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The True Agenda of the Ayn Rand-fueled, Koch Brothers-funded, Evangelical-empowered, Paul Ryan-controlled Wing of the Republican Party

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. Submitted on March 24, 2017

Dear Editor:

The recent attempt to pass what Donald Trump and Republicans dubbed the American Health Care Act has finally exposed for all to see the true agenda of the Ayn Rand-fueled, Koch Brothers-funded, Evangelical-empowered, Paul Ryan-controlled wing of the Republican Party. The white sheets have been torn away, exposing ideological hatred for minorities, the working class, and what the Bible calls the least of these. We now know that these shills for the one-percenters want to destroy the Federal government, roll back the New Deal, and cut the bottom out of social safety net. Their ultimate goal is to return our society to the days of the wild, wild West – days when every man controlled his own destiny; days when the capitalist with the fastest draw and surest aim or the robber baron with the quickest fists ruled the land.

As of the writing of this letter, Republicans have twice cancelled votes on the AHCA. Facing outrage from all corners of the political spectrum, Paul Ryan is increasingly aware of the fact that he never should have made public his agenda to destroy America. While I thoroughly enjoy watching Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and their surrogates get the public caning they so richly deserve, my joy is tempered by the fact that at the state level Republican extremists  are quietly and effectively rolling back much of the social progress of the past century.  More frightening than the AHCA debacle is the Koch Brothers-funded plan for a Constitutional Convention. And once a Constitutional Convention is convened, Tea-Party, Libertarian, and Evangelical theocrats will finally have the tools necessary to dismantle the Federal government and turn America into dog-eat-dog capitalist state ruled by men only concerned with their stock portfolio and return on investment. While Evangelicals will certainly make sure that their God is returned to his rightful place as America’s potentate, the real God of these extremists is laissez-faire capitalism.

One positive to come out of electing Donald Trump is the exposure of the true agenda of many Republican officeholders. Now it is up to Democrats, liberals, progressives. democratic socialists, and all who value social progress to coalesce into a movement willing to take on Paul Ryan/Koch Brothers/Ayn Rand Republicans. What lies ahead is a no-holds-barred fight to the death for the future of our Republic. I am ready for the fight. Are you?

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

 

Go Ahead, Donald Trump Supporters, Defend Your Man

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Republicans who voted for Donald Trump bristled when I described their man as a narcissistic, psychopathic, bigoted, pathological liar. They objected when I said that Donald Trump acts like a junior high boy obsessed with his handsomeness and dick size. I warned that Donald Trump was not fit to be a trash truck driver, let alone President of the United States. I reminded people that Donald Trump was a lying, cheating failed businessman who had no regard for the Constitution and the rule of law. I challenged Republicans to consider what could happen if the orange-haired toddler was given the power to order troops into conflict and fire nuclear weapons.  Yet, here were are, not thirty days into the Trump presidency, and the man who was going to drain the swamp and make America great again has turned the United States into the laughingstock of the world.

Just today, Donald Trump gave an impromptu press briefing that has left many Americans wondering if the President is mentally ill. How else can Trump’s behavior be explained? Rolling Stone published a summary of some of the ravings-of-a-lunatic worthy statements made by Trump. Enjoy!

That time he batted back reports of chaos in the West Wing

“I turn on TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos – chaos – yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”

That time he confirmed the veracity of the leaks that lead to Michael Flynn’s resignation

“The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”

That time he couldn’t say Flynn lied

“The thing is, he didn’t tell our vice president properly, and then he said he didn’t remember … that just wasn’t acceptable to me.”

That time he characterized the rollout of his travel ban as “smooth”

“We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban; we had a bad court.”

That time he called the country of Russia fake news

“Russia is fake news. Russia – this is fake news put out by the media. The real news is the fact that people, probably from the Obama administration because they’re there, because we have our new people going in place, right now.”

That time he denied knowledge of whether anyone from his team colluded with the Russian government during the campaign

“Nobody that I know of. How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years.”

That time he bragged about not being a bad person

“And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word ‘tone’? The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such – I do get good ratings, you have to admit that – the tone is such hatred.”

That time he compared the price of drugs to that of candy bars

“We’ve ordered the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to coordinate on a plan to destroy criminal cartels coming into the United States with drugs. We’re becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars.”

That time he promised America and Russia would have a nuclear holocaust “like no other”

“We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you, one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say, because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They’re a very powerful nuclear country, and so are we.”

That time he mused about attacking the Russian vessel lurking off the coast of Connecticut

“The greatest thing I could do [politically] is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water.”

That time he conceded his oft-repeated line about having the “biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan” is a lie

NBC reporter Peter Alexander: “You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan – 304, 306 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365 in 2008.”
Trump: “Well, I’m talking about Republicans.”
Alexander: “President Obama 333, George H.W. Bush 426 when he won. So why should Americans trust…”
Trump: “I was given that information, I was just given it. We had a very big margin.”
Alexander: “I guess the question is: Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive as being fake, when you’re providing information that is not accurate?”
Trump: “Well, I was given that information. I was, actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?”
Alexander: “You’re the president.”

That time he explained uranium

“We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons, and other things. Like, lots of things are done with uranium, including some bad things. Nobody talks about that.”

That time he offered a nuanced critique of Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state

“Hillary Clinton did the reset, remember? With the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks. Here, take a look. He looked at her like, ‘What the hell is she doing?’ With that cheap plastic button. Hillary Clinton. That was a reset. Remember it said ‘Reset’? Now if I do that oh, I’m the bad guy.”

That time he offered a nuanced assessment of his own performance at said press conference

“I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you you’re dishonest people.”

That time he grew tired of all the tough questions

“I want to find a friendly reporter.”

That time he was asked about Melania’s role as first lady

“That is what I call a nice question. … She – like others, like others that she’s working with – feel very, very strongly about women’s issues, women’s difficulties.”

That time he responded to a question – from a Jewish reporter – about the uptick in threats against Jewish organizations

“OK, sit down. … So here’s the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism – the least racist person.”

That time he assumed a black reporter would be friends with black members of Congress

April Ryan: “Will you meet with the Congressional Black Caucus?”
Trump: “I would. You want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”

By all means, Republicans, defend your man. You voted for him, and helped to put him into office. You must now own what you did. I hope you are rational and mature enough to realize that you made a h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e mistake, and that you will, when the time comes, support efforts to remove Donald Trump from office. That is if we all don’t die from radiation exposure first.

My Thoughts on the Complicity of Rural America in the Election of Donald Trump

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I am appalled, as are tens of millions of other Americans, by the fact that Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. I voted for Bernie Sanders during the primary season, believing that his progressive views were (are) the best way forward for the United States. Sanders’ inability to connect with older, rural, white Americans, and the Democratic National Committee’s attempt to derail him, doomed Sanders’ candidacy. While many Bernie supporters think that he would have beaten Trump had he received the nomination, I am of the opinion that this is little more than wishful thinking. Yesterday, I cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton primarily because I thought (and still do) that a Trump presidency will be disastrous for America. I was willing to overlook Clinton’s scandal-plagued career and her connection to Wall Street because I believed at the time (and still do) that electing Donald Trump would send the United States careening down a path that could lead to world war. A Clinton presidency would likely have been more of the same, a sameness that I could, if need be, stomach for four more years. As a progressive and a liberal, I’ve come to see that neither political party represents me. In 2008, swept up by promises of hope and change, I believed that Barack Obama would bring fundamental change to America. By 2012, I realized that idealistic hope and change had been swallowed up by an obstructionist Congress, lobbyists, big banks, and Wall Street. While President Obama talked a good game, his allegiances were still with corporate America. This became clear in the aftermath of the housing bubble collapse, when the Obama justice department failed to prosecute those who caused the collapse. The political élite ignored how angry middle America was over the pain and suffering caused by the last major recession. Having been ignored for decades, these older, white, Christian Americans see in Donald Trump a man who is willing to stand up for them; someone who speaks their language and empathizes with their pain; someone who doesn’t see them as deplorable. These are the people who swept Donald Trump into the White House. The majority of baby boomers and older people voted for Trump. Over eighty percent of Evangelicals cast their vote for the Republican nominee. Most of these people were never going to vote for a Democrat, so there is literally nothing that Trump could do that would turn them away from voting for him.

Next year, I will be 60 years old. Outside of a few years in California in the 1960s and Arizona and Michigan in the 1970s, I have spent my life living in Ohio. I have watched Ohio turn from a union-strong democratic state to a solidly red state where virtually every major political office is held by a Republican. As an Evangelical Christian and pastor, I was pleased to see Ohio move to the right. I suppose that, if I were still an Evangelical, I would be actively involved in trying to turn back the social progress of the past eight years. I have no doubt that I would have been working to criminalize abortion, shove gays back into the closet, reinstitute marriage as between a man and woman, force transgenders to use the bathroom that corresponded to their birth sex, and above all, I would been working to establish God and the Bible as the absolute authority in matters public and private. Fortunately, for me, my political and social views began to change in the late 1990s. While I was still conservative in many ways, my views began to creep leftward as I realized how hurtful and harmful many of my views were. By the time I left the ministry in 2005, I had moved to the far left of the evangelical tent, and had I not ultimately lost my faith I am sure I would now be a liberal Christian.

I now find myself quite alone in a sea of ravenous Evangelical Republicans. I know that there are numerous area residents who feel as I do. What do we do, now that our fellow citizens decided to elect a xenophobic, misogynistic, race baiting man unfit for public office? I live in Defiance County Ohio. Seventy-one percent of registered voters voted yesterday. Sixty-four percent of them voted for Donald Trump. Twenty-nine percent voted for Hillary Clinton. In nearby Fulton, Henry, and Williams counties, the splits were pretty much the same. Even worse, in Paulding County, seventy-two percent of people voted for Donald Trump, while Hillary Clinton received twenty-three percent of the vote. In nearby Putnam County, eighty percent of voters voted for Trump. A measly fifteen percent voted for Clinton.

While most rural Northwest Ohio counties have unemployment rates below state and national levels and jobs are plentiful, the fact is that much of the area has not yet recovered from the housing collapse. Yes, jobs are plentiful, but wages are not. My wife works for a large manufacturing concern who is having a hard time attracting new employees. If you find yourself looking for a job that starts out at $10 or $11 an hour, then move to rural Northwest Ohio. Housing is relatively cheap, as are groceries. If jobs are plentiful and housing and food are affordable, why do so many local residents still fear the future? One of the reasons is that wages are stagnant, and for those who work in local factories, after they reach a certain wage level all they receive are token, often laughable wage increases. The same workers have had to absorb scandalous increases in insurance costs. When my wife started with her employer in 1997, her insurance plan had a $300 deductible and a $1,200 maximum out-of-pocket. Today, her insurance plan has a $3,750 deductible and a $6,000 maximum out-of-pocket. During this time span, the amount that she pays for insurance premiums has gone up over 200%. Outrageous costs such as these are dragging many rural Americans right out of the middle class.

The housing collapse destroyed local property values. While values have improved in recent years, they are still below what they were in the 2000s. My wife and I bought our house in 2007 at the height of the boom market. Over the past 10 years we have made $25,000 of improvements on our home, including a new roof, windows, doors, and major inside remodeling. Yet, if we sold our house today, I doubt that it would bring much more than $10,000 over what we paid for it. Three houses across the street from us have sold in the last two years. All of the sellers were forced to reduce their prices in order to sell their homes. That said, housing prices are cheap, often hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper than similar homes in cities and on the East and West Coast.

During the Obama administration, environmental regulations have been used to saddle local residents with increasing water and sewer costs. In nearby Defiance, residents are having to deal with water and sewer bills that could, when all the forced EPA mandates are met, reach $200 a month. While the EPA is absolutely right to force Defiance to stop dumping shit in local waterways, I do understand the frustrations of local residents who are forced to pay ever-increasing utility bills without any meaningful wage increases. The small community I live in had to install a sewer system for similar reasons. Fortunately, the project was shovel ready and the village received over $1 million of TARP money to pay for the new system. If the village of Ney had not received this money, our water and sewer bills would be much more like those of Defiance.

Rural Northwest Ohio is religiously dominated by Evangelical, mainline Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic churches. These sects are decidedly white, conservative, anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, and Republican. They are an aging population who think that the 1950s were the best times of their lives. Farms dot the landscape, and the latest election results show that farmers overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, even though, if Congressional Republicans have their way, drastic cuts will be made to farm programs.  Quite frankly, the only thing that will turn rural areas such as this one towards a more progressive path is for there to be a lot of funerals. Until grandma and grandpa die off, rural Northwest Ohio will continue to be a bastion of Republican values. I will do what I can to be a voice that counters their delusions, and I know many others will do the same, but we do not have sufficient numbers to make a meaningful difference in the short-term. Our best approach is to begin helping the millennial and gen-x generations find their political feet. Both the Democratic and Republican parties attempted to co-opt younger Americans for political gain. These young voters bought into Barack Obama’s message of hope and change. Eight years later, many of these same voters believe that the two-party system is broken beyond repair. It is for this reason many young Americans supported Bernie Sanders, hoping that he would split off from the Democratic Party and run an independent campaign. Disheartened by Sanders’ pragmatic refusal to do so, many of these disillusioned young voters stayed home on election day, allowing idealism to trump pragmatism. It remains to be seen if the millennial and gen-x generations will continue to support the two-party system, or will instead opt to burn the house to the ground and start a political revolution. I think Bernie Sanders is right when he says what America really needs is revolution. Perhaps after four years of being ravaged by an orange-skinned monster, America will be ready for a real hope-and-change revolution.

I am often asked why I continue to live in rural Northwest Ohio. Why would an atheist with socialistic/progressive/liberal values continue to live in an area dominated by God’s Only Party? The short answer is that this is where my children and grandchildren live, but there is more to my living here than just my love for family. First, I was born here. My father’s parents were Hungarian immigrants who settled in this area, operating a hundred-acre farm until both of them died in the 1960s. Both my mom and dad were raised on the farm. While my dad was raised in Ohio, my mom spent most of her younger years on a farm in Missouri. My rural country roots run deep. Polly and I recently celebrated our thirty-eighth wedding anniversary. We have spent most of our married years living among rural people. The slow, lazy hum of rural life suits us. Good schools surround us and we have few of the fears that many city-dwellers face. While we lock our doors and cars out of habit, if we didn’t it is likely that nothing would happen. We know our neighbors, even though we have little in common with them. We are surrounded by wildlife and greenery, and the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Michigan are but short drives away. We know little of traffic jams, and when we go to the big cities of Toledo and Fort Wayne to indulge in that which only they can provide, we are always glad when we return home; and that’s the key word…home. Yes, I am angry that my fellow country folk played a big part in electing Donald Trump. I totally get the anger that many of my blue state friends have towards rural America. Their anger is warranted, but I hope they will remember that not every country hick or hillbilly is a Republican. This is my home, and I will, from my little corner of the universe, do what I can to make sure that Donald Trump is a one term president and that his harmful policies are kept from fruition. As disheartened as I am today, I know that I cannot remain silent. If my goal remains a better future for my children and grandchildren, then I owe it to them to muster what strength I can to defeat political ideologies that want to roll back progress. Throwing feces and writing screaming blog posts will gain me nothing. I must do what I’ve always done, and that is to be a loud voice for progressive values and the humanist ideal.

Donald Trump, Thieving Democrats, God is Pro-Life, And Jesus is the Cure for Heroin Addiction

Welcome to Defiance County, Ohio, home to Jesus and Donald Trump.

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Evidently, the person who put up this sign has never read the Bible. Had they bothered to do so, they would have found out that God is definitely not pro-life.

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This sign would be hilarious if it wasn’t for the fact that the person who put it up really believes these things. Come Wednesday, I am sure she will be screaming long and hard about how Democrats stole the election from Donald Trump.

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Gamerz is a Defiance, Ohio video game store. While I certainly believe that every American has a right to voice their political views, it is not good for business to do so when you own a small business. Earlier in the day, the owner of Gamerz unfurled and hung two anti-Clinton banners above the sidewalk in the front of his business. He had taken them down by the time I took this photograph. Evidently, the owner is more interested in supporting Trump and disparaging Clinton than he is making money. He shall, most certainly, NOT get any of my money.

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The Gathering Place, Defiance, Ohio is a frequent contributor to my church sign series: On the The Road Looking for God’s True Church. While these signs wisely do not mention Donald Trump, rest assured Gathering Place congregants and pastors support Donald Trump. Those voting for Hillary Clinton will keep their heads down and mouths shut lest they give the appearance of standing against God’s chosen one, Donald, Pussy-gabbing Trump. Turning back our nation is code for “time to evict the Negro from the White House and replace him with an orange and white “baby”  Christian.”

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V.I.P Nails (and gym) in downtown Defiance wants passerbys to know that Jesus is the ONLY answer for those struggling with heroin addiction. In fact, their banner suggests that local police and drug rehab centers should STOP fighting against heroin and instead lead addicts to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Imagine a man jonesing for a heroin fix — willing to do ANYTHING to feed his need. Get saved? Sure, now can I have some s-m-a-c-k? Telling addicts that only Jesus can cure them is not only dangerous, it could also kill them. Yes, Defiance County has a heroin problem, but the solution is NOT a soul-saving experience with Jesus. What happens when the Jesus-fix wears off? Addicts go right back the streets, looking for the only God who can satisfy their needs.

Republican Candidates for Defiance County Sheriff Vow to Militantly Uphold Second Amendment

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Cartoon by David Horsey

Last Thursday, Republican candidates for Defiance County sheriff attended a forum at the Defiance County Fish and Game Club and shared their thoughts about the importance of the Second Amendment. Long-time Sheriff David Westrick is not seeking a ninth term, so Deputy Doug Engel and write-in candidate Steve Flory are battling one another, hoping to claim Westrick’s empty seat.

Both candidates think that protecting gun rights is very important. Both candidates said they would take a militant stand against attempts by liberals to take away guns or restrict their use. Todd Helberg, reporting for the Defiance Crescent-News, had this to say about the candidates (behind paywall):

A former sheriff’s deputy, Flory opened, quoting founding fathers George Washington and John Adams in defending the Second Amendment and its provision for allowing the citizenry to bear arms. Specifically, he noted Adams’ remark that the amendment assures the “private self-defense” of citizens.

“How often do we run into someone who doesn’t think private self-defense is part of (the Second Amendment)?, asked Flory. “Baloney. That’s exactly what it’s there for — for you and I to protect ourselves.”

While pledging “to stand with you guys,” on the Second Amendment, Flory mentioned the passage of a conceal carry law in Ohio some years ago, saying he’d like it to be a little less restrictive. And, he noted the misperceptions some apparently have with conceal carry laws across the country.

Flory explained that approximately 33,000 people are killed annually in traffic crashes nationally, then asked the audience how many have been killed by conceal carry permit holders during the past 10 years. According to a “very leftist” Internet website, he said the figure is 885, including suicides.

“We’re more dangerous to ourselves and others when we are just driving down the road everyday,” Flory said, adding that the conceal carry holder is there to protect himself, his family “and you.”

“… I think a lot of Second Amendment naysayers just are not educated enough to realize a good upstanding citizen … is doing (conceal carry) for their own purposes,” Flory said.

Engel, who is Westrick’s chief deputy, said “we in the sheriff’s office will always protect your Second Amendment rights.” …. “I will guarantee you … nobody — absolutely nobody — is going to enter your house and remove our firearms,” Engel said. “The only exception is if you have committed a crime with that firearm.”

In stating this, Engel suggested a militant stance if Second Amendment rights were changed by the U.S. Supreme Court. At present, he noted the court has been friendly to these rights with rulings in 2008 and 2010, but cautioned that this could change after the next presidential election.

“Our next president is going to have the ability to appoint three (Supreme Court) justices, maybe five,” Engel said. “… We need to get smart here. … The Supreme Court has been very protective, but if we make a mistake and don’t elect the right person, we’re in trouble — all of us.”
….
During a brief question period….another person asked what would happen if the Supreme Court made a decision that changed Second Amendment rights.

“No one’s going to take my guns, period,” said Engel. “They’re not going to take our guns. As sheriff I’m not going to get your guns … .”

“I’m telling you the same thing,” added Flory.

On one hand, the statements by both candidates are typical NRA-driven, the-liberals-are-coming-to-take-away-our-guns hysteria. Defiance County is awash in right-wing religious and political ideology. Making these statement played well with their target audience — white, right-wing, lock-and-load, Christian Republicans. Both Flory and Engel know that they don’t need votes from people such as myself. True liberals — those of us who want universal background checks, universal gun registration, banning of assault weapons and large capacity magazines, and the abolition of concealed carry permits — are as rare as the ivory-billed woodpecker. As a voting demographic, we don’t matter.

What troubles me is that both candidates advocate lawlessness. I thought the sheriff is the chief county law ENFORCEMENT officer? Yet both men said they would break the law IF the federal government or the U.S. Supreme Court attempted to alter the Second Amendment or restrict gun ownership.

Both candidates seem to want a wild, wild west of gun ownership. Both men fail to understand the difference between personal gun ownership and a well-regulated militia. What will future Sheriff Flory or Sheriff Engel do when tasked with enforcing laws that run contrary to their personal opinions? The sheriff doesn’t make law, neither is he tasked with interpreting the Constitution. His sole duty is to enforce the law, even those laws he personally disagrees with. What if the Ohio legislature and the U.S. Congress finally realize that the only way to put an end to mass shootings and gun violence is to limit gun ownership and use? What if these laws are upheld by the Supreme Court? Will future Sheriff Flory or Sheriff Engel enforce the law? Based on the aforementioned comments, I suspect both men would refuse to enforce the law. This fact should trouble Republicans and Democrats alike.

Bruce Gerencser