HL 100 – Chronicling Plagues Viral and Political

April 12, 2020

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Hopelessly Liberal 100 is posted at the worst of times but best to keep on with what we do that is useful and makes others and us happy.  On November 15, 2016, one week after Trump’s election, we launched with HL 1, stating the intention of being a voice for classic liberalism during the expected rough times ahead.  They have been far rougher than anticipated, without consideration of COVID-19 that Trump did not create, but factoring in his atrocious responses.  When the inevitable Warren or 9/11 style commission reports[1] it likely will conclude that Trump ranks among the U.S. Presidents with the most innocent blood on his hands.[2]

HL was intended as a chronicle of these tough times[3] and an informed protest and act of defiance to people, ideas and things antithetical to a liberal, and this liberal’s, worldview.  This milestone post is occasion to reflect on whether we have stuck to our stated mission and how prescient or myopic our observations have been.  And it’s a moment to slightly adjust course.

The blog/newsletter has included just three numbers not dictated by current events.  This one, HL 1 and HL 72, celebrating the anniversary of Constantine Cannon of NYC, DC, SF and London, where we practice law.  Many of the other 97 fit the stated mission of chronicling and protesting Trumpism, its people, the things they’ve done and the doctrine they’ve propogated.  We’ve called it Trumpism in ironic homage to Costa-Gavras, his masterpiece “Z” and its riff on the “isms”, to which the Trump one is now added.  We have tried to avoid simple and lazy analogies to previous iterations of actual or attempted authoritarian rule and its perpetrators, domestic and foreign.  At times we’ve fallen into that trap, as in HL 33, How’s He Doing?, where we compared Trump to Caligula.  Also the comparison of Trump to a six year old tyrant with supernatural powers that he used to torture the people in his isolated Ohio town – in HL 23, Trump Wiretap Tantrum Evokes Twilight Zone Episode 73.  That one made most sense at the time and even more so today, as governors who despise him blow him kisses in an effort to obtain ventilators from the federal stockpile.

Throughout, our analyses have had two touchstones: the Constitution and the responsibility of American citizens to vote and for the consequences of their votes.  Before the inauguration, in HL 2, The Electrical Collage, we admonished our liberal friends to stop talking about Hillary’s constitutionally irrelevant “victory” in the popular vote.  We considered Donald Trump the duly, if not fairly, elected POTUS.  Primary responsibility for that was placed with the electorate and with people who didn’t vote, despite knowing who Trump was and what he intended.  If they didn’t, they weren’t paying attention.

That super simple point is the crux of many posts, but most specifically HL 48, Winning This November [2018] Is Really Simple, and simple again this Fall of 2020, though the voting procedures may be difficult and unfamiliar.  Children of the 1960s, like HL, recall the sacrifice and suffering of voting rights activists who fought for and secured the franchise that so many Americans fail to exercise.  Though Trumpism has been, or has at least felt, worse than expected, the real surprise here has not been the double down loyalty of the base, spotted and interpreted early in HL 8, Roman Hruska – Hopelessly Liberal’s Person of the Year, but the hypocrisy of Republican electeds who have supported virtually every hideous act and initiative, going 180 on their long stated beliefs.  The post that focused on this surprising (to us) development was HL 85, Republicans That Continue To Support Trump Do So Because He Is A Criminal Not in Spite of It, tipping our hats to Peter Wehner, a true conservative evangelical who explains the phenomenon better than any other observer we have encountered.

Not only a hat tip, but a 21 gun salute was accorded Richard Rorty, the true seer of Trumpism, who in 1998 wrote:

[M]embers of labor unions and unorganized unskilled workers will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported . . . At that point, something will crack.  The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for. One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans and by homosexuals will be wiped out.  Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. . . All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

The “resentment” that Rorty identified and prophesied would result in what we now call Trumpism is discussed in many HL posts, such as our review of Lynn Nottage’s mawkish play “Sweat” – HL 28, Want to Gain Insight Into Trump Voters – No Sweat.

Nearly as much time and attention has been expended criticizing the left.  HL is an old, white, male liberal.  Gen-X and millennial lefties are very comfortable referring to at least three of those attributes in a derogatory manner, and especially when all three are present.  Those Stanley Kramer type classic liberals were defined in HL 1, Welcome to Hopelessly Liberal.  It presaged our questioning and often rejecting the new left’s modus operandi, though far less frequently their substantive agenda.  We’ve applauded single payer healthcare,[4] urgent application of climate science, free public college education and truly progressive income and wealth taxation.[5]  But, we have resisted and often decried the new left’s equivocation about free speech, due process and the pursuit of and rewards for excellence.

In those veins, HL 84, I Won’t Forget That Once I Was That Asian Kid Applying To Schools, discussed the de facto quotas imposed on Asian-American applicants at elite American colleges.  It also “called out” proposals by the administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to eliminate or dilute the selectivity at the city’s special entrance schools and advanced programs.  The elimination or dilution of selective schools and programs such as Bronx Science, Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Technical is intended to foster “inclusion” the new hip term for “diversity.”  Perhaps this new lingo is needed because Asian-American is a catchall for an incredibly diverse segment of the population.  Those selective programs at NYC public high schools rank first, third, fifth and three tied for seventh among the world’s secondary schools in educating Nobel laureates.

HL 47, #MeToo For Due Process, discussed the trampling of due process in the exhilarating early stages of Me Too.  A focus of that post was due process denier and hypocrite-in-chief Kirsten Gillibrand, who we celebrated again in HL 79, National Polls Confirm That Gillibrand and de Blasio are Zeroes.[6]

HL subscribers know that we’ve done a not insubstantial number of tennis, theatre and antitrust posts – owing to our passions and proficiencies.  Those co-curricular pieces contained and were an excuse for additional social and political commentary.  HL 54, I Even Will Root For The Jew Argentine, posted from Roland Garros, provided a window into the pervasiveness of casual anti-Semitism in polite society, while violent hate group anti-Semitism resurges under Trump and his strongman brothers in Poland, Hungary, Brazil and elsewhere.

HL 73, Reparations In The Theatre World, and HL 80, Stoned By Toni: Theatre Reparations Continued, dissect the informal but widely and militantly enforced regime of reparations in the theatre world.  Reparations for the racism and racial discrimination that pervaded American theatre and cinema until very recently.  We ask whether the way this informal system works gives any guidance on how a de jure regime of economic reparations might work and be received by the American public.

The predictions made were numerous as were those that proved inaccurate.  The most notorious myopic projection was first made in early 2017, that Trump would be out of office slightly before January 20, 2020.  It was later repeated in posts about impeachment, about invocation of the 25th Amendment for removal of a President deemed, “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and in our proposal for a 28th Amendment to eliminate certain real and imagined immunities of the American President.  In the latter imaginary category is Trump’s “I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.”

After he was impeached, Trump’s exit would have precisely matched our predictions, but by then it was clear that nothing would move Republican senators to convict Trump.  The virus that afflicts those senators was apparently transmitted to Republican governors like Ron de Santis who refused to lock down Florida until Trump said something Ron interpreted as permission.

Among the predictions that have come to pass, we are most proud of two.  That the nation would be spared an even worse fate by the permanent corps of apolitical federal employees and by their counterparts, both elected and civil servant, in state and local government.

HL 3, Take Some Comfort From Our Permanent Government, posted November 21, 2016, extolled the “massive army of professionals, good and true, women and men . . . roughly 2.8 million federal employees.”  What Trump has called “the deep state.”  Countless thousands among them have maintained the programs and policies they administer against Trump’s attempts to dismantle and disintermediate them.  Their poster children are far too many to name, but among them are Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Michael Atkinson, Fiona Hill, Marie Yovanovich, Deborah Birx, Tony Fauci and Glenn Fine.

And on November 23, 2016 HL 4, G[a]ve Thanks for State and Local Government.  We knew that the government closest to the people would step up, as it has, to preserve the rule of law, the social safety net, the right to privacy and procreative freedom and numerous constitutional provisions that Trump sought to destroy.  State attorneys general have constantly fought these battles and often thwarted or reduced the damage Trump has tried to inflict.  Among the most active AG warriors have been Bob Ferguson of Washington, Maura Healy of Massachusetts, Dana Nessel of Michigan, Xavier Becerra of California, Brian Frosh of Maryland, Tom Miller of Iowa, Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon, Josh Stein of North Carolina and Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania.  And the breakout star, Andrew Cuomo, who’s ascendence was the subject of HL 98, A Draft Cuomo Movement At The Democratic Convention Seems Inevitable.

We conclude this hundredth post with the slight course correction promised.  At launch we intended to conclude the day Trump left office.  At that point we would link up the posts, add a preface and a conclusion and look to our publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, to release Hopelessly Liberal as a book.  But like many of these endeavors[7] the project has transcended its original purpose, protest and defiance of Trump and his ism.  That’s the thing about liberals, especially hopeless ones, they don’t know when, how or why to stop trying.

[1]  As in Earl Warren’s commission that investigated the assassination of JFK.  An initial conceit of the blog was to leave sometimes old or obscure terms or references such as the Warren Commission unexplained as if to say “if you know what we are talking about great and if not look it up.”  But as time goes on and the work has developed, we now frequently drop explanatory notes like this for those who care to read them.

[2]  Classic liberals are generally not pacifists, believing that at times blood must be shed, especially blood of the culpable and the guilty.  A good excuse to link the contrasting statements made by Obama and Trump when announcing the killings of Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

[3]  HL’s 2010 book, Journal of the Plague Year, available on this site, was a retrospective chronicle of the 15 tragic months of the much anticipated administration of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.  The book analogized those months to the Black Plague of 1665.  Writing this blog contemporaneously about two massive plagues, one political and one viral, gives perspective on how relatively good and easy were previous times that seemed so difficult.

[4]  Hardly a new left idea.  In 1992, HL was “issues director” of a U.S. senatorial campaign whose most important proposal was what is now called “Medicare for all.”

[5]  While Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s proposals for public higher education are considered novel and socialist, when they started college more than 50 years ago, public colleges in most states were virtually tuition free.  That was because income taxation was far more aggressive and progressive and paid for a lot more.

[6]  In this footnote we note that Bill de Blasio may deserve more than a footnote of blame in the 9/11 style commission report discussed above.  On 3/2/2020 as San Francisco’s mayor was shutting his city down, de Blasio was tweeting “get out on the town despite Coronavirus.”  Even after Tony Fauci called for a 14-day national shut down, de Blasio would not order NYC’s bars and restaurants closed, leading to a revolt among city health officials.  And the day after he closed the bars and ordered take-out only at restaurants, he works out conspicuously at Prospect Park YMCA.  The Village People refused to join him.

[7]  For example, the ABC television show “Nightline” originally was intended to last only as long as Iran held the hostages seized in 1979, but continued for many years after their release.



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