Politics & Prejudices: Get a grip on political reality

I’ve never, as far as I remember, met Michael Paul Goldenberg, a mathematician, but I have noticed he is one of the most intelligent people commenting on my columns.

That doesn’t mean he always agrees with me; he doesn’t, and at times he has shown me a different way to look at things.

This is, sadly, relatively rare. Every so often I glance at the comments online readers post in response to my columns and essays in various media. (Interestingly, Metro Times readers are often more thoughtful than others.)

Sadly, however, many of the posters everywhere are ranting partisan or racist idiots of the sort you imagine work the night shift at 7-Eleven and live on a lumpy couch in their mother’s basement. Some don’t even make sense.

That’s never been true of Goldenberg. But I was shocked to find that on one big issue, he is frighteningly wrong.

Two weeks ago, in response to a column I wrote on the way in which Donald Trump’s rhetoric is frightening children, Goldenberg wrote:

“I know that I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. Nor will I even consider for a nanosecond voting for Trump. I’ll write in Bernie Sanders. I urge others to do the same … Bernie Sanders is the only candidate with a proven track record of supporting the poor, minorities, the LGBTQ community, women, etc. He’s earned the support of every progressive … I’m voting for the best candidate for POTUS to run in my lifetime. And I apologize to no one for doing so.”

Frankly, I don’t disagree in the slightest with him about Sanders. I would have been too young to vote for Bobby Kennedy, but he was indeed the only other man to speak truth so effectively to power.

Bernie did in fact have to deal with a Democratic Party apparatus that tried clumsily to stack the deck against him. I voted enthusiastically for him in March, and was ecstatic when he won an upset victory over Clinton in Michigan.

I have deep concerns about a Hillary Clinton presidency which aren’t the bullshit ones the Republicans are trumpeting.

But the bottom line is this: Donald Trump is a threat to democracy in America like none we’ve ever before seen.

We worried ­— rightly — as to whether people like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush would respect the Constitution.

In our youth, we feared Richard Nixon might pull some kind of coup to stay in power to avoid being removed from office. (He didn’t; even ol’ Tricky Dick quietly resigned.)

But Donald Trump is the first candidate in major party history to make it clear he doesn’t give a shit about the Constitution, the rule of law, or the separation of powers.

He really doesn’t believe in anything at all, except in himself. You don’t have to take liberals’ word for it.

In the lengthy, front-page story June 4, The New York Times demonstrated that “many conservative and libertarian legal scholars warn that electing Mr. Trump is a recipe for a Constitutional crisis.” That’s been clear for months.
Trump has acted more like some of the South American candidates for elected dictator I saw in the 1980s than a candidate for president of our country.
As the Times story notes, he “has already said he would ‘loosen’ libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations. He has threatened to sic federal regulators on his critics. He has encouraged rough treatment of demonstrators.”

Demonstrators against him, that is. Trump himself has demonstrated that he doesn’t really have the faintest idea how any branch of government works, indicating at one point that he thought Supreme Court justices signed bills.
He not only doesn’t have the faintest clue about separation of powers, he appears to think he should have all the power. Disgracefully, most of the Republicans Trump savagely insulted on the way to the nomination have come crawling back to endorse him.

One of those, U.S. Sen. John McCain, indicated that he thought that “the institutions of government” would be able to “restrain” Trump if he tries to run amok.

“We’re not Romania,” said McCain — who Trump once sneered was not a war hero despite undergoing seven years of torture because McCain had been captured, not killed.

Forget, for a moment, the absurdity of a man of McCain’s stature endorsing someone because he thought the system could “restrain him.” We’re not buying a pit bull here.

The real problem is that we are indeed not Romania. We have a worldwide military and a nuclear arsenal that stands ready to respond to a presidential command.

Hillary Clinton, love her or hate her, understands the rule of law. My main concerns about her are not what Sanders called “her damn emails,” which appear to be administrative sloppiness of a kind practiced by virtually everyone.

What happened at Benghazi was that a young ambassador was brutally slain in a dangerous country, something that has happened every decade or so under presidents and secretaries of state of both parties.

What worries me about Clinton is that she is enamored of the military, and might well show her “toughness” by bogging us down in more wars. She is no more progressive than “moderate” Republicans were a generation ago, and there is absolutely no sign she will do anything meaningful in terms of reversing the dangerous and steadily growing economic inequality in this nation, unless Bernie keeps pushing her.

Finally — the primaries are over, and she won, fairly, thanks largely to minority votes. Young people had no use for her, and neither did most white progressives, and she better worry about that. But she won the most popular votes.

Bernie Sanders should keep his movement together to help elect Clinton and then pressure her to do what’s right.

Casting a protest vote that causes the election of someone who might literally destroy our form of government is irresponsible, illogical, and immoral.
Remember how things worked out when Ralph Nader threw the election to George W. Bush? With Trump, it could be much, much worse.

Final thoughts on Muhammad Ali

There’s very little I can add to the volumes that have been said about the champ, except perhaps this: For more than half a century, sports historians have praised Boston Red Sox hitter Ted Williams for gallantly giving up years of Major League Baseball to serve his country in two wars, years that lessened his overall statistics.

Ali did something much harder. He refused to be drafted during the Vietnam War, saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong … they never called me nigger. My conscience won’t let me shoot some poor hungry people in the mud.”

Williams was lionized; Ali was stripped of his title, vilified, convicted of draft evasion, and called a traitor. This undoubtedly cost him millions. Had he accepted his draft, he probably would never have gone near a rice paddy; he would have spent his time fighting exhibition matches to raise troop morale.
Eventually, Ali’s conviction was overturned, his boxing license restored, and he regained his title. Most of America would eventually see that he had been right about Vietnam.

The month before the champ died, a black president of the United States went to Vietnam to finish normalizing relations and show the world that none of us had any more quarrels with them Viet Cong, either. I hope Ali knew about that.
And I am glad that today, a black man no longer has to endure being punched in the head an estimated 29,000 times to be recognized as No. 1.
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