Partisan, zealot, citizen

Many of us, living in these highly polarized, partisan times, have taken to calling everything partisan lately.  We are increasingly told that our perceptions of reality itself are entirely dependent on which tribe we belong to, this is the new mantra which equates truth with partisanship.  There are partisans, zealots and the rest of us, ordinary citizens, living our ordinary lives, hoping for the best.

What is a partisan?  [1]   Republicans marching in lock step to support a nominee for the Supreme Court even if an artificially rushed, heavily redacted sham hearing and reluctant, extremely limited last minute FBI probe (the report of which is being provided to Senate Judiciary Committee members on a top secret basis) are required to cover up the many unseemly things about the nominee, many things that many Republicans no doubt, on a personal level, find as repugnant as the majority of regular American citizens do.   Partisans are loyal, and when they vote, they vote in a block.

Republican partisans march in pretty strict lockstep, taking orders and talking points from leaders, talking points they will not deviate from.   Democrats unify to oppose the Republican march, although rarely with the same unanimity of voice that characterizes the highly disciplined Republicans.   When Republicans are in power nowadays they revile the out-voted Democrats as ‘obstructionist’ losers.    

Of course, it is the other way around when the Democratic party is in power, when Republicans shut down the government (extremist Newt Gingrich was the first to do this, to try to hamstring Clinton, more recently it was the Tea Party fighting Obama) and vow to defeat every idea of the sitting, illegitimate Democratic president.   When Democrats proposed policy, like a conservative health care plan, Republicans united in opposition at every step,  trying to repeal it dozens of times once it was law.  There is no question of the two parties working together to fix the many things in Obamacare that need to be fixed.   There is little question of all (or even any of) six female Republican senators voting against Kavanaugh after the credible testimony that he attempted rape back in high school while stumbling drunk.  They will quickly lose their jobs if they vote against their party’s pick, at least the four who represent states of solidly Republican old Dixie.

Partisans are closed minded, see only  black or white, two sides, right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair, just or unjust.  Partisans don’t see nuance, can’t hear arguments that are inconvenient, can’t smell the mess they make.  Partisans will not discuss the many things that need to be fixed, they won’t compromise to address even the most pressing problems, they stick to their guns, their talking points, no matter what.   As long as they win, they’re good.  Winning/not losing is the only thing that drives a partisan.  Discussing an issue based on facts, and policies or candidates based on the actual merits?  So twentieth century, man!

A partisan is a fighter willing to go to extremes to advance his zero sum cause.   In the current American government, many partisans also fight to keep from being killed by their own more powerful partisans for the crime of insufficient partisanship.   Partisans are often willing to do things that violate norms, rules, laws, as long as their risk advances their cause.   A true partisan will never compromise.   We have many of these motherfuckers in government today, most of them on the right, sad to say.   They have been training them for decades, with glittering rewards for loyalty.   A supremely loyal partisan is poised to be confirmed for a seat on the Supreme Court by other partisans, on a straight 51-49 vote.

Zealots [2] are uber-partisans willing to die (at least metaphorically)  before they will surrender.  They will do whatever it takes, no matter the cost.  They will strive to win no matter how undignified, how ugly the battle might make them look.   “Extremism in the defense of freedom is no vice” is an expression of zealotry that cost Barry Goldwater a lot of votes in 1964.  It made him sound like an extremist.  The trick for zealots is, no matter how extreme your beliefs might be, to never, ever appear extreme.  The Kochtopus has learned this over the years, present your ideas in an attractive way, even if it means lying about your actual ideas.   Always appear reasonable and do not publicly reveal details of your plans that will make people angry.   Call your favorite far-right think thanks things like “The Institute for Humane Studies” (Charles Koch reportedly loved this particular institute).  Couch everything in terms of unrestricted liberty, even, and especially, when proposing a form of serfdom for 90% of citizens.

Everybody else in a nation where partisans fight for control of the government is a citizen, or an immigrant.    Citizens are concerned with their neighborhood, with public services, with the habitability of the world around them.   As a general rule, citizens want fairness and decent treatment.   You would think senators and representatives, the president, the Cabinet, the justices of the Supreme Court, are also citizens, they must be, under the law.  In a narrow sense they are citizens.   In a larger sense, they are an elite that is not accountable to the needs and desires of the less powerful citizens.    

Democracy, which is supposed to be an expression of the will of its citizens, majority rule that respects and protects minority views, becomes a casualty of unprincipled partisanship.   Particularly when unlimited money to support extreme partisan politicians is thrown on to one side of the scale to decide elections, manipulate citizens.   For the first time in American history, we see beautifully produced ads extolling a Supreme Court nominee, to counter the stink of his sworn testimony, the credible charges against him.  

Of course, limiting the numbers of citizens opposed to your party who can vote is also very important — disenfranchisement of the poor has been on the upswing in recent elections.  Voter suppression has been an important goal of the Kochtopus.  A small turn out favors the right wing status quo.  Any kind of change takes millions and millions of votes to initiate.

Brett Kavanaugh is a partisan, even a zealot, who will do whatever is necessary, including appearing to be a smug, entitled jerk and publicly crying in frustration, to advance his party’s beliefs.   He started his political life, after being a law school (and lifetime) member of the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, as a Republican operative, pressing for an aggressive investigation of Bill Clinton’s sex life to find grounds to impeach him, rushing with other young Republican lawyers to stop the recount in Florida, providing legal advice on judicial appointments, torture and other classified matters to Bush and Cheney.  

He railed, immediately after he was nominated for the top court,  against a left wing claim that Bush staffed his White House with former Kenneth Starr assistants, noting that he was the only one.  Let’s take him at his word.   For our present purposes we need only look at him and the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, a partisan presidential loyalist who was also an assistant of Kenneth Starr during the long, ranging investigation of Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment for perjury about oral sex.   The FBI director had the last word, along with his boss, the president who appointed him, on the scope of the belated, rushed probe into fellow partisan Kavanaugh.   Therefore neither Kavanaugh nor his accuser Blasey Ford were contacted for follow up interviews.  Fair is fair.

Those who had any doubt that Kavanaugh is a partisan, should no longer have any after the speech he gave defending his ruined good name.  In that speech, which he pointed out he wrote himself, he ranted intemperately about a vast Left Wing Conspiracy, motivated in part by revenge for Hillary Clinton’s loss, that had spent untold millions to produce fake charges against him, at the eleventh hour of an urgently rushed confirmation process, for purely political reasons.  

Nobody who is not a partisan would have made that speech, those over the top assertions of persecution by political enemies.   It would never have occurred to most nominees to claim that the person complaining credibly against him was strictly a political plant, part of a “calculated political hit”.  He called desperate Democratic opposition to his immediate confirmation a “circus” and a “disgrace”.  Clarence Thomas used identical words as support for him plummeted from 90 votes to 52 in the days after Anita Hill’s handlers orchestrated his ‘high tech lynching for an uppity black’.    Sadly for Kavanaugh, he couldn’t use that last bit of wonderfully moving innocent victim rhetoric.

Confronted with Blasey Ford’s strong testimony, another nominee might have withdrawn their name, as Reagan-appointee Douglas Ginsberg did when confronted with proof that he smoked marijuana on occasion.  He might have tried to address the woman’s credible allegations against him, though that would have been fairly hard to do, given the apparent sincerity of the witness and her damningly credible allegations.   He might have called for a full FBI investigation, having nothing whatsoever to hide, to clear his good name.  Seems the best move for an innocent man, let them interview everyone who was supposedly there, including himself and his accuser, confirm his innocence once and for all time.  Instead he screeched like a wounded animal about a despicable partisan lynch mob coming to get him for no reason except ugly political calculation and he fought, smug-faced, against any additional delay for an investigation of any of the new charges against him.   It pleases and energizes Trump’s base to hear someone screaming indignantly, angrily blaming and vilifying others, as long as he’s a powerful white man from their tribe.

Republicans were soiling themselves over Kavanaugh’s chances for confirmation when they saw how compelling Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was.   Unlike most liars, she did not claim to know anything she didn’t remember clearly.   She was meek, and clearly frightened of the spotlight.  Her account was credible, quite specific in what she was able to recall.  She was believable and made a very sympathetic witness.   Importantly, she had nothing to gain by subjecting herself and her family to the angry reaction they faced, except that it was important to bring these ugly facts to light, for everyone’s sake.  Even the Fox news partisans were saying as much by the time she was finished testifying.   The president reportedly complained that nobody had warned him what a good witness she was.

Kavanaugh’s nomination— and this is a judge who has written that he doesn’t like the Special Counsel Statute (the one that authorizes the Mueller probe), that a president, on his own, should be able to declare laws unconstitutional, and that a sitting president should not be the subject of a criminal or civil  investigation– was in real trouble when Blasey Ford was done testifying.   She may not have given enough concrete detail to support a criminal indictment of Kavanaugh, as Rachel Mitchell concluded in her report to the Judiciary Committee Republicans she acted as mouthpiece for,  but Christine Blasey Ford gave more than enough specific detail, under oath,  to trigger a full FBI investigation.

After a long lunch break, (Grassley had called for a half hour break, which I thought at the time niggardly, they were out three times as long) Kavanaugh would have his turn to tell the truth.   Kavanaugh apparently spent the break steeling himself, and putting the finishing flourishes on the passionate, angry opening statement he wrote himself, as he stated.   At one point during the hearing, Rachel Mitchell, the female prosecutor brought on by the 11 man Republican majority on the Judiciary Committee to avoid the optics of the Anita Hill hearing, closed in on a date on Kavanaugh’s calendar, July 1, 1982, an entry with the names of others Blasey Ford had named as being present in the house, and began asking about it.   Kavanaugh seemed to begin coming unhinged as he carefully answered questions about his former drinking buddies, named in the box for that day.   When Senator Amy Klobuchar next asked him about his drinking, he became testy, surly, and finally outright rude.  He lost control of himself when he defiantly asked her if she was a black out drunk.  He then called for, and was given, a five minute break, to compose himself.

After crying it out and pulling himself together, Kavanaugh apologized to Ms. Klobuchar for his outburst and the hearing proceeded.  The outraged men of the Judiciary Committee left their mouthpiece,  Rachel Mitchell, sitting silently at her tiny desk as they hurled invective at the unprincipled partisans on the Democratic side, the ones who were making the hearings into a circus, a forum for disgraceful political grandstanding, seizing a chance to crucify a good, super-qualified, impartial judicial nominee.  The Jesuits and the nonpartisan American Bar Association would soon weigh in on the side of not confirming Kavanaugh, but that’s neither here nor there.  They have no power to do anything, so who cares?

That five minute break, and a quick on-the-fly change in Republican tactics, saved that unethical partisan motherfucker’s lifetime dream from going down in flames. His nomination, burnt toast as he called for the time out, was golden again once he came back and the other partisan bullies stuck up for him, privileged white men angrily, indignantly attacking, like the partisan hacks they are.   There is only one thing for partisans, winning.

Which is why, when he was a young, extremely conservative political operative, working for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, Kavanaugh strongly advised that under no circumstances should President Bill Clinton be permitted to take a break when they were grilling him under oath.   He knew that a guilty man will crack, no matter how smart a lawyer he is, if the pressure is not relieved.  Smart guy, Brett Kavanaugh, even if hypocritical, unethical, and fit only for partisan purposes.

David Brooks, moderate Republican smart guy, cannot admit that Kavanaugh behaved atrociously at the hearing because… partisans don’t admit shit.  It all depends, you dig, on what tribe you’re in.  Truth is tribal now.  My tribe is winning, suck it.

And God bless these United Shayyyssssh.

 

 

[1]   par·ti·san (n):  1.  a strong supporter of a party, cause, or person.                      synonyms:  supporter, follower, adherent, devotee, champion                                        2.   a member of an armed group formed to fight secretly against an occupying force, in particular one operating in enemy-occupied Yugoslavia, Italy, and parts of eastern Europe in World War II.         synonyms: guerrilla, freedom fighter” underground fighter, irregular (soldier)

partisan (adj):  prejudiced in favor of a particular cause
synonyms;  biased, prejudiced, one-sided, discriminatory, colored. partial, interested, sectarian, factional

[2]    zealot (n):  a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.     synonyms: fanatic, enthusiast, extremist, radical, young Turk, diehard, true believer, activist, militant.

 

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