency, blind emotion over thought, wishful thinking over rationality.  It hurts really badly, and it isn't about her. It's about what she and this election represent.  

I can't look for silver linings today. 

But I can try for context.

I know that the suffragettes, the civil rights leaders, lost major battles before they achieved progress. We have more rights now than those activists and martyrs for their causes ever had.  They were never fully human in the eyes of the law or the white men who made those laws, and they did not give up.  The suffragettes were opposed by many women; they had to convince men to change the Constitution and they did.  Even after the Civil War the rights of African-Americans were impeded and thwarted at every turn and still they rose, albeit slowly and in the face of the Jim Crow system -- a system of terror through which the black population was kept down and murdered and raped and defrauded for a hundred years as if slavery still existed, and they did not give up.  We live with the legacies of this history every day.

This is a very, very dark time for us and for progress -- especially for the LGBTQ community and Muslims and women and immigrants and POC, all of whose rights will be directly under attack. The majority of Americans' rights will be under assault -- and yet a majority of Americans voted for that very outcome.

We will have to fight and organize like never before.  It will be a harder road than many of us have had to deal with in the past.  Defeats are more likely.  We do not have the luxury of giving up or giving in to despair in the long term.

And in the short term, I cannot even feel anger toward the Trump supporters any more, at least not the regular voters -- I feel anguish at their support for him, a baffled revulsion and a heartsickness at their lack of empathy and their jettisoning of basic values, at their acceptance of his hatred, at their willing participation in the demonization of an eminently qualified public servant who, with a majority to support her, could have done so much for the country.  I want to feel anger at all those people who did not vote at all -- people who I need to believe (without proof, it is true) don't support Trump and if they had it to do over again would vote for Hillary to stop him. But I can't even do that either -- if they didn't vote in this election of all elections, that shows just how broken our politics is and just how awash in ignorance and disaffection people are that I can scarcely process it.  This is not something that can be fixed with a WPA type program, the way poverty and other problems were addressed under FDR.

Trump painted a picture of a dystopian hellscape that does not yet exist.  Those of us who opposed him know that his election will bring us far closer to that point than any president has ever willingly taken us.  In addition to the potential descent into fascism, the country's credit rating, our role in the world, the Iran nuclear deal, the climate change treaty, our trade agreements, the economy, the reactions of terrorist groups, Russian aggression, the return of the FBI to Hooveresque abuse tactics, the loss of health care for millions, the crushing debt and loss of jobs Trump's massive tax cuts for the rich will cause, the drying up of revenue to fund social security and medicare, the rollback of environmental protections and regulations on the financial industry......We have all this to look forward to.  Read this New Yorker article and you will see just what we are in for, even beyond the campaign promises that are too horrible to contemplate.  These are major sources of fear that aren't even related to the attacks on our collective civil rights, the inevitable rise in hate crimes, the unleashing of unvarnished hatred as part of legitimate national discourse (such as it is) again.

Well before last night, when I tried to think about a Trump win, I knew that I wanted to be able to at least say, if he did win, that I had done what I could to stop him.  That my children would see that I fought and I tried and I put my money where my mouth is, and I called out not just him but those who saw him for what he is and helped him anyway.  I thought that if I woke up the next morning staring at the abyss, I would at least have that.  I knew that it would be cold comfort, and I was right. I wanted, this morning, to rail at the people who didn't do anything, or barely did anything, and for a minute I did lash out about that, but my attempt at self-righteous rage collapsed in on itself in tears. It doesn't matter.  We are where we are and we must regroup and go on.  Recrimination gets us nowhere.  

It's an ugly and uncertain future we are facing.  All we can do is our best.  I just hope more of us will do our best going forward.  Because we are stronger together, no matter what happened last night. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

I Am Beside Myself

Link to a rant I published on Medium, rather than here.

I've been working on a few longer pieces; they keep getting overtaken by events.  I hope to post of few of them soon.

In the meantime, please vote for Hillary Clinton.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Take a Look

For years, I've told my children that bullies cannot succeed without enablers -- the people who look away, who titter like Billy Bush did in the face of something disgusting and wrong, because they lack the character themselves to stand up for what is right. It's harder to stand up for what's right when you are the only one doing so. That takes some actual moral courage, especially if you are in a social dynamic -- typically the case with a bully -- where it's you against the bully, with everyone else watching, weighing your interaction with the bully, and how he treats you (how you fare) before they decide whether to stand with you or go with the bully. Or when the bully has power over you, economically or in some other way.
Here, with Trump, especially now, it takes no moral courage whatsoever to denounce him and stand up for what is right. The abhorrent nature of this man is absolute; he defiles everything he comes near; he has debased not only himself, but us all, and there is more to come. He is poisonous; cancerous.
And yet, still so many defend him. Since it takes no moral courage to say no, to stand up, to disavow, we must take a hard look not at him, but at those who choose to defend him or overlook his vileness. So look not only at him. Look at his surrogates; at his sickening coterie of misogynistic, anti-Semitic and racist campaign advisers; at the members of the GOP who still stand with him; at these media pundits, including women, trying to spin his repugnant and immoral behavior, or deflect it on to Bill Clinton, still trying to put this steaming malignancy in the White House. At his supporters, offended to their teeth that anyone might consider them deplorable for supporting a deplorable man; more offended at that than by any thing Trump has done or said.
The cancer of Trump is spreading even as his chances of victory dim. He's the largest tumor, and maybe we can remove him, but the rest of these people are polyps that are growing in virulence. It is terrifying but it is more than that. It is soul-crushing to see such an outpouring of hatred, deflection, and simple not giving a damn about this man's repulsive character and corrosive statements.  I had no idea there were so many people in this country who do not think women, and so many others, are full human beings, or that so many of them are also women themselves.  I had no idea there was so much ugliness in America.  I have taken a long look.  I am saddened and repulsed by what I see.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Into the Heart of Darkness

I cannot get over Trump's televised threat to prosecute and jail Hillary Clinton.  It is so beyond the pale, such a descent into authoritarian/banana republic/dictatorship territory, that it, along with audience's reaction, was the watershed moment of the debate for me. The audience had been absolutely silent before then, as the moderators had requested, but when Trump followed up his fusillade of attacking lies and threat to prosecute her, with the comment that if he were in charge she would be in jail, his supporters whooped with glee. It made me feel physically ill when they did that.  Because there was no collective intake of breath or shock at the suggestion; no, it was raw approval.

That moment crystallized for me two fundamental and intertwined truths at the exact same time. Number one:  the hatred of Hillary Clinton is the product of a misogyny so extreme and so rooted and so elemental that Trump's supporters--who include female misogynists-- would rather violate the bedrock democratic values of our nation than see her elected.   Number two: Trump and what he stands for are antithetical to our democracy.  Though I have long known that the damage Trump has done to our country is already incalculable, and will continue whether he wins or loses, it became clearer than ever last night that the threat to democracy itself is upon us now, even if he loses, as he is likely to do.  Because Trump's supporters are ready, willing, and able to discard the Constitution to elect this man, and the GOP has been complicit in this process. Trump's campaign is built on the rejection of American values necessary to our democracy's functioning, and also necessary to a healthy and fair society, and yet they embrace him. Their embrace of him is also, necessarily, a rejection of competence, of intelligence, of character, of science, of truth, of fairness, of equal rights, of equal dignity, of decency, of empathy, of kindness, of restraint, of  both progress and conservatism, and of love.  It is an embrace of authoritarianism and the darkest, ugliest, most selfish and base impulses that we have.

I wish it were the case that this starts and ends with Donald Trump.  But we all know that it does not and will not.  His supporters want, even demand, the anger, hatred, threats and abusiveness that authoritarianism requires--as long as it is the historically marginalized groups that are the victims, so that his supporters can be the "winners." The Republican Party has not denounced, renounced, or even acknowledged that Trump has repeatedly made statements and threats inimical to a democratic state, and that are unprecedented in the United States from a major party candidate.  The risk to our republic is embedded within the Republican Party itself.   But to really understand this, we need to look at the GOP's role in demonizing Hillary Clinton (and before that, Barack Obama).  We also need to look at the way in which Trump's candidacy -- in particular his racism and misogyny-- are extensions of the same strategy that the GOP has deployed against both Clinton and Obama.  Trump is unquestionably far beyond the pale of what any prior Republican candidate has ever been willing to say or do; he has mainstreamed the ideas that fester in the fever swamp of the extreme rightwing, and at which Republican elites typically only dog whistle. But those ideas are what drive the base, and the GOP has been happy to use, exploit, and encourage that extremism for the purpose of getting elected, whatever the consequence to the country.  In that regard, this election has been no different from usual.

What the debate did for me last night is distill these issues to their essence.

The GOP is Responsible for the Demonization of Hillary Clinton

As I said the other day, Trump's supporters have been chanting "lock her up!" and "Hang the  bitch" and far worse for months.  Trump has called her a criminal repeatedly and threatened prosecution at various times.  Chris Christie laid out the "prosecution" against her at the RNC convention, soliciting chants of "guilty!" for each separate "indictment" he had pulled from the Fox News playbook.  Guiliani has also said outright that she should be prosecuted. Trump has pushed this issue like he pushed birtherism, deliberately and without remorse, and just as with birtherism, the Republican leadership has been content to use and exploit these lies and attacks, as well as the racism and misogyny that undergird them.

The current Republican-controlled House has repeatedly used its oversight authority to engage in witchhunt after witchhunt against Clinton, seeing the Benghazi attacks not as a tragedy in a long line of tragedies at U.S. embassies in hotspots around the world, from which we need to learn so that we can do better, but as an opportunity to investigate, punish, and destroy Clinton for political purposes.

The longstanding Republican desire to destroy her is itself a form of misogynistic derangement, as they have hated her since she was a FLOTUS who dared to publicly state she was an autonomous person with her own contributions to make, have convinced themselves that she is singlehandedly responsible for Iraq as if Bush, Cheney, the entire Republican establishment and most Democrats had no role in it whatsoever, and have pushed the idea that as Secretary of State her use of a private email server to receive three emails that did not have a "c" in the subject matter line is tantamount to treason and worthy of imprisonment if not execution, notwithstanding that Bush circumvented the law by using a private RNC server for government business and deleted 22 million emails, and that Powell and Rice used private email and many members of Congress use it to this day.   The hatred of Clinton is beyond any measure of rationality, disproportionate to any of the worst things she has ever even alleged to have done because the men who do the same do not elicit a fraction of the same vitriol. But it certainly cannot be denied that the hatred for Clinton is deep, and seething, and has been an animating force for the GOP's base for 25 years now. Indeed, Clinton-hating is a cottage industry and anti-Hillary books routinely top the best seller lists.

The GOP leadership has been happy to exploit this.  In fact, we have a current Republican leadership that has a played a critical role in the current misogynistic treatment of Clinton. It cringes that Trump has bragged about being a sexual predator on tape (as it should), but not that Trump's own surrogates call Clinton a cunt and his advisers openly salivate for her imprisonment and even her execution, because in their minds she is already guilty.  And how do Trump's supporters know she is guilty?   Because the unholy alliance between the rightwing media and the GOP leadership tells them so, and because all three -- the leadership, the rightwing media, and the base -- want her to be guilty.  Jason Chaffetz, Trey Gowdy, Paul Ryan, and the whole sick lot of them have participated in the lies for their own ends, orchestrating partisan investigations designed to destroy her, as disgraced almost-speaker Kevin McCarthy admitted in a telling "gaffe."  These people have, like Trump, suggested Clinton is a criminal to serve their own political purposes, and so when Trump's supporters chant "lock her up" at every rally, the GOP leadership says nothing; those chants are just a rawer version of what they themselves have done.  

The Republican-controlled Congress abused its oversight powers to hound her; they instigated repeated investigations; selectively leaked emails to create false impressions; planted false stories about her in the New York Times; pushed the criminal narrative themselves; gave multiple press conferences attacking her as a liar and a criminal over Benghazi; and when eight investigations, multiple hearings and 11 and a half hours of Clinton's sworn Congressional testimony yielded nothing criminal on Benghazi, and when an FBI investigation yielded nothing criminal on emails, they demanded that James Comey, lifelong Republican, who served as Deputy Attorney General in the Ashcroft Justice Department under Bush, account for himself at hearings because they did not get the answer they yearned for:  a criminal prosecution of their rival so that their nominee would not have to face her during the 2016 election. And they are still threatening and demanding more investigations from the FBI.  (Talk about fear of a woman president; has any party apparatus ever spent more effort trying to destroy one woman?)

Trump Used The Debate To Attempt to Humiliate Clinton 

Trump's campaign has been fueled by racism from its inception, and its attacks on Clinton have focused on longstanding sexist memes about the looks, stamina, weakness, untrustworthiness, and inappropriate ambition of women.

We all knew the campaign was going to get even uglier as Trump surrounded himself with a cabal of white, male racists, serial sexual harassers and adulterers, alt-right and anti-Clinton conspiracy pushers, and tabloid liars -- Rudy Guiliani, Roger Ailes, Sean Hannity, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, David Bossey; a nasty collection of haters if ever there was one.

We know that in the rightwing gutter, there is a febrile desire to publicly castigate Clinton for the litany of her so-called crimes, and those "crimes" include any and all Republican spin on any event, no matter how trivial, if it can be twisted against her regardless of truth or context or reality.  It includes false allegations and conspiracies that also border on the insane, such as her alleged murder of multiple people including her good friend Vince Foster, who committed suicide.

We knew before last night, because the desire to hold Hillary Clinton to account for her husband's alleged sexual transgressions -- notwithstanding his impeachment in the 1990s by a cadre of secret adulterers and child molesters -- has been discussed for years in Republican circles.  In 2014, Conor Fridersdorf lamented that the temptation would exist on the right in 2016 to go this route and urged against doing so. In fact, at the end of the first debate, Trump himself told us that he had considered raising the issue of Bill Clinton's sexual misconduct, but had "resisted" out of respect for Chelsea; and the next day, his son tweeted about how proud he was of his father's "courage" in supposedly restraining himself.  Trump and his surrogates then pushed their absurd narrative that he had refrained from going low in talking about, thereby talking about it and keeping the idea of front and center in the press for the next week -- even as Trump went into a tailspin attacking Alicia Machado after Clinton trounced him in the debate.

But after the video and hot mic came out on Friday, the likes of Bannon and Bossey, aflame with the desire to destroy Clinton, awash in the bile of their misogyny, and salivating at the prospect of a having a national platform for what used to exist only in the murky swamp of the extremist right, did not even try to resist that temptation.  Surely they knew that Trump was imploding; surely they knew that wading into this muck in an effort to degrade Clinton would do Trump no favors nationally, but neither they nor he cared.  He might be disgraced, but if there was a way to destroy, to humiliate, to debase Hillary Clinton, they were going to try.  Even if they could not ultimately stop her victory, they could do their best to destroy her in the process of losing, and amplify the hateful messaging outside of the feverswamp and push it into the mainstream.

And so last night before, during, and after the debate, we saw women who have claimed to be harassed or abused by Bill Clinton -- women whose claims were investigated and litigated 20 years ago -- letting themselves be used as political props by an accused and self-acknowledged abuser in order to deflect attention from his own abusiveness, and to help him to visit sexualized humiliation upon their own alleged abuser's wife.  We saw this abhorrent man whose life has been spent degrading women weaponize other women to savage his female opponent for her husband's alleged conduct, as well as for not playing the role of the perfect wifely victim herself decades ago when her husband's politically-affiliated accusers came forward with the assistance of rightwing operatives to accuse him.  Even worse, if possible, also appearing was a woman who was raped at 12, who blames Clinton,  ordered by a court to serve as the rapist's public defender in the 1970s, for the fact that the rapist's sentence was inadequate. Donald Trump trotted this still-traumatized victim out like a doll to exploit, even as he stands accused of raping a thirteen year-old himself (he denies it), in order to attempt to indict Clinton for another man's acts of sexual abuse, and dared to imply that she, who has devoted her life to achieving equality for women, does not actually care about women.

The spectacle was nauseating, infuriating, heartbreaking, deeply disturbing, and highly orchestrated for maximal punishment and destruction of Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton, a supposed murderess, liar, enabler, conniver; yet unable to satisfy her husband; a woman so powerful, apparently, that she is, according to Trump in the debates, singlehandedly responsible for every bad thing that has happened in this country for the last 30 years, who could and should have solved every problem in America and in the world herself and who, at the same time, despite her awesome superpowers, is also the most ineffectual person of all time, her accomplishments not accomplishments at all, an evil demon who has ruined the whole world with her emails; a woman who, he actually said, is the "devil."  He then added, in a moment of gaslighting so outrageous that it made me gasp, that she has "hatred in her heart."

Trump and His Supporters Reject Bedrock Values Essential to a Functioning Democracy

Against this backdrop of hatred and sleaze, we had on the screen at all times Trump, a hulking menace, standing too close on the stage, close enough to hit her, looming over her, sniffing constantly, his face a twisted grimace.  His accusation of criminality was a mix of lies straight from the Breitbart/Fox/GOP playbook, a word salad of email and Benghazi.

And then, on that same national stage in front of an audience of tens of millions, the Republican Party's nominee to be the President of the United States of America announced that if he is elected, he will ensure that his political rival is put in jail.

This is the threat of a dictator, a Putin, a Pinochet, a Baby Doc -- not a presidential candidate in a functioning democracy.

Trump's supporters loved every minute of it.  Their seething hatred of Hillary Clinton exceeds any concept of America or American values.  Theirs is the mentality of a mob that wants blood.  This mob is ready to discard the very idea of America in exchange for Hillary Clinton's destruction.

It is this same mob that Trump has whipped up with hatred toward so many categories of people in our country.  His supporters' willingness to abandon democratic values to punish and oppress others is the centerpiece of Trump's candidacy, what guides and drives it, and it is also the reason that we as citizens are sickened and afraid, the reason the comparisons to Hitler are so on point.  It's the reason Holocaust survivors look at this man and know fear even though his most direct threats are visited upon Muslims and not upon Jews. It's the reason the reporters at his rallies are recoiling in disgust at what they are seeing.

This is the ugly truth:  millions of people in this country are willing to throw democratic values away in support of a man who knows less than nothing, a pathological liar and violence inciter, because of their own resentment and bigotry.  They have no problem with threatening to jail or actually jailing a political opponent; they crave it.

Trump's statement was shocking, and yet it is also the culmination of threats he has made continuously throughout this election.  These threats, while directly threats against Clinton, are also threats against the integrity of our democracy itself.  And not once have I heard a Republican leader condemn this, because winning the White House through the destruction of Hillary Clinton -- even if it means the potential destruction of the country -- is all that has mattered to them.  

 Trump has not only said he would imprison Clinton.  He has encouraged his supporters to assassinate Clinton -- and then pretended he was talking about voting, or being sarcastic.  Most of the GOP played along.  He has invited the Russians to meddle in the election by hacking into Clinton's emails  -- and then pretended he had not.  The GOP (while rejecting any embrace of Russia) played along with the spin.

 He has said that if he does not win, the system is "rigged."   When he says that, what he means is that African-Americans and Latinos are stealing the election.  In this way -- though his claims come straight from the extreme right wing -- he exploits the Republican party's longstanding lie that "voter fraud" exists even though there is a one in 33 million chance that a single fraudulent vote will be cast; this is the pretext on which the GOP destroyed ACORN, a venerable community organizing and voter registration group; it is the pretext on which Republicans across the country have passed targeted, discriminatory voter-suppression laws since the second the Roberts Court, in a 5-4 decision (Shelby County v. Holder), gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  It is central to the lie that the Republican leadership has consistently fed its base for years in order to delegitimize Barack Obama and other Democratic victories that are fueled by the support of people of color.

This strategy is explicitly and deliberately racist, and its insidiousness cannot be overstated. It builds on the idea that people of color cheat the system and it provides the fake moral highground that allows racists to tell themselves that they are not undermining democracy by preventing other people from voting --especially when those people do not look like them. This is an explicit Republican strategy, along with flagrant gerrymandering, that the GOP has been using for years to thwart the popular vote and maintain its power despite the fact that a majority of the population does not actually want them in office.  This is fundamentally anti-democratic.  The GOP has not disputed or condemned Trump's claims that an election lost by him is an election rigged by others.  

Trump has also encouraged vigilantism by urging his supporters to "monitor" the polls in certain areas -- meaning areas in which many Democratic-leaning, minority voters are concentrated.  This is an invitation to voter intimidation and is illegal. It is the stuff of dictatorships, as well.  Did you hear any condemnation of Trump from Republican leaders when he said that?  You know you did not.

And make no mistake about just how deeply dangerous and insidious this rhetoric is, and do not dismiss it as mere rhetoric.  What you are hearing is an active call to undermine, repudiate and possibly rise up against this country's first female president. Campaign advisers like Roger Stone are openly saying a Clinton victory would be illegitimate and promising a bloodbath if she wins.  This is an extension of birtherism because the deligitimization of Hillary Clinton's victory depends on and is directly tied to the otherization and dehumanization of her biggest supporters -- people of color, and especially women of color. 

Do you see what is going on?  It goes like this:  "Hillary Clinton is a criminal who should be in jail or killed.  If he does not win the election, it is rigged, and it is rigged by allowing Those People ('you know who I mean') to vote.  Hillary Clinton can be prevented from stealing this election if you monitor Those People and prevent them from casting their illegal votes. But if we do not stop this monstrous criminal from attaining office, there are other ways -- the Second Amendment people know what this means. It's okay to take up arms against an illegitimate government --that's how our country was formed, after all."

There is an actual risk that Donald Trump will not accept the results of the election and will exhort his followers to do the same. That is why, at the end of the first debate, Lester Holt felt he had to ask Trump if he would accept the results of the election.  That Holt had to ask the question should have sent shivers down spines and warning bells ringing across America. Has anyone ever had to ask a U.S. presidential candidate that question before?

Trump answered yes, but four days later as it the reality of how poorly he had done at the debate began to sink in, he told the New York Times, "We're going to have to see" and returned to the claims of voter fraud and election rigging with renewed fervor.  

Not a word of condemnation about any of this from the GOP leadership.  Yes, some have bolted because of the sexual predator comments. But jailing Clinton?  Mike Pence today called Trump's vow to imprison Clinton one of the better moments of the debate.  KellyAnne Conway insisted it was a quip. 

Re-watch the debate video; you know that was not a quip. All campaign long, Trump's surrogates have been telling us not to believe our own eyes and ears, just as Trump himself does, just as  Pence did at the VP debate.   Every time one of these GOP enablers goes on TV and tries to spin what Trump said into something else and translate his appalling conduct into something palatable, or pretend it did not happen, or minimize it, or say it was a joke, they contribute to the defiled public sphere in which lies substitute for discourse.  

Even now, many of them cannot bring themselves to repudiate him, though certainly the numbers have increased as his prospects dim.  Paul Ryan, the walking definition of a spineless coward, is still endorsing him, though he won't campaign or fundraise for him. McConnell hasn't repudiated him.   Reince Priebus has reaffirmed the RNC's support.  Mike Pence cancels fundraisers, but "is proud to stand with" Trump and applauds Trump's promise to emulate a petty dictator.  Because let's face it:  although every credible newspaper and magazine recognizes Trump as the national and global security and economic threat that he is, the prospect of a win in which Pence and the rest of the GOP could get total control over women's reproductive choices and eviscerate the rights of gay citizens is so tantalizing that they have been willing to risk the country for it all along.

Neither Pence nor Ryan nor any one of these hollow men still trying to have it both ways will stand up to speak honestly.  They are afraid of the very base whose rabid bigotry they have nurtured, because that base is ready to discard them the minute they repudiate Trump, and because although they know that he is morally repugnant in an overt and personal way, and shockingly unfit, ignorant, and unqualified, Trump's policies are aligned with the party's.

These so-called leaders are in a very bad situation.  But it is a situation of their own making. I would feel tremendous schadenfreude if I could only be assured that they themselves would be voted out, and that a Trump defeat would not be a combustible situation fraught with the potential for rioting and violence by his angry and hate-filled supporters, whose desire for blood does not seem like it is going to abate any time soon.

We're Not Gonna Take It

The debate was dark, it was hideous, it was ugly, and it was abusive. 

Asked afterward just before her plane took off by the press if anything surprised her, Clinton said "Nothing he says surprises me," (or something similar).  Then she corrected herself, observing that while she expects him to lie -- and noting that Politifact has found he lies more than any other candidate, something like 70% of the time -- he seemed to have surpassed himself in the debate. She described it as "an avalanche of lies." (Post-debate fact-checkers agreed.)

It seems clear that the Clinton camp made the decision not to challenge all of his lies during the debate, or the torrent of abuse Trump unleashed.  Indeed, how could she have challenged it all -- it was unrelenting, and it looked and felt like an assault.  Engaging specifically on any particular line of attack, especially the ugliest ones, would have sucked her in and had her debating on his terms, by his rules.  I think it was politically wise for her to do that, and, instead of merely repeating in her mind Michelle Obama's wise words (as I expect she's had to do many times now), "When they go low, we go high," she said them aloud, and did not engage in the disgusting spectacle.

But my God.  My God. Watching him disrespect her repeatedly, watching his abusive attacks, as he menaced over her and paced back and forth with a thundercloud scowl on his face, sniffing repeatedly, I felt like I was watching a man barely holding back from a physical assault.  It was like watching an abuser or the Salem witch trials. I felt that I was being made a witness to abuse, and it was sickening.  

Clinton's ability to stand there poised, and not retaliate in kind, and remain Presidential, bordered on the superhuman.  But I wanted, I needed, I was desperate, for her to eviscerate him, which did not happen.  I believe that but for the advice of her team and her own political savvy, she would have done so, but she held back, because she felt she had to, to avoid being drawn into his cesspool. Watching her face settle into an expression of quiet steel as she endured that onslaught of disrespect and attempt to humiliate her, I felt an anger rise within me so deep that I lack the words to describe it. I can only say it was and remains primordial.

It had been triggered by the preceding 48 hours in which his bragging about sexual assault -- and casual dismissal of it as mere locker room talk -- had resulted in Kelly Oxford's tweeting about her "first assault" and had garnered 9.7 million impressions in 24 hours.  In a secret pro-Hillary FB group, women still too traumatized to share their abuse publicly in 140 characters poured out harrowing stories of sexual predation starting from their childhoods -- a litany of violent sexualized attack and silencing by grandfathers, uncles, friends, friends of siblings, friends of their parents, boyfriends, and schoolmates.  This outpouring of stories about what women are made to endure as a result of the rape culture that Donald Trump has used and abused and been a beneficiary of and exploited is what preceded what I knew, from press stories, and from his own non-apology, was likely going to be a grotesque sideshow of gaslighting and deflection by attacking Clinton on the basis of her husband's alleged actions years ago. 

After all that has been revealed about this man, and after that 48 hours, for him to get up on stage without an ounce of humility or decency or humanity and even try to engage with or take responsibility for his own decades of abhorrent behavior, then weaponize both his own physical presence and his misogyny against the first Democratic female presidential candidate, was not only an actual act of abusive verbal assault on Clinton, it was an act of abusive verbal assault on all women. That is what it felt like to me, and from the reaction I have seen from all my female friends, I am not alone. I don't know if you men can understand fully what this looks like to us.  His assault on Hillary Clinton was the rabid response of a caged male animal fighting with every last breath for its privilege to dominate, sexualize, silence, objectify, and humiliate women with impunity.   

And I will tell you that I was and I remain in state of absolute and total fury.  And neither I nor the rest of us are going to take it. We are not going to take having this racist abuser as our president and we will not be silenced by his threats or those of his supporters.  When Hillary Clinton stood there like a statue composing her features into the mask of self-protection that she needed to wear, she had tens of millions of women standing metaphorically beside her, in a rage that you cannot imagine, and if we had had knives, we would have plunged them into his diseased heart.  He was there, an avatar of millenia of abuse, and she stood there, taking it all, for us, not risking her presidency by getting angry or rising to the bait, enduring his despicable, desperate, debased and indecent attacks, not so much for herself, but for all women, everywhere, so she can shatter that glass ceiling and cut his hating ego into shards.  We saw what he did.  And we saw what she did and had to do.  

He did not "win" this debate with his attacks and it was not a draw, and it is disgusting to even talk about the debate in those terms.  This man's performance was a disgrace and further exposed what a threat to women he is from start to finish, and we will not forget it and we do not excuse it and we will not allow him to be president.