In Trump’s Shadow

Shadow

Trump is at his Bedminster, N.J., property on a “working” vacation while the White House undergoes some needed renovation.

Meanwhile, the decay in the Republican Party grows more visible as its fissures and crumbling façade splash across the news every day. As I wrote last week in Countdown To Extinction, Trump is the Elephant Gun that may well bring down the GOP. Republicans are now agreeing with Bill James, saying that Trump “invaded and took over the party.” What could the GOP possibly have done?

At the same time, Republicans in Congress are beginning to assert some independence such as the bill to reign in Trump’s ability to fire Bob Mueller. Even the chief architect of alternative facts, Kellyanne Conway, had to admit Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans, conservatives and Trump voters is down.

Now the NY Times is reporting that Republicans are looking ahead at the 2020 Presidential Election.

“President Trump’s first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved.

“The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term.

“But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency — the intensifying investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the plain uncertainty about what Mr. Trump will do in the next week, let alone in the next election — have prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration.”

The whole article is worth a look, and while you’re reading about the shadow campaign, enjoy a Shadow Dreaming cocktail. After all, amidst a deteriorating GOP, for these shadow candidates, Dreaming is Free.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Shadow Dreaming cocktail is:

2 oz Bourbon

.5 oz Carpano Antica Forumla sweet vermouth

.25 oz Zucca

.25 oz Demerara Rum 151

1 dash aromatic bitters (I used Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitters)

5 drops Bitterman’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters (as a float)

Build All except Mole Bitters in a mixing glass, stir until diluted, strain into a chilled, stemmed glass, and garnish with 5 drops Mole Bitters.

Cheers!

Countdown to Extinction

El Gun

The past week has been the worst week for Republicans since the election of Donald Trump. The amount of GOP infighting, whether between the White House and Congress, within the White House, or within the Senate, is clear evidence party discord is boiling over.

The dysfunction and chaos of the Trump administration, combined with Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate, has rapidly metastasized a cancer that has been growing in the GOP for decades. Whether this cancer turns out to be terminal is not yet clear, but many Republicans are certainly growing concerned.

His Royal Orangeness was faced with more defiance from his own party in the past several days than he has seen since the most contested point of the Primaries. From Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump would like to get rid of because he has recused himself from the Russia investigation but won’t resign (and was sent to El Salvador as potential target practice for the MS-13 gang); to Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski’s refusal to give in to attempted mafia intimidation from Trump capos; to the refusal of military leaders to take orders via tweet when it comes to personnel matters; Cheeto Mussolini has had a lot of middle fingers raised in his direction.

New revelations on the Russia story and dismissal of the Mooch notwithstanding, the biggest event in a week full of major news stories was the Senate healthcare vote. Arizona Senator John McCain joined with Murkowski, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and all Senate Democrats to spectacularly put an end to the current round of attempts to kill Obamacare revealing fissures within the GOP.

That the healthcare vote even got that close to passage is an example of how far from the norms of governing the Republicans have gotten. This wasn’t about policy, it was about making a point (and perhaps giving donors a tax cut). The proposals were crafted in secret, outside of regular procedure, and what was known was immensely unpopular. Republican voters were not in favor of the proposals, and neither were many elected Republicans outside of Washington, D.C.

Being this far out of line from normal governing process was easier for Republicans when they could simply throw bombs without being in power, staging meaningless votes they knew would not become law.

The GOP now, however, controls the government. They cannot hide behind symbolic votes. Snarky comments that put the libtards in their place are no substitute for policy. They are learning (or not) that slogans are not ideas. Now they risk alienating their electoral support, both from their base and from swing voters. They definitely fear that their inability to fulfill the “repeal and replace” slogan will cost them with the base, while those swing voters more interested in effective governance than slogans have no reason to back them (and a growing number of reasons to oppose them).

Power for Republicans was gained by structural advantages, such as gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts, not through the strength of their ideas/slogans. A look at how vote tallies for President and Congress have come out points to this structural advantage. Clinton got 3 million more votes than Trump while Congressional voting saw the GOP get 50% of the vote but 55% of the seats last year.

However, the disaster of Trump combined with GOP toxicity and recent court rulings on gerrymandering and vote suppression could hold the potential to negate those structural advantages.

Although today’s incarnation of the Republican Party (not Teddy Roosevelt’s) stands in opposition to most conservation and environmental concerns, it may soon find itself on the Endangered Species list. From now until the midterm elections, the Republican soundtrack should be Megadeth’s album “Countdown to Extinction.” The track list is their Symphony of Destruction.

Republicans have been focused on an unsustainably shrinking portion of the population for some years. But instead of death by demographics, Trump may be the weapon that brings down the GOP. While pondering this extinction level event, best to have an Elephant Gun cocktail.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Elephant Gun is a simple, but tasty drink:

2 oz Demerara Rum (recipe calls for El Dorado 15, I used the 12 year old)

2 dashes Bitterman’s Xocolatl Bitters

1 rinse Creme de Cacao

Stir the rum and bitters over ice, strain into the Creme de Cacao rinsed glass over a rock.

Cheers!

Never Forget

Elephants

Memorial Day weekend is here, signifying the unofficial start of summer. Amidst the barbecues and ball games, many people will take time to recognize the real reason for the day off work; a time of remembrance for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our liberty.

It was 149 years ago the day, then called Decoration Day, was officially recognized, formalizing a tradition that began almost immediately after the Civil War. It was designated as May 30, as it was not the anniversary of any specific battle. After World War I, like they did across Europe, poppies became a symbol of the day of remembrance, a reference to the poem “In Flanders Fields.” In 1971, Decoration Day became Memorial Day, and in 2000 a National Moment of Remembrance was designated for 3 p.m.

Although it grew from the division of the Civil War, Memorial Day has united Americans for generations. But today our divisions are again at a heightened level. For that first “Memorial Day,” the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, General John Logan, issued an order that read in part:

“We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, ‘of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.’ What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds.”

Unfortunately, two weeks ago, the would-be heirs to that rebellion took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with torches (OK, Wal-Mart tiki torches, but still) to protest the removal of monuments to the treason that ended 150 years ago while chanting “Russia is our friend.” (In perhaps the speech of the year, New Orleans Mayor Landrieau spoke of the need to remove those Confederate monuments.)

The chant, of course, was meant as a show of support for President Trump who is facing growing investigations into whether his campaign worked with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. Much has happened since those chants, but it was quite clear then that — with or without Trump collusion — the Russians had attacked us and our electoral process through at least some role in hacking the DNC and through a coordinated disinformation campaign using social media.

Since then, and particularly in the past week, there have been many new troubling revelations. Most damning was The Washington Post story that Trump son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner had tried to set up a secret communication channel with the Russians in a way designed to evade U.S. intelligence during the transition.

Also in The Washington Post, columnist Jennifer Rubin outlines the past week and the rot at the core of Trump and Congressional Republicans.

“Conventional wisdom says that Trump executed a hostile takeover of the GOP. What we have seen this week suggests a friendly merger has taken place. Talk radio hosts have been spouting misogyny and anti-immigrant hysteria for years; Trump is their ideal leader, not merely a flawed vehicle for their views. Fox News has been dabbling in conspiracy theories (e.g. birtherism, climate-change denial) for decades; now Republicans practice intellectual nihilism. Nearly every point of criticism raised against the left — softness on foreign aggressors, irresponsible budgeting, identity politics, executive overreach, contempt for the rule of law, infantilizing voters — has become a defining feature of the right.”

Even today, the Post reported the Trump family ostensibly outside of government is working with GOP leaders to discuss strategy.

The dysfunction all of this this has caused in our government is beyond what Vladimir Putin could have asked for. It was one thing to see a weakening of NATO, a Russian aim for more than half a century, but the utter chaos in Washington today is paying dividends we may not fully understand for years.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have much more to learn to know whether the Trump campaign actively worked with Russia and whether there are traitors in the White House. This could be a continuation of Russian disinformation. What is troubling, however, is the way Republicans, particularly in Congress, seem more concerned about power than getting to the bottom of Russian interference in our elections.

Perhaps it should not be surprising from a party that has worked for years to suppress the vote of anyone who might be considered an opponent. As we saw again this past week when the Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s racially Gerrymandered districts.

In The Washington Monthly, John Stoehr wrote that Mitch McConnell and Vladimir Putin want the same thing. He said that the GOP will have to be held accountable:

“Trump’s sins are their sins. If he is Putin’s useful idiot, it stands to reason that so are the Republicans.

And they can start by leaning on Mitch McConnell. Former CIA Director John Brennan told a Senate panel Tuesday that: ‘I was aware of intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in Trump campaign.’ Under testimony, he told lawmakers that he informed leading Senators from both parties about what was happening. From that discussion, according to a December Washington Post story, the Obama administration hoped to present a bipartisan united front against Russian interference. But McConnell said no.

The Post reported that: ‘He would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.’ McConnell’s decision was partisan politics. And the Russians were made part of the Republican Party.

Quite literally, Putin’s priorities were the Republicans’.”

There are some Republicans concerned about the direction of the party under Trump. Joe Scarborough, for example, called Trump’s NATO speech a “love letter to Putin” and went on a rant Friday about how the GOP has lost its way.

This weekend, as we take time to remember those that put our country above everything else to secure our freedoms, we hope that the leaders of the GOP put country over party to defend the U.S. against foreign aggression.

We must never forget the sacrifices made on our behalf, but tonight I am drinking an Elephants Sometimes Forget cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktail, it is:

1 oz gin

.75 Cherry Heering

.75 lemon juice

.25 dry vermouth

1 dash orange bitters

Shake, strain into a cocktail glass straight up.

Cheers!