If Democracy Is a Spectator Sport, the Good Guys Lose

PARIS - I've struggled not to say this, even to myself, but Democrats stand a growing chance of condemning the world to Donald Trump's impossible dream: a greed-based oligarchy in America with authoritarian rule bent on stamping out truth.

Too many Americans see democracy as a spectator sport, and they obsess on inside baseball - domestic issues - rather than real-world crises. If candidates continue to snipe over details, the worst president ever could win by default.

In Hong Kong, two million people just jammed the streets, some facing 10 years in prison for storming government headquarters, to force concessions from China. That is as if 90 million people marched on Congress and the White House.

In the United States, half of eligible voters don't even bother to cast ballots. Among those who do, Republicans rally behind the party choice, no matter who it is. They share ideology. Democrats are prone to stay home if not inspired by a candidate.

“If this doesn't change, it doesn't matter who the candidate is,” author Max Brooks observed recently on Bill Maher's Real Time. “If we don't come together now, we're dead.”

America is now beyond politics. An unhinged megalomaniac thwarts a global effort to keep Earth habitable, and he fans conflict that could trigger unstoppable war. At his elbow, John Bolton outdoes Peter Sellers as Doctor Strangelove. Yet the last Democrat debate, a choreographed pageant extravaganza, ignored the outside world.

Kamala Harris shot up in the polls with a sound-bite gut punch to Joe Biden. He had not expected busing to schools decades ago to be a primary issue. She backpedaled days later after he had a chance to answer in more than 60 seconds.

Harris is a polished pit bull in prosecutorial mode, vital in Congress where so many lapdog senators need a chomp in the butt. But a new president has to reverse hostility from allies and enemies with personal integrity earned over time.

A wide field includes some bright promise for the future. For now, in my view, only Biden and Elizabeth Warren have shown enough command of global complexities to steer a foundering ship of state off the rocks. They would make a great team.

In America, alas, running mates are chosen by strategists' assumptions about electability, not for competence. Today, that is risky. Imagine if John McCain had won and died sooner than he did. Sarah Palin is as scary a thought as Mike Pence.

Sports fans who ignore politics saw a thrilling display of America First here in France. Women soccer champs brought home the World Cup to a Manhattan ticker tape parade. Asked if they'd go to the White House, the captain was blunt: No fucking way.

Trump's base is immutable. One should avoid unkind judgments, but Forrest Gump had it right: stupid is as stupid does. Worse are the smart ones, like a former AP technician who offered a new name for the Mort Report: I Hate Trump - Read On.

“You used to be known and respected as being a special AP correspondent, a reporter that covered fairly the world,” he wrote. “With all due respect, I think you have lost direction…Isn't there something else you can report about?”

True enough, I dislike Trump because I've reported on him occasionally since the 1980s and know him for the heartless thug that he is. I would love to finish those half-finished uplifting dispatches I keep putting aside. This is not personal.

Failing an answer to my reply to him, I can only guess that he is among those who see their investment portfolios soar before the inevitable reckoning when gravity catches up with a doped market and Tariff Man's approach to trade.

People like that are prepared to abandon basic human decency while they hasten the demise of a world headed toward endgame. Trump's administration is not like any we've seen. We all need to bang away to convince the open-minded of what is at stake.

On the national level, a vulgar narcissistic hypocrite enables big money to plunder natural resources and public land, politicize the courts, curb personal freedoms and rig electoral procedures. Beyond our insulating oceans, it is far more than that.

The British ambassador's leaked cable brought this global emergency into focus. He described as inept and erratic a president who immediately showed that was gross understatement. Trump's outrageous tweets define how the world sees America.

Trump heaps praise on Putin, Xi, Kim, and Mohammed Bin Salman, despots who stomp on values Americans profess to believe in. He declares persona non grata our closest ally's envoy for reflecting reality in a secret report to his government.

Nothing illustrates how low we have descended than what is happening on the Mexican border, a symbiotic frontier I have crisscrossed countless times since I was a kid growing up in Tucson.

Democrats don't want an “open border” but rather fences or surveillance that run along its entire length. Drugs come mostly through ports of entry. Smugglers can fly over or tunnel under any new barrier. The Wall is about Trump playing to his base.

Under Barack Obama, some illegal migrants were treated badly when detained, but that pales in comparison to a deliberate policy of forced suffering and family separation or Gestapo-like roundups to scare off desperate families seeking asylum.

Ben Ferencz, who prosecuted Nazis at Nuremburg, calls Trump tactics a crime against humanity. Concentration camps is an apt enough term. Not only reporters but also congressmen are denied access. On supervised visits, only guards are allowed cameras. Some take mocking pictures of elected legislators - their bosses.

Volunteer health workers say they are turned away despite increasing deaths among untreated detainees. Asylum candidates wait months in squalor worthy of those “shitholes” that Trump disparages as the understaffed vetting process creeps along.

One former Homeland Security official made the point after ProPublica exposed a closed Facebook group of active and retired border agents: “If you're going to joke about dead Hispanic babies and raping members of Congress on Facebook in front of 9,500 of your colleagues, what are you saying and doing in private?”

A society that cannot trust its lawmen and detention officers is sick to its core. That old question recurs: Why do “they” hate us?

Trump, in character, blames Democrats for the crises he caused and could stop with those executive orders he uses to circumvent checks and balances. He tweets remarks like, “HOAX,” when reporters reveal the extent of his cruelty.

More doctors, social workers and immigration judges are essential. Rather than cutting off aid to Central America, Trump can increase it to help struggling farmers and press governments to crack down on violence that forces people to leave home.

The problem is part of larger folly. As human tides inevitably rise around the world, sealed borders make long-term crises worse. In its own self-interest, America needs to do basically the opposite of what Trump is doing.

Health care, racial and gender equality, income distribution are all crucial issues. But, first, someone has to crank down the heat under a world on the boil.