Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Category: Politics (Page 2 of 5)

Past Tense, Future Tenser

The day finally arrived, the day that Revolted Colonies was no longer past tense or future conditional.  It’s all right out there in the open.  The column has been quiet over this long, horrible weekend of the Charlottesville demonstration, riot and murder. So many people weighed in and so many people had meaningful things to say.  Not a time for levity, so no new posts.  Until today.

The future ex-President stalked his golf club away from home all weekend, equivocating on his position about the debacle. Initially, he blamed “many sides,” although he did name check Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, part of the larger White Supremacist cohort.  As the weekend wore on, he backed away from his “equal blame” position, faulting the protesters who started the demonstration.  On Tuesday, during a press conference at Trump Tower on the subject of infrastructure, he was Donald Unleashed.  Livid with rage, he walked back his walk-back.  Asked why he waited so long to speak out about Charlottesville, he delivered a seemingly impromptu restatement of the events through his unique filter. A transcript of the complete conference has been published in many places, including the dreaded New York Times.

If the words were impromptu, the thought behind them was the product of his upbringing.  He may not be the Ku Klux Klan member his father Fred was and he may not be a card-carrying member of any White Supremacist organization, but he courted their support and found a narrow path to the White House against an unpopular opponent.  Now he articulates Alt-Reich views from the Rose Garden. 

Trump is succeeding where Charles Manson failed: he’s inciting a race war.  That’s scary enough, but even worse is the fact that while the media are pouncing on every outrageous statement he makes, his team is at work, lining up new voter suppression tactics and defunding the census.  The Republican party is determined to hold on to power even though its tactics repudiate the concept of one person-one vote and the right of equality under the law.

Maverick: The Legend of John McCain

  John McCain is the most unusual political character of our time, President company excluded. He has been a conscientious conservative, a rank-and-file Republican, an across-the-aisle kind of bipartisan, and a zombie presidential candidate. McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, withstanding five horrendous years in captivity. He is a genuine hero and an American legend.   This week, after receiving the awful news that he has a fatal brain tumor, he boarded a plane and returned to Washington, D.C., to play assassin to the Republicans’ calamitous effort to unravel the Affordable Care Act. McCain again played the hero in preventing his beloved Senate from shooting itself in the head.  

 McCain is one of the few big-name politicians who keeps things interesting by keeping us on our toes. His willingness to buck party leadership earned him the nickname, “Maverick,” a sobriquet he embraced.  His political story will be an interesting one to tell. Unquestionably, he is a hawk and a fiscal conservative. He also believes in  tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others.  Nevertheless, he caucuses with many politicians who do not.  One of his signature moments occurred in the late days of his unsuccessful 2008 Presidential campaign.  When an ignoramus called Obama an Arab during a town hall event, McCain quickly reclaimed the microphone and extolled his opponent’s decency.  Yet this is the same man who put an obviously unqualified Sarah Palin on his ticket – one long, lingering look from the Bering Strait and  a single heartbeat from the Presidency.  McCain is the person responsible for letting loose the hounds of nativist amateurism on Presidential politics.

After losing the 2008 race and despite his civility toward Candidate Obama, McCain became a constant critic of the President.  In 2012, McCain won a tough race for a sixth term in the Senate, He made the repeal and replacement of Obamacare a prominent plank in his platform.

McCain is the son of a soldiering family, one of whose members fought alongside George Washington.   An Annapolis graduate, he served as a navy pilot in Vietnam.  After his plane was shot down, he was a long-term guest at the Hanoi Hilton, As a high value POW, he had a chance to be released, but he wouldn’t trade on the status  of his Admiral father. He refused preferential treatment.  After five years of physical and mental torture, solitary confinement and abuse that eventually broke him, he was released in 1973. This is the man belittled by Candidate Trump, who prefers his heroes not to be captured.  

McCain held his water, though.  He would never have been a Trump supporter in any normal time but the 2016  election was anything but normal. He threw his support beyond the military school brat who kicked dirt on his reputation, while the only thing to capture the Hypocrite-in-Chief was an Access Hollywood microphone.  

Two weeks ago, McCain flew home to Arizona to have eye surgery, during which it was discovered that he has an inoperable brain tumor, the same type of cancer that killed Ted Kennedy.  The Senate faced the threshold vote on its healthcare bill, a bill so bad it was kept out of sight for as long as possible.  With two certain GOP defections (Collins, Murkowski), an absence by McCain would have doomed the opening gambit, called a motion to proceed.  Earlier this week, McCain returned to the Capitol, struggling physically but resolute to attend the roll call.  McCain joined his party’s vote, ensuring that debate on a bill would take place.  However, Majority Leader McConnell struggled to find common ground between his party’s conservative and alt-right factions.  Two proposals failed to garner enough votes.  On Thursday night, he called for a vote on the so-called skinny repeal, a rollback of Obamacare so marginal that it was only a placeholder to get into a conference with the House over its own odious bill.

When called to vote on the skinny repeal – no replacement, McCain voted no.  He remained consistent with his position that the law was insufficient because it failed to repeal and replace.  But the no vote gave the Maverick the added pleasure of driving  a retaliatory ice pick into the neck of the future ex-president. Trump’s plan to repeal healthcare died with McCain’s vote. He trumped the President at his own game of political theater. To say the President was enraged doesn’t begin to tell the story. The White House Chief of Staff was found the following day floating in the Potomac.

 McCain issued a statement explaining his position.

While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens.

McCain hasn’t talked about whether he drew any personal satisfaction from defeating one of the cornerstones of the Trump agenda.  But he exhibited the kind of grit that his hosts at the Hanoi Hilton would recognize.

Trading With The Frenemy

Rosenberg

Time was, colluding with Russia could get you killed; back when Russia was the USSR, our WWII ally, and the collusion was turning over an amateurish drawing of an atom bomb trigger. A drawing so bad that it was useless to the Soviets. So bad that it made my elementary school art look like masterworks  But it was enough to get Julius Rosenberg electrocuted. 

How things have changed. Three members of Future Ex-President Donald Trump’s campaign had an exchange by email and meetings with Russian diplomats and proxies. The stated purpose was to offer Russian assistance to beat Hillary Clinton.  Bring it on, the Trumpistas said, meeting up at Trump Tower right under Trump’s nose with an emissary from Putin, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.  

We don’t yet know the precise outcome of the meeting. We do know that the “dangle” offered by Russia was Russian help to attack Hillary Clinton with dirt dug up by Russia’s intelligence. We all know what happened eventually.  Russia carried out its cyber attack on Clinton and the Democrats to benefit Trump.  The only thing we don’t know is the price paid to the Russians for the boost.  My guess is that it’s a bit more valuable than a lousy drawing. It’s also my guess that none of the Trump operatives will ever see the inside of a jail cell. 

Let me say it before you do – How stupid can I be to compare a little political gamesmanship with giving away atomic secrets?  So let’s break it down. The Soviets were our ally when Rosenberg was an atomic spymaster.   By 1950 it was our existential Cold War enemy. McCarthyism was at its peak. Bad timing for the Rosenbergs. There’s no excuse for his espionage but nobody but the Rosenbergs were executed for acts taken in peacetime. 

Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort’s actions crossed the same line. Even if they, like Julius Rosenberg, thought the Russians were friends, not enemies, at the least they were so reckless and craven to consider undermining our Presidential election, by dealing with a foreign power. Maybe Junior is too stupid to know better. Kushner and Manafort knew better.  Kushner’s repeated falsifications on his security clearance declarations show his guilty knowledge. 

If you think that comparing Rosenberg and the Trump syndicate is a false equivalence, you’re misjudging how destructive it is to let Russia hijack the integrity of our elections and how dangerous it is for Trump’s son and son-in-law to open themselves to potential blackmail. It’s as destructive as the A-bomb to the survival of the American republic. 

Breathlessly Awaiting Comey’s Final Chapter

For those of you whose TV viewing will not be disrupted by work today, you will now be treated to a preview of the Soap Opera cum Congressional Hearing known as the Comey Memos.  For former FBI Director James Comey, a pillar of rectitude, a man of unshakable integrity, it’s surprising that his memos read a little like a Harlequin romance.  

Comey writes breathlessly of the first time he met the man he would one day call “President.”

During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

He gushed about how the President-Elect was like no one he had ever met before.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past.

This hardened professional, a survivor of the George Bush administration, who stood up to Alberto Gonzalez, Bush’s personal attorney, who was trying to compromise bedridden Attorney General John Ashcroft, felt his knees buckle when he realized that the President was trying to get him alone.

He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time… It turned out to be just the two of us….seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The besotted Director felt powerless, having been cast under the spell of Don Giovanni Trump. Nevertheless, he resisted. Oh, how he resisted the enticements of his pursuer!

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.

 Comey is not like all the rest. He is the product of a strong and supportive home, a disciplined and religious background. He would not cave in like Trump’s earlier prizes. He’s the kind of guy who always keeps at least one foot on the floor.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word….

Trump pressed Comey. 

The President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.

Later, Trump again pressed Comey.

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.”

Normally, at this point, Comey might have stifled a sob or felt a clutching in his throat. 

It is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further.

Instead, he departed, his virtue intact. He retreated to his car, and before driving off, he wrote the entire discussion down, word for word, so as not to lose a single innuendo to the mercy of faulty memory.  Returning to his office, he logged his recollections in and then told his BFFs  about his trying evening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Comey decided that he could never let himself to be left alone with the President.  Yet weeks later he found himself face-to-face with his tempter in the Oval Office, the President having excused all the other meeting participants. Trump moved in, invading Comey’s personal space. He asked Comey if he could see his way clear to let it go – the “Flynn” thing.  

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

“He’s a good guy,” said Trump.

Comey pulled himself up to his full 6’8″ height, put on his stern face and, mildly nauseous, vomited a little in his mouth. After this meeting, Comey would not face Trump again. The President would not relent. He called, beseeching him to lift the cloud of inquiry over his head, to tell the world that he Donald John Trump, was not being investigated. Comey was wracked, pulled in opposite directions by honesty and loyalty.  He could not say anything because he thought it was possible that he would have to retract it.

In a final phone call,  suitor became tormentor.   Trump asked Comey why did he testify before Congress the week before that there was an open investigation, and why didn’t Comey say Trump was not under investigation.  Then Trump added:

“Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

 Less than a week later, while meeting with federal agents in  Los Angeles, Comey heard that he’d been fired, but he did not believe it until he saw the TV news news crawl.  A great deal of confusion ensured about who prompted the firing and the reasons for it. It was Trump, all along, who jilted his FBI director.

Today,  James Comey will come before Congress to tell the rest of his tragic tale. If you decide to watch have a box of Kleenex at the ready.

  © Revolted Colonies 2017

Hacking the 2020 Census

The Trump administration, running the executive branch like a three-card monte game, is trying to pull another fast one. Its next step in replacing majority-ruled government with a permanent, authoritarian plutocracy was unveiled yesterday. As we all chuffed over firing of FBI director James Comey, we were distracted from the resignation of John Thompson, Director of the Bureau of Census, over Congressional refusal to fund the 2020 Census adequately.

The seeds of 2020 electoral manipulation are being sown at the Department of Commerce. John Thompson had been with the Bureau since 1975. He tendered his resignation on May 10, ahead of his plan to retire at year-end. “Your experience will be greatly missed,” wrote Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as he booted Thompson out the door with his size 9 brogan. Or as the late songwriter Dan Hicks put it, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” So it is with Thompson. Ross gladly will miss Thompson’s knowledge of the logistics of obtaining an accurate census.

By Constitutional mandate the census is taken every decade, and the numbers are used to determine the number of districts in each state. In turn, the number of districts determines the state’s number of electors. The number of electors in each state is equal to the congressional delegation, which is the number of representatives in the House and Senate combined. The seats in Congress are reapportioned based on the census. Then each state legislature hacks itself into districts to match the number allocated by the census. This is where gerrymandering comes into play. Eldridge Gerry, a founder, became famous for reshaping the districts of Massachusetts in 1810 to maintain dominance of his party. One district took the shape of a salamander. Hence, the term, gerrymandering,” representing the manipulation of a district’s shape to affect the political outcome.

If the underlying principle of democracy is “one person, one vote,” then getting the number of persons correct is a paramount concern. Yet, John Thompson was struggling with Congress to get more funding from Congress to modernize the data collection process.

The Republican-controlled Congress saw no reason to upgrade the data collection system if it would cost more than the 2010 collection. That’s where they drew the monetary line, even though the new electronic data collection system was proposed as the investment in long-term cost-cutting measures. Congress was happy with the 2010 results, and it saw no reason to ramp up the system. Hacking the census is another means of keeping American leadership in the hands of old, conservative white men. Some of the House members have requests in to use the old-style printouts to make Snoopy pictures for their kids.

Voter suppression takes many forms, and misreporting of the census is fundamental. Errors in the raw numbers skew the apportionment of representatives so that it is effectively beyond the reach of legal action. In other words, counting heads is a political function. If we get that wrong, the error taints all that follows.

Most of the alleged anti-voting fraud laws enacted in the last few years have been overturned. Still, Congress repealed a vital part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In addition, many state legislatures have shown the inclination to suppress voting claiming fraud as a pretext. The party in power in a state with a growing non-establishment population base has an incentive to minimize its impact on voting. The less reliable and transparent the counting system, the greater the possibility for mischief. No doubt, the Congressional majority would be happy with a back-of-the-envelope tally. So what if a couple of people – or neighborhoods or – cities are under-reported?

© 2017 Revolted Colonies

What a Difference a Day Makes?

Hillary Clinton sat with Christine Amanpour of CNN recently for a lengthy interview about the campaign. In advance of her book about the 2016 election due out this fall, Clinton took responsibility for a flawed campaign. However, she insisted  that the statement made by James Comey, FBI director, on October 28, 2016, effectively turned the election against her.  Comey announced that the FBI capture of a trove of Clinton email from her aide’s laptop  would cause an extension of the investigation. 

The year 2016 may be mentioned along with  years  when the political culture of the world shifted almost in a chain reaction. It may be a year that symbolizes an epoch. Brexit, the ascendancy of Trump, and the as yet unknown fate of the French presidency are keynotes in what shapes up as a turn toward authoritarianism. With that overview, it is awfully hard to say that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign foundered on a single day, even one so freighted with significance.

According to most reliable  polling experts she was ahead in the two weeks before the election. James Comey’s announcement of an ongoing investigation of her email disrupted the beltway and made headlines running straight up to Election Day. Clinton has good reason to think that the announcement changed minds, but whose and how many? 

It’s not clear though that Comey’s announcement changed enough minds to alter the election result. She also blames Russian intrigue but its reach and effect are still being measured. In any case, the race was close, too close to call decisively especially as voting began.  There were many other reasons why votes might have slipped away from the clearly more qualified candidate.

The authors of Shattered, a history of the 2016 Clinton campaign, argue that dysfunction in the campaign itself, caused in part by the candidate, doomed the enterprise. They nevertheless suggest many other reasons, beyond the campaign’s control, why Hillary Clinton’s fate was sealed. This election will employ historians for generations, assuming of course that History is not repealed by Executive Order.

Give a Leak, Take a Leak: Welcome to Washington

Leaks

 

Leaks come from disgruntled career bureaucrats, or disgruntled  former security contractors and  internet provocateurs, or candidates floating trial balloons,  or political opponents with scores to settle. And now that war has gone digital, leaks can be a military offensive.

 Take a leak like the outing of bad boy Mike Flynn. His past successes  taught him to ignore the rules. For example, when he was in charge of routing ISIS, he decided to leak  US intelligence to Pakistan about Pakistan. Just to show those bastards we know where they live. Well of course we do; we have GPS. It was a blatant violation disclosing classified information. But he got away with it. 

Now the tables have been turned.   His back channel bromance with Russian ambassador Kislyak became front page news. So did his lying to Mike Pence about their sanctions pillow talk. Out came the secret, and down went Flynn.  The source of the leak is a mystery still. Like one of those English mystery stories where the stiff had so many enemies, lots of suspects had opportunity and motive.

 So who are the suspects in this one? The intelligence community for sure. Just yesterday, they said they’re going to withhold information from the President because they don’t trust him. Imagine that. They don’t trust Him with their information because they think he’ll give it to America’s enemies. You don’t need Julius Rosenberg if you’ve got Donald Trump.

A lot of media outlets are pissed off at this administration too. They’ve all been thrown out of the press conferences except for Breitbart and Golf Courses of the World. Not that it matters.  Nothing really is being said at press conference these days that isn’t contradicted  by somebody else in the administration five minutes before or after.  

 If I had to guess, though, I would say it’s some career government employee, stashed in one of the intelligence agencies,  who got so pissed off that he ended up blowing the whistle. Kind of like Milton in the movie, “Office Space.” You just don’t screw around with a guy’s stapler.

 Deep Throat, America’s most famous leaker, is gone, but his advice still rings true: follow the money. It’s a little more challenging though when we have to convert from dollars to rubles.

Leaks are political safety valves and have a purpose; a fact of nature, like gas escaping a Swamp.

© 2017 The Revolted Colonies ™

 

A Wall? Maybe a Fence…

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All Bricked Up

If Humpty Dumpty tumbles off Donald Trump’s wall, he may not have much of a fall. The President-elect has diminished the scale of the wall he pledged to build along our border with Mexico. There will be some portions of wall, but also some stretches of fence.  When fences won’t work, maybe he’ll try a few traffic cones. Or a crossing guard. Trump has reminded us quite early that his promises and proposals were only suggestions.  He is walking back his first and most famous promise –  the Great Wall of Arizona. Trump left his Friday meeting with President Obama looking ashen, his florid orange cast turned a washed-out gray. His shoulders are slumping from their usual military school bearing.  The Oval Office surely aged him, and he does not occupy it yet. 

Modest Proposals

Trump readily admits now that he boasted many outrageous plans in his campaign solely to get elected. He didn’t plan to undertake many of the things he proposed or even to win, for that matter.  He was surprised to escape the gravitational force of  the primaries and planned to throw his support to Chris Christie. At the time of the convention, his son approached John Kasich to offer him effective control of the government in a Trump-Kasich administration.  Trump fancied himself in more of a ceremonial role, like a Greeter at a Trump Casino.

A Tired Tycoon

The realities of the toughest job in the world have quickly borne down on him.  The robust 70 year-old globetrotter has looked distinctly low energy. Asked about Obamacare after leaving his Oval Office meeting, he observed that some parts of the health plan were worth keeping, Trump-speak for pieces that cannot be removed without catastrophic impact. You can’t reinstate the pre-existing condition exclusion without replacing the coverage because no insurance carrier will carry those high-risk cases voluntarily — or affordably. The health plan Trump characterized as a disaster, he now finds that he can’t easily get away from it. In fact, he had to admit that parts of this disaster were actually worth keeping. 

Mixed Messages

Some other early flip-flops: He’s making himself available to the press again. He’s receptive to coaching  from President Obama, his nemesis. He considers same-sex marriage settled law and won’t go after it.  

To be sure, Trump hasn’t retreated from nominating a Supreme Court Judge who is openly pro-life. He intends immediately deport undocumented immigrants with a criminal record. He’s chosen Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, a man aligned with White Nationalism and the racial and ethnic hatred in which it traffics. Reince Priebus, the GOP party chairman, has been elected to the all-powerful chief of staff position. Neither Trump, Bannon nor Priebus has held a government post of any kind.

One week after the November Surprise, we don’t know much more about Trump’s true plans and beliefs. It is clear, however, that he is a man sobered by the sudden realization that running a government is a monumental undertaking, one which he did not expect.

© 2016 The Revolted Colonies

So, What Do You Really Think?

The warning signs were there from the beginning that this was going to be a watershed year. Donald Trump, President-Elect, buzzed through a crowded field of mostly experienced politicians to emerge as the Republican standard-bearer. We could chalk it up to the asymmetry of the field or the brawling of primary politics or an aberration caused by conflating reality and TV.  Now that Trump has won the White House,  his victory, still shocking, is more understandable. 

The country is almost evenly divided between people who reject the empowerment of the federal government as a positive force and those who embrace it.  Trump embodies the former and Clinton the latter.  Trump had a clear vision of his following — he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and he would not lose his support.  Sexual assault, race-baiting, tax dodging, swindling: none of it mattered because he thumbed his nose at the System. Now he will be the System, until he dismantles it.

Take Trump at his word. He will build a wall. He will get Mexico to pay for it. He will close our borders. He will start sending bills to our allies. He will tip all the sacred cows.  If you like alternate history, this will be a field day. There will be an iconoclast — a vengeful, petty, litigious one — as Commander-in-Chief. Nothing is unthinkable.

 © 2016 The Revolted Colonies

It Used To Be Called Election Fatigue

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A few of us came voluntarily but most were coerced.  My wife and parents cornered me the night after the second debate. They told me that I was obsessed. I didn’t know the date or my children’s names. They kept at it long enough to convince me that I was in trouble. I’d neglected my health and hygiene. I was taking meals sporadically, they said, confronting me with piles of half-eaten sandwiches that were rotting on my desk; coffee cups stacked up in the car console.  I was sleeping two hours at a time, awake through most nights, afraid to close my eyes.  The kids were terrified, asking my wife what was wrong with me. 

  That did it. I broke down, babbling uncontrollably. My wife calmed me until an SUV arrived. Two EMTs extracted me from the house, with nothing but an overnight bag my wife had packed. I was given some kind of sedative and fell dead away. 

 I awoke, still goofy, afloat on a sea of identical beds in a barn-like, white room. The room I later learned was previously occupied by a drug store chain. It was flooded with artificial light and silent though full of people. I recognized the hum of white noise, an ambient background, all but blotting out the random car horn blaring outside. 

I sat up and looked around. I was in a ward of fifty or so beds, scattered  through the store.  My bed was in the row where magazines used to be kept .  I stood up slowly, relieved that I was not under restraint. As I walked around, I noticed that the ward was filled with political junkies.  They looked zonked out. Some I recognized: reporters, commentators and analysts, but also people like me.   I haven’t seen any anchors here yet.  But they just read the news, they don’t have to understand it.  We’re all under observation for post-traumatic stress disorder. This is what my old counselor calls election fatigue. In his day this wasn’t considered an illness. Now it’s PTSD, DSM 309.81. I once was a concerned citizen. Now I’m a diagnosis. 

 We’re free to walk around and talk about anything but the election. Bailey is in the bed next to me, with the covers pulled up. He’s been under there for hours. I suspect he’s writing: journaling or  taking notes. It’s forbidden, and he doesn’t want to get caught because he’ll be forced to leave. This is his second stint, and his insurance won’t pay for another. He’d had a meltdown when Kerry was swift-boated. Don’t misunderstand. He would be happy to leave but his family won’t take him back unless he can stay clean.

Galt is walking up and down the aisles of beds. It seems like she’s talking to herself, saying the same thing over and over.  Galt’s really gone, I think, until I realize that she’s memorizing a column. She’s been mumbling the same thing all day. Then she moves on to new rantings.  Two orderlies return her to bed. She sobs that she’s on deadline. Poor soul. 

  Each day brings the possibility of a new patient and with it news of the campaigns.  There are no phones, television or newspapers and definitely no internet. We are locked away without the faintest sense of what has happened since we were extracted.  When somebody new arrives, the rest of us gather around until a guard disperses us. They try to  minimize the private discussions between patients. It doesn’t matter.  One newbie says he’s up by a point, and another says that he’s down by five. One says New Hampshire’s a lock but at the same time another says it’s in play. Too much conflicting information is like no information at all.

We have group meetings once a day. The idea is so we don’t think it’s just us who are suffering.  There is a new patient with us. Her name is Derry, and she was hosting Talk Radio.  At first, she was a casual listener, but she  couldn’t take the nonsense she was hearing and became a caller.  Soon she was a regular — “Derry from Winston-Salem” — phoning in to argue. She started making things up: Hillary is having closed-door meetings with John Kasich…Trump took an option on the U.N…All Chrysler 300 owners are forming a voting bloc.  The audience loved it, so the station put her on the air. Then she spun completely out of control.  When she accused the network of funding the Militia Movement, it was over for her. 

Every day I meet individually with Andrew, my counselor. The point is to help me figure out what made me go haywire.  I have a vivid recollection of the intervention but the campaign is a blur. I could remember many events and sound bytes, but I cannot put them in order or make sense of them.  Andrew is an elderly African-American man. He’s great at therapy talk — “When I say that, how does that make you feel?” — but he’s a good guy. He seems to be a little jangly himself. I wonder if he’ll end up in one of the beds at some point.

I ask Andrew how long I will be here, and he says that I can walk out any time I want. I realize, though, that I don’t want to leave. It’s quiet and orderly and safe. I’m at peace here, and frankly, I’m scared to go back out there. Andrew says that the ward will shut down after the votes are counted and a winner is declared.

 Bailey and Galt are talking. They’re scared too and don’t want to leave. 
 
“Even after the election?” I ask.
 
“Especially after the election,” they say.
 

©  2016 The Revolted Colonies

 

 

 

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