Cruz and Kasich Make a Desperate Bid to Derail Trump and They’ve Fallen Right Into His Trap

Source: AlterNet

Author: Sean Illing/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Ted Cruz and John Kasich have spent the last few months pretending like they had a chance to win a plurality of delegates. Kasich has been more open about the necessity of a contested convention, but he’s still behaved as though the delegate math were otherwise. Cruz, on the other hand, has insisted he’s the only candidate who can and will defeat Trump at the voting booth.

Well, that’s over. After the political bloodbath in New York, Cruz and Kasich have finally ceded to reality. The second-tier candidates have had a tenuous relationship throughout most of the campaign, particularly after everyone else dropped out. Both candidates have proffered some version of the I’m-the-only-one-who-can-win argument, and both have suggested at times that the other one should drop out in order to clear the way for a two-candidate race.

Now, however, it’s all about teamwork. Politico reported over the weekend that Cruz and Kasich are joining forces in a last-ditch effort to stop the Trump juggernaut. It’s an alliance of convenience to be sure, but also an overt admission that neither believes they have any chance of winning via democratic means. The singular goal now is to prevent Trump from acquiring enough delegates to secure the nomination on the first ballot.

Both campaigns have concluded it’s best to abandon certain states and instead focus resources in a few strategic areas where the other is no longer competing. “To ensure that we nominate a Republican who can unify the Republican Party and win in November,” Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said, “our campaign will focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear a path for Gov. Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico, and we would hope that allies of both campaigns would follow our lead.”

This enables Cruz to dump all of his resources into Indiana, a state he has to win if he wants to prevent Trump from reaching a majority before July. There are 57 delegates at stake in the Hoosier state. The latest polls show Trump leading by an average of 6.3 points, but Cruz is closing the gap and will likely continue to do so now that he’s pulling out of places like Oregon and New Mexico.

In turn, Kasich, who had no chance in Indiana, can spend his time more effectively out West, where he is at least minimally competitive. “We will focus our time and resources in New Mexico and Oregon, both areas that are structurally similar to the Northeast politically, where Gov. Kasich is performing well,” said John Weaver, Kasich’s chief strategist. “We would expect independent third-party groups to do the same and honor the commitments made by the Cruz and Kasich campaigns.”

There’s now no doubt as to the strategy moving forward: block Trump from winning the nomination outright. Predictably, Trump fired back on Twitter, writing “Wow, just announced that Lyin’ Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION.”

The Trump campaign released a statement this morning, clarifying their narrative: “When two candidates who have no path to victory get together to stop a candidate who is expanding the party by millions of voters, (all of whom will drop out if I am not in the race) it is yet another example of everything that is wrong in Washington and our political system. This horrible act of desperation, from two campaigns who have totally failed, makes me even more determined, for the good of the Republican Party and our country, to prevail!”

Trump has a point: This does smack of desperation, and it is an underhanded attempt to subvert the process. It won’t work, though. A move like this will cement the Trump vs. the establishment narrative in a way Trump could only dream of. His entire campaign is built on the presumption that Washington is rigged. This sort of collusion confirms that and will further antagonize his coalition. Cruz and Kasich might stop Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates, but this will heighten the drama and chaos at the convention. If an attempt is made to usurp Trump on a second or third ballot, his supporters will rightly see it as contrived and a cause for revolt.

Sean Illing is a USAF veteran and a former political science professor. He is currently a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read his blog here.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/cruz-and-kasich-make-desperate-bid-derail-trump-and-theyve-fallen-right-his-trap?akid=14194.123424.J36ELk&rd=1&src=newsletter1055259&t=10

Ted Cruz’s Dark, Twisted World: Why His Far-Right Social Views Are Even Scarier Than You Think

It will come as no shock that the Texas senator is an extremist. But it might surprise to learn just how extreme he is.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Heather Digby parton

Emphasis Mine

Probably one of the most unlikely scandalettes of the 2016 primary has to be the National Enquirer “exposé ” of Senator Ted Cruz’s alleged serial infidelity. Nobody knows to this day where the story originated, although some reporters suggested after it was run that the Rubio campaign had shopped it to them earlier in the cycle. But Donald Trump is known to be quite close to the publisher of the Enquirer (a man aptly named David Pecker) so it’s always possible the story was run for his benefit. Cruz denied it and it faded in the excitement of the campaign, at least for now.

But whatever its provenance, the story was interesting not so much because it’s unbelievable that any politician might have a zipper problem (it’s almost a requirement for office) but because it was the very pious Cruz being accused. This is the man, after all, whose first victory speech began with “God bless the great state of Iowa, let me first of all say, to God be the glory.”

Cruz announced his candidacy at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University where he laid out his vision for the country. And he told a story that he tells on the trail all the time:

When my dad came to America in 1957, he could not have imagined what lay in store for him. Imagine a young married couple, living together in the 1970s, neither one of them has a personal relationship with Jesus. They have a little boy and they are both drinking far too much. They are living a fast life.

When I was three, my father decided to leave my mother and me. We were living in Calgary at the time, he got on a plane and he flew back to Texas, and he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t want to be a father to his 3-year-old son. And yet when he was in Houston, a friend, a colleague from the oil and gas business invited him to a Bible study, invited him to Clay Road (ph) Baptist Church, and there my father gave his life to Jesus Christ.

And God transformed his heart. And he drove to the airport, he bought a plane ticket, and he flew back to be with my mother and me.

There are people who wonder if faith is real. I can tell you, in my family there’s not a second of doubt, because were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ, I would not have been saved and I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household.

It may seem odd that his “testimony” is his father’s story but it makes sense. Cruz himself was a very smart kid who grew up in Texas and went to Princeton and then Harvard Law which doesn’t provide quite the same pathos as his daddy’s tale of sin and redemption. And his dad is definitely important to his career—he’s a genuine evangelical preacher and wingnut firebrand, well known on the conservative speaking circuit. He brings with him all the authentic street cred his son could possibly need in this crowd.

Cruz’s campaign strategy was built on the foundation of support from the ultra-conservative evangelical base of the Republican partythis recent Pew Poll shows that nearly half of his total voters are white observant evangelical Christians, most of whom attend Church at least weekly. By contrast Trump gets a share of evangelicals but more mainline protestants and Catholics who attend church less than once a week. (This article by Jeff Sharlet in the New York Times Magazine about Trump and prosperity gospel types is fascinating. I’m not even sure they’re really social conservatives.)

I wrote about Cruz’s original strategy (based upon Carter’s peanut brigade) a while back, in which he had planned to sweep the southern states and build up a big lead, just as Hillary Clinton has done on the Democratic side. It didn’t work out for him because it turns out that a lot of the southern conservatives he was counting on were mesmerized by a decadent, thrice married New Yorker. Who would have ever guessed? But he has shown tremendous tenacity, hanging on long after all the Big Boys of the Deep Bench fell by the wayside and it’s now a two man race to the finish.

The adultery accusations don’t seem to have hurt Cruz with his base voters, although it’s possible we haven’t yet seen the effects in more socially conservative states. But Cruz has built up a lot of credibility in that crowd over the years. He’s won the straw poll at the Values Voter Summit three years in a row. Two years ago he made a huge splash in anticipation of announcing his run for president by giving a rousing speech in which he declared, “We stand for life. We stand for marriage. We stand for Israel!” which sums up the foundation of the evangelical right’s philosophy.

Cruz is an anti-abortion warrior of the most strident kind. He wants to ban abortion with no exception for rape or incest. He unctuously explains it this way:

“When it comes to rape, rape is a horrific crime against the humanity of a person, and needs to be punished and punished severely. But at the same time, as horrible as that crime is, I don’t believe it’s the child’s fault. And we weep at the crime, we want to do everything we can to prevent the crime on the front end, and to punish the criminal, but I don’t believe it makes sense to blame the child.”

He holds the same view of a 12-year-old girl being forced to give birth to her own sister: tough luck.

He has led the charge against Planned Parenthood in the Senate, urging a government shutdown if the president didn’t agree to defund it. And he’s gone farther than that:

“If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama. The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.”

Ted Cruz is a lawyer and ex-attorney general of Texas who has argued cases before the Supreme Court. Unlike Donald Trump when, he makes a statement like this, he cannot claim to be ignorant of the fact that the president instructing the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation on anyone would be the very definition of abuse of power and quite likely an impeachable offense.

His dismissive comments on contraception, meanwhile, are insulting to every woman:

“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila. So, yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them.”

He’s equally adamant about gay marriage, and insists that he will work to overturn last year’s landmark Obergefell ruling, which legalized same-sex marriage across the country, just as he will work to overturn Roe vs Wade. He says:

“It’s not the law of the land. It’s not the Constitution. It’s not legitimate, and we will stand and fight.”

Again, this is a man who argued cases before the Supreme Court and presumably knows very well that marriage equality is the law of the land.

He has defended a ban on late term-abortions and a display of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol. He argued that the pledge of allegiance should include the words “Under God.”  According to this astonishing article by David Corn in Mother Jones, he even defended a state ban on dildos, arguing the state had an interest in “discouraging…autonomous sex,” comparing masturbation to hiring a prostitute or committing bigamy and declaring that no right exists for people to “stimulate their genitals.” (His college roommate tweeted a hilarious reaction to that story yesterday.)

He’s all in on the “religious liberty” legal theory as defined by the Manhattan Declaration and enjoys keeping company with some of the most radical dominionists in the nation, including David Bartonthe junk historian who also runs Cruz’s number one super PAC, Keep the Promise. That super PAC is funded by a couple of Cruz’s megabucks donors, Texas energy barons Farris and Dan Wilks, both of whom are ultra conservative Christians. He’s even tight with the bigots who spearheaded the recent sweeping anti-LGBT legislation in North Carolina, congressional candidate and evangelical pastor Mark Harris and the former HGTV twins the Benham brothers, whose show was cancelled over their anti-gay activities. And then there is his father Rafael Cruz, who is counted among the most militant extremist preachers in the country and who believes his son was sent by God to turn America into a theocracy.

Ted Cruz’s confrontational political philosophy is revolutionary. His policy agenda is at the farthest edge of conservative movement thinking, even including gold buggery and the abolition of the IRS and half a dozen other agencies and functions of the federal government. His foreign policy advisers include anti-Muslim cranks like Frank Gaffney. His ideology is doctrinaire right wing conservative. And he is a fanatical conservative evangelical Christian whose beliefs place him at the fringe of an already non-mainstream worldview.

It’s not surprising that people would have a hard time believing that such a man would be a serial adulterer. But when you think about it, he would hardly be the first conservative Christian leader to be undone in such a way. (In fact, it’s so common you have to wonder if it isn’t an occupational hazard.) So far, he’s weathered the storm. But he is a fully realized right wing radical deeply embedded in the conservative Christian right.  If any of it turns out to be true, Cruz will have a very long way to fall.

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/ted-cruzs-dark-twisted-world-why-his-far-right-social-views-are-even-scarier-you-think?akid=14170.123424.9lSTbc&rd=1&src=newsletter1054631&t=18

Bernie Would Do Better Than Hillary in 2016 Race Against Trump, National Poll Finds

But she would do better against other Republicans.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Steven Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

Another nationwide poll this week found Bernie Sanders would not only beat Donald Trump in the race for president, he would do significantly better than Hillary Clinton if he were the Democratic nominee facing Trump.

Trump trails either Democratic candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and 50 percent of American voters say they would be embarrassed to have Trump as president,” said the Quinnipiac University National poll. “American voters back Clinton over Trump 47-40 percent… Sanders tops Trump 51-38 percent.”

But that finding, based on interviews with 1,140 voters last week, also found that Sanders would lose by a few percentage points—just outside the poll’s margin of error—if he faced Sen. Marco Rubio for president, and that he would be tied with Sen. Ted Cruz if the race were held last week.

These hypotheticals don’t mean that much when looking toward voting in November 2016. But they are important signs about momentum and public perceptions going into the first nominating contests early next year, which begin in Iowa in less than six weeks. More than anything, the poll shows that the mainstream media’s lack of coverage of the Sanders campaign is doing a disservice to Democratic voters.

While many Democratic voters overwhelmingly say Clinton has the experience to be president, both she and Trump have the highest negative ratings of the entire 2016 field. Trump’s are worse: 59 percent of all voters polled give him an unfavorable rating overall, whereas that figure is 51 percent for Clinton and 31 percent for Sanders.

The public’s negative perceptions of Clinton and Trump are persistent and comparable, Quinnipiac found, even though two-thirds said she has the experience to be president and about the same percentage president, and that he would be tied with Sen. Ted Cruz if the race were held last week.

“Half of American voters say they’d be embarrassed to have Donald Trump as their Commander in Chief and most Americans think he doesn’t have a good chance in November, but there he is still at the top of the Republican heap,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Hillary Clinton tops him. Sen. Bernie Sanders hammers him and Sen. Ted Cruz is snapping at his heels. Can a candidate that half the American electorate thinks is an embarrassment win in November?”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/bernie-would-do-better-hillary-2016-race-against-trump-national-poll-finds?akid=13804.123424.6uuQ-M&rd=1&src=newsletter1047892&t=2

GOP Debate Scorecard: The Big Winner Wasn’t Anyone on the Stage, It Was Democrats

Trump comes off as a sniveling bully; Bush as simple-minded; Cruz as maniacal. And that’s good news for Democrats.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte/Salon

Emphasis Mine

One thing is certain from Tuesday night’s Republican debate on CNN: Whatever polling data the Republicans are reading, it’s telling them that GOP primary voters are worried that ISIS is sneaking in through the air ducts and that the only thing that will save them now is thumping your chest really hard and repeating, “Radical Islamic terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism” until the magical spell works and the baddies go away.

Oh, and bombing someone. Definitely have to bomb someone.

So who won this debate, clearly aimed at people who, like Lindsey Graham, really miss the Bush administration and those carefree days when it seemed that all the world’s problems could be solved by bombing some innocent civilians half a world away? Here’s an examination:

Winner, Untouchable Division: Donald Trump. Trump came across as a sniveling bully and a consummate bullshitter who clearly just says the first thing that pops into his head and then, when confronted, just doubles down on it instead of admitting he was wrong. But that’s never hurt him in the polls before, and it’s unlikely to do so now.

Bonus points: Trump’s “plan” to bar Muslims from traveling into the U.S. became one of the central points of contention in the debate. Trump continues to amaze with his ability to control the narrative just by flapping his loose jaws while other politicians fail to get a word in edgewise with their carefully constructed talking points.

Loser, Conservatives Are A-Skeered DivisionRand Paul. The crowd was definitely not feeling his attempts to be a maverick by rejecting the security state and (some) war. Paul, never the principled libertarian he plays on TV, did his best to pander to the heightened bloodthirst of the conservative crowd by chasing after Rubio on immigration, but ultimately the moment fell flat, flatter than Paul’s poll numbers.

Winner, Impressing The Political Press Division: Jeb Bush.

Bush’s war-mongering and simple-minded posturing would probably not hold up well in a contest with Hillary Clinton. However, he said a couple of things that were true during this debate, such as noting that all this Muslim-bashing is going to undermine our relationships with Muslim allies we need to fight ISIS. This made him look like a foreign policy genius compared to the clowns on stage pretending Syrian orphans are about to go jihad on us, and he’ll probably get a bunch of kudos for it from the political press.

Loser, Actually Getting Anywhere With The Voters Division: Jeb Bush. The audience loved it when Bush said, “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency,” but only, oh irony, because Trump has trained them over months to react to every feeble insult like it’s the sickest burn they’ve ever heard. But despite landing a couple of blows during the debate, Bush’s concluding remarks were so limp he got bored with them and trailed off. Voters will soon forget that he’s even in this race.

Winners, Tap-Dancing Around The “How Fascist Are You” Question Division:Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. You can’t denounce Trump’s nutty idea of a Muslim travel ban, because you’ll just drive more of your idiot base into his arms. But you can’t endorse it, either, because it’s unconstitutional and seriously a legitimate threat to national security. So both candidates, when faced with the question, rattled off officious-sounding nonsense to run out the clock. Rubio gave us a history of the San Bernardino shooter and Fiorina gave us a history of social media, but both accomplished the main goal of babbling until the buzzer sounded without either of them actually answering the question.

Loser, What’s This Debate About Again Division: Chris Christie. Christie’s Hail Mary pass in the past few months is to paint himself as a “law and order” type, feeding off conservative hostility to the Black Lives Matter movement in hopes of getting some kind of attention. An entire debate dedicated to Syrian politics did not help him in this mission, even though he mentioned that he’s a federal prosecutor roughly 1.2 billion times during the debate.

Winner, Oh God He Might Actually Win DivisionTed Cruz. He was nearly as maniacal as Donald Trump when it comes to racist pandering and was by far the most convincing in the contest to see who is most eager to kill them all and let God sort them out. This is a man who knows how to fight and claw his way to the top of any trash pile you give him, and winning the Republican nomination is what he was born to do. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Loser, Being Able To Sleep At Night Edition: The viewers. Well, at least viewers who still have enough wits about them to know Barack Obama isn’t a secret Muslim and that chemtrails aren’t mind control. Those viewers watched candidates dedicate nearly 2 hours out of a 2 and a half hour debate to the question of Syrian politics and the most immediate takeaway is not a one of them has the first clue about what’s really going on in the unbelievably complex civil war there.

Oh, the candidates know that Bashar al-Assad is on one side and ISIS is on the other and that Vladimir Putin is being a dick, all of which is probably more understanding that the typical Republican voter has regarding the whole thing. But memorizing these little factoids is hardly relevant when you still think the solution to an intricate civil war that mostly isn’t about us at all is to stand around declaring how tough you are.

Winner, General Election Division: The Democrats. The Republicans look for all the world like they’re going to nominate their candidate based on fears about a country most of them can’t find on a map. Better yet, that candidate will not be chosen based on his foreign policy qualifications, but on whether or not he said the nastiest things about Muslims. Either way, it’s going to be fun for the Democrat to run against this impetuous pick 11 months from now, when the issue of Islamic terrorism has faded from the public imagination and journalists have returned to asking questions about issues that are far more immediate to voters than who has a leg up in the Syrian civil war this week.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of “It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.”

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/gop-debate-scorecard-big-winner-wasnt-anyone-stage-it-was-democrats?akid=13782.123424.ZFQd7f&rd=1&src=newsletter1047420&t=4

5 Shameful Right-Wing Moments This Week: Ted Cruz Celebrates Guns!

Nothing says Christmas like a family cradling their firearms.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

1. Ted Cruz has a banner week.

Ted Cruz is rising in the polls. He cannot catch Donald Trump, who according to CNN has 36 percent. But Cruz has cruised to second, with 16 percent by CNN’s count, edging out the once-popular Ben Carson, whose gaffe-filled couple of weeks (Hamas is not to be confused with hummus) has been amusing but costly to the good doc. Cruz’s formula for newfound success with the ever-wise Republican base? Just be as big a douchebag as possible—in other words for Cruz, be yourself. No one does it better.

Cruz picked up some nice gun-wingnut support by hosting a celebration of gun culture just days after the San Bernardino killings. Technically, he had scheduled his National 2nd Amendment Coalition at Crossroads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa in advance of the California tragedy, but his timing could not have been better. (For its part Crossroads Shooting Sports has said that part of its mission is to “glorify God in all we do.” Glorifying God by shooting things, where have we heard of that before?) In any case, when it comes to Cruz’s timing, the sad fact is you don’t have to be exactly prescient in this country to schedule a gun celebration to coincide with a mass shooting. Because guns, like America, are great. That’s why we’re number 1.

Cruz found plenty of other topics to be creepy about this week. He talked to supporters about how condoms are readily available, and how he’s glad because he and his wife have two daughters instead of 17 of them. Despite the fact that no one in the entire world, including Ted Cruz supporters, wants to hear about his sex life or envision it in any way, he rattled on about the lack of a “rubber shortage” and how he—well, not him, but people—could just buy condoms right out of a machine in dormitory bathrooms in college. (Seriously, do those machines ever work? Definitely not when they’re dispensing

tampons.)

Cruz capped off yet another week of stellar ass-hattery by asserting to his supporters that the “overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats,” apropos of nothing and based on even less.

And the primary voters lapped it up.

2. New York Post openly peddles racism.

There was absolutely no subtlety to the blatant hatemongering Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post engaged in the day after the mass shootings in San Bernardino. Rather than call it mass murder, or even a bloody massacre, which is more tabloidy and would have sold papers, the Post went all in for Islamophobic race-baiting with the gigantic headline, “Muslim Murder,” over a picture of a female victim’s bloody, partially undressed body.

Does this signal a new editorial policy on the part of the paper to feature crime perpetrators’ religion over all else? Can we expect headlines about Christian robbers and Jewish killers? No, we all know we cannot. Do the editors of the New York Post think for a second about their utter hypocrisy and their deliberate endangerment of hundreds of thousands of innocent, peace-loving people just living their lives in America?

No, it is safe to say they do not.

3. Louie Gohmert has a theory and it all makes perfect sense.

As is fairly well known now, Texas tea partier Louie Gohmert is not a terribly clever man. Unless by clever you mean capable of cooking up absurd conspiracy theories about immigrants and President Obama. The less than intelectually gifted Republican representative claimed Friday that the Obama administration has purposely “let loose” criminals and brought “massive” numbers of “violent terrorists” into the country so that the mean old president can tell Americans to “give up your Second Amendment rights because I let all these terrorists in.”

Riiiiight.

Gohmert described this elaborate and diabolical plot on the part of the president (and would-be president Clinton) at great length while guest-hosting crazy Christian crusader Tony Perkins’ “Washington Watch.” Gohmert’s rant was just as fact-free and scare-mongering as you might imagine, with claims that refugees have been brought into this country and charged with terrorism and that the people pouring over our “porous border” are committing crimes in mass quantities. Yet the sole example of an undocumented immigrant harming someone is the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle—which authorities have said was a tragic accident.

It’s not just the porous border, Gohmert further claimed; the Department of Homeland Security is in on the plot too, and is deliberately distributing criminals all over the country.

Jiminy cricket!

It’s all part of one gigantic brilliant plan to restrict gun sales to terrorists just so the gub-mint can take all the guns away from everyone and impose Sharia law.

Amen brother. It all makes total and perfect sense when you lay it out like that.

4. Nevada lawmaker posts festive, armed-to-the-teeth Christmas card.

Nothing says Christmas like a family cradling their firearms.

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore captured the true meaning of Christmas with her 2015 family Christmas card, which she posted on Facebook this week. In it, every member of her clan above the age of toddlerhood is packing. And so many different kinds of weapons to choose from! There’s a Beretta, some Glocks, a Walther P22 for 5-year-old Jake, and for Michele, a Serbu Super-Shorty 12-gauge shotgun. Woohoo. This marvelous public servant was a big supporter of wonderful, law-abiding Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. She told MSNBC, “Don’t come here with guns and expect the American people not to fire back.”

For the holidays, she went with a much sweeter tone. “It’s up to Americans to protect America,” her festive message said. “We’re just your ordinary American family.”

Oh, good God, no.

holiday joy
holiday joy

5. Kim Davis’ right-wing Christian lawyer thinks she should be Time magazine’s person of the year.

Because, of course he does.

Just not for the same reason that sane people think she might merit

For the holidays, she went with a much sweeter tone. “It’s up to Americans to protect America,” her festive message said. “We’re just your ordinary American family.”

Oh, good God, no.

Because, of course he does.

Just not for the same reason that sane people think she might merit that distinction.

==================================================

See: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/5-shameful-right-wing-moments-week-ted-cruz-celebrates-guns?akid=13741.123424.rHkGmA&rd=1&src=newsletter1046852&t=4

8 Acts of Islamophobic Violence and Threats Since Paris

Trump and other GOPers keep spewing vitriol as attacks on Muslims escalate.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

The Paris attacks unleashed a terrible scourge of Islamophobic rhetoric and actual violence both in Europe and America. In London, a Muslim woman was pushed in front of an underground train—fortunately, she survived. Here at home, no one has been killed, but Republican politicians are fanning the flames of hate. Leading the pack is presidential candidate Donald Trump, who — since he can’t build a wall to keep Muslims out — has floated the even more fascist ideas of closing mosques and issuing ID cards for all Muslims. Ben Carson, sinking in the polls, but still popular with evangelicals, despicably compared Syrian refugees to rabid dogs.

It’s not hard to see that the dehumanizing vitriol spewed by demagogues is part of a continuum that includes the violent actions of everyday haters who are willing to threaten and commit harm to people they perceive to be different from them. Some Islamophobes need no nudging, like the Chapel Hill murderer Craig Hicks, who shot his three young Muslim neighbors execution-style last February after menacing them for years.

Now, just as after 9/11, violent ignoramuses are going after Muslim (or Muslim-looking) neighbors and strangers who cross their path. And politicians like Trump and Ted Cruz do nothing to dissuade them or distance themselves from their despicable actions.

Here’s a roundup of Islamophobic incidents that have occurred in the week since the Paris attacks.

1. Just hours after the attacks in Paris last Friday, the FBI and local police investigated reports of multiple gunshots fired at the Baitul Aman mosque in Meriden, Connecticut.

2. Two Tampa Bay-area mosques in Florida received threatening phone messages on Friday night. The idiot who made those threats left his name on the messages.

In one, 43-year-old Martin Alan Schnitzler reportedly said, “This act in France is the last straw. You’re going to f*cking die.”“I personally have a militia that’s going to come down to your Islamic Society of Pinellas County and firebomb you, shoot whoever’s there on sight in the head,” he added. “I don’t care if they’re f*cking 2 years old or 100.”

3. Another Florida family had bullets fired at their home on the weekend after the attacks. One bullet went through the garage and entered the master bedroom, coming to rest in the dresser drawer. Fortunately, Orange County resident Amir Elmasri and his family were away when the shootings occurred. He told a local news station that his whole family feels unsafe as a result.

4. At the University of Connecticut, an Egyptian student discovered the words “killed Paris” written next to his name on his dorm room door last Saturday.

5. Muslims in Omaha felt threatened when someone spraypainted a rough outline of the Eiffel Tower on an outside wall of the Omaha Islamic Center in Nebraska soon after the Paris attacks.

6. On Monday, in a suburb of Austin, Texas, leaders of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville discovered feces and torn pages of the Quran had been thrown at the door of the mosque.

7. On Tuesday, in a suburb of Houston, Texas, authorities arrested a man accused of threatening on social media to “shoot up a mosque.”

8. In Spotsylvania, Virgina, which has a well-established Muslim community going back 30 years, a group of virulent Islamophobes invaded a community meeting held to discuss plans to build a mosque. The civil engineer on the project, Samer Shalaby, was making his presentation when he was shouted down by the men, one of whom yelled, “This is evil!” When Shalaby’s supporters tried to defend against the onslaught, the man yelled, “Shut your mouth! Every one of you are terrorists. You can smile at me. I don’t care what you say — every Muslim is a terrorist.”

Some in the meeting applauded the disruption.

Trump et. al. were completely silent on the matter, apparently unfazed.

See: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/8-acts-islamophobic-violence-and-threats-paris?akid=13685.123424.lI-d_E&rd=1&src=newsletter1046079&t=2

A Psychologist Puts Trump and the GOP on the Couch

What’s going on in the Republican mind?

Source:AlterNet

Author:Michael Bader

Emphasis Mine

Rather than simply reacting with self-righteous contempt for the current crop of GOP presidential candidates, liberals like myself should try to also understand their appeal, however much we might believe it’s not strong enough to put any of them in the White House. The pre-scripted kabuki dances on display in their debates have made them easy targets for disdain, so easy that it’s a bit like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey with your eyes open. Trump is an obviously racist bloviator, the creepiest and most blatantly disturbed of the bunch, for sure, but the lot of them come across as empty suits projecting poll-driven personas that their handlers believe will resonate with their base of angry and/or older white men. Moments of “authenticity” (e.g., they love their parents, spouses and children—imagine that!) are, themselves, always wooden, overly-crafted and ginned up with phony emotion and reported breathlessly by a media itself unable to stand on its own two feet and tell truth from fiction when it comes from these conservative wind-up dolls.

The Democrats will stage manage their personalities and manipulate their messages, too. Sanders is by far the most authentic, but he had to pivot in order to re-emphasize his record on race and women’s rights. Hillary will try to “present” herself as a human being (she’s a grandmother, after all), and the other guys—whoever they are—will do something similar when they can.

All of this is politics as usual, dutifully but cynically covered by a press corps that has surrendered even the pretense of critical thinking, instead sucking up to what they see as the basest cravings of their readers and viewers for the political version of reality television.

But while all politicians pander and throw authenticity under the bus of political expediency, the current plague of high-visibility GOP candidates project two especially pathological themes that they’ve decided will resonate with the feelings of millions of voters: paranoia and grandiosity.

As a liberal and a psychologist, I think it’s important to understand the nature and meaning of this resonance. The fears and insecurities that paranoia and grandiosity seek to diminish are feelings that a liberal agenda should be better able to address. Undecided voters can be drawn to the left or the right, and the more we understand the appeal of the American Right, the better able we might be to counter it with a more progressive and healthy message and platform. But we will never know if that’s possible or how to do it if we don’t understand the psychological dynamics behind the appeal of right-wing paranoia and grandiosity.

Let’s start with grandiosity, a term familiar to psychologists in our work with patients who need to inflate their self-esteem and self-assessments in order to ward off feelings of inferiority or helplessness. But just as individuals identify with, say, a sports team, so too do individuals identify with their nation—e.g., Team America. In our case, the political or collective version of personal grandiosity is what is known as “American Exceptionalism,” namely the tapestry of stories about the specialness of the United States when it comes to personal freedom, economic opportunity and growth, and military superiority. These stories have gained mythic proportions. They’re all captured by one unquestioned assumption: We are the greatest country in the history of the world. Period. This is a core part of the relentless drumbeat we hear from the conservative echo chamber.

But this braggadocio—what former Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright called “The Arrogance of Power”—requires that the ideal of American “greatness” be cleansed of any blemishes, just as a grandiose or narcissistic patient has to deny his or her human frailty and fallibility. This is where paranoia comes in handy. It’s easier to believe you are exceptional if you are comparing yourself with others and if you are proving your remarkable strength against naysayers or challengers. It helps, in other words, to have an enemy who is threatening your greatness.

Thus, the rhetoric of the current crop of Republican politicians, including, especially, the GOP clowns running for president, combines grandiosity and paranoia. Our nation’s greatness isn’t threatened by simple human fallibility but by Obama, Muslims, immigrants, Democrats, Planned Parenthood and Big Government. The second Republican presidential debate was laced with echoes of these beliefs, sometimes baldly stated, other times expressed as Obama-bashing. According to Carly Fiorina, “The United States of America is back in the leadership business.” Trump coughed up this hairball:  “We’ll make our country rich again, and we’ll have a great life all together.”

In other words, we’re in danger of losing our place in the front of the line, and only a Republican president has enough sinew and muscular confidence in American greatness to make sure that doesn’t happen. Grandiosity and paranoia—we’re the greatest, but we have to vigilantly remind ourselves and everyone else of that fact because we’re also threatened. A great “us” has to be continually reinforced by invoking threats from a demeaned “them.”

The current frontrunners for a “them” that threatens our perfect national collective are immigrants and radical Islamic extremists. Like the Red scares of the 1950s, our current xenophobia is based on the same paranoid view of ourselves and the world. The first thing Ted Cruz would apparently do as president is to “shred Obama’s catastrophic Iran deal.” Trump is the poster child for paranoia with his dumb “we’ll build a wall but put in a beautiful gate” through which we’ll ostensibly let in only beautiful people, and keep out the “bad dudes.” And, of course, his racist demagoguery reached a peak recently when he appeared to welcome a statement from a man in the audience who asserted: “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. You know, our President is one. You know he’s not even an American.”

What does psychology tell us about the origins of paranoia and grandiosity? It tells us that pathological attitudes and states of mind are best understood as attempts, however irrational they may seem, to feel safe and secure.

All of us seek safety and security.

Paranoia, for example, simply reflects an attempt to locate a frightening or painful thought outside the self, to get rid of threatening feelings, project them onto others, and then turn an internal struggle with bad feelings into an external struggle with bad people. For example, if I’m suffering from feelings of weakness or worthlessness, the belief, however false, that someone else is causing me to feel this way can temporarily help restore my sense of innocence and self-respect. There’s nothing wrong with me that getting rid of you won’t cure. In fact, in this paranoid version of reality, I’m a good or even great guy defending himself against an external danger. What emerges in the therapist’s consulting room is that paranoia solves an internal problem by making it an external one, even at the price of denying reality.

For example, Donald Trump is actually a balding misogynist, but he doesn’t have to feel like one if he wears a toupee (allegedly made from the hair of the critically-endangered Brown Spider Monkey) and tells himself and others that Megyn Kelly was menstruating and had it out for him.

In this sense, Trump shows us what happens when the personal becomes political. Like the United States itself, he is great and good, not declining and mean. Paranoia works pretty well when you’re feeling off your game.

Grandiosity works similarly as a defense against painful internal states. Thus, the grandiosity inherent in the axiomatic assertion that “we are the greatest nation in the history of the world” uses stories and images of American perfection, greatness and omnipotence to counteract narratives that we might be a nation in decline, or reeking on the inside from toxic inequality and a callous indifference to the welfare of the unfortunate. Combine grandiosity and paranoia and you have the current Republican talking points.

When individual psychopathology becomes a collective filter for understanding the political world, we see—as we do in the rhetoric and vision of today’s GOP—a pathological set of values guaranteed to lead to pathological policies. If I were to try to list the essential psychological dynamics underlying grandiosity and paranoia in the patients I see, and you were to simply replace the personal pronoun “I” with “America” or “the American people” and “you” and “them” with one of the scapegoats demonized by the GOP (e.g., people with darker skins, the wrong religion or different sexual orientation), the symmetry between crazy individuals and crazy politics becomes clearer. Again, to oversimplify:

“I’m not small; I’m big.” (American is not small; it’s/we’re big, etc.)

“I’m not bad; I’m the essence of goodness.”

“I’m not hurting others; I’m always helping them.”

“I’m not failing or losing; I’m a successful winner.”

“The problem isn’t in me; it’s in you.”

“If I could get rid of you; I’d be great and perfect and happy again.”

You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to see that the adolescent tough-guy primping we see on the GOP presidential debate stages is the political manifestation of commonplace psychological mechanisms regularly seen in individuals, namely, desperate attempts to defend against dangerous and painful feelings and fears. And just as in therapy, the important challenge is to understand those feelings and fears, because when a Donald Trump wants to build a wall to protect America, he is subliminally playing to a wish in his supporters to protect themselves. But, again, the question is: protect themselves from what? What is being denied or defended against?

The answer is that the threats that grandiose and paranoid attitudes defend against involve feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness and self-hatred—all of which are arguably greater now than ever in our culture. American exceptionalism and xenophobia offer symbolic antidotes in the political world to the more personal distress of millions of Americans today. Trump and the other airheads on the GOP stage today offer a distorted vision of the world that, like the Donald’s orange wig, helps to cover up genuine feelings of vulnerability and impotence.

For many people, the Great Recession of 2008 dashed the American Dream to which they had come to aspire or which they believed they were actually living. Millions of people lost their homes, their IRAs and other savings that were allocated for retirement and for their children’s education. These losses—the result of financial shenanigans far, far away—were accompanied by great feelings of helplessness that caused stress levels to go through the ceiling. Mortgages went underwater and people took on second or third jobs, reinforcing a sense of insecurity along with feelings of helplessness and depression. And while being overwhelmed and powerless to stop the feeling of losing ground, people saw hedge fund managers and bankers getting bailed out. Because we think we live in a meritocracy in which rewards are distributed according to ability, people blamed themselves for not being able to make ends meet, or hold on to their jobs, or for losing money in the stock market, or for having tapped into their home equity too much. I heard these self-criticisms and doubts in my consulting room every day—feelings of helplessness, pessimism, isolation and self-blame.

In 1990, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 50% of Americans thought their children would be better off in 20 years. In 2015, a full 76% of Americans expressed skepticism that their children’s lives would be better off than their own. Even though millions of Americans were in the same boat, feelings of isolation and self-blame became more prevalent and debilitating. The ethic of individualism in our culture invariably leads people to blame themselves for their “lot” in life, even if that lot was caused by forces beyond their control. So, as the quality of life has deteriorated, the amount of depression and self-blaming has increased.

Further, as researchers such as John Cacioppo and Robert Putnam have documented, the breakdown of community organizations and bonds has resulted in increased social isolation, especially among the elderly (an important part of the Republican base, of course). In 2009, a study by Kodak revealed that most Americans felt that “we have fewer meaningful relationships than we had five years ago.” This trend has only worsened.

So we have a social landscape in which people feel increasingly pessimistic, helpless, isolated and self-blaming—feelings perfectly addressed by GOP platitudes intended to reassure us that we’re really great, all-powerful, and that it’s someone else’s fault if we’re not.

Ultimately, the appeal to an imaginary but reassuring sense of community undergirds all of these platitudes about American greatness, strength and antipathy toward the “other.” The latent message is: there is an “us” here, a great “us” full of power and noble intentions, an “us” to which everyone can belong as long as we keep “them” away or subjugated in ways that render them non-threatening (bombing them, building walls, deportation, etc.). Who doesn’t want to belong? To be part of an “us?”

The myths of American greatness serve this purpose perfectly. What is a better tonic to the pain of isolation and helplessness brought on by our market-driven and pathological ethos of individualism than to belong to Dream Team America, the greatest and most powerful nation that ever existed in the history of the world?

That the GOP has been instrumental in creating the conditions that it then seeks to heal with its so-called “muscular” foreign and military policy and jingoistic attacks on immigrants is an inconvenient truth that isn’t mentioned, but has been thoroughly described and discussed by progressive political analysts and sociologists. The Right helped create the problems that their racist warmongering and so-called patriotism aim to remedy. Psychology can’t fix these problems, but it can hopefully help us understand the mindset behind a system in which victims support their victimizers.

Michael Bader is a psychologist and psychoanalyst in San Francisco who has written extensively on issues found at the intersection of psychology, culture, and progressive politics. His recent book, More Than Bread and Butter: A Psychologist Speaks to Progressives About What People Really Need in Order to Win an Change the World is available on Amazon.com and on his websitewww.michaelbader.com

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/psychologist-puts-trump-and-gop-couch?akid=13536.123424.-bDFYQ&rd=1&src=newsletter1043311&t=2