In family therapy, we often find that one family member in a dysfunctional family is “the designated patient,” the one who acts out all the family’s secret dramas and traumas, the one that everybody agrees is the “one who needs help,” and the rest of the family uses the distraction of the one family member who is willing to publicly misbehave to mask all the ways that they themselves are neurotic, dysfunctional, or perhaps stark raving bonkers.
Donald Trump has taken the position of “designated patient” in our national dysfunctional family.
He has, um, trumpeted to the world all the petty nastiness that Republicans used to keep on the down-low about how they despised anyone who is not a right-thinking, right-voting, right-sexing white American, and at this level, at least, he is honest and truthful, in the sense of being willing to voice sentiments that other people think but won’t say.
In no instance has this been more the case than in his notorious “grab ’em by the (crotch)–you can do anything” video. He was certainly thinking of it in individual terms, but it has been one of the guiding postulates of American politics at least since Roe vs. Wade, when our national discourse first had to confront what goes on below the belt. Republicans seized the crotches of those who are horrified by the notion that it’s a woman’s choice whether she should have a child or not, while Democrats grabbed the pro-choice faction’s collective private parts. As more “sexual freedom” issues have arisen, from single mothers’ rights through gay rights to transgender rights, the division–and the parties’ firm hold on the reproductive organs of their respective demographics–has only grown firmer, enabling them to engage in a wide variety of reprehensible behavior as long as they were willing to protect “the rights of the unborn,” or “a woman’s right to choose.”
On the Republican side, we have fundamentalist Christians supporting Trump, a notorious libertine, because he has pledged to re-criminalize abortion and appoint Supreme Court justices who will repeal Roe vs. Wade. These justices would doubtless also come down against gay marriage and other freedoms that those whose sexual expression is somewhat unconventional claim. Much of the argument for supporting Ms. Clinton, likewise, rests on fear of reactionary judges and Ms. Clinton’s pledge to appoint judges who will uphold Roe. “Sure, she’s terrible on lots of issues,” many of her supporters say, “but it’s about the Supreme Court.” OK, let’s look at who’s on her short list for the Supreme Court.
First there”S Merrick Garland, whom Obama has attempted to appoint to the court, who was seen as a “disappointing choice” by many fairly mainstream liberal groups for his apparent bias against criminal defendants, his decision denying Guantanamo detainees the right to habeas corpus (which was later overturned), his deference to federal authority, and for generally being a “middle of the road” straight white guy. Here’s how Fox News legal commentator and former judge Andrew Napolitano characterized him:
(He is) the “consummate Washington D.C insider,” having worked as a prosecutor in the first Bush administration before being nominated as a federal judge by Bill Clinton.
“Judge Garland is the most conservative nominee to the Supreme Court by a Democratic president in the modern era.”
Please note that I don’t ordinarily consider Fox News a reliable source, but if they’re gonna praise an Obama appointee for being “conservative,” it’s worth noting, as is the fact that the New York Times article from which I obtained this list of potential Clinton SCOTUS nominees considers him the “most liberal” of them.
Paul Watford, on the surface, seems like a more liberal candidate. He has worked on anti-death penalty cases, ruled to overturn Arizona’s anti-immigrant laws, and ruled against secrecy at the School of the Americas. He has, however, perhaps inadvertently, given conservatives what they consider a key ruling that could undermine the government’s ability to regulate stocks and prescription drugs, among many other forms of consumer protection. The unintended consequences of overturning a sign ordinance…a good Supreme Court judge, no matter what hes political views, should be conscious of such possibilities when s/he makes a ruling.
Judge Jane Kelly, who, to her credit, has spent much of her legal career as a public defender, has, in the words of Democratic-owned website The Daily Beast, “a slight tilt towards the conservative side of some issues,” and has earned praise from Iowa’s Republican Senator, Chuck Grassley, currently chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who is one of the coterie of Republicans who have vowed to block any nominee for the Supreme Court until after the election. It’s a whole other issue, but I would not be surprised if the fact that SCOTUS is missing a member and could end up in a tie vote on some question regarding this year’s election ends up biting the asses of the Republicans who have pushed this tactic.
There’s Patricia Millett. Think Progress, a solidly Democratic organization, says of Millett that
…a Millett nomination would be a considerable olive branch extended toward Senate Republicans. Among other things, Millett once defended the conservative Roberts Court’s record in business cases during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that the justices “show[ed] a fair amount of balance in the business area” during a previous term.
Sri Srinavasan is on Ms. Clinton’s list. Politico points out that
Srinivasan’s work on human rights cases in which he defended Exxon Mobil and the mining company Rio Tinto have raised particular objections from environmentalists. He also represented that enduring symbol of corporate excess, former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, in the appeal of the executive’s fraud and conspiracy convictions…..
Srinivasan represented Exxon in a long-running battle over alleged human rights abuses by members of the Indonesian military whom the oil giant had hired to work on security at a major natural gas plant…..
Srinivasan’s work for Exxon and Rio Tinto, in a since-dismissed dispute over human rights violations in Papua New Guinea, sparked harsh criticism from one green group after Obama tapped him for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012.
The India-born judge, who emigrated to the U.S. as a young child, “repeatedly took extreme positions that would demolish one of the few existing avenues of legal accountability for violations of the international law of human rights,” EarthRights International wrote to senators in 2013.
Mr. Srinavasan built a practice around defending powerful multinational companies against allegations of human rights abuses such as war crimes, torture, and summary execution. He has been one of the principal architects of a legal strategy intended to secure special exemptions for corporations from liability for serious abuses, and which seeks to undermine an important mechanism to enforce international human rights law…..(His) approach to the law indicates a propensity for pro-corporate, anti-human rights judicial activism that should be of concern to any lawmaker who believes that judges should apply the law rather than make it.
So that’s the spectrum of potential judges we’re looking at in a possible Clinton administration. Yes, all will vote to uphold a woman’s right to have an abortion, and peoples’ right to marry each other regardless of their biological plumbing. On the other hand, beyond the individual drawbacks I have noted above, they all take corporate America, and its “special relationship” with the US government–the “revolving door” that has Monsanto determining our agricultural policies and weapons businesses running the Pentagon, to cite just two examples–pretty much for granted.
They probably even consider it a good idea. Factor in Ms. Clinton’s sharp turn to the right once she clinched the nomination–tapping fellow conservative Democrat Tim Kaine as her VP, appointing pro-fracking, pro-TPP, anti-cannabis Ken Salazar as her transition chief, and hiring fired Democratic Party chairwoman (and conservative Democrat) Debbie Wasserman Schultz as “honorary chair” of her campaign–and it seems likely that she will appoint the most conservative of these choices, should she be elected–a question that remains somewhat in doubt at this late date. The election has always been hers to lose, and it will be an astounding failure if she cannot inspire enough people to vote for her to win.
Beyond the question of which wealthy business executives Ms. Clinton might appoint to other offices under cover of her abortion-friendly Supreme Court justices, there are plenty of questions about Clinton’s policies–from her coziness with oil and gas interests, and her avowal to crush the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions movement’s efforts to push Israel to change its aggressive ways, to name a few, to her “business as usual ” take on climate change to her hawkishness against Russia. Which crisis will do us in first–runaway climate change, or war with Russia? To be willing to vote for Ms. Clinton is, indeed, to submit to being a hostage of the corporate oligarchy whose interests she actually represents. The “Stockholm syndrome” is alive and well, and running the game in American politics, just as it does in so many dysfunctional families.
The only way for those of us who are the captives of corporate America to win is to refuse to play their game, refuse to accept the dubious either-or “choice” they offer us, between an out-of-control psychopath and a coolly calculating sociopath, and, among other acts of resistance to the common insanity and re-envisioning of a saner society, to vote for break-the-mold candidates such as those offered by the Green Party. Dr. Jill Stein is unlikely to be elected President–this time. But, if we keep pushing, that time just might come, and just might come in time to save us from the terrible fate that awaits humanity and all other life on the planet if we continue down the business-as-usual path that both Clinton and Trump’s conventional wisdom calls “realistic.” “Realistically,” we had better be willing to reject short-term complacency and opt instead for long-term viability. It’s in our hands.
Bjork “It’s In Our Hands”
Gabrielle Roth “The Calling”
Bruce Cockburn, “Call It Democracy”