Disrespecting the American People

We know now that Trump understood the threat of the new coronavirus very early on, a full month before he abruptly declared a national emergency (on March 13). In his own words spoken to Bob Woodward on February 7, “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” 

A month later, on March 9th, Trump continued to mislead his followers, tweeting: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

He knew in February the virus was airborne. He knew by February 26 there was already community spread in the United States. He knew virus had spread wildly in Italy despite efforts to control it. Italy announced a lockdown on February 23, yet Trump continued to expose his followers at his campaign rallies and publicly muse that the problem would “miraculously” disappear. On April 3, the CDC recommended the use of face masks. Trump undercut the recommendation, emphasizing that wearing a face mask was optional and he wouldn’t wear one, even though he told Woodward two months earlier that the virus was airborne. (Meanwhile, he protected himself with rapid testing procedures at the White House, testing that was unavailable to most of the country.)

Quietly, he was “honest” with his interviewer, Bob Woodward, in a statement recorded on March 19th (with Trump’s approval): “I think, Bob, really to be honest with you…I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down…Because I don’t want to create a panic.”  (A transcript of a series of Trump’s statements to Woodward about the virus can be read here.)

Trump did not just play down the virus to avoid a panic. He actively mis-led the American people, stoking resistance to the very measures that would have helped control the spread of the virus. He encouraged his followers to march on state capitols to protest lockdown orders, to whine and protest about mask mandates even as he encouraged governors and schools to re-open prematurely in defiance of prevailing scientific advice..

Woodward’s disclosures from his new book “Rage” have ignited a media firestorm over lying, but lying is not Trump’s cardinal sin. He lies and mis-leads daily. Trump’s cardinal sin, revealed in his recorded voice, is disrespectHis persistent lying about the threat posed by the coronavirus shows disrespect for the intelligence and resilience of the American people–especially disrespect for the intelligence of his most devoted followers. Trump evidently considers himself uber-smart, the protective daddy figure. He believes we shouldn’t hear the truth because we can’t handle it without panic, so instead of leading us to do the relatively simple things that, taken together, would have helped, instead, he stokes division and discord. His disrespect has cost us untold lives, misery, standing in the world community, and economic ruin. 

He holds the American people in contempt, including his own supporters. He kept us all in the dark as he muddied the waters rather than clearing them.

Imagine for a moment what could have been. Imagine a real leader who, on the heels of the impeachment trial in January, had said to us, “Look, I know this country is politically divided and I understand many of you are not fond of me, but we have a crisis on the horizon with this virus spreading in China. This is not time to panic, but a time to pull together and fight this thing.” 

This man and his Republicans are not the leaders we need to face these crises. Vote this November and cast them off. We need a leaders who actually respect the intelligence of the American people, a people who listen and level with us.

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

P.S. Of course, Trump defends the recordings of his own admissions with his usual bluster, bullying, and demeaning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IN8rnX0H8Q . 

P.P.S. The timeline shows that Trump and his administration were actually trying to mobilize a federal response–a response that was too little, too late–a response for which we might even have had the grace to forgive him had he leveled with us about the gravity of the threat that he actually understood.

P.P.P.S. Feeling disrespected and humiliated is a powerful driving force. The humiliation and disrespect perceived in Hiliary Clinton’s use of the word “deplorables,” (of which Steve Bannon frequently reminds his listeners) and the humiliation and disrespect perceived in Mitt Romney’s infamous “47% comment,” contributed to the electoral failure of both candidates. 

Humiliation, as Thomas Friedman recently pointed out, is a powerful driver:

Humiliation, in my view, is the most underestimated force in politics and international relations. The poverty of dignity explains so much more behavior than the poverty of money.

Republicans Changing History

Last Friday, September 4, the President issued a memorandum, a directive, through the Executive Office of the President. Worded with some care to obscure its purpose, the memorandum instructs “…Federal agencies [to] cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions…related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’ ‘white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.” The memo indicated that “more detailed guidance” will be coming. The memorandum was issued on Friday afternoon with the intent to bury it in the deluge of weekend news over Labor Day.

Then, three days later at a news conference on Labor Day, Trump threatened to withhold federal education money from states that use The 1619 Project as part of their U.S. history curriculum. The 1619 Project, published last year in the New York Times Magazine, marks the 400th anniversary of arrival of the first enslaved Africans in at Point Comfort, Virginia, and traces the intertwining of slavery in the history of the following four centuries. It is a fascinating and enlightening read that filled in a huge gap in my historical understanding. 

The two events taken together, the release of the Friday Memorandum attempting to root out diversity training from federal agencies coupled with Trump’s funding threat focused on The 1619 Project three days later, are Trump’s (and Steven Miller’s?) gross attempt to take control of the narrative, to re-write history in a form more to their liking. Precisely when many Americans are awakening to a clearer understanding of past injustices and to our need to live up to the lofty promises of our founding documents, precisely when peaceful Americans have taken to the streets to protest the systemic oppression of people of color, precisely now, Trump chooses to ring racist alarm bells by wielding the power of his executive office to turn back the clock, assailing our growing and more honest understanding of our past.

This is a Trump theme: when Trump doesn’t like something he doesn’t argument against it, he attacks the very fundamentals on which it rests in an effort to turn back the clock to a time he must feel is friendlier to his understanding. Disagree about global warming? Remove funding for the agencies that make the measurements that keep us informed. Disagree about systemic racism? Attack the basic understanding of our history. 

Our perceptions of history do not change overnight; they are the product of decades of concerted effort, study, fact-finding, and reanalysis. It took decades of fundraising, planning, and cajoling for southern socialites to establish the narrative of The Lost Cause and embed it as the history of the Civil War taught in U.S. schools for more than a century. Similarly, it has taken decades of research, writing, and development to reach the current  that Trump now calls “propaganda.”

Case in point: the development of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), a part of the Smithsonian Institution. NMAAHC opened on the Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2016. The idea for this museum can be traced to a group of African-American veterans of the Union Army who met in D.C. in 1915. Three quarters of century later, in 1988, U. S. Reps. John Lewis and Mickey Leland first introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress to go forward with the development and building of such a free standing museum as part of the Smithsonian Institution. Fourteen years later, in 2001, after multiple re-introductions, the bill was passed with bipartisan support by Congress and signed into law by George W. Bush. The 2001 law set in motion the efforts that culminated in the opening of the museum in 2016. (For more on this extraordinary example of persistence I recommend reading the “History” section of the wikipedia article on NMAAHC.) It would be hard for me to overstate the power of the narrative presented in this museum. The story is told through artifacts interwoven with written materials, video, and accounts of individual people. The tour of African American history starts four stories below ground level with a presentation of culture on the African continent as it existed four hundred years ago. Rising through those four hundred years of history took me two days. 

I don’t believe Mr. Trump would give the museum five minutes. An in-depth visit would challenge his fixed ideas of social order. It should surprise no one that last July Mr. Trump did not attend the funeral of John Lewis, civil rights leader, supporter of the museum, and Representative from Georgia’s 5th District for 33 years. To have attended would have been a nod to all the good that John Lewis stood for.

Trump, likely aided by Steven Miller, attempted over Labor Day weekend to turn back the evolving understanding of African-American history that rests on more than a hundred years of scholarship, scholarship Trump and Miller wish to deny by excising it as “propaganda.” Of all the things that happened over Labor Day weekend Trump’s effort to turn back this clock was the most fundamental and most disturbing.

As we try to move forward toward a better America we would do well to remember that voting in our current politics is like driving a car: Select D for Democrat to go forward, R for Republican to go backward. 

I hope I live long enough to look back at the Trump presidency as a mere dent in Martin Luther King’s arc of the moral universe.

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

The Danielson/Spokane Story

On Sunday, September 6, the upbringing and life of Aaron “Jay” Danielson, the man shot dead in Portland last week, was featured on the front page of the Spokesman Review. The article was entitled entitled “Search for Meaning” (in the paper version). Ted McDermott wrote his piece based primarily on interviews with Danielson’s father and stepmother. They live in Green Bluff, north of Spokane, the same area that Mr. Danielson spent his first twenty years of his yearly forty year life. I recommend the article. It does a good job of reminding us that every person has a story that precedes whatever thrusts them into the spotlight. That’s important. It is also a story of radicalization both of Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a radicalization that pulled Mr. Danielson’s parents some distance in the same direction.

Mr. Danielson took a hard rightward turn around the time he hooked up with Joey Gibson and Gibson’s “Patriot Prayer.” During this period Danielson sent his parents links to right wing conspiracy videos that documented the views he was taking on. Last Saturday, August 29, Danielson rode with Gibson in the back of a pickup truck into Portland as part of the Trump-supporters caravan. Some of the participants shot paintballs and released bear spray at the bystanders. At 8:46PM, a quarter hour after the caravan left Portland, Jay Danielson, owner of a local moving business, accompanied by Chandler Pappas, another Patriot Prayer member, was walking a Portland street, wearing a Patriot Prayer hat, with a canister of bear spray in one hand, a collapsable baton in the other, and a loaded Glock pistol in his waistband, in short, a man looking for, or at least fully prepared for, a fight—and a man easily mistaken for Joey Gibson himself. 

The man who allegedly shot Danielson, Michael Forest Reinoehl, now also dead in a hail of bullets shot by law enforcement, was similarly radicalized, but on the other side. 

Like Danielson, Michael Forest Reinoehl has a story that leads up to the confrontation that ultimately left both men dead. He was doubtlessly propelled by extremist beliefs, just like Danielson, but on the other end of the spectrum. How did he arrive at those beliefs? Did he think he was shooting Joey Gibson? Did Gibson and Reinoehl have a history (maybe dating to the Cider Riot incident for which Gibson is [as far as I can learn] still under indictment for incitement, as well as facing a civil suit for damages)? What were the influences that radicalized Reinoehl?

The “Meaning” in the “Search for Meaning” in this series of horrible events lies in the radicalization of these two men, Danielson and Reinoehl. Danielson is not representative of the majority of the people in the Trump caravan that preceded the shooting and Reinoehl is not representative of the majority of Black Lives Matter demonstrators. Both men were radicalized by in our dangerously polarized times. 

Why was Danielson armed, wearing a Patriot Prayer hat, and walking in downtown Portland after the Trump caravan had left the city? Danielson’s father offers us some clues:

“He started to get more and more concerned about government taking over, the U.N. coming in, China controlling everything. I mean, we started hearing about it. We hadn’t heard about it before that. He started getting very, very concerned.”

Dave said he was texting them and “having us watch videos of things almost on a daily basis for two or three months. So it had escalated.”

Some of what he sent, Dave said, was about how “Biden was linked with China” and how “their plan was to control the food as a possibility, so stock up. There was lots more that we deleted.”


“Some of them, I thought, were a stretch,” Dave said. “Some of them seemed right on.”

He also said he doesn’t believe his son was an extremist.


The U.N. “coming in?” Biden “linked with China?” Government taking over? China controlling everything? “Their plan to control the food?” These are the recurring nightmares of the fevered right, the pipe dreams of groups like the John Birch Society and some Fundamentalist end-times preachers. As Dave (Jay’s father) says, they are “a stretch.” More worrisome is that Dave adds, “Some [unspecified] seem right on.” Which ones? 

Perhaps Jay Danielson wasn’t an extremist, as his father believes, but Jay was certainly propelled by an extremist belief system fostered by the extreme right wing, pushed by conspiracy theorists and endorsers of conspiracy theories like Alex Jones and Donald Trump.

Still, most of us in this crazy world, including Jay’s parents (and even Jay) want the same thing–the peace in which to live our lives.

“It seems it has to mean something that a young man as wonderful as he was, that he was assassinated,” Dave [Danielson’s 80 year old father, resident of Green Bluff] said. “It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense. And maybe for Jay, this will serve as a catalyst, springboard, to wake people up that something awful has happened to our country and they have the power to do something about it.”

Without using guns,” Mary chimed in.  
[The bold is mine.]

Dave said he wants to see Democrats “get together with the Republican side and put a stop to this violence.”

“If I can lose the life of my son,” Dave said, “they can sit down at a table and be civil to each other and start to work something out. I deserve that as a citizen.”


I fervently share Dave and Mary Danielson’s wish. They sound like good people with whom I could find much in common. Nonetheless, I fear that while Donald Trump, the Great Divider and chief conspiracy theory promoter, remains President, and Mitch McConnell rules a U.S. Senate majority, we are destined for more people parading with guns, further polarization, and no peace. Vote.

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

P.S. Joey Gibson is an armed professional right wing agitator with multiple connections to armed right wing figures in our region: Matt Shea and his Covenant Church in north Spokane, and Ammon Bundy to name just two. Gibson appeared a Matt Shea’s May 1 protest against Jay Inslee’s lockdown order, in front of Dr. Bob Lutz’s homewith Casey Whalen ludicrously protesting against the mask mandate, and at the Spokane City Council in support of Covenant Church’s “Church at Planned Parenthood” as the City Council debated a noise ordinance on March 2. 

Joey Gibson radicalized Mr. Danielson, and now, with Danielson dead from a bullet that might have been meant for Gibson, Gibson is in the business of using the media to eulogize Mr. Danielson and make him a martyr.

Agitators egg people on, spin them up, until someone gets killed, then they take advantage of the fallout to spin things up further. Pay attention. This is a local manifestation of Trump’s “law and order” message. 

The Platform of the GOP

The article that follows appeared originally in The Atlantic on August 25, 2020. Since then it has been re-published in multiple venues. It lays out the Republican platform that Trump and the Republican Party have made clear over the last four years. Mr. Frum is correct. Much of this platform has been evident for decades. Trump, by saying and tweeting “the quiet parts out loud” and by dog-whistling to the nastiest members of the base that elected him, has clarified the platform so well that actual publication of it would be a mistake.

To Mr. Frum’s listing of thirteen planks I would add a 14th plank: Judges are appointed to serve the interests of the Republican Party as laid out in the first thirteen planks. Senate precedent is to be ignored in this quest to advance our interests. (As in the Republican majority Senate simply refusing to consider judges nominated to federal courts by Barrack Obama.)

Enjoy your Labor Day. Learn the history of the holiday and why much of the last four years has been antithetical to its spirit. 

It is two months to the general election. Hang on tight. If recent events are an indication it is likely to be a rough ride.

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry


The Platform the GOP Is Too Scared to Publish

by David Frum

Republicans have decided not to publish a party platform for 2020.

This omission has led some to conclude that the GOP lacks ideas, that it stands for nothing, that it has shriveled to little more than a Trump cult.

This conclusion is wrong. The Republican Party of 2020 has lots of ideas. I’m about to list 13 ideas that command almost universal assent within the Trump administration, within the Republican caucuses of the U.S. House and Senate, among governors and state legislators, on Fox News, and among rank-and-file Republicans.

Once you read the list, I think you’ll agree that these are authentic ideas with meaningful policy consequences, and that they are broadly shared. The question is not why Republicans lack a coherent platform; it’s why they’re so reluctant to publish the one on which they’re running.

1) The most important mechanism of economic policy—not the only tool, but the most important—is adjusting the burden of taxation on society’s richest citizens. Lower this level, as Republicans did in 2017, and prosperity will follow. The economy has had a temporary setback, but thanks to the tax cut of 2017, recovery is ready to follow strongly. No further policy change is required, except possibly lower taxes still.

2) The coronavirus is a much-overhyped problem. It’s not that dangerous and will soon burn itself out. States should reopen their economies as rapidly as possible, and accept the ensuing casualties as a cost worth paying—and certainly a better trade-off than saving every last life by shutting down state economies. Masking is useless and theatrical, if not outright counterproductive.

3) Climate change is a much-overhyped problem. It’s probably not happening. If it is happening, it’s not worth worrying about. If it’s worth worrying about, it’s certainly not worth paying trillions of dollars to amend. To the extent it is real, it will be dealt with in the fullness of time by the technologies of tomorrow. Regulations to protect the environment unnecessarily impede economic growth.

4) China has become an economic and geopolitical adversary of the United States. Military spending should be invested with an eye to defeating China on the seas, in space, and in the cyberrealm. U.S. economic policy should recognize that relations with China are zero-sum: When China wins, the U.S. loses, and vice versa.

5) The trade and alliance structures built after World War II are outdated. America still needs partners, of course, especially Israel and maybe Russia. But the days of NATO and the World Trade Organization are over. The European Union should be treated as a rival, the United Kingdom and Japan should be treated as subordinates, and Canada, Australia, and Mexico should be treated as dependencies. If America acts decisively, allies will have to follow whether they like it or not—as they will have to follow U.S. policy on Iran.

6) Health care is a purchase like any other. Individuals should make their own best deals in the insurance market with minimal government supervision. Those who pay more should get more. Those who cannot pay must rely on Medicaid, accept charity, or go without.

7) Voting is a privilege. States should have wide latitude to regulate that privilege in such a way as to minimize voting fraud, which is rife among Black Americans and new immigrant communities. The federal role in voting oversight should be limited to preventing Democrats from abusing the U.S. Postal Service to enable fraud by their voters.

8) Anti-Black racism has ceased to be an important problem in American life. At this point, the people most likely to be targets of adverse discrimination are whites, Christians, and Asian university applicants. Federal civil-rights-enforcement resources should concentrate on protecting them.

9) The courts should move gradually and carefully toward eliminating the mistake made in 1965, when women’s sexual privacy was elevated into a constitutional right.

10) The post-Watergate ethics reforms overreached. We should welcome the trend toward unrestricted and secret campaign donations. Overly strict conflict-of-interest rules will only bar wealthy and successful businesspeople from public service. Without endorsing every particular action by the president and his family, the Trump administration has met all reasonable ethical standards.

11) Trump’s border wall is the right policy to slow illegal immigration; the task of enforcing immigration rules should not fall on business operators. Some deal on illegal immigration must be found. The most important Republican priority in any such deal is to delay as long as possible full citizenship, voting rights, and health-care benefits for people who entered the country illegally.

12) The country is gripped by a surge of crime and lawlessness as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and its criticism of police. Police misconduct, such as that in the George Floyd case, should be punished. But the priority now should be to stop crime by empowering police.

13) Civility and respect are cherished ideals. But in the face of the overwhelming and unfair onslaught against President Donald Trump by the media and the “deep state,” his occasional excesses on Twitter and at his rallies should be understood as pardonable reactions to much more severe misconduct by others.

So there’s the platform. Why not publish it?

There are two answers to that question, one simple, one more complicated.

The simple answer is that President Trump’s impulsive management style has cast his convention into chaos. The location, the speaking program, the arrangements—all were decided at the last minute. Managing the rollout of a platform as well was just one task too many.

The more complicated answer is that the platform I’ve just described, like so much of the Trump-Republican program, commands support among only a minority of the American people. The platform works (to the extent it does work) by exciting enthusiastic support among Trump supporters; but when stated too explicitly, it invites a backlash among the American majority. This is a platform for a party that talks to itself, not to the rest of the country. And for those purposes, the platform will succeed most to the extent that it is communicated only implicitly, to those receptive to its message.

The challenge for Republicans in the week ahead is to hope that President Trump can remember, night after night, to speak only the things he’s supposed to speak—not to blurt the things his party wants its supporters to absorb unspoken.

Baumgartner: Cut Teacher Pay!

The economy is shaky. People have lost their jobs. Families are running out of money with which to feed themselves and pay the rent. Teachers are challenged to educate the country’s children using the internet alone or by combining the internet and some version of in-person classes. Teachers, especially older ones with underlying health issues, face the risk of contracting Covid-19 from the children they teach. Meanwhile, families in Spokane County struggle with what is sometimes third world internet access as they try to balance at home learning, child care, and the risk of children returning to school. Families, children, and teachers are all stressed.

Former Legislative District 6 (southwest Spokane County) WA State Senator and current Spokane County Treasurer, Michael Baumgartner offers advice. His solution for the county’s fiscal woes and challenges facing education: Cut teacher salaries! The school districts should offer families a stipend to make up for the loss of in school instruction. In other words, instead of supporting public education as it faces the challenges of the pandemic, let’s defund and undercut it! A formulaic Republican fiscal opportunity! 

He offered his teacher pay cut proposal in the same news conference he used to announce he was extending the deadline for payment of property taxes. Extend the deadline, not cancel. That’s not in his power, he said. Neither is it within his power to cut teacher salaries, so why suggest it? In times of budget constraint it is a standard Republican tactic to focus attention (and therefore blame and a reason for them to sacrifice) on any group they can paint as under-performing and/or over-compensated. Remember Reagan’s “welfare queens” and his obsession with cutting income tax? 

According to a Spokesman article from June 24, 2020, “A beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience is scheduled to earn $50,424. That jumps to $79,275 for a teacher with a master’s and 10 years in the classroom.”* At the very top end of the scale a Spokane Public Schools teacher can make (with extra hours) $101,482. Mr. Baumgartner makes $111,562.49. A high school science teacher with twenty years experience, teaching Advanced Placement course, and trying hard to incorporate online teaching into the curriculum is likely working harder than Mr. Baumgartner and probably has more education. Is Mr. B turning back some of his salary?

Like the entire Republican Party, Mr. Baumgartner is incapable of admitting that the State of Washington has the most regressive state tax system of all fifty states. (Roughly 50% of Washington State taxes are spent education.) “Poor residents here pay 16.8 percent of family income in state and local taxes while the wealthiest 1 percent pay only 2.4 percent.” To Republicans that’s the way it should be. The Republican answer to any shortfall, like the one we now face (consider the drop in revenue from shrinking sales tax receipts, a particularly regressive tax), is to ignore the revenue side of the budget and concentrate on defunding social services, education in particular.

For Michael Baumgartner government is not about collaboration, it’s about sticking it to people. The 2012 McCleary Washington State Supreme Court Decision told the State Legislature to live up to the State Constitution’s promise to provide “ample” funding for basic education. State Republicans maneuvered to avoid actually addressing the regressiveness of our state tax system. Instead they managed to wring out a compromise that drained funds from Spokane Public Schools and then blamed recent and long overdue teacher raises for the required belt tightening. The compromise “levy swap equalization” squeezed money out of school districts that were relatively well funded in order to shift the money to less well-funded districts and comply with the McCleary v. Washington decision. Republican legislators got a twofer: they avoided addressing of the regressive state system and (with the help of the Spokesman) they got reporting that put a lot of the blame for the Spokane Public Schools’ shortfall on the teachers and the teachers’ union. In a fundraising email from Baumgartner on July 21, 2017 he was proud of the Republican strategy to get around raising taxes–in Republican districts:

…we triangulated a strategy to fund the state’s K-12 McCleary case through a “levy swap equalization” that will reduce overall property taxes on nearly 75% of households (largely in areas represented by Republicans) and increase property taxes largely in the Seattle area (represented by Democrats).

Rural, previously underfunded school districts, often in predominantly Republican areas, got some improvement in funding through McCleary and Republicans like Baumgartner got to crow about sticking it to areas with more Democratic populations. What a nice civic-minded guy, don’t you think? 

Remember Baumgartner’s and his Republican Party’s tactics when you vote this November. Unfortunately, current Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner doesn’t face re-election until 2022. 

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

*Tellingly, the Spokesman article discussing teacher salaries put the highest salary any teacher could make as the first number, while mentioning the salaries of less senior teachers as an afterthought. All the numbers appeared under a headline, “SPS teacher salaries cross $100,000 mark.” Most casual readers’ takeaway is the impression that the average Spokane Public Schools teacher is well paid. The reader is left to guess what percentage of the teachers are at each salary level mentioned in the body of the article. 

Joey Gibson/Provocation/Spokane

Everybody’s talking about Portland and Kenosha. Trumpian Republicans feel certain if they can just fan the flames hot enough to get a few people killed, people they can hold up as martyrs, then they can instill enough fear to get their autocrat re-elected. Trump not only needs the votes of his racist far right wing to get re-elected, but he needs this far right wing for provocation and intimidation. (Take note: I am not accusing all Republicans of being racist. I am accusing Trump of currying the support of militant racists in order to stay in power.)

The name of the man shot dead in a truck bed in a caravan of Trump supporters in Portland last Saturday came out last night, Aaron “Jay” Danielson. He is the new martyr. He’ll be portrayed as the innocent, unfortunate good guy just out exercising his 1st and 2nd amendment rights.  Even the CNN headline reads, “Aaron J. Danielson: Portland shooting victim was a ‘freedom-loving American,’ says friend.” He’s not “the man shot dead in Portland,” but the “shooting victim.” FoxNews.com on the morning of Tuesday, September 1st, is chock full of articles suggesting that Portland, Oregon, is riven with unrest, and it is all the fault of Democrats. One article, almost gleefully announces that the Portland police are investigating a potential shooter as a man who identifies as “100% antifa.” The same article is illustrated with a tweet from Mr. Trump that says “Rest in Peace Jay.” Trump has his martyr. 

The NBC News headline is clearer: “Far-right Patriot Prayer group says fatal shooting victim in Portland was a supporter.” If you dig deep enough you can even find an article on Fox that discusses Patriot Prayer and Joey Gibson. 

The new martyr, “Jay” Danielson, was a member of the group “Patriot Prayer,” so staunch a member of the group that when he was shot, Mr. Danielson (aka “Jay” Bishop–what sort of man has an alias?) was in the company of the founder of Patriot Prayer, Joey Gibson.  Gibson is a Washington State Republican provocateur hailing from Vancouver, Washington. 

Have we heard of Joey Gibson before? It turns out he has numerous local Spokane connections. Mr. Gibson has appeared as an agitator in Spokane twice in the recent past. On May 1 he was one of a far right group of marchers and speakers with Matt Shea and company, spewing invective in a downtown demonstration against Governor Inslee’s pandemic stay-at-home orders. Joey Gibson made local news again demonstrating with a megaphone in front of the home of Spokane Regional Health Officer, Dr. Bob Lutz’s, on the South Hill on July 17th. Last year in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Gibson and his Patriot Prayer were accused of inciting a riot in which a woman was beaten senseless. As I wrote in “Belligerent, Whiny Adolescents“: It seems that “Patriot Prayer” is more like “Brownshirts for Trump” than what their pious name tries to suggest. 

So now Joey Gibson has ridden through Portland, Oregon in a caravan of provocateurs shooting paintball guns and pepper spray at counter-demonstrators. Mr. Gibbon himself, of course, did not take the bullet that made a Trump-hailed martyr out of “Jay” Danielson. No, Mr. Gibson lives on to preach his twisted gospel, the same way Ammon Bundy, Matt Shea, and company live on after the Malheur Wildlife Refuge illegal takeover, live on after they got their martyr, LaVoy Finicum. Finicum’s death has been a rallying point among these gun-toting would-be revolutionaries ever since.

This whole affair with its multiple links to local and regional belligerents like Matt Shea and Caleb Collier gives me a profoundly uneasy feeling as Mr. Trump, with his dynastic family and Republican National Convention, purposefully fans the flames of discord in a desperate attempt to cast himself as savior. 

Pay attention to who these people are, the network they serve, and what they’re doing. 

My uneasiness was fueled by watching parts of the Republican National Convention. The best video distillation of that event is John Oliver’s RNC 2020 & Kenosha, a must-watch. 

Two more sober influences on my uneasiness are Thomas Edsall’s highly-reasoned “I Fear That We Are Witnessing the End of American Democracy.”  

Stoking violence by condoning, even encouraging, behavior like that of Joey Gibson, his martyr “Jay” Danielson, and Kyle Rittenhouse (the self-important 17 year old who killed two protestors with an illegally carried assault rifle in Kenosha) is shameful, autocratic behavior, worthy of a would be dictator. Today, condoning such behavior is the bedrock of the Republican Party. Vote them out, vote them all out.

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry 

P.S. Joey Gibson is dignified by Fox News as a “former Washington Senate candidate.” What they don’t say is that he ran against Maria Cantwell in 2018 as one of six primary candidates for U.S. Senate from Washington State. Despite (or because of?) his notoriety as founder of Patriot Prayer he garnered all of 2.3% of the vote. To dignify this man as a serious candidate should be an embarrassment to Fox News–but hardly anyone will likely notice.

P.P.S. It is remarkable how these names, once you know them, pop up again and again. Radical right “Christian” Casey Whalen of Boise, Idaho, was the organizer of the group that paraded around with Joey Gibson in front of Dr. Bob Lutz’ house on the South Hill on July 17. He was seen again in Shawn Vestal’s article, “Tale of Bundy and his melon highlights this sick, but silly, season in conspiracy world,” noting Whalen’s Facebook post saying, “The solution is simple, tried and true. Violate my rights and you will be shot.” Gadfly that the belligerent Mr. Whalen is, he surfaced again in the Spokesman on August 31 in a tiny article titled “Open carry rally leader arrested for warrant.” Mr. Whalen was arrested “for falsifying and/or concealing public records” just before an event he had organized for the “Open carry if you care” rally in downtown Coeur d’Alene last Saturday evening, August 29th. Apparently, stirring up trouble and discord and threatening people with mayhem is a full time job for these people. (Only a few showed up for Whalen’s march. Facebook had removed the event page for violating “community standards.”

Huckleberries

A full day of hunting, picking, and processing huckleberries in the Selkirks yesterday derailed my best intentions for writing an email for this morning. Time for a day off. 

Besides reading a wide variety of newspapers and periodicals I look forward to reading several email blogs to which I subscribe:

The Weekly Sift, written by Doug Muder, comes out as two or three separate emails each Monday morning that summarize and offer perspective on the last week’s news. 

Letter From an American, written by Professor of History Heather Cox Richardson, comes out nearly every day late in the evening. 

Popular Information, by Judd Legum, features independent reporting, often on the media and on money in politics, comes out irregularly.

Update From an Epidemic, written by Betsy Brown, M.D., a family physician in Seattle with research experience and a particular interest in infectious disease, comes out most days. To subscribe go to https://betsybrownmd.substack.com/p/coming-soon and enter your email near the bottom of the page.

I value all four of these emails for the perspective and for the links they offer. I encourage you to check them out. 

Back on Wednesday.

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry