Partisanship Poison in the United States

While the election of Donald Trump to the presidency certainly surprised almost everyone on the planet, it is unlikely that anyone was prepared for the circus ushered in by his administration. Partisanship had reached toxic levels before, but today it threatens the very fabric of the nation’s pseudo-democracy.

Let’s look at a few facts.

+ The Mueller report neither accused, nor exonerated, Trump, but rather said that there were several possible instances of obstruction of justice, and (foolishly) left them for Congress to deal with.

+ The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for his refusal to turn over the complete, unredacted Mueller report to Congress.

+ Democrats, in control of the House of Representatives, are anxious to discredit Trump in any way possible. The Republicans, controlling the Senate, want to protect him.

Where, in any of this, is statesmanship? Where is the good of the nation? One might think that, if Trump did nothing to obstruct justice, the Republicans would be best served by allowing Congress to see the entire report. Wouldn’t that exonerate him?

Well, perhaps not. But is the exoneration of the president the ultimate goal? Shouldn’t justice, the rule of law, the limits of power, the checks and balances that are supposed to exist between the different branches of government be respected?

Trump invoked ‘executive privilege’ over the report; Democrats plan to take the matter to court. Sarah Sanders, who has, apparently, lost all ability to discern reality from fantasy, accused the House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of committing a ‘blatant abuse of power’.

And all this is only the latest salvo in a battle between the Republicans and the Democrats, in which the only losers will be the U.S. population. Trump seems to have an irrational hatred of all things Obama, and has tried, with some success, to undo his legacy (such as it is). He has fought tooth and nail to have the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) overturned, which would result in over 20,000,000 people losing healthcare coverage; a huge number of them are his own supporters. Republicans in Congress, by and large, support these efforts.

Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement signed by Obama, and endorsed by the U.S. senate and the United Nations, that limited Iran’s nuclear program. It was said to have been a major step in easing tensions in the Middle East. The only country that supported the U.S. withdrawal is the same one whose leader spoke to Congress before the vote to endorse it in 2015, and urged Congress to defeat it: Israel. Despite Trump’s own advisors, the other signatories to the JCPOA, and all of the international community except Israel urging him to maintain the agreement, he withdrew. Republicans in Congress supported him.

Trump and his Congressional and Cabinet cohorts are forever saying that Iran is a major sponsor of terrorism, ignoring, apparently, the U.S. bombing of multiple countries in the Middle East, support for terrorist groups in Syria, the financing of Israel’s ongoing repression and genocide of the Palestinians, and Saudi Arabia’s slaughter of the Yemenis. What has Iran done? It has supported its ally, Syria, against foreign terrorists.

The U.S. is using sanctions against both Iran and Venezuela, not being able to countenance a system of government, selected by the people, that doesn’t follow the U.S. capitalist model and provide to the U.S. all the natural resources that it wants. On May 8, Idriss Jazairy, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of sanctions, said that “… the use of economic sanctions for political purposes violates human rights and international law.” He singled out the U.S. and its sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, specifically.

Are any Republicans (or Democrats, for that matter), criticizing the president? Certainly, some Democrats have condemned the U.S. violation of the JCPOA, but nary a Republican objection has been heard. Should not the advice of so many close advisors (all of whom have since been unceremoniously ushered out the White House door, replaced by madmen), close allies, the other signatories, the global community and the United Nations count for something? Shouldn’t their opinions be taken into consideration? If the lunatic at the White House helm won’t listen to them, should not the Republican-led Senate act? No, apparently, that is too much to expect. A Republican is in the White House, so whatever he does is acceptable.

One hastens to stress that this writer does not believe things would be so different if the parties were reversed. If the nation had elected a Democratic-Party madman (or madwoman; remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote), he is sure that Democrats within Congress would be supporting all of his or her outrageous decisions. For example, we all know that when a Republican president bombs some innocent nation, with complete support of Republicans in Congress, the Democratic opposition rises up in righteous anger to condemn such slaughter. But when a Democratic president bombs some innocent nation, there is always, in the Democratic-Party mind, some excellent reason for killing all those people, while Republicans condemn the bombing as an atrocity.

Can someone point out a few things to Congress?

+ University students and graduates are drowning in student debt.

+ Public education has become a farce. Schools in inner cities lack basic provisions; some in norther states, where winters can be severe, don’t even have heat during those cold months.

+ The U.S. has the highest prison population per capita in the world.

+ Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have potable water.

+ Opioid use is at epidemic proportions.

+ Unarmed young men of African descent are routinely gunned down by white police officers with nearly complete impunity.

Unfortunately, none of these issues allows the grandstanding that elected officials on both sides of the aisle are so fond of. Demanding heat in public schools doesn’t allow a senator or Congress person to declare that the very foundations of the republic are crumbling. Insisting that, perhaps, some of the $4 billion in U.S. tax dollars that are sent to apartheid Israel every year be diverted to Flint will not cause headlines. Allocating money (again, this writer suggests it be taken from what’s given to Israel) to study and alleviate the opioid epidemic will not cause reporters from all the major networks to come rushing for some pithy quotation. Each would, of course, assist the people these august officials were elected to help, but does anyone really remember that that’s why they are there? Methinks not.

So here we are. More public spectacles, more obscure officials getting their fifteen minutes of fame, more bombastic tweets from the unhinged president, while the country moves, like lemmings, towards disaster. One can almost hear Nero playing his violin as the smell of smoke grows stronger.

How the next chapter in the ugly and violent history of the United States will be written remains to be seen. But from all indications, it will not have a happy ending.

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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