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Speaking Truth to Power

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More and more of my friends tell me they can't bear to watch the news, because they can't stand to hear about the latest Trump outrage. Some unfortunates are afflicted with tinnitus, where they constantly hear a ringing or buzz in the background. The U.S. is subjected with the political version of this -- Trumpitus -- where there's always some Trump news item droning in the background. To deal with this backdrop of malevolence, to protect our sanity, you and I have to agree to stand up and proclaim the truth.

1.We're under attack by the Russians. The most disturbing conclusion from the Mueller Report is that Russia made a concerted effort to alter the results of the 2016 election. "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion." Vladimir Putin and his cronies wanted Trump to win and engaged in a variety of technical efforts to help him. It's not clear what the overall impact was. Russians operatives were active in key swing states -- such as Michigan,Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- but it's not provable that the Russian efforts resulted in Trump's 78,000 vote margin. What is clear is that the Russians helped the Trump campaign by concerted social-media campaigns and hacking Clinton-campaign emails.

There's no evidence that Russian interference has abated. Indeed, if one looks at the Putin's objectives, there's no reason for the Russians to stop because they are succeeding. Russian efforts have weakened U.S. morale and diminished our role as leader of the "free" world. (They have also weakened the European Union and brought the United Kingdom to the brink of chaos.)

2.The Republican Party doesn't want to do anything about this. Although the U.S. intelligence community is united in the belief that the Russians continue to interfere with our election process, Congressional Republicans aren't doing anything about this -- with the exception of the Senate Intelligence Committee co-chaired by Republican Senator Richard Burr and Democratic Senator Mark Warner. Nonetheless, on June 13th, Senate Republicans blocked Senator Warner's bill that would have required political campaigns to report attempts by foreign nationals to interfere with political elections.

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Trump has bullied the mainstream Republican Party into docile subservience. He's set this moral tone: it's okay to say and do anything, so long as you win. Trump has recast the GOP: "Thou shalt worship no gods other than Trump."

As a consequence, Senate Republicans aren't doing any legislative work. Since January the Senate has only passed a few pieces of legislation. (They've spent most of their time confirming conservative judges.) In contrast, the Democratically controlled House has passed more than 120 bills. (https://www.vox.com/2019/5/24/18637163/trump-pelosi-democrats-bills-congress)

3.Trump has deeply divided the nation. When you step inside the latest polls -- eg., Trump versus Biden -- you encounter an amazing number: most Americans say they will not vote for Trump in 2020. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/18/trump-reelection-chances-look-bad-in-state-polls.html) says: "Despite a strong economy... 62% of Americans report themselves uncomfortable or with reservations about a second Trump term; 52% called themselves 'very uncomfortable.'" The May Quinnipiac poll (https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2622) found: "President Trump begins his reelection campaign in a deep hole as 54 percent of American voters say they 'definitely' will not vote for him,"

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Meanwhile, Trump is leaving a trail of moral destruction: He's eradicated comity, torn down the walls of political correctness, and made it okay for citizens to treat each other in a vile and -- sometimes - violent manner.

A recent PPRI poll (https://www.prri.org/research/american-democracy-in-crisis-the-fate-of-pluralism-in-a-divided-nation/) found that Americans are more divided by politics than they are by race, ethnicity, or religion: "Americans are nearly unanimous in their belief that the country is divided over politics (91%), with 74% of Americans saying that the country is very divided. Supporters of both political parties, as well as political independents, all agree that Americans are divided over politics: Republicans (96%), Democrats (91%), and independents (89%) all agree with this statement."

4. Meanwhile, the U.S. is challenged by daunting problems. Most of us wouldn't get on a boat or plane knowing that the pilot was drunk. We depend upon our leaders to guide us through difficult circumstances. Nonetheless, the United States is beset by numerous problems and Donald Trump is incompetent.

America faces a long list of challenges that would be daunting even if we had a real President: Global climate change. Nuclear proliferation. The deterioration of our international alliances. National security including the Russian attacks and terrorism. Healthcare. Economic inequality. Mental health including the opioid epidemic. Gun violence. Etcetera.

Trump is not going to deal with these challenges. Until he's removed from office, he's likely to make things worse. As this was being written, Trump is preparing to attack Iran.

How do we maintain our sanity in these perilous times? By going back to basics. Bay Area writer Angeles Arrien posited four rules for life: "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don't be attached to the results." We've already shown up. For the time being, we're stuck with Trump.

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It's hard to pay attention given the constant drone of Trump outrage -- Trumpitus -- but it's essential because there are good things going on in the resistance. More and more Americans are waking up.

And more than any time I can remember, it's essential to tell the truth. About Trump. The deplorable conduct of Washington Republicans. About the problems the nation faces. Tell the truth about how hard it is to be hopeful.

And, of course, we have to resist. Every hour of every day. And like Angeles Arrien said, we can't get attached to the results. Telling the truth is hard work.

 

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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