Featured Post

Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

A look back at my work with the LGBTQ community. I first became active in the gay rights movement in 1980 when I launched my LGBTQ jo...

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Please Leave a Message

 

Thank Goodness for Barack Obama’s “Hope and Change” slogan in 2008! Other than that, I cannot think of a consistent, punchy, winning message over the past few decades that Democrats came up with. Even Joe Biden’s “Restore the Soul of America” message was poetic, but I doubt it had any impact on the 2020 race.

To be clear, effective messaging doesn’t need to be limited to a slogan or bumper sticker.  But it seems that every time a slogan or a comment is put forth by a Democrat, Republicans pounce on it.

Look how “Defund the Police,” “Medicare for All,” and ‘Green New Deal” were used as weapons against congressional Democratic candidates in 2020. Data are inconclusive as to the impact they had on those races but anecdotally, some politicians claim they had an effect.

Look how the George Floyd murder protests, which were mostly peaceful, were allowed to be manipulated by Republicans to shift the message from needed police reform to the destruction of buildings and even cities. It was a classic case of “Whataboutism.”

The most recent example is Rep. Maxine Waters’ comments regarding the Derek Chauvin trial and what should happen (confrontation) if the verdict is not favorable. The GQP took it and ran with it, and a censure action by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had been organized though tabled.

Did the Democrats attempt to censure Marjorie Taylor Greene for her heinous comments or those Republican congressmen who have perpetuated Trump’s big lie on the 2020 election outcome? No. Or even those congressmen who spoke at Trump’s rally that incited the insurrection on January 6? Crickets.

It wasn’t that long ago when Republicans bludgeoned the Democrats for being soft on terrorism. In fact, the 2004 election cycle featured that mantra.  Is it asking a lot for Democrats to turn the tables on Republicans during the 2022 cycle by pointing out THEIR softness on domestic terrorism and white nationalism?

Even the establishment of a 9/11-style commission to look into the events surrounding January 6 can’t get any traction. Why aren’t Democrats beating the Republicans over the head with January 6? Yet, the Republicans Benghazi-ed the Democrats to death when they saw an opportunity.

We cannot ever forget what happened January 6, and we should not allow the Republicans to escape the linkage between the atrocities of that event, Donald Trump and those Republicans who voted to acquit the former president in the impeachment trial when he so clearly incited the attack.

The Democrats do not need a catchy slogan to inculcate this matter into the conversation during the 2022 cycle. Footage will do just nicely. Those horrific images of Trump flag-carrying thugs breaching our Capitol should be a staple in every Democratic ad against those Republicans who are apparently soft on insurrections. Pictures do speak louder than words.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Financial Transparency Deflection

Columbia (MD) Democratic Club Treasurer pushes back against non-transparency allegations and reveals what this is really all about

By Bob Ford

Treasurer, Columbia Democratic Club

I want to set the record straight about financial transparency. Despite the gas lighting, innuendos, and demonstrably false statements made by the CDC president Jake Burdett and as well as the attacks by his acolytes on public platforms, I am not opposed to financial transparency.     

I emphatically believe that our financials should always be transparent to the executive board and the members so that all interested parties have an understanding of how we are doing financially. This especially applies to those dues-paying members who provide virtually all of the club’s income.

That information is conveyed by my traditional monthly treasurer’s reports, which I present to the executive board and at general meetings. They are an accurate reflection of our bank statements and financial activity.

In email communications from the president sent to the rest of the executive board, my integrity, honesty, and competence had been called into question. He characterized my performance as “incompetent,” “suspicious,” “not transparent,” “nefarious,” and “concerning” and more recently at a public executive board meeting, "shady."

These accusations are a desperate attempt to deflect from the true reasons for the CDC’s current dysfunction by searching for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Since so much manufactured suspicion was pushed out by the president and his allies, our club secretary and a past president were asked to review my financial processes, spreadsheet,  bank statements, and PayPal account onsite, and they saw the diligence I applied in keeping accurate records. They determined everything was in order. Any concern by the president was and continues to be unjustified.

“I can report back to anyone who is interested in the matter: Bob has a very good and consistent process,” wrote Past President Sean Ford (no relation) in a letter to Shahan Rizvi, chair of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee. “The club’s finances are in good hands with him.”

There was a wild conspiracy theory recently posted on Facebook by an ally of the president who infers that the county executive is somehow part of a financial cover-up with the CDC. It said, “Just how bad are the Club's finances and who else is implicated?" 

That fantasy should earn him a laminated QAnon membership card.

Keep in mind that our balance increased by 76% since March 2020 and more than doubled (120%) since  November. It is at the highest level in our club’s history. And since I became the club's treasurer 7 years ago, our balance has gone up over 1,550%. That’s how bad the club’s finances are.

Since March of last year and because of the pandemic, which prevented in-person meetings and our annual holiday party, I’ve had to write a total of just 7 checks. On the monthly treasurer’s reports I indicate the amount of the check, the payee and its purpose. Anyone receiving this report sees this; nothing is hidden.

Throughout my tenure as treasurer I have paid every bill and reimbursed members accurately and on time. Nobody has ever complained about late or incorrect payments.  It serves no club purpose to thrust impediments on an already efficient payment process. Note that any expenditure exceeding $100 must be approved by the membership, so it doesn't get more transparent than that. 

The PayPal account was created a few years ago as a convenience to our club members as a means of paying dues. Since the club does not have a Taxpayer Identification Number or an Employer Identification Number, I had to furnish my own Social Security Number in order for PayPal to establish the account. I regularly transfer the accumulated amounts in  PayPal  to our checking account. Again, this is clearly indicated on my treasurer's reports. Nothing is hidden

Each member’s transaction on PayPal, which the president constantly refers to as "receipts," are required by PayPal to include the name of the person, the home address, the email address and the telephone number, which is maintained for 2 years.  When a transaction is successfully made, the payer is sent an acknowledgement from PayPal. 

If a person mistakenly bills the club instead of making a payment, I immediately advise that person accordingly.

I have no intention of releasing members' phone numbers and home addresses to this president. It does nothing to make the membership list more accurate or improve the voting process, the purported rationale for the president's botched and potentially defamatory recall attempt. Nor do the bylaws require the president to have access to our financial accounts.

To prove this has been Mr. Burdett's goal, the very first charge on his recall notice included, in part, "Your long time refusal to provide...access to this PayPal account..." 

My refusal to grant him access to this account and any other financial account is based on one factor: I simply do not trust him to safeguard the members' phone numbers and home addresses or any other personal and private information. And I certainly don’t trust him with my Social Security number at his disposal.

The president’s track record does not alleviate my concerns.

According to Matthew Molyett, a former CDC vice president, former executive board member, and a candidate for Board of Education in 2020 for whom our current president was the campaign manager, “Jake Burdett failed to secure the campaign data when he created it. The file was originally seeded by exporting the Mail Chimp mailing list without prior discussion.”

It should be pointed out that this database was exposed to a breach where personal information was unprotected causing a major firestorm on social media. In my view that failure contributed to Mr. Molyett’s defeat. To be clear, he is not saying that Mr. Burdett caused the breach but that he did not safeguard the data.

This red herring is not about transparency as characterized by the president and his allies. To me, the issue is really about security and privacy.

We witnessed the backlash to the April 8 Zoom meeting debacle whereby individuals’ email addresses were captured without their knowledge by an outside organization as a prerequisite to enter the meeting .

People want to protect their privacy as they should. I am quite certain that folks do not want their home address and telephone number floating around either.

Don’t believe me?  Here's how an ally of Mr. Burdett’s responded to a Facebook post on April 10:

“I know that there is a concerted effort by some irresponsible people in the party to attempt to intimidate me by disclosing where I live and threatening the safety of my family.”

"Disclosing where I live," he says. Isn't it likely that others may have similar fears and concerns and want to protect their private information?

I see myself as duty-bound to preserve the private information of our members, not to mention my own Social Security Number, which, as I stated before, is attached to our PayPal account.

In my opinion, Mr. Burdett's end game has been and continues to be to gain access to and ultimate control over our PayPal account and our club’s checking account under the guise of transparency. In fact, at a board meeting several months ago, he directly requested from me access to our PayPal account to include log-in code and password.

His demand (later withdrawn) that I provide my signature to him raised additional questions. I asked representatives from the financial, legal and law enforcement communities to determine if there is any legitimate justification for that request. None of these professionals was able to identify one. There is no way I would grant him possession of my signature.

The notion that this president could gain control over our financial accounts similar to his recent commandeering of our social media and communications platforms should send up red flags. To this day, the secretary does not have the full access to Mail Chimp and other communication tools, which are preventing her from fully doing her job. Undoubtedly, I’d be locked out, too, from our financial accounts--not a good place for a treasurer.

This financial transparency subterfuge is a deflection from the president's own divisive behavior that has led to chaos and acrimony within the club. It is weakening and splitting the party to the delight of Republican groups on social media whose members publicly cheer him on..  

I have been a member of the Columbia Democratic Club for 16 years, the last 13 of which I have been a member of the Executive Board for 7 different presidents. As stated previously, for the past 7 years I have served as the club’s Treasurer working with a variety of Executive Board compositions over that time period.

It’s an office I hadn't previously sought, but my esteemed predecessor recommended I do so as she prepared to step down.  I had been asked by the previous 6 presidents to work with them as treasurer and was proud to serve. It is clear that during this time I had the confidence of those presidents, the various executive boards and the general membership.

These folks entrusted me with this position, and I have done absolutely nothing that would give them pause. Furthermore, I coordinated several club elections and endorsement meetings without any candidates disputing the accuracy of the membership list. Overall, I’m not aware of any member losing sleep over the fact that I have been the club’s treasurer.

To that end, I can attest that our financial records are accurate, up-to-date and most importantly secure. My reports to the executive board and membership reflect that.  

As I indicated earlier, our club secretary and past president conducted a review of my records and found that they are in order. Notably, these individuals viewed the general transaction history on PayPal but only opened up their own transaction--not anyone else's-- so they can see what private information is contained in the "receipts."

Financial transparency is essential but not at the expense of security and privacy. The release of private information does not promote accurate membership lists or improve the voting process. It just invites abuse.

My fiduciary responsibilities as treasurer, as I see it, are to keep accurate records, safeguard the club’s assets and protect the private information of its members. And that’s what I intend to do.

 

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Why Trump is More Dangerous Than Ever

 

When Donald Trump was in office, many people thought he was dangerous. He only held his self-interests as a priority, had little knowledge of the workings of government, coddled international dictators and despots and helped give rise to white nationalism.    

As he became more unglued throughout his term, his potential to perform reckless and dangerous acts if his ego was damaged or he felt aggrieved increased. 

When Joe Biden won the election and Trump was either in denial or created a fantasy to keep his following in toe, even more people including past government officials and members of Congress were authentically worried Trump would do something risky, reckless and dangerous. They even wondered if the mercurial president should be allowed to possess the nuclear codes during the interregnum.

All of our fears were borne out when he incited an insurrection of our government on January 6—the 3rd Day of Infamy this country ever experienced. All of it was caused by the “Big Lie” in which Trump and his acolytes say the election had been stolen from him because it was rife with fraud. It simply was not true, but it served this narcissist to perpetuate such a lie to rile up his base. 

He exhorted his frothing cultists to “take back our country” and do it with “strength.”  Does anybody really believe those instructions were meant for the supporters to participate in a peaceful protest consisting of chants? If so, why didn’t Trump do anything to quell the violence?

Because he loved it.

Most of the House Republicans and 43 in the Senate didn’t think Trump incited the mob he invited weeks earlier or they did but they couldn’t acknowledge it publicly lest they incur the wrath of Trump.

No good decent public servant would tolerate such an egregious incitement to violence that killed 6 people. But more than a few of Trump’s enablers are spouting yet another lie that the rioters were antifa sympathizers posing as Trump supporters and not at all those angels who tried to run a Biden campaign bus off a highway.

Yes, Trump was dangrous while in office. He is more dangerous now.

While he has no official powers as an ex-president, he holds much power—too much, in fact.  The recent CPAC confab symbolized by the rolling out of a golden likeness of Trump shows that there is a dear leader the Republicans must cozy up to.  Trump commands the adoration of an overwhelming majority of Republicans. As insidious as January 6 was and as obvious Trump was the instigator of the violence and carnage, only 11 percent of Republicans found him responsible for it, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

“He may be down, but he is certainly not out of favor with the GOP,” says Tim Malloy, who conducted the poll for Quinnipiac University. “Twice impeached, vilified by Democrats in the trial, and virtually silenced by social media ... despite it all, Donald Trump keeps a solid foothold in the Republican Party.”

Furthermore, the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial have been censured by their local or state Republican parties or are facing blowback from voters back home.

This is why Trump is dangerous even today. He has the GQP wrapped around his finger as one leading Republican after another migrates to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring worn on that very finger.


These Republicans as well as right wing media continue to foster the big lie that Trump actually won. They are terrified to stray from that lie, which will provide them another opportunity in 2024 to try to de-legitimize the election should the Republican presidential nominee lose. Add that to the active voter suppression efforts in several states to screw Black citizens and you have a formula for the end of democracy as we know it. A toast to Vladimir Putin! 

All of this will happen with Trump cheerleading from the sidelines. Don’t worry, he won’t be the nominee. He teases the country but he will not make another run. Trump will raise oodles of cash for his PAC, which he could use any way he wants. In the meantime, as he executes this charade, he freezes out would be candidates and their ability to raise money almost certainly leading to another loss.

With all their adulation of Trump, Republicans should note that with him at the helm, they lost the House, the Senate and the White House. As a visible ex-president, that streak could continue over the next two cycles.

Then there is the legal exposure Trump faces on several fronts. I firmly believe there is a better than 50 percent chance he will be indicted for possible tax and bank fraud at a minimum in Manhattan. What happens to him after that remains to be seen.

But Trump controls the Proud Boys and all the other violent white nationalist militias. Imagine if an indictment (or more) is handed down how these domestic terrorists may react. Imagine Trump telling them that this was another witch hunt and we need to re-take our country. Imagine what they will do at court houses and other government buildings.

You know he won’t peacefully accept a prison sentence. It will make January 6 seem like a block party.

That is why the danger Trump poses now is even greater than what it was before.  

Sunday, February 14, 2021

We Don’t Know How to Quit Ya

 The GQP made what is likely to be a costly decision to let Trump off the hook.

The dust has settled on Donald Trump’s record breaking 2nd impeachment trial, and the Monday morning quarterbacking, recriminations and speculation about the political future for both parties expectedly began. 

For his part, the former president by a vote of 57-43 was found guilty of the impeachment charge of “inciting an insurrection” for the deadly January 6 assault on the Capitol and democracy, but because of the Constitution’s requirement that two-thirds of the Senate is needed to remove and disqualify, Trump wriggled off the hook.

Keep in mind, if you win or lose and election by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin, that would be considered a landslide by many. So Trump’s feeling so good about the result or believing he was exonerated is absurd. The failure to convict was largely accomplished based on a technicality that Republicans believed or they say they believed that a former president cannot be impeached and removed from office despite historical precedent. That was the off-ramp for 43 Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump issued a statement that said the impeachment was “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country” and that “no president has ever gone through anything like it.”

Trump is correct on the second part. No president has gone through anything like this because no president ever welcomed and accepted help from a foreign country to win an election (2016) and obstructed justice in the attempt to get to the bottom of it. No president ever pressured the leader of a foreign country in order to obtain dirt on his potential opponent, which happened in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

And no president ever incited a mob to breach, loot and defile the Capitol and to threaten the safety of the second and third people in the line of succession as well as other legislators and staff, and to kill one and injure over 140 police officers attempting to thwart the violent domestic terrorism that was unfolding. Moreover, Trump did nothing to stop the insurrection while it was underway and gleefully watched on TV as the rioters succeeded, at least temporarily, in halting the certification of Electoral College tallies.

The nine House Managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland were spectacular, compelling and proficient in laying out the case in a clear precise manner. The evidence had been overwhelming as was the video footage of police officers being beaten to a pulp by the Trump insurrectionists. (What happened to Blue Lives Matter?)

It was a decisive victory of fact presentation and style over the G team – the 7th team of lawyers to defend Trump in this battle. This latest group mirrored Trump: incompetent, clownish and lying.

But the ever-shrinking GQP, a party that decidedly supports a congresswoman who ascribes to QAnon conspiracy theories, punishes competent representatives who vote their conscience and one that censures senators who vote according to facts and evidence, is still hitched to the Trump wagon.

Lindsey Graham, a senator who has lost all what remains of his credibility said after the Senate trial, “The Republican Party is alive and well.” Really?

Following the bloody insurrection, the attempted coup to overthrow our government by preventing the peaceful transfer of power—the hallmark of our democracy—the party lost tens of thousands of registered voters across the land. Unless you’re a hard core Trump loyalist, most people from both parties were sickened by the events of January 6—the third day of infamy for the U.S.

Yet, the Trump base is what Republican politicians must covet and fear to successfully ward off primary challenges as the base comprises the most reliable voters in primaries. McConnell doesn’t want any part of Trump but had to vote to acquit lest he lose his leadership position. His speech following the vote twisted him into a knot by condemning Trump in no uncertain terms for the January 6 coup attempt but used the escape hatch of “jurisdiction” as a means to justify his not guilty vote despite the Senate’s vote that rendered jurisdiction on a non-issue.

Always savvy and calculating, McConnell suggested that Trump is not out of the woods legally, which is true. But I think McConnell is trying to set a trap whereby the new Attorney General, most likely Merrick Garland, would be encouraged to investigate Trump for federal violations. If that were to occur, McConnell would cry “Democrat overreach” for investigating a former president and will fund raise and rally the GQP troops off of it.

Democrats must seize upon the Republicans’ failure to quit Trump even after the egregious January 6 event and the blatant lies Trump used over a period of months to whip his white nationalists, militia, QAnon and other components of his base into a frenzy. By no means, was the insurrection a surprise.

January 6 and Trump’s escape from any real punishment so far will not help expand the party and win over suburban and college educated voters. A break from Trump was needed by the party, but the lawmakers who supported Trump by choosing convenience over conscience will pay a steep price.

They didn’t know how to quit him, and they still don’t.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

We the Jury

The case for Trump's conviction must be directed more for the public than the Senate.


D
onald Trump spewed the biggest of all his many lies when he claimed he actually won the November 3 election by a landslide no less had not the Democrats stole it from him through fraudulent means. Trump’s loyal base of support that includes notably white supremacists, violent militia groups, QAnon conspiracy nuts and other far right extremists bought into that lie.

So when Trump tweeted that there will be a “wild” rally on January 6 to protest the “steal” and pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to violate the Constitution by overturning the election results that day, thousands of enraged, amped-up supporters—many of them armed—gathered at the Ellipse near the White House.

They listened to the likes of Donald Trump, Jr., Senator Ted Cruz and Rudy Giuliani who decried the stolen election and urged the angry mob to take action. Then they heard from President Trump himself.

“We’re going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol…Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong,” Trump said in the midst of a rambling speech dominated by lies about individual states’ voting results and other false grievances. The crowd had been whipped up to a state of frenzy and was frothing with a desire to take action.

As just about everyone in the world witnessed on that horrific January 6, the rabid mob attacked, desecrated and looted the Capitol. Five people lost their lives including a police officer who was bludgeoned to death. Members of Congress and Senate who were going through the process of putting their stamp of approval of the Electoral College results had to be escorted out of their respective chambers into a safe haven as their lives were in jeopardy. And for good measure, some of the mob were out to kill Mike Pence with a makeshift gallows erected outside.

From even before the election through January 6, Trump laid the foundation for the insurrection on our government by violent domestic terrorists with his false and ridiculous claim that the election was rigged against him. During the siege of the Capitol, Trump, his family as well as others watched the proceedings on TV (his major activity during any day of his presidency when he’s not out golfing) and yucked it up celebrating Trump banners replacing American flags and the numerous violent acts taking place during the riot. He also did nothing to stop it.

But here’s the sad upshot of this event: Trump will avoid conviction at his impeachment trial next week for inciting an insurrection because the overwhelming majority of Republican senators remain terrified of Trump and his supporters and the votes they represent.

The able Democratic House managers who will lead the impeachment trial against Trump will lay out all the evidence in great detail—Trump’s lies about the election results, his attempts to pressure state election officials to “find votes,” the footage from Trump’s inciting speech, the acts of violence perpetrated by the mob, and the on-camera comments from the rioters claiming Trump put them up to it. This damning evidence should not be directed towards the senators who will be serving as jurors, witnesses and victims. They have already made up their minds.

The case, in excruciating and dramatic detail, must be brought to the American citizens who witnessed in horror an attack on our Capitol—the people’s house—not seen since the War of 1812.

While Republicans argue dubiously that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president, they are merely seeking an off ramp so they don’t have to judge him on the merits of the case. They want to “move on” unlike the way these folks moved past Benghazi.

Let them cower to the inciter-in-chief. The American people—heck, most of the world—witnessed what happened and understand that the violence was stoked by Trump with his lies about the election. The American people will ultimately be the jury.

Every Republican congressman who objected to the election results even after the riot and every senator who votes to acquit Trump should be branded as supporting sedition. The images from this manifestation of domestic terrorism, already seared into the souls of most Americans, must be included in every campaign ad against these Republicans up for election in 2022. The Republican Sedition Party, I call it.

It’s been said that Democrats tend to bring a ladle to a gunfight. The events of January 6 should be a millstone around the necks of those seditionists. If they do not punish those Republicans who put the party of Trump before our country then it would be clear political malpractice.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Republicans' Idea of Unity

I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new.—President Joe Biden from his Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 2021

As a candidate Joe Biden made unity the centerpiece of his campaign to the chagrin of the left wing of the Democratic Party. It helped win over Trump-opposing Republicans, independents and suburban women in his quest to get elected. Though so many have been skeptical of the prospect of unifying such a divided country especially after the past four years, the concept of unity was the principal theme in Mr. Biden’s inaugural address.

Merely hours after the inaugural festivities, truncated as they were due to the pandemic and security concerns, Republicans across the board demonstrated they are not having any of it. A reporter from a right wing media outlet asked the new and refreshingly competent press secretary Jen Psaki if the Democrats are ready to extend an olive branch to the Republicans in the name of unity.The Democrats need to offer an olive branch to Republicans? What a joke!

Maybe if the overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives and a handful of senators would acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election fair and square (which he did), that would be a good first step in unifying the country. Recall how over 150 of these legislators objected to the certified election results in several states and that was AFTER the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.

Let’s also look at sore loser Trump’s behavior following the election. Through the moment he fled to Florida on January 20 as a disgraced twice impeached president, he never publicly mentioned Joe Biden’s name, never acknowledged he lost to Biden, delayed the crucial transition period, failed to cooperate during the transition and in fact, created unnecessary barriers, didn’t welcome Biden in the White House to confer as has been a long standing tradition, and refused to attend the inauguration. What an example of sportsmanship Trump sets for our young people!

Then there’s that pesky matter of a Trump-incited insurrection on our government with the express intent to thwart the peaceful transfer of power and to harm or even kill the first and second persons in the succession. That’s called sedition.

This incitement by urging a frothing, violent, angry mob of white supremacists and other pro-Trump believers to “take back our country” whereby they stormed and ransacked the Capitol earned Trump his second impeachment. Now Republicans, such as Trump supplicant Lindsey Graham, are pleading for the Senate to not try Trump on this article of impeachment if the Democrats want to truly unify.

Yes, Democrats should look the other way and not hold Trump accountable for his attempt to overthrow the government. They should move on. Republicans who advocate this dereliction of duty should be reminded that 5 people lost their lives as a result of the riot.

That’s one more life lost than the Benghazi raid that killed 4 Americans in Libya. Republicans didn’t move on. They held some 10 hearings on the incident and dragged then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify at one of these for 11 hours. For years, obsessed Republicans screamed Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! over and over. But a violent attempted coup? Not so much. Let’s just move on.

We should never forget January 6. It should forever be memorialized as 9/11 has been. But this tragedy, this national disgrace, was perpetrated not by foreign jihadists but by misinformed and conspiracy theory-obsessed American citizens who were provoked by a deranged, lying and unpatriotic president, aided by his kooky attorney and two rogue overly ambitious senators and a number of equally seditious representatives.

Within hours of the inauguration, Republicans and their agents on right wing media mocked Biden’s call for unity. The hashtag #ImpeachBidenNow trended on Twitter. Mitch McConnell already began playing games to hold off on finalizing his minority leader status and jeopardizing COVID relief legislation. Unity appears to be an elusive goal especially if it is not in the political interests of Republicans.

It’s a no-brainer for an incoming president especially from a different political party who had previously occupied the White House to ask for unity. And like he said, it could be seen as a foolish fantasy.

A degree of unity could only work if both sides are willing to pull together. One would think that the pandemic that kills Americans regardless of political affiliation would finally bring us collectively to fight the disease as a matter of patriotism.

President Biden’s realistic idea of unity is at least lowering the temperature of the rhetoric. The Republican idea of unity, however, is for Democrats to capitulate to their whims and take no actions to offend that perennially angry Republican base, who for the most part see Mr. Biden as an illegitimate president.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The False Equivalence of 'Whataboutism'

On January 12, 2021, President Donald Trump was impeached for the second time in a year. On this occasion it was for inciting an insurrection. By becoming the only president to have been impeached twice, Trump has cemented his place in history as the worst president ever. Regardless of the outcome in the Senate, this action makes it official.

The capturing of 10 Republican votes in the House vote on the single article of impeachment renders it the most bi-partisan impeachment ever. But to listen to the other Republicans oppose the action, they were unable or unwilling to defend the president on the merits but offered an absurd dose of “whataboutism.”

Some Republicans used the Black Lives Matter marches and disturbances from this past summer as an equivalent of the violence Trump incited. Several days earlier Marco Rubio noted, “The events that we saw this week should sicken every single one of us ... Riots should be rejected by everyone, every single time,” he said. “Now, are the left hypocrites? Absolutely. I remember what they now are calling ‘insurrection,’ they were justifying just this summer.”  

Let’s look at some of the differences.

The BLM marches crossed racial lines and were a reaction to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He held his knee on the throat of the unarmed Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as the victim begged him to stop. At the time this was the most graphic incident of a police officer killing an unarmed Black person as footage later released provided the horrors of the act.

Similar incidents have occurred for decades around the country. The means to carry out the deaths may be different but not the results.

In cities all over the U.S. and countries around the world, people demonstrated peacefully by marching to demand police reform and justice. Yes, some criminal elements broke ranks and burned and looted property. But contrary to the assertions made by congressional Republicans during the impeachment debate, Democrats did condemn the violence associated with these marches, especially Joe Biden who did so emphatically on multiple occasions.

Unlike the domestic terrorists spurred on by Donald Trump, the protesters during the BLM marches did not attempt to illegally breach and destroy the Capitol building in Washington. They did not target lawmakers or any individuals during the demonstrations. They did not come armed to the teeth to include pipe bombs, guns of all types, poles, bats, pipes, hockey sticks, knives, zip ties and other weaponry.  They did not dress in military-style uniforms and head gear looking for combat. And if they had, I doubt the BLM would have been treated by police with the same deference as Trump’s mob.

Unlike the mostly white, anti-Semitic and racist insurrectionists, the BLM protesters did not try to overthrow the government by attempting to prevent the orderly and peaceful certification of -the Electoral College results. Unlike Trump’s frothing-at-the-mouth rabid followers, the BLM protesters did not go headhunting for Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi. They did not chant “Hang Mike Pence” and erect a gallows in front of the Capitol to finish the job.

Moreover, the BLM protesters did not bludgeon a policeman to death as was done by those who push the Blue Lives Matter mantra.

The biggest difference of all is that the BLM protesters were reacting to systemic racism present in our cities’ police forces while the Trump insurrectionists were acting on the big lie that the election was stolen. So remorseful was Trump that he was enjoying all the action at the Capitol with a smirk and satisfied that people were fighting for him.

Republicans are desperate not to leave the good graces of Trump and his cult-like followers to even try to compare these two events. Someone tell me how a seditious coup attempt that resulted in five deaths and much destruction to the citadel of democracy is equivalent to stealing a box of Pampers from a store.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

King Insane

Full disclosure: I am not a psychiatrist or a trained psychologist, but I did fairly well in my Psych courses in college. One of those was Abnormal Psychology, and I can pretty much say that had there been a President Donald Trump then, his case studies would have appeared on many of the pages of those text books.

We are all too familiar with his pathological lying, extreme narcissism and need to command attention. Yet, Trump’s problems go beyond these character disorders. To use New York parlance, this man is sick in da head. Or using the more medical  NY term, Meshuggeneh.

Throughout his life, whether he loses a lawsuit or an election, whatever it is, it must have been rigged. He was saying this ahead of the 2016 election and, of course, the recent 2020 election. When it became clear he had indeed lost in November and Joe Biden was deemed to be the President-elect, Trump’s nuttiness when into high gear.

Breaking with traditional norms, he refused to concede the election though Biden’s Electoral College votes matched Trump’s from 2016 and won the popular vote by 7 million. (If you’re a Trump supporter and do not believe 7 million is a significant total, start counting from 1 to 7 million and when you’re finished, you may resume reading this.)

Throughout these past two months, Trump refused to accept the reality that he lost. His claims of widespread voter fraud, irregularities, voting machines tampering, ballot shredding, ballot dumping, and dead people voting were baseless and without evidence. Undaunted, his crack legal team, headed by Rudy “Colludy” Giuliani, tried to litigate these false allegations and failed miserably to make the case in court some 60 times (including the Supreme Court twice) involving 90 judges with many having been appointed by Republicans and Trump himself.

The problem is Trump actually believed his delusional alternate reality. He has convinced himself that he actually won the election in a landslide (“Everybody knows it”), and it was stolen from him.

The past several days revealed how psychotic Trump is. Using the same unfounded claims, a recorded rambling phone call with Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger revealed that Trump most likely broke the law by threatening the Republican official to conjure up additional votes to overturn the state’s already certified tallies and call it a “recalculation.”

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump said.  He was asking this official to come up with new totals to give him the edge and reminded him by not reporting the “voting irregularities” he was subjecting himself to criminal exposure.

Except the one who has criminal exposure for this election interference and tampering is Trump. It will be up to the District Attorney of Fulton County to pursue this.

If that wasn’t enough, Trump held a rally in D.C. on January 6 where he espoused the same falsehoods. This ego-satisfying event had been announced weeks before and he predicted it would be “wild.” Thousands listened to the likes of Trump, Rudy Colludy Giuliani, Donald, Jr. Ivanka and others as they worked the crowd up to a boiling point.

They received their marching orders. “We are going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, congressmen and women. And we are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you will never take back our country with weakness.”

Frothing at the mouth from the Trump lies and his attacking his sycophant-in-chief VP Mike Pence for not breaking the law in his behalf, this mob of terrorists, illegally breached the U.S. Capitol, defaced and desecrated offices and statues, looted and forced the members of Congress and senators to shelter in place or be evacuated for hours until the late-arriving security squads cleaned out the buildings from these scumbags and the stain they left on America’s democracy and reputation.

What I personally found egregious was a Trump supporter replacing an American flag with a Trump flag on one of the balconies.  Taking down the American flag and replacing it with a Trump flag.  Let that sink in. These are the same people who went nuts when pro football players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest social injustice.  America First? Not so much in this case. Trump First instead. What a disgrace!

And look at the way these right-wing thugs were treated so deferentially by law enforcement compared to the way Black Lives Matter protesters were handled.

Seeing that the media coverage was not too favorable to Trump for his inciting the rioters and under pressure from advisors, the smirking psycho president released a video whereby he asked the terrorists to go home but reminded them that their actions were justified because the election was stolen. One Trump supporter had been killed by gunfire inside the Capitol while three others died from health-related matters. Therefore, this horrible incident was deadly as well as disgusting.

Trump eventually issued a statement that there will be a peaceful transfer of power after Congress finally finished tabulating the electoral votes. Take that with a good dose of skepticism. The next two weeks will keep us on edge wondering what this lunatic will do next.

Unhinged would not be a sufficient characterization of his mercurial behavior. I’ll go with deranged. And so would many others. A movement albeit delayed is underway to see Trump's removal from office via impeachment or the 25th Amendment. He is unfit to continue.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

There Used to be a Gayborhood in Mt. Vernon

As soon as the Hippo announced its closing in 2015, members of Baltimore’s LGBTQ community began seeing the handwriting on the wall regarding the “gayborhood” in the Mount Vernon area. The state’s largest dance bar and night club closed its doors several months later with the edifice being converted to a CVS store. That was the first piece to fall.

Two years later, as first reported here Don Davis, the owner of the second largest gay club in town, Grand Central, indicated. the establishment would be put up for sale. Fast forward to 2020, under new ownership, Grand Central closed its doors this past summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and a new office complex would reside where the club once stood.

On its website, the Grand Central Management team wrote:

After over 30 years of serving the community, Grand Central sadly has shut its doors. Given the overwhelming challenges created by the pandemic and our beverage-only driven business, the operations were not sustainable as we prepare for the next chapter. We appreciate all of our customers and supporters and thank them for their long-time loyalty; we look forward to celebrating the institution’s legacy in the future development. We strongly believe in the Mt. Vernon community and will always drive to be stewards of quality, growth and retention to ensure the neighborhood’s character stays true to form.

The gut-punch reality of this latest occurrence was jarring with the 30 year-old Grand Central building succumbing to the business end of a wrecking ball. But the memories of this place did not vanish in the rubble of what was once a proud and glorious safe space for the LGBTQ community.

The pulsating beats on the often crowded dance floor were high tempo, driving energy levels sky-high. The needlessly loud music in the saloon area on the weekends, however, rendered attempts at conversation a monumental task.

The famous red, white and black parties where imaginative patrons dressed up in dazzling, clever attire to fit the theme were experiences to savor.

There were fundraisers and other events

for the benefit of the community. Ravens watch parties took place on Sundays. Karaoke, drag shows, go-go dancers, you name it, were part of Grand Central’s grand entertainment. On two occasions piano bar set-ups were tried to create an alternative vibe but those was short-lived.


The upstairs loft in the adjacent but attached building was set aside for lesbians to congregate and socialize, and when the original Eagle closed, that area was inhabited by the leather community.

Who can forget that out-of-control pickup truck that careened into the outside tables and building entrance and splashing a river of white paint on the sidewalk and walls of the bar? And, of course, there were the ongoing public grievances the owner had with a string of mangers that were laid bare on social media.

Grand Central with all its quirkiness and merriment had been a good compliment to the Hippo when they both competed for the attention of our diverse community. But now they are gone.

The smoking ban, the advent of online dating and hookup apps, the increasingly difficult parking situation and a greater willingness of the younger generation to patronize “straight” bars took its financial toll on both the Hippo and Grand Central—the bulwarks of the gayborhood.

However, other developments impacted of the gayborhood.

Years ago, we lost the iconic LGBTQ Lambda Rising bookstore—another casualty of the internet. The Community Center left its Mount Vernon birthplace and headed to Station North/Old Goucher slightly less than a mile away from the gayborhood in order to provide targeted services to low-income and people of color not prevalent in Mount Vernon. Along with it went the Pride parade and block party, where every year thousands used to pack the intersection of Charles and Eager Streets and surrounding streets to eat, drink and be merry while live entertainment added to the high-energy atmosphere.

Other establishments closed as well. Flavor, a lesbian-owned bar on nearby Centre Street known for its community-oriented fundraisers, dancing and good eating, is no more. After 25 years of operation the City Café, a gay-owned, popular restaurant, which was situated a block away from the Hippo, closed for good in the Spring.  While many LGBTQ folks made a habit of enjoying lunches and dinner there, patrons from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a few blocks away, also partook. With the Symphony closing during the pandemic and the closings of the nearby bars, the impact on the City Café had to be devastating.

We also lost a favorite of mine, the Mount Vernon Stable on Charles Street, another nice, gay-friendly restaurant, which closed its doors after many years.

Remaining are the two oldest gay bars in the gayborhood, The Drinkery and Leon’s, with their own claim to memories over the years. Both are closed now because of the pandemic. It remains to be seen if and when they will re-open.

On the bright side, the gay owners of the chic new LGBTQ-friendly Manor Restaurant and Ultralounge that inhabits the old Brass Elephant restaurant opened a month before COVID hit. Undaunted, they plan to re-open as soon as they are permitted.

Over five years ago on a typical Saturday night, the gayborhood was alive and teeming with crowds ready to party or dine or both. People sat outside of the City Café enjoying their meals. Folks meandered to any combination of the four bars in the immediate vicinity. Lines snaked outside the Hippo; Grand Central was hopping.

Halloweens and New Year’s Eves were incredibly festive.  Pride was absolutely insane—colorful, creative, loud, hot, sassy, messy.

Yes, there used to be a gayborhood in Mount Vernon but no longer. The pile of rubble and debris on the Grand Central site symbolizes the gayborhood’s sad demise.

________

[Photo of Grand Central demolition by Justin Johnson. Other photos by Bob Ford]

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

OUTSpoken's Top 10 Posts of 2020


The end of the year means another list somewhere, and this blog is no exception. The Covid-19 pandemic and its resulting closures of theaters has effectively eliminated my theatre reviews typically contained in this blog over the years. Accordingly, most of the posts during the year focused on politics with particular attention to the presidential race.  

The Top 10 posts are listed in reverse order according to the amount of page views. You may click on the title of each to access the full post.

A review of my Top 10 posts from 2019 is shown here and 2018 here

10. A Biden-Abrams Ticket Sounds Like a Winner  (April 2020). I tried to make the case that Stacey Abrams and the excitement she would bring to the ticket should be considered for Joe Biden’s running mate to help stoke African American voters in the upcoming election.

9. Trump's Handling of the Pandemic: Negligent Homicide  (October 2020). First it was Trump’s denial of the pandemic by calling it a hoax. Then he admitted to playing it down so it would not frighten the people. Then he eschewed the wearing of face masks. And throughout, there was no national testing plan and blamed Democratic governors and media. People died on Trump’s watch unnecessarily because he politicized the pandemic.

8. Why Pete's Nomination Should Sail Through  (December 2020).  President-elect Joe Biden nominated Pete Buttigieg to head the Department of Transportation. If the nomination is successful, he would be the first confirmed openly LGBTQ person to serve on the cabinet. Despite some bigots in the Senate, I explained why he it should be an easy confirmation.

New LGBTQ-Friendly Establishment Opens in Mount Vernon  (February 2020). In the wake of prominent gay bars closing and before there was Covid, a chic new establishment called The Manor Restaurant and Ultralounge opened its doors in the old Brass Elephant building in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon gayborhood.

6. ‘Stand Back and Stand By’: What is Trump Up To?  (September 2020). During his final debate with Joe Biden, Donald Trump failed to denounce white nationalism and told the right wing extremist violent Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” claiming he never heard of the group. In the post I speculated about the dangers of Trump’s losing the election.

5. Ticked-off Trump Threatens Tallies  (November 2020). I used an alliterative device to tell of Trump’s tempestuous temper tantrums to a tee following his loss in the election.

4. A Dress Rehearsal for November?  (May 2020). In the midst of the COVID pandemic, Trump urged his followers to liberate the starts. In Michigan a group of armed protesters entered the capital building. This level of intimidation and inciting violence gave Americans reason to fear the aftermath of an election that did not go Trump’s way.

3. Why is This Race Even Close?  (September 2020). From his mismanagement of the pandemic to calling military personnel “losers and suckers” to knee-capping the post office system, Trump had so many miscues it was impossible to enumerate them all. Yet, he remained within striking distance according to most polls. I offered up some explanations.

2.There Used to be a Gayborhood in Mt. Vernon (12/2020). The demolition of the building in which the gay bar Grand Central once occupied for 30 years is a symbolic reminder of how 'gay' has been scooped out of the Gayborhood in this midtown Baltimore area.


1. No Rainbow Over the Kingdom  (August 2020). A departure from the political scene, this post was by far the most viewed during 2020. The three- season series that is streaming on Netflix presents the conflicts and bonding of families with the gritty world of mixed martial arts in the background. The post explores the treatment and portrayal of the one gay character in the series, his internal battles climaxing with his dramatic and consequential coming out. A prominently displayed spoiler alert is provided for those in the process of watching the series.

 


Besides those above popular posts from 2020, below are several posts from previous years still garnering many views in 2020 (in no particular order):

‘Boys Will be Boys’ on Sizzling Atlantis Cruise (February 2009) 

‘Everwood’s’ Coming Out Scene Hits the Mark (April 2006)

Why Trump’s Purple Heart Comment is the Most Disqualifying (August 2016) 

The Man Who Would be King  (October 2019)


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Why Pete's Nomination Should Sail Through


On December 16, 2020, history was made as the first open LGBTQ person was nominated for a cabinet position. President-elect Joe Biden announced that Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, IN, has been selected to be the Secretary of Transportation in the new Biden-Harris administration. 

Mr. Buttigieg's remarks following the announcement are shown here.

The Senate would have to confirm this nomination for this historic breakthrough to be official. And they will.

Yes, Mitch McConnell is a serial obstructionist and a spiteful one at that. And he could cause mischief with Biden’s cabinet nominees assuming his party retains control of the Senate and that is certainly an open question. And yes, Republican senators still under the thumb of sore loser Trump may resist anything Joe Biden tries to put forward. But in Mayor Pete‘s case, they will confirm.

For one thing, the Department of Transportation, important as it will be in a potential infrastructure deal as well as energy and climate considerations, is not part of the top tier cabinet positions. Those include State, Defense, Treasury and Justice. Therefore, the nomination should not be one in which Republicans will find ideological differences to contest.

Secondly, Mr. Buttigieg is a centrist and not a “left wing radical,” the type that Republicans loath. During his campaign he promised to work across the aisle so that will bode well for him during the Senate confirmation process.

Mr. Buttigieg’s personal story is compelling. A Rhodes Scholar, a military veteran, an ability to speak some seven languages fluently, and the first gay presidential candidate from a major political party to win delegates during a primary are qualities that endeared him to many in the public and media after he burst onto the scene two years ago. 


The historic nature of this selection will not be lost on the Senate. When McConnell grudgingly acknowledged Biden’s victory the day before, he proudly announced that Kamala Harris will be the first female vice president. If nothing else, the Senate reveres history.

If they block the nomination, the media and the public writ large will assume it was due to homophobia and not on the merits. That is a possibility for sure given that the Senate contains a fair number of bigots.

But it would be politically damaging to the Republicans if that perception gains traction. It’s not a good way to expand their “tent” if suburban women see this rejection for what it is. If this election proved anything, you cannot win a national race with just the base.

Moreover, there are a number of gay Republicans who are big donors. The GOP should keep that in mind.

The only reason I can fathom in which the Senate would reject this nomination is that they don’t want to bolster Mr. Buttigieg’s resume. He is an enormous political talent as evidenced by his brief remarks following Mr. Biden's introduction, and at age 38, a future presidential run is likely. The experience he will garner at the federal/cabinet level will put the kabash on his lack of resume. He will pose an enormous threat to Republicans in a potential presidential bid should he capture the Democratic nomination.

Nonetheless, the Senate Republicans will be eyeing the near term and should have no ostensible reason to reject this nomination with more significant battles looming. Mayor Pete should sail through without a hitch, and we will be calling him Secretary Pete in a few months.






Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Another Historic Breakthrough

Joe Biden broke new ground when he selected Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate for vice president. Now that she and Biden have been elected, Ms. Harris will be the first female vice president in our country’s history and the first of African American and South Asian descent.

Now the president-elect has broken additional ground in naming former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg to serve on his cabinet as Secretary of Transportation as reported by numerous major news outlets. If confirmed by the Senate, Buttigieg would be the first open LGBTQ person to receive Senate confirmation for a cabinet position.

Buttigieg burst on the national scene in April 2019 when the mayor announced his long shot candidacy for President. He was such a refreshing contrast to President Trump that I opined the day after the announcement that he would make a viable run and possibly even succeed.

A bodacious fundraiser, Mayor Pete as he was affectionately called, impressed many voters with his intelligence, political talent, military record and life story, but his lack of experience other than leading a smallish city gave voters pause.  His record as South Bend mayor, particularly when a Black man was shot by a white police officer, created friction with many in the African American community. As a result, failed to garner support from this critical voting bloc.

Nonetheless, Pete’s narrow win in the Iowa caucuses enabled him to claim that he was the first openly gay candidate from a major political party to receive delegates from a primary contest. Any momentum that should have accrued to him was stifled by the technical glitches surrounding the tallying of votes in Iowa. Regardless, he finished second in New Hampshire but his campaign fizzled as he entered states with a larger minority population than Iowa and New Hampshire.

Immediately following the South Carolina primary, Buttigieg suspended his campaign and joined other rivals in endorsing Joe Biden. For his part, the president-elect views Buttigieg very positively. Biden had compared the former mayor to his son, Beau, saying it’s “the highest compliment I can give any man or woman.”  

Buttigieg campaigned for Biden, raised money, represented the ticket on FOX News, and served on his transition team. His selection to a prominent position in a Biden Administration was expected by many Washington insiders and beyond.

According to Politico, “If confirmed, Buttigieg will head to Washington to take responsibility for nearly 55,000 employees, an $87 billion budget and more than a dozen agencies, overseeing the nation’s airspace, highway system, pipeline safety and much more.

On the campaign trail, Buttigieg introduced out a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that prioritized upgrading the country’s crumbling infrastructure and expanding broadband internet access through payment to state and local governments.

If confirmed, Buttigieg will be in a position to gain experience at the federal level and boost his qualifications for a future run for president.

But his appointment will be an inspiring message to members of the LGBTQ community. The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, said the nomination would be “a reminder to LGBTQ people everywhere that any opportunity is possible.”

In response Buttigieg  tweeted:

This is a moment of tremendous opportunity—to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all.

I'm honored that the President-elect has asked me to serve our nation as Secretary of Transportation.




Sunday, December 06, 2020

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

 The devil went down to Georgia. He was lookin’ for a soul to steal. He was in a bind ‘cause he was way behind. And he was willin’ to make a deal. –Charlie Daniels Band, 1979


On December 5, the most delusional, most undemocratic, most paranoid, most narcissistic, most incompetent and most corrupt president in my lifetime (and I go back to Van Buren) descended upon Valdosta, Georgia like a giant stink bomb. Donald Trump, the biggest sore loser in centuries, held his first post-election rally that was also yet another super-spreader event even while Covid cases continue to set daily records in hospitalizations and deaths. I suspect some of those attending the basically mask-less, ego-stroking rally will be leaving us in the not-too-distant future.

Ostensibly, Trump was there to motivate his troops to support the two Republican senatorial candidates in a crucial runoff election on January 5, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. But as predicted Trump echoed the same lies, the same misinformation and the same unsubstantiated garbage that somehow the election was stolen from him; it was rigged; and that only widespread fraud kept him from enjoying and enriching himself and his family in a second term.

“They cheated and rigged our presidential election but we’ll still win it. And they are going to try to rig this election too,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

During the month following the election in which he lost by around 7 million votes and by 74 in the electoral college, Trump attacked our democracy and the election process with his inflammatory and untrue rhetoric that included zeroing in on Georgia as the runoff to decide which party will control the Senate looms.

That surely isn’t helping to gin up support and turnout for the two flawed Republican incumbents. Former members of Trump’s hapless legal team, which is challenging the results in several swing states armed with no evidence of wrongdoing, urged Trump believers not to vote in the runoff because the system was rigged and rife with fraud, (Translation: Attempts at voter suppression failed; Black voters are voting.)

The GOP infighting, normally more common among the Dems, is the catalyst the Democratic candidates—Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff—will need to overcome the intrinsic electoral disadvantages in Georgia. Who would ever suspect that as recently as a month ago, Georgia Governor and Trump toady Brian Kemp, Trump’s supplicant Attorney General William Barr and Trump state TV’s FOX News, would be in the crosshairs of Trump and his cult-of-personality followers?

Though some in his flock have drifted—a whopping 27 Republicans in Congress out of the 249 seated actually acknowledged Joe Biden’s decisive victory—Trump has terrified Republican officeholders into toeing the mantra that the election was fraudulent or that Trump has the right to pursue all legal means to overturn the results in what has amounted to be the theatre of the absurd. He even demanded to know who those 27 are.

Nobody can get into Trump’s disturbed brain. But either he truly believes that he won the race for not the widespread fraud, which miraculously affected his totals but not the down ballot contests where Republicans did better, or that this is another con from the best conman this planet has ever known.

Since the election, Trump has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from his supporters to help pay for his election-related legal challenges. Except the fine print indicates that most of the money raised can be spent on other matters. I see Trump using this largess to pay off sizable loans that are coming due. But don’t tell that to the gullible Trump supporter.

As for Georgia, I am not convinced that despite Biden’s 12,000 vote margin of victory following multiple recounts, the Peach State has turned blue. Many Republicans decided that Trump was too much but returned to the fold down ballot. Ossoff, for example, amassed far fewer voters than Biden did. Republicans control all the levers of power in Georgia, and outside the Atlanta and Savannah metropolitan areas, by and large, it is a conservative state.

For the Democrats to sweep this critical doubleheader (and they must sweep for Dems to relegate Moscow Mitch McConnell to minority status), the two candidates will need another massive turnout both through absentee and in-person voting. The efforts by Stacey Abrams to register new, young and minority voters spearheaded Biden’s triumph there. Similar work will be essential.

Moreover, Trump’s continued assault on our democracy, his un-American refusal to accept defeat and move on to a smooth and peaceful transition of power, and his attacks via countless rage tweets against Republican officials including the dangerous violence-stoking rhetoric in Georgia may diminish turnout sufficiently for the Dems to squeeze by.

The devil went down to Georgia looking for a soul to steal, and for Democrats, that might prove to be the best holiday gift of all.