Friday, July 31, 2020


Rump Is the Election Crisis He Is Warning About

Trump Is the Election Crisis He Is Warning About
When a sitting President threatens to delay a sacrosanct American ritual, you’d better listen.

July 31, 2020
On Thursday morning, minutes after the worst U.S. economic data in seventy years were released and barely two hours before an American hero who risked his life for the right to vote was laid to rest, the President of the United States proposed delaying this fall’s election. Amid the coronavirus pandemic and widespread remote voting, Donald Trump said that it would be the most “INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.” Why shouldn’t the U.S. “Delay the Election,” he asked, “until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

It was not the first time that the President has raised this particular canard—and a canard it is, a radical move that is not within his power to make happen—but it was by far his most inflammatory, destabilizing, and provocative attempt yet to call into question the legitimacy of the November election, in which he is trailing the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, in virtually every poll. Has there ever been a President who has done more to undermine American democracy? Trump himself has become the crisis of confidence in our political system that he warns about. He is his own self-fulfilling prophecy.

Don’t be sucked in, Trump’s critics immediately warned. He is trolling us. He is distracting us. Of course, they had a point. It was no accident that the tweet came at 8:46 a.m., sixteen minutes after the government reported that the U.S. economy had contracted by nearly ten per cent in the second quarter, the biggest drop in quarterly G.D.P. ever. There is so very much for Trump to distract us from. Trump’s tweet came just a day after a grievous milestone was reached: a hundred and fifty thousand Americans dead from covid-19. And it was only a couple of hours before John Lewis, the longtime congressman and civil-rights leader, was laid to rest in what amounted to a state funeral—minus the decidedly unwelcome head of state.

But this was not merely one of Trump’s transitory diversions, in a week already full of them. (Remember the demon-sperm-doctor controversy? The transparently racist appeal to those living the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream” free of low-income interlopers?) In fact, Trump’s attack on the legitimacy of the upcoming election has been intensifying for months, as his poll standing has sunk. Trump’s “Twitter Richter scale,” as the Democratic lawyer Norm Eisen put it to me the other day, was already registering “off the charts” on the subject. Indeed, when I asked Bill Frischling, who runs the Factbase Web site, which tracks Trump’s public statements and tweets, to look at how often the President had questioned voting or suggested that an election would be rigged, unfair, or otherwise compromised, he came up with seven hundred and thirteen references by Trump since 2012, the vast majority occurring in clusters as the elections of 2016, 2018, and 2020 neared. Already, Factbase has recorded ninety-one instances of such rhetoric from Trump this year, a number which is all but sure to escalate.

So, sorry, we cannot just ignore it when the President threatens to cancel an election. This is the kind of statement that should haunt your dreams. It is wannabe-dictator talk. It is dangerous even if it is not attached to any actions. And those who think that some actions will not follow have not been paying attention. My alarm stems from having covered Russia when Vladimir Putin was dismantling the fragile, flawed democratic institutions that the country had established after the fall of the Soviet Union. It stems from reading history. It stems from having watched the past four years in America, where, day by day, the unthinkable has happened and been justified, rationalized, and explained away.

Some of Trump’s supporters are already normalizing his attacks on the foundations of American democracy; he has succeeded in getting us used to the idea, to having a conversation that should never be happening. In April, Biden warned, at a fund-raiser, that Trump might attempt to “kick back the election” if he was losing. At the time, Steve Guest, the director of rapid response for the Republican National Committee, responded, “Joe Biden is off his rocker to make such an irresponsible allegation without any evidence.” Well, now we have the evidence. And what did Steve Guest have to say on Thursday? When I e-mailed him, he did not respond. His Twitter feed was silent. “Those are the incoherent, conspiracy-theory ramblings of a lost candidate who is out of touch with reality,” the Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said, about Biden, back in April. “President Trump has been clear that the election will happen on November 3rd.” So what are we supposed to think now?

Trump’s most senior Cabinet officials have shown that they, too, are willing to follow their leader down even this most dubious of paths. Attorney General William Barr, asked during congressional testimony earlier this week, before Trump’s tweet, about the possibility of a delayed election, refused to rule it out, dismissively saying that he had “never looked into it.” On Thursday, shortly after Trump’s tweet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to answer the question, as well. “I’m not going to enter a legal judgment on that on the fly,” Pompeo, a Harvard Law School graduate who is likely quite familiar with the Constitution, said. He nonetheless added, “In the end, the Department of Justice and others will make that legal determination,” which is not at all how it will work.

Just as problematic were the lukewarm-at-best defenses of American democracy offered by some of the Republicans who did comment on Thursday. “We’ve had elections every November since about 1788, and I expect that will be the case again this year,” the Senate Majority Whip, John Thune, of South Dakota, said. “I don’t think it’s a particularly good idea,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Trump’s golfing buddy and confidant from South Carolina, said. “Expect”? “Particularly”? Not exactly a rousing case for voting. Perhaps most astonishing was this comment from Senator Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota: “I think that, if you guys take the bait, he’ll be the happiest guy in town. I read it. I laughed. I thought, My gosh, this is going to consume a lot of people, except real people. And it was clever.”

The fact that putting off an election is outside the power of the Presidency, that the Constitution clearly prescribes a transition of power on January 20th, 2021, and that it would take an act of Congress to do anything about changing the time, place, and manner of the election is certainly relevant. But there are many ways to cancel elections, and not all of them involve literally failing to hold the balloting. Denying access to the polls, questioning the legitimacy of the results, throwing up legal challenges, forcing voters to stand in long lines: these have all happened, in our lifetimes, in the United States—we don’t have to look to foreign tyrannies for examples of how to influence elections. So was it really reassuring when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to put the matter to rest by calling the November election date “set in stone”? When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “We should go forward with our election. . . . No way should we ever not hold an election on the day that we have it”?

The President did not back off his words. He did not delete his tweet; instead, he pinned it to the top of his feed for part of the day. After hours of criticism, including from a founder of the Federalist Society, who said that it was ground for his impeachment and removal, Trump’s unconvincing effort at spin was to suggest that it was all a brilliant ploy to get “the very dishonest LameStream Media to finally start talking about the Risks to our Democracy from dangerous Universal Mail-in Voting.” But, in fact, the risk to American democracy is Trump himself.

Later, at a news conference, Trump yammered and stammered his way through questions about whether he really favored a delay. “Do I want to see a day changed? No. But I don’t want to see a crooked election,” he said. He again suggested that the election could be “fraudulent,” “fake,” and “rigged.” It was not a denial. He never disavowed what he had said earlier. On Thursday, Trump careened over a cliff, and the question is, whom is he going to take with him?
After Trump’s tweet, I spent much of the day listening to the funeral of the late Representative Lewis, who was mourned as an American saint, a hero who staked his life on the premise that voting in elections was the truest expression of our democracy. Trump’s three predecessors were in attendance, their presence a visible rebuke to the current President and a reminder of his absence. Trump’s name was never spoken out loud. It did not have to be.

The drill is sadly familiar by now. These funerals of public figures in the Trump era have become the mark of our divided and splintered politics, the gathering spaces at which we are forced to take stock of the widening gap between our current President and the state of his party and what the leaders of both parties once believed. When John McCain, the Trump-resisting Republican senator from Arizona and a Vietnam War hero, died, in 2018, we saw it. And, again, a few months later, for George H. W. Bush, the Republican avatar of a vanishing East Coast-conservative establishment, whose last vote for President was against Trump, in 2016.

Lewis’s sendoff was always going to be a grand one. He was one of the last of the civil-rights greats still with us. He had long ago guaranteed his place in the American pantheon with that march in Selma, as a young man—and with the decades that followed of irrepressible service and indefatigable activism for social justice and equality under law. During the service, he was hailed as Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s disciple, the heir of Gandhi and Mandela, a great-great-grandson of slaves whose moral audacity and sheer bravery transformed him into “Saint Lewis,” a would-be preacher who became the sermon himself.

But Trump’s tweet provided the urgency of the moment, the infuriating and clarifying framing for a funeral that took place when the rights for which Lewis fought—not the least of which is the right for all eligible voters to cast their ballot this fall—are under threat as never before. Bill Campbell, the former mayor of Atlanta, told the mourners at Atlanta’s storied Ebenezer Baptist Church that Lewis had conveyed to him a final wish when they last met. “He pulled me closer and he whispered, ‘Everyone has to vote in November. It is the most important election ever,’ ” Campbell said. “I promised him that with every fibre in my body. . . . If you truly want to honor this American hero, make sure that you vote.”

At McCain’s funeral, Barack Obama delivered a eulogy in which he rebuked the “small and mean and petty” politics of the moment, and the “trafficking in bombast, in insult, in phony controversies and manufactured outrage.” This was back in the late summer of 2018, when it still seemed as though Trump’s hateful words and tweets were the threat, and when it was still news when the former President obliquely criticized the current one.

But Lewis died at a time when Trump, facing reĆ«lection he fears he may lose, has made his threats more explicit, and Obama’s response this time was more direct, too. In his eulogy for Lewis, the former President brought the church to its feet by denouncing modern-day Bull Connors and George Wallaces and by making explicit references to the police who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis and to the federal law-enforcement agents that Trump has ordered to violently suppress peaceful protests. “Democracy isn’t automatic,” he warned. “It has to be nurtured, it has to be tended to.”

Most of all, Obama’s eulogy was an extended love letter not just to Lewis but to the voting rights that he had been willing to sacrifice his life for. Obama demanded action, and he was specific: renewing the Voting Rights Act provisions that have been gutted by the Supreme Court in recent years and blocked by Republicans in Congress, and eliminating the Senate filibuster, which he called a “Jim Crow relic.”

So often, Donald Trump looks to the worst of the past in making a hash of America’s present. He is, bizarrely, even now running as a defender of the Confederacy, the toxic legacy of which Lewis spent his life trying to undo. Obama, in contrast, is the perpetual conjurer of a better American future, and there are few who heard his soaring peroration who could not have been inspired by its vision of a vibrant, free, inclusive democracy. 

But perhaps the fierce urgency of the day was best summed up by a scene that caught my eye as the funeral was ending. It was a glimpse of Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who came up short in her run for Georgia governor, two years ago. Like all the other mourners, she was wearing a face mask because of the pandemic. On it was written a single word: “Vote.”

Susan B. Glasser, a staff writer, was the founding editor of Politico Magazine. In September, she will publish, with Peter Baker, “The Man Who Ran Washington.”

It must sting to still be defending Trump.

You have echoed lies and defended demagoguery. It must sting to still be defending Trump.

Opinion by 
July 30, 2020 at 5:29 p.m. CDT
What a tremendous burden it must be for you to still be defending President Trump. You have called yourself a constitutional conservative for decades, but now you sit silently as the president pushes to move this year’s election because he might lose. Even some Republican senators are speaking up. Why aren’t you?

Trump remembers how you ran interference for him when he claimed unlimited powers under Article II of the Constitution, so he thinks you will stay quiet. Remember your silence after Charlottesville? You eventually mustered the nerve to claim Trump never preached moral equivalence between torch-carrying Nazis and protesters. How unthoughtful it was of David Duke to expose you by praising the president’s putrid performance and thanking Trump for his “honesty and courage to tell the truth.” The former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard even bragged to reporters that Charlottesville represented a “turning point” for white nationalism. “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump,” Duke proclaimed. “That’s why we voted for [him].”
Ouch. That one had to sting, but you kept on defending Donald.

If you had a political soul after that shameful stunt, the Cold Warrior in you would have been as sickened by Trump’s retreat from Germany as U.S. strategists were over his ceding of Syria to Vladimir Putin, handing Moscow a foothold in the Middle East for the first time since 1973. No country was a closer ally during the Cold War than West Germany, and no nation is more critical to Europe’s future now than a unified Germany. Undermining the U.S.-German alliance because of an ignorant misunderstanding of NATO’s dues structure undermines the historic work that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush completed throughout the Cold War’s final years.

But there you are, silently supporting a demagogue who sits by while intelligence suggests Russia’s leader put bounties on the heads of young American troops. Trump instead plays Putin’s apologist by declaring the United States equally guilty.
“Well, we supplied weapons when they were fighting Russia, too,” Trump said of our efforts to liberate Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion some 40 years ago.

Did any part of you cringe when Trump leaned once again on the crutch of moral equivalency, ignoring the glaring fact that the U.S.S.R. was America’s sworn enemy during our “twilight struggle” against communism? Maybe not. Maybe Trump has you figured out and knows what a frightened political soul you are, and remembers that you remained mute when he defended Putin’s killing of journalists and political rivals almost five years ago. “Our country does plenty of killing also,” candidate Trump told me when I repeatedly pressed him on “Morning Joe” to criticize Putin’s murderous ways. He wouldn’t then when the victims were Russian reporters, and he won’t now when the targets are young American heroes in uniform.

I know Trump’s devotion to Putin deeply disturbs you, but somehow you swallow that bile and keep running cover for them both. How hard it must have been to keep all of that down when Trump’s foreign policy advisernational security advisercampaign chairmandeputy campaign chairmanpersonal lawyerpolitical consultant and attorney general were all busted for lying to federal investigators or Congress about their contacts with Russians. But you still kept your head down and marched in a single formation behind Trump.

When it was revealed that Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign was “sweeping and systematic,” you shrugged your shoulders. You later learned that Russian nationals with connections to the Kremlin promised Trump’s family dirt on Hillary Clinton, and that they were excited to learn it was part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” You remained motionless, numb to it all, when federal investigators later revealed that Russia’s GRU began hacking Clinton-related email accounts hours after Trump announced this: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

By this time, you began mindlessly regurgitating the former reality TV host’s propaganda about the “Russian hoax,” and hoped Americans would be stupid enough to ignore the mountains of damning evidence against Trump. Your singular focus turned to the Steele dossier’s most lurid tales, and you believed then, and now, that Christopher Steele’s fantastical claims could erase a multitude of Trump’s sins. You repeated the lies of Attorney General William P. Barr and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey O. Graham when they falsely claimed the FBI’s investigation began with Steele’s dossier. And you kept repeating this idiotic defense even after it became painfully evident that Trump’s team welcomed Russia’s interference in American democracy and then tried to cover it up.

You still refuse to criticize the Trump team’s use of material stolen by Russia during the last month of the campaign, just like you and your president continue turning a blind eye to any Russian bounties.

None dare call it treason, but perhaps one day they will.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue

The Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue
Trump is the kind of boss who can’t do the job — and won’t go away.

Opinion Columnist
·         July 30, 2020, 6:39 p.m. ET

Every worker’s nightmare is the horrible boss — everyone knows at least one — who is utterly incompetent yet refuses to step aside. Such bosses have the reverse Midas touch — everything they handle turns to crud — but they’ll pull out every stop, violate every norm, to stay in that corner office. And they damage, sometimes destroy, the institutions they’re supposed to lead.

Donald Trump is, of course, one of those bosses. Unfortunately, he’s not just a bad business executive. He is, God help us, the president. And the institution he may destroy is the United States of America.

Has any previous president failed his big test as thoroughly as Trump has these past few months? He rejected the advice of health experts and pushed for a rapid economic reopening, hoping for a boom leading into the election. He ridiculed and belittled measures that would have helped slow the spread of the coronavirus, including wearing face masks and practicing social distancing, turning what should have been common sense into a front in the culture war.

The result has been disaster both epidemiological and economic.

Over the past week the U.S. death toll from Covid-19 averaged more than 1,000 people a day, compared with just four — four! — per day in Germany. Vice President Mike Pence’s mid-June declaration that “There isn’t a coronavirus ‘second wave’” felt like whistling in the dark even at the time; now it feels like a sick joke.

And all those extra deaths don’t seem to have bought us anything in terms of economic performance. America’s economic contraction in the first half of 2020 was almost identical to the contraction in Germany, despite our far higher death toll. And while life in Germany has in many ways returned to normal, a variety of indicators suggest that after two months of rapid job growth, the U.S. recovery is stalling in the face of a resurgent pandemic.

Wait, it gets worse. Trump, his officials and their allies in the Senate have been totally committed to the idea that the U.S. economy will experience a stunningly rapid recovery despite the wave of new infections and deaths. They bought into that view so completely that they seem incapable of taking on board the overwhelming evidence that it isn’t happening.
Just a few days ago Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economist, insisted that a so-called V-shaped recovery was still on track and that “unemployment claims and continuing claims are falling rapidly.” In fact, both are rising.

But because the Trump team insisted that a roaring recovery was coming, and refused to notice that it wasn’t happening, we’ve now stumbled into a completely gratuitous economic crisis.

Thanks to Republican inaction, millions of unemployed workers have seen their last checks from the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which was meant to sustain them through a coronavirus-ravaged economy; the virus is still raging, but their life support has been cut off.

So Trump has completely botched his job, bringing unnecessary pain to millions of Americans and unnecessary death to thousands. He may not care, but voters do. So he should be trying to turn things around, if only as a matter of political and personal self-interest.

But here’s the thing: Even if Trump were the kind of guy who could learn from his mistakes, it’s too late. If we had found ourselves in our current situation a year ago, there might still have been time for Trump to get the virus under control and turn the economy around. But the election is just around the corner.

Suppose that the numbers on deaths and jobs were to get somewhat better over the next three months. How much would that improve voters’ views of the denier in chief? How much credence would the public give, even to genuinely good news, after the false dawn this past spring? At this point Trump is simply a failed president, and everyone except his die-hard supporters knows it.

But as I said at the beginning, Trump is one of those nightmare bosses who can’t do the job but won’t step aside.

So of course he’s now talking about delaying the election. This was predictable; indeed, Joe Biden predicted it months ago, amid much mockery from pundits (none of whom, I predict, will apologize).

Now, Trump can’t do that. There will be an election on Nov. 3. But what Trump can do, if he loses, is claim that the election was stolen, that there were millions of fraudulent votes, that the results aren’t legitimate. Hey, he did that after losing the popular vote in 2016, even though he won the Electoral College.

Such antics almost surely wouldn’t let him stay in the White House, although the process of getting him out may be … interesting. But they could produce a lot of chaos and quite possibly some violence across the nation. And anyone who doesn’t think disgruntled Trump supporters would try to sabotage a Biden administration — including its efforts to deal with the pandemic — hasn’t been paying attention.

This is what happens when you put a horrible boss in charge of running the country. And nobody can say when, if ever, the damage will be repaired.

Trump Failed Us

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Republicans’ political games are a bust

Republicans’ political games are a bust

Opinion by 
July 29, 2020 at 10:45 a.m. CDT

The lies, outrageous positions and fear-mongering spewed by President Trump and his enablers might be infuriating, but just keep in mind they are politically counterproductive. Forget about the reckless governance, which is a lost cause. Be outraged, but also comforted that Republicans’ political pratfalls are making it more likely that voters will boot them out.

Trump’s facade of normalcy crumbled entirely on Tuesday when he whined that his administration’s public health officials, Anthony S. Fauci and Deborah Birx, had better approval ratings than he. “It can only be my personality, that’s all," he said without irony. Well, that and nearly 150,000 dead Americans. There’s also his hawking of dangerous remedies. On Tuesday, he continued beating the drum for hydroxychloroquine and to tout a discredited doctor who peddles the antimalarial drug, says masks are not needed and believes that alien DNA is used in modern medicine. Trump also falsely insisted large parts of the country are free of coronavirus.

Here was Trump at his worst — self-pitying, ignorant, irrational and utterly unaware how he comes across to those outside his cult. What’s more, he unwittingly confirmed how easily right-wing media characters lead him around by the nose — no matter how absurd and unfounded their claims. Meanwhile, he seethes with resentment toward actual experts who continue to present accurate — but politically unhelpful — evidence of his failure to combat the pandemic.

In the Trump enablers category, no one compares to Attorney General William P. Barr in his willingness to throw caution, facts and manners to the wind to defend his boss. His bristling testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday was quintessential Barr. He hesitated to definitively say that soliciting help from a foreign government is inappropriate (he had to be asked twice) and claimed his intervention for a lighter sentence for Trump confidant Roger Stone was appropriate. He declared that law enforcement should be able to arrest and use tear gas against peaceful protesters to restore “order.” He suggested it is legal to throw someone in an unmarked car without probable cause. (It isn’t.)

Barr might deny the existence of systemic racism, but he cannot account for why federal agents were deployed to Portland to squelch Black Lives Matter protesters and not to Michigan, where MAGA forces charged a statehouse, got in officers’ faces and threatened the governor. Asked about disagreeable facts or evidence of unfair treatment, he claimed not to be aware of such information — ironically demonstrating how partisan law enforcement harbors implicit bias and fails to equally apply the law through willful ignorance.

Within hours of his testimony painting a picture of utter chaos in Portland, the city’s mayor announced federal agents had left. Maybe Barr was once again simply spewing campaign-type rhetoric in service of his boss? If his effort was to convey Trump as a “law and order” candidate, the hysterical testimony was a flop. Even if Barr would not retreat, the federal forces did.

Even more noteworthy, poll after poll shows that Trump and Barr are entirely out of tune with public opinion, which sides strongly with protesters seeking racial justice. A Gallup poll released Tuesday reports:

About two in three Americans (65%) support the nationwide protests about racial injustice that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May. Half say they feel “very” (23%) or “somewhat connected” (27%) to the protests’ cause. ...

Americans are more likely to say the protests “will help” (53%) rather than “hurt” (34%) public support for racial justice and equality, while 13% say they will “make no difference.”
Republicans are the exception to these trends, but even 22 percent of them side with the racial justice activists. In other words, Barr is dishonestly hawking Trump’s phony “law and order” message to no avail.

Barr’s testimony was punctuated by the usual histrionics from Republican congressmen. Ranking minority-party member and conspiracy monger Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) felt compelled to share a mash-up video of violent scenes of protests. Meant to convey that we need Trump to keep the peace, it did the opposite: This is what America looks like under Trump. Democrats might want to feature Jordan in their ads: Is this the party you want in charge?

That brings us to Republican senators, who seemed determined to put out the most unattractive and politically disastrous stimulus possible. The bill includes $1.75 billion for a new FBI building across from Trump’s hotel, but no eviction moratorium. It knocks down federal support for unemployment insurance, but throws in a new deduction for business meals and entertainment. It includes liability immunity for businesses, but no money for state and local governments to prevent mass layoffs. You would be hard-pressed to come up with something that would better highlight their disdain for working people, docility in the face of Trump’s self-dealing and capitulation to corporate interests.

The final blow was delivered by none other than Trump. In a singular moment of clarity, he declared the proposal “sort of semi-irrelevant." If there is to be a deal, it will have to be worked out between the House and White House. So what purpose are Senate Republicans serving here? The next Democratic ad might rightly ask why “sort of semi-irrelevant” lawmakers should be in the majority.

Neither Trump nor Barr nor Republicans in Congress have a clue what the public wants or how they come across outside the right-wing media bubble. They remain stubbornly divorced from reality and temperamentally unfit for the serious task of governance. In less than 100 days, voters have the chance to drive them from office and return sane, stable characters to government.

Column: What happened to an America where you could freely speak your mind?

Column: What happened to an America where you could freely speak your mind?
JUL 29, 2020 AT 5:00 AM

The angry left-handed broom of America’s cultural revolution uses fear to sweep through our civic, corporate and personal life.

It brings with it attempted intimidation, shame and the usual demands for ceremonies of public groveling.

It is happening in newsrooms in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles. And now it’s coming for me, in an attempt to shame me into silence.

Here’s what happened:

Last week, with violence spiking around the country, I wrote a column on the growing sense of lawlessness in America’s urban areas.

In response, the Tribune newspaper union, the Chicago Tribune Guild, which I have repeatedly and politely declined to join, wrote an open letter to management defaming me, by falsely accusing me of religious bigotry and fomenting conspiracy theories.

Newspaper management has decided not to engage publicly with the union. So I will.

For right now, let’s deal with facts. My July 22 column was titled “Something grows in the big cities run by Democrats: An overwhelming sense of lawlessness.”

It explored the connections between soft-on-crime prosecutors and increases in violence along with the political donations of left-wing billionaire George Soros, who in several states has funded liberal candidates for prosecutor, including Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Soros’ influence on these races is undeniable and has been widely reported. But in that column, I did not mention Soros’ ethnicity or religion.

You’d think that before wildly accusing someone of fomenting bigoted conspiracy theories, journalists on the union’s executive board would at least take the time to Google the words “Soros,” “funding” and “local prosecutors.”

As recently as February, the Sun Times pointed out roughly $2 million in Soros money flowing to Foxx in her primary election effort against more law-and-order candidates.

In August 2016, Politico outlined Soros’ money supporting local DA races and included the view from opponents and skeptics that if successful, these candidates would make communities “less safe.”

From the Wall Street Journal in November 2016: “Mr. Soros, a major backer of liberal causes, has contributed at least $3.8 million to political action committees supporting candidates for district attorney in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin, according to campaign filings.”

The Huffington Post in May 2018 wrote about contributions from Soros and Super PACs to local prosecutor candidates who were less law-and-order than their opponents.

So, it seems that the general attitude in journalism is that super PACs and dark money are bad, unless of course, they’re operated by wealthy billionaires of the left. Then they’re praised and courted.

All of this is against the backdrop of an America divided into camps, between those who think they can freely speak their minds and those who know they can’t.

Most people subjected to cancel culture don’t have a voice. They’re afraid.

They have no platform. When they’re shouted down, they’re expected to grovel. After the groveling, comes social isolation. Then they are swept away.

But I have a newspaper column.

As a columnist and political reporter, I have given some 35 years of my life to the Chicago Tribune, even more if you count my time as an eager Tribune copy boy. And over this time, readers know that I have shown respect to my profession, to colleagues and to this newspaper.

Agree with me or not — and isn’t that the point of a newspaper column? — I owe readers a clear statement of what I will do and not do:

I will not apologize for writing about Soros.

I will not bow to those who’ve wrongly defamed me.

I will continue writing my column.

The left doesn’t like my politics. I get that. I don’t like theirs much, either. But those who follow me on social media know that I do not personally criticize my colleagues for their politics. I try to elevate their fine work. And I tell disgruntled readers who don’t like my colleagues’ politics that “it takes a village.”

Here’s what I’ve learned over my life in and around Chicago, what my immigrant family taught us in our two-flats on South Peoria Street:

We come into this world alone and we leave alone. And the most important thing we leave behind isn’t money.

The most important thing we leave is our name.

We leave that to our children.

And I will not soil my name by groveling to anyone in this or any other newsroom.

The larger question is not about me, or the political left that hopes to silence people like me, but about America and its young. Those of us targeted by cancel culture are not only victims. We are examples, as French revolutionaries once said, in order to encourage the others.

Human beings do not wish to see themselves as cowards. They want to see themselves as heroes.

And, as they are shaped and taught to fear even the slightest accusation of thought crime, they will not view themselves as weak for falling in line. Instead they will view themselves as virtuous. And that is the sin of it.

Those who do not behave will be marginalized. But those who self-censor will be praised.

Yet what of our American tradition of freely speaking our minds?

That too, is swept away.

Listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin — at
Twitter @John_Kass

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