Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Reading

Racial Epithet — Charles P. Pierce on going public with racism.

Out in the country, how’s that transition going? That well, eh, Medium? That’s quite a gallery you’ve got going there, and Shaun King on the electric Twitter machine is doing a good job collecting the True Horror Tales, too.

Look, I’m not sure how much good politically the mass marches that broke out in a number of cities on Wednesday night ultimately will do. A part of me—the pragmatic, cynical part—agrees that it will set deeper in concrete the hatred and dread common to those voters who lined up behind El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago and expressed their economic insecurity in such interesting ways. I mean, I get that argument, and I agree with its fundamental premises.

But what I think about it shouldn’t really matter a damn to those people in the streets. I’m not going to get harassed at a gas station. My kids aren’t going to be tormented on the playground. Nobody’s going to spray-paint a swastika on my garage or tell me to hustle my ass to the ovens. Nobody’s going to ship my abuela back to El Salvador. I can’t begin to plumb the depth of the fear that the targets of this unmoored ferocity must be feeling. I am sorry flags got burned and that property was damaged and that CNN found a marcher saying untoward things about civil war—the kind of loose talk, by the way, that was commonplace among supporters of the president-elect before the returns rolled in Tuesday night.

Which brings me to another point.

Ever since it became plain that Donald Trump was going to be the next president of the United States, there’s been an awful lot of chin-stroking about how the “coastal elites” had failed to articulate the economic anxiety of the white working class and/or the rural proletariat. (Somebody should tell me why the white working-class and the black working-class are different. Never mind. I think I figured it out.) This rather mystifies me since it seemed that the elite political media spent an awful lot of money sending people out to take the temperature of the people in the body shops and battered farms of the lost exurban paradises. Every other day, some member of that ol’ debbil media was out there, buying them all a cookie. These people were not ignored. They were as well-represented in the coverage of this election as any group was. Long ago, the indispensable Alec MacGillis determined that this was the story of the election and he’s spent a lot of times listening to the folks out there and bringing their stories back to us. Via ProPublica:

And yet St. Martin was leaning toward Trump. Her explanation for this was halting but vehement, spoken with pauses and in bursts. She was disappointed in Obama after having voted for him. “I don’t like the Obama persona, his public appearance and demeanor,” she said. “I wanted people like me to be cared about. People don’t realize there’s nothing without a blue-collar worker.” She regretted that she did not have a deeper grasp of public affairs. “No one that’s voting knows all the facts,” she said. “It’s a shame. They keep us so fucking busy and poor that we don’t have the time.” When she addressed Clinton herself, it was in a stream that seemed to refer to, but not explicitly name, several of the charges thrown against Clinton by that point in time, including her handling of the deadly 2012 attack by Islamic militants on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya; the potential conflicts of interest at the Clinton Foundation; and her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State, mixing national security business with emails to her daughter, Chelsea. “To have lives be sacrificed because of corporate greed and warmongering, it’s too much for me — and I realize I don’t have all the facts — that there’s just too much sidestepping on her. I don’t trust her. I don’t think that — I know there’s casualties of war in conflict, I’m a big girl, I know that. But I lived my life with no secrets. There’s no shame in the truth. There’s mistakes made. We all grow. She’s a mature woman and she should know that. You don’t email your fucking daughter when you’re a leader. Leaders need to make decisions, they need to be focused. You don’t hide stuff. “That’s why I like Trump,” she continued. “He’s not perfect. He’s a human being. We all make mistakes. We can all change our mind. We get educated, but once you have the knowledge, you still have to go with your gut.”

I advise everyone who has lurched from one simple explanation for Trumpism (“Those people be stooopid.”) to another simple explanation (“Why won’t the Democrats reach out more?”) to read that passage carefully. There literally is no innovative political strategy, and there is no creative policy prescription, that would have convinced that woman to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is so deeply sunk in the mire of misinformation that she never will be pulled out again. Who is it, precisely, that doesn’t care about her, and how was that manifested in her daily life? How, precisely, would Donald Trump care about her? The piece is replete with these kind of moments. What should the Democrats do to meet halfway the guy who believes the nation is being “pussified”? What’s precisely the political outreach strategy that will bring back a guy who says this?

“If I say anything about that, I’m a racist,” he said. “I can’t stand that politically correct bullshit.” He had, he said, taken great solace in confiding recently in an older black man at a bar who had agreed with his musing on race and crime. “It was like a big burden lifted from me — here was this black man agreeing with me!”

And if, as has been suggested, HRC had switched her strategy from talking about Trump’s manifest unfitness to office to a pitch that she was on their side, would that have sold?

“They feel like this is a forgotten area that’s suffering, that has been forgotten by Columbus and Washington and then they hear someone say, we can turn this place around, they feel it viscerally.” And he feared that the national Democratic Party did not realize how little it could afford such a loss, or even realize how well it had those voters in the fold as recently as 2012. “I’m a believer in the Democratic coalition, but they’re writing off folks and it’s going to hurt them,” he said. “To write them off is reckless.”

Again, in what way had the Democratic coalition been “writing off” these people? It wasn’t the Democratic coalition who stymied actual stimulus spending in 2009. It wasn’t the Democratic coalition that hamstrung the Affordable Care Act so that Republican governors could refuse to take FREE MONEY! to implement it. I wish there was a political fix for these folks but the fact is that, more than anything else, they have been victimized by a stratagem through which people refused to allow government to work and then blamed it for being ineffective. Old dog, as the late Ms. Ivins used to say, still hunts.

And, of course, there is the Other Thing.

Jones, 30, who worked part-time at a pizza shop and delivering medicines to nursing homes, joked at first that his vote for Obama might have had to do with his having been doing a lot of drugs at the time. He grew serious when he talked about how much the Black Lives Matter protests against shootings by police officers grated on him. Chicago was experiencing soaring homicide rates, he said — why weren’t more people talking about that?

People were. Lots of people were. The quick retort to people (like me) who argue that nativist racism played a decisive role in the election generally point to counties that voted for Obama in 2008 (and, occasionally, in 2012, too) but flipped to Trump in 2016. This, they say, is proof that the vague sense of having been “written off” in those places was a more powerful motivator there than race. But I tend to agree with Jamelle Bouie, who wrote that a big part of the reason these places went for Obama was that neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney were racially inflammatory enough. That, in this painful area, they didn’t “tell it like it is.” Trump did. Via Slate:

There’s an easy rejoinder here: How can this be about race when Trump won some Obama voters? There’s an equally easy answer: John McCain indulged racial fears, and Mitt Romney played on racial resentment, but they refused to go further. To borrow from George Wallace, they refused to cry “nigger.” This is important. By rejecting the politics of explicit racism and white backlash, they moved the political battleground to nominally colorblind concerns. Race was still a part of these clashes—it’s unavoidable—but neither liberals nor conservatives would litigate the idea of a pluralistic, multiracial democracy. Looking back, I thought this meant we had a consensus. It appears, instead, that we had a detente. And Trump shattered it.

Those people who felt “forgotten” and “left behind”? Where do they stand on right-to-work laws? Where do they stand on voter suppression laws, which go out of their way to prevent a solid voting bloc of white and black working-class voters? Where do they really stand on trade, with Bernie Sanders or with the Wal-Mart to which they go every weekend?

I would like someone to convince me that economic populism without the accelerant of racial animosity would have changed the results materially on Tuesday. It never has before. The Jacksonian Democrats successfully rebelled against the effete establishment and the eastern speculators, and some of them even embraced the new white immigrants from Europe, but they did so while being stalwart defenders of the slave power and by conducting genocide by a number of means against the indigenous populations of North America. Under the Jackson administration, the Southerners took every opportunity to hijack lands that belonged to the Creek and Cherokee peoples and ol’ Andy, who got all up in John C. Calhoun’s grill when that worthy threatened nullification over the tariff, found his inner Tenther when it came to land grabs by the Georgia legislature. The reason he had the political space to do so was because Americans considered the Native peoples less than human. That was how populism worked back then.

I would like someone to convince me that economic populism without the accelerant of racial animosity would have changed the results materially on Tuesday.

In the late 19th century, populism of all sorts flared in reaction to the excesses of the Gilded Age and the political consequences of the industrial money power. For a time, this reaction included millworkers and farmers, men and women, and even black and white citizens. In the early 1890s, a Georgia congressman named Tom Watson created what was called the Farmer’s Alliance which, eventually, got folded into a populist political party that splintered off from the Georgia Democratic Party. He supported African-American suffrage and, in 1892, Watson ran for re-election on a platform that included an anti-lynching law. He was beaten. And then he was beaten again in 1894. He entered a period of exile and emerged as a virulent racist and anti-Catholic. From the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

Through his Jeffersonian Publishing Company, Watson also produced a magazine and a weekly newspaper that achieved widespread circulation throughout the South and in New York. Watson’s Jeffersonian Magazine in particular became an outlet for lengthy editorials on anti-capitalistic political philosophies and for strong diatribes reflecting his increasing racial and religious bigotry. Although Watson had long supported black enfranchisement in Georgia and throughout the South, he changed his stance by 1904. Resentful of Democratic manipulation and exploitation of black voters and strongly opposed to the increased visibility and influence of such leaders as W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, Watson endorsed the disenfranchisement of African American voters, and no longer defined Populism in racially inclusive terms. Watson supported Hoke Smith in the 1906 Georgia’s governor’s race only on the condition that Smith support black disenfranchisement, and the inflammatory rhetoric that surrounded the issue was partially responsible for sparking the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906. Governor Smith later delivered on his promise to Watson by leading the successful adoption of a constitutional amendment that effectively disenfranchised black Georgia voters. During his 1908 presidential bid Watson ran as a white supremacist and launched vehement diatribes in his magazine and newspaper against blacks. Watson also launched an aggressive campaign against the Catholic Church. He took issue with the hierarchy of the church and railed against abuses by its leaders. He mistrusted the church’s foreign missions and its historic political activities. The Catholic Church responded by putting pressure on businesses that advertised in Watson’s publications, resulting in an effective boycott. In 1913, during the trial of Leo Frank, Watson’s strong attacks on Frank and on the pervasive influence of Jewish and northern interests in the state heavily influenced negative sentiment against Frank, who was lynched by a mob in 1915.

By 1922, Watson got himself elected to the United States Senate. He knew where the power was.

The tragedy of American populism—whether it’s in the previous Gilded Age or the current one—is that the country’s original sin makes populism’s success almost impossible without some sort of us-versus-them dynamic. Since the myth of the American Dream almost always makes a true class-based politics impossible, the search for that essential dynamic almost invariably becomes white-vs-black or native-vs-immigrant.

That’s happening again, with another “populist” champion and the people who now have followed him into whatever future they imagine he will bring them. I wish to god this weren’t the case, but it is.

The Assault on LGBTQ Rights Is Already Underway — Michelangelo Signorile in the Huffington Post.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this at all. We are in for a full-blown assault on LGBTQ rights the likes of which many, particularly younger LGBTQ people, have not seen. Progress will most certainly be halted completely, likely rolled back. And it’s already underway.

First, forget any of your thinking that Donald Trump is from New York City, probably has gay friends, sent Elton John a congratulatory note on his civil union in 2005, used the acronym “LGBTQ” (in pitting gays against Muslims at the Republican National Convention, when he vowed only to protect us from a “hateful foreign ideology”) or any other superficial things you may have read or heard.

Ronald Reagan was from Hollywood, and he, too, had many gay friends, including legendary actor Rock Hudson. Reagan even came out against an anti-gay state initiative while he was governor of California. But once Reagan made his pact with the religious right in his run for the presidency ― for him it was Jerry Falwell, Sr., for Trump it’s Jerry Falwell Jr.― he had to bow to them if he wanted to get re-elected. That meant letting thousands of gay men, transgender women, African-Americans and other affected groups die from AIDS (including his friend Hudson) without even saying the word “AIDS” until years into the plague, let alone take leadership on fighting the epidemic with government dollars and research.

That was then, and this is now: Earlier in the year, before Mike Pence was chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, using Trump’s analogy of running a business to explain how he’d run the country, told HuffPost’s Howard Fineman that the vice president of the Trump administration would really be the “CEO” or “COO” ― or, the president of the company ― while Trump would be more like the “chairman of the board”:

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO…There is a long list of who that person could be.”

That person turned out to be Pence, and, before and after the election, there’s been some analysis and commentary suggesting that Mike Pence could be “the most powerful vice president ever.” And now, just days after the election, his power has increased tenfold as he is replacing Chris Christie as chairman of Trump’s transition team, filling all the major positions in the incoming Trump administration.

Mike Pence is perhaps one of the most anti-LGBTQ political crusaders to serve in Congress and as governor of a state. Long before he signed the draconian anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” law in Indiana last year, he supported “conversion therapy” as a member of Congress, and later, as a columnist and radio host, he gave a speech in which he said that marriage equality would lead to “societal collapse,” and called homosexuality “a choice.” Stopping gays from marrying wasn’t biased, he said, but was rather about compelling “God’s idea.”

Ben Carson, who compared homosexuality to pedophilia and incest, is a vice chairman of the transition team and so is Newt Gingrich, who has attacked what he called “gay fascism” and, in 2014, “the new fascism” around LGBTQ rights.

And right on cue, already appointed to lead domestic policy on the transition team is Ken Blackwell, formerly the Ohio secretary of state. Blackwell compared homosexuality to arson and kleptomania, which he called “compulsions.” In an interview with me at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2004, he explained:

“Well, the fact is, you can choose to restrain that compulsion. And so I think in fact you don’t have to give in to the compulsion to be homosexual. I think that’s been proven in case after case after case…I believe homosexuality is a compulsion that can be contained, repressed or changed…[T]hat is what I’m saying in the clearest of terms.”

Expect each of these individuals and more bigots to have prominent positions in the Trump administration.

As I‘ve written over and over again throughout the election campaign ― as the media had bizarrely and irresponsibly portrayed Trump as “more accepting on gay issues” ― Trump met with religious extremists, and made promises to them. He promised he would put justices on the Supreme Court who would overturn marriage equality (and the list of 20 candidates he has offered, certainly fit the bill), which he’s consistently opposed himself since 2000. He promised that he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which would allow for discrimination against LGBT people by government employees and others.

It may or may not be difficult or unrealistic to overturn marriage equality over time, though the anti-equality National Organization for Marriage has sent Trump a plan. But by passing bills like FADA ― already introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate and House ― and others yet to come, gay marriage can be made into a kind of second-class marriage. Clerks like Kim Davis can be given exemptions from giving marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Federal employees would be able to decline interactions with gay and lesbian married couples. Businesses such as bakers and florists, who’ve become flash points in some states where they refused to serve gays, could be granted the ability to turn away gays under federal law, and all that could head to a much more conservative Supreme Court if challenged.

Trump has said he would overturn what he saw as President Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders, and those could include Obama’s orders on LGBTQ rights, such as banning employment discrimination among federal contractors.

Mike Pence, as Dominic Holden at Buzzfeed points out, has already said that he and Trump plan to withdraw federal guidance to the states issued by the Obama administration protecting transgender students:

 “Donald Trump and I simply believe that all of these issues are best resolved at the state level,” he said in an October radio show with Focus on the Family’s James Dobson. “Washington has no business intruding on the operation of our local schools.”

No one should take solace in the fact that gay billionaire Peter Thiel, who spoke at the GOP convention, is on the transition team. Thiel has never been a champion of LGBTQ rights, and is now most noted for bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker -– shutting it down ― in an act of revenge because the publication reported the widely-known fact that he is gay.

If Trump treats the presidency the same way he treated the GOP convention in Cleveland, he’ll make gestures ― like giving Thiel a role in his administration or using the acronym “LGBTQ”― that will feed the media notion that he is somewhat pro-LGBTQ, while giving the nuts and bolts of rolling back or halting LGBTQ rights to others. While Trump was onstage at the convention uttering the acronym “LGBTQ” (and had used Thiel’s speaking slot as a bit of window dressing too), the platform committee of the RNC had just hammered out the most anti-LGBTQ platform in history in the basement of the convention center. Tony Perkins, head of the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, told me at the RNC that he was “very happy” with the platform, which, as a member of the committee, he made sure included the promotion of “conversion therapy.”

Trump was hands-off on the platform when it came to queer issues (unlike on the issue of trade or, in what seemed like deference to Russia, on aid to Ukraine), letting people like Perkins push an extreme agenda, and knowing he needed to court them. He spoke at the FRC’s Values Voter Summit in September, promising to uphold “religious liberty,” and white evangelicals did turn out in huge numbers to vote for him on Tuesday ― comparable to, or greater than, every other GOP presidential candidate in recent years. He will need them if he wants to get re-elected, and that means he’ll have to give them some big things now. And evangelical leaders told The New York Times this week they expect him to deliver:

[W]ith Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, an evangelical with a record of legislating against abortion and same-sex marriage, as vice president, Christian leaders say they feel reassured they will have access to the White House and a seat at the table. “I am confident he will do as president what he said he would do as a candidate,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, who helped mobilize Christian voters for Mr. Trump.

If Trump is thus as hands-off on LGBTQ issues as president as he was at the RNC, letting people like Pence ― again, possibly the most powerful vice president ever ― get his way, along with people like Carson, Blackwell, Gingrich and likely many others, you can bet that the assault on LGBTQ rights is already underway. It’s only a matter of time before we know the full magnitude. And that’s why we must pull ourselves out of grief, get fired up, and begin the fight right now.

Trump Googles Obamacare — Humor from Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—Speaking to reporters late Friday night, President-elect Donald Trump revealed that he had Googled Obamacare for the first time earlier in the day.

“I Googled it, and, I must say, I was surprised,” he said. “There was a lot in it that really made sense, to be honest.”

He said that he regretted that the frenetic pace of the presidential campaign had prevented him from Googling Obamacare earlier. “You’re always running, running, running,” he said. “There were so many times that I made a mental note to Google Obamacare but I just never got around to it.”

Trump also told the reporters that, now that the campaign was over, he had finally found the time to Google Mexico.

“Really eye-opening,” he said. “A lot of the Mexicans are terrific. They do just terrific things.”

When asked if Googling Mexico had affected his position on building a wall, Trump said, “Quite frankly, it did make me wonder a bit about that. A lot of these terrific Mexicans could come in and make a real contribution to our country and, in exchange, I think they’d really benefit from Obamacare.”

The President-elect also said that he had put Mike Pence in charge of the transition team “to give me more time for my conversion to Islam.”

Doonesbury — Ladies man.

Monday, September 26, 2016

White Privilege

You can’t find a better example of how the Trump campaign really views race relations in this country when you have Kellyanne Conway, the Trump campaign manager and epitome of white privilege, chiding the first African American president for not taking Donald Trump’s exaggerations and tokenism about the African American community as a serious attempt to make things better for them.

Everything the Trump campaign knows about the black experience they learned from their boxed set of “The Wire.”

Friday, September 23, 2016

Soft Bigotry

Yesterday we were treated to the not-from-The Onion opinion of Kathy Miller, a rich white Trump supporter and the chair of the Mahoning County, Ohio, Trump campaign, who informed us that there was no racism in America until Barack Obama came along.  After that bit of news went viral, she promptly resigned but insisted all along that what she was wasn’t racist.

Then we heard from Gov. Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s running mate, who told us that we need to “set aside” all this talk about institutional racism in light of the recent police shootings and move on.  At last word, Mr. Pence has not yet resigned his position with the campaign.

The takeaway from both of these arbiters of race relations in America is that we don’t have a race problem in this country and stop saying we do because it gets people upset.

But I have a question: which is worse?  Ms. Miller who insists that everything was just peachy until that outside agitator came along, or the silencing of the discussion about race relations between African Americans and other minorities and the police departments in a number of cities because, in his words, it’s the “rhetoric of division.”

Ms. Miller and people like her can be dealt with — and she was — with universal scorn, derision, and the prompt termination of their services.  Blatant racism like that doesn’t lend itself to nuance and there was no way anyone, even in the Trump organization, could polish that turd.  So yes, she’s odious, but she’s obvious.

Mr. Pence, on the other hand, speaks calmly, soothingly, and wants to bring everyone together as long as they don’t talk about what’s really happening.  I daresay that there will be some Very Serious Pundit sitting around a table on a cable chat show who will say, “Well, you know, he has a point.”

Actually, Mr. Pence’s racism is worse because it’s insidious.  It sounds reasonable, not like some rant in a parking lot from a blithering bigot.  But it takes any discussion of the problem off the table and leaves you with nothing other than nostrums about “thorough investigations” and “justice being served” as if in promising to actually follow the law is doing us all a generous favor.  Mr. Pence himself is the shining example of institutional racism.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

If Ignorance Is Bliss…

… then Kathy Miller is over the moon.

The chair of Donald Trump’s campaign in a key Ohio county said there was “no racism” before the first black President was elected and blamed black Americans for their own failures over the last 50 years in an interview with the Guardian.

In video of the exchange, published on Thursday, Trump’s campaign chair for Mahoning County, Kathy Miller, told a reporter that blacks have had all the same opportunities as their white peers.

“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault,” Miller said, adding that it’s time for blacks to “take responsibility for how they live.”

Asked if Trump’s campaign has surfaced a racist undercurrent in American society, the campaign chair replied, “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this.”

She continued: “Now, with the people with the guns, shooting up neighborhoods, not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetrated on America. I think that’s all his responsibility.”

Miller also told the Guardian that she “never experienced” racism or segregation while growing up in the 1960s and said about the civil rights movement: “I never saw that as anything.”

Well, you heard it, folks.  There wasn’t any slavery in America, there was no Civil War, no Jim Crow, the KKK is a sewing circle, nobody got lynched, Emmett Til committed suicide, Brown vs. Board of Education was a softball game, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks did nothing out of the ordinary, and everything was roses and rainbows until that foreign-born secretly gay Muslim agitator got himself elected president and stirred up our happy coloreds.

The worst part is that about 40% of the country either agrees with her or are willing to elect people who do.

UPDATE: She’s resigned.

More Minority Outreach

Via the New York Times:

Donald J. Trump on Wednesday called for the broad use of the contentious stop-and-frisk policing strategy in America’s cities, embracing an aggressive tactic whose legality has been challenged and whose enforcement has been abandoned in New York.

His support for the polarizing crime-fighting policy — which involves officers’ questioning and searching pedestrians — collides with his highly visible courtship of African-Americans, who have been disproportionately singled out by the tactic, data show.

For Mr. Trump, the timing was especially inauspicious: It came as police shootings of black people were once again drawing scrutiny and protest.

It’s also been ruled as an unconstitutional breach of the Fourth Amendment, and racially discriminatory as well.

Y’know, I’ve been wondering why Mr. Trump hasn’t been gaining any traction with the African American voters…

Friday, September 2, 2016

Making Amends

Georgetown University will be offering scholarships and admissions preference to the descendants of its former slaves that the university sold in 1838.

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia offered a public apology Thursday afternoon for the 1838 sale and outlined what the university plans to do to acknowledge racism in its past.

“Some descendants and their families have joined us in person and some have joined online, and it is with gratitude and humility that I recognize your presence,” DeGioiga said from Georgetown’s Gaston Hall auditorium. The crowd responded with a standing ovation.

In addition to offering descendants the same preferential status in admissions that Georgetown currently offers children of alumni, the university will develop a memorial to the enslaved and will rename two buildings — one after Isaac Hall, a slave whose name is the first mentioned in the 1839 sale documents, and another in honor of Anne Marie Becraft, an African-American who founded a school for black girls in Georgetown’s neighborhood in 1827.

I am sure that there are those — especially among the white entitlement class — who will consider this to be “affirmative action.”  Yes, it is, in the best sense of the term.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mixed Message

Donald Trump held a rally in Jackson, Mississippi, last night in order to show the world that of course he’s not a racist because look, Jackson is three-quarters African-American.  Oh, and look who he brought along.

Nigel Farage, the man who helped lead the movement in Great Britain to leave the European Union, is expected to campaign with Donald Trump Wednesday night at a rally in Jackson, Mississippi.

The former head of the United Kingdom Independence Party will not offer an endorsement of Trump, a source close to Farage said, but will instead offer remarks on how to beat the odds and win an election.

“It came about after his visit to the Cleveland convention,” the source said. “He’s not here to endorse Trump but explain the Brexit story which has similar parallels to the current presidential race — he is going to be talking to grassroots activists about Brexit.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Farage was already in Mississippi Wednesday morning, where he did an in-studio radio interview. The source close to him said he will attend a private reception with Trump and 600 Republican donors Wednesday, where he will also be joined by Aaron Banks, a friend of Farage’s and a multimillionaire who bankrolled the U.K. Independence Party.

Following the reception, Farage is expected to attend the Trump rally where he will deliver his speech. He will likely be followed by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who will be followed by Trump himself.

So in order to promote his message of outreach to the black community, Mr. Trump is going to hang out with the man who led the anti-immigrant, basically pro-white party in Britain and who agrees with him that too many brown and black people are ruining this great nation of ours.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

“I Know A Bigot When I See A Bigot”

Charles Blow does not mince words in an appearance on CNN.  Via Mother Jones:

While discussing Donald Trump’s attempts to convince African Americans to back his presidential bid—a pitch the candidate recently summarized as “What the hell do you have to lose?”—New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow took a moment on Monday to explain to Bruce Levell, a Trump delegate from Georgia, the bigotry at the center of the real estate magnate’s campaign and why supporting Trump implicitly validates such hatred.

“Donald Trump is a bigot, there’s no other way to get around it,” Blow said. “Anybody who accepts that, supports it. Anybody supports it is promoting it and that makes you a part of the bigotry itself. You have to decide whether or not you want to be part of the bigotry that is Donald Trump. You have to decide whether you want to be part of the sexism and misogyny that is Donald Trump.”

Levell responded by accusing Hillary Clinton’s campaign of creating the “false facade” that Trump is a racist.

“I’m not part of the Clinton campaign,” Blow interjected. “I’m a black man in America and I know a bigot when I see a bigot.”

Can’t argue with that, and don’t even try.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Short Takes

Report: ISIS loses control of Libyan stronghold.

Putin accuses Ukraine of plotting terror in Crimea.

Extent of bias in Baltimore police department stuns activists.

Zika cases rise in Miami as officials try to keep citizens calm.

What turned Rio’s diving pool green?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pale Comparison

Jamelle Bouie at Slate explains that just because embittered white folks helped carry the narrow vote for Britain to leave the E.U., it doesn’t necessarily make it so that Donald Trump will win over here.

Here in the United States, our polls show a substantial Trump loss in the general election against Hillary Clinton, just as they showed a substantial Trump win in the Republican presidential primaries. The chief reason is that, unlike the U.K., the U.S. has a large voting population of nonwhites: Latinos, black Americans, Asian Americans, etc. In Britain, “black and minority ethnic” people make up about 8 percent of the electorate. By contrast, people of color account for nearly 1 in 3 American voters. In practice, this means that in the past two national elections, there has been an electoral penalty for embracing the most reactionary elements of national life. And we see this in the polling between Trump and Clinton. If the United States were largely white—if its electorate were as monochromatic as Britain’s—then Trump might have the advantage. As it stands, people of color in America are acting as a firewall for liberalism—an indispensable barrier to this surge of ethno-nationalism. Complacency isn’t called for, but confidence isn’t wrong either.

The other thing to remember is that not all ethnic groups vote as a bloc.  Yes, the vast majority of African-Americans belong in the Democratic camp, as do a number of Hispanic/Latino voters, but it’s not because they all agree on the party platform or prefer Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump.  The reasons are as varied as the make-up of the blocs, and by and large they’re not as socially liberal or as willing to separate church and state as your average Democrat.  Indeed, the family structure and religious affiliation are powerful elements that would have you believe that they should go along with the hacked and cynical appeal to “family values” that has become the rallying cry of the GOP over the last forty years.

The main reason is that when it comes to being embittered and embattled, the complaints of the cranky old white folks or the gun-rattling stars-and-bars wavers pale — literally — when compared to the everyday racism and indignities faced by people of color in America.

So no, the Democrats shouldn’t take a single vote or bloc for granted, but at least when it comes to knowing who’s got your back and who’s more likely to burden it, the answer is pretty black and white.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Minority Outreach

This will attract the African-American voters in droves.

I asked Trump if he had ever been to Iraq. “Never!” he said, sounding horrified by the thought.

“What’s the most dangerous place in the world you’ve been to?”

He contemplated this for a second. “Brooklyn,” he said, laughing. “No,” he went on, “there are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world. You go to places like Oakland. Or Ferguson. The crime numbers are worse. Seriously.”

And then there’s this:

Marcos Stupenengo, a freelance correspondent working for TV Azteca, got an interview at Trump Tower — initially. He had no trouble when he asked to come to Trump Tower in New York on Monday for a story.

But as he waited to conduct the interview, Stupenengo received a call, and began speaking in Spanish. That’s when the Trump campaign informed him they had no interest in taking part in an interview with him, according to a source with knowledge of the incident.

No wonder David Duke endorses him.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Irony of the Day

Larry Wilmore in his concluding remarks at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night:

When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world. Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, if i’m going to keep it 100: Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—-. You did it.

Todd Starnes of Fox News is beside himself.

Starnes Obama 05-02-16

Mr. Starnes’ sense of racial justice has been seen before.

If you are suspicious about the nature of Starnes’ racial sensitivity, you should be. This is a guy who has made a Fox News career out of bigotry. He has accused the Obama administration of “orchestrating” civil unrest in Ferguson, called him the “Race-Baiter in Chief,” and complained that a woman of Indian descent was not American enough to be Miss America in 2013.

As just about everyone else in the world noted, white people are upset because Larry Wilmore can say out loud — and mean it in a loving way — what they’ve been muttering under their breath for eight years now.

Monday, April 4, 2016

No Thanks, Obama

The New York Times has a piece about the great economic recovery going on in Elkhart, Indiana.  So who gets the credit?

Seven years ago President Obama came to this northern Indiana city, where unemployment was heading past 20 percent, for his first trip as president. Ed Neufeldt, the jobless man picked to introduce him, afterward donned three green rubber bracelets, each to be removed in turn as joblessness fell to 5 percent in the county, the state and the nation.

It took years — in 2012, Mr. Neufeldt lamented to a local reporter that he might wear his wristbands “to my casket” — but by last year they had all come off. Elkhart’s unemployment rate, at 3.8 percent, is among the country’s lowest, so low that employers here in the self-described R.V. capital of the world are advertising elsewhere for workers, offering sign-up bonuses, even hiring from a local homeless shelter.

Mr. Obama, whose four trips here during 2008 and 2009 tracked the area’s decline, is expected to return for the first time in coming weeks, both to showcase its recovery and to warn against going back to Republican economic policies. Yet where is Mr. Neufeldt leaning in this presidential election year? He may keep a photograph of himself and Mr. Obama on a desk at the medical office he cleans nightly, but he is considering Donald J. Trump.

“I like the way he just won’t take nothing off of nobody,” Mr. Neufeldt said, though days later he allowed: “He scares me sometimes.”

Billboards proclaim, “Hiring: Welders. Up to $23/hour,” but for all the progress, many people here — like Americans elsewhere — harbor unshakable anxiety about stagnant wages, their economic future and the erosion of the middle class generally. Antigovernment resentments over past bank bailouts linger, stoked by candidates in both parties (though taxpayers got their money back, with dividends). And social issues such as abortion, gun rights, same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act and immigration loom larger than any other for some voters.

It never ceases to depress me how people are scared by the distant possibility that the couple down the street may be gay or that someone across town may need an abortion, but things that can have a direct impact on their life such as a job or healthcare are less important at the ballot box.  They would vote for a candidate who would send their job to China but save them from two men holding hands at the Kroger.  Of course they’d vote for Trump: he loves the lower-educated people.

There’s also a certain strain of something else that runs through this mindset that might be, um, coloring their judgment.

Brian A. Howey, publisher of the Howey Politics Indiana newsletter and once a reporter in Elkhart, sounded stumped, even allowing for the state’s conservatism: “I’m a lifelong Hoosier. I’m just amazed that not only do people not appreciate what happened in ’09, but there’s a lot of hostility toward Obama. I think part of it is racial and a lot of it is political.”

In other words, if Barack Obama was a white Republican, the good people of Elkhart would be clamoring for him to run again.

Still A Long Way To Go

Last week the Mississippi state legislature passed a law that allows for wide-scale LGBT discrimination.  It puts the state head and shoulders above other states such as North Carolina, which is already facing economic recriminations for its so-called “religious liberty” bill.

But what did you expect from a state where they still have things like this happening?

The landlord at a Mississippi RV park admitted over the weekend that he evicted a couple because they were interracial.

Gene Baker told The Clarion-Ledger that he asked Erica Flores Dunahoo and her African-American husband, Stanley Hoskins, to leave his RV park in Tupelo because “the neighbors were giving me such a problem.”

Dunahoo, who is Native American and Hispanic, explained to the paper that she and her husband moved into the RV Park in February to save money and get their life “back on track.”

“He was real nice,” she said of Baker. “He invited me to church and gave me a hug. I bragged on him to my family.”

Dunahoo said that she paid $275 in rent on Feb. 28, but Baker called the next day with bad news.

“Hey, you didn’t tell me you was married to no black man,” Dunahoo recalled Baker saying. “Oh, it’s a big problem with the members of my church, my community and my mother-in-law… They don’t allow that black and white shacking.”

Although Dunahoo pointed out that she was not “shacking” with her husband because they are married, Baker reportedly insisted that it is “the same thing.”

“You don’t talk like you wouldn’t be with no black man,” Baker allegedly said. “If you would had come across like you were with a black man, we wouldn’t have this problem right now.”

“My husband ain’t no thug,” Dunahoo argued. “He’s a good man. My husband has served his country for 13 years. He’s a sergeant in the National Guard.”

Dunahoo said that Baker returned the couple’s rent money, and that they were in the process of relocating to a more expensive RV Park.

Some would consider it progress in Mississippi that they were allowed to leave the RV park without being lynched.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Reading

Devolution — Neal Gabler on how the Republican Party has turned into the party of ignorance and hate.  Why won’t the media cover that?

Ah, the crescendo of complaint! The Republican establishment and the mainstream media, working hand in hand in their unprecedented, non-stop assault on the “short-fingered vulgarian” named Donald Trump, would have you believe that Trump augurs the destruction of the Republican Party. Former Reagan speechwriter and now Wall Street Journal/CBS pundit Peggy Noonan expressed the general sentiment of both camps when she said on Super Tuesday that “we’re seeing a great political party shatter before our eyes.”

But here is what no one in the GOP establishment wants you to know, and no one in the media wants to admit: Donald Trump isn’t the destruction of the Republican Party; he is the fulfillment of everything the party has been saying and doing for decades. He is just saying it louder and more plainly than his predecessors and intra-party rivals.

The media have been acting as if the Trump debacle were the biggest political story to come down the pike in some time. But the real story – one the popularity of Trump’s candidacy has revealed and inarguably the biggest political story of the last 50 years — is the decades-long transformation of Republicanism from a business-centered, small town, white Protestant set of beliefs into quite possibly America’s primary institutional force of bigotry, intellectual dishonesty, ignorance, warmongering, intractability and cruelty against the vulnerable and powerless.

It is a story you didn’t read, hear or see in the mainstream media, only in lefty journals like The Nation and Rolling Stone, on websites like People for the American Way, and in columns like Paul Krugman’s. And it wasn’t exactly because the MSM in its myopia missed the story. It was because they chose not to tell it – to pretend it wasn’t happening. They are still pretending.

It is hardly a surprise that the GOP establishment and their enablers in the media are acting as if Trump, the Republican frontrunner, is a break from the party’s supposedly genteel past. Like Captain Renault in Casablanca, who was “shocked, shocked,” to find gambling in Rick’s establishment, the GOP solons profess to be “shocked, shocked” by Trump’s demagogic racism and nativism. Their protestations remind me of an old gambit of comedian Milton Berle. When the audience was applauding him, he would shush them demonstratively with one hand while encouraging them gently with the other.

Neither is it a surprise that the conservative media have been doing the same thing — decrying Trump while giving us Trump Lite. Indeed, even less blatant partisans who ought to know better, like every “thinking man’s” favorite conservative David Brooks, deliver the same hypocrisy.

No, Brooks isn’t too keen on Trump (or Cruz for that matter), but he is very keen on some mythological Republican Party that exudes decency. On the PBS NewsHour last week he said with great earnestness, “For almost a century-and-a-half, the Republican Party has stood for a certain free market version of America – an America that’s about openness, that’s about markets and opportunity, and a definition of what this country is.”

Free markets? That’s what he thinks defines America? Let me rephrase what I said earlier: Trump hasn’t just fulfilled the Republican Party’s purpose; he has exposed it. And he also has exposed the media’s indifference to what the party has become.

Obviously, I am not saying that the transmogrification of the Republican Party happened surreptitiously. It happened in plain sight, and it was extensively chronicled — but not by the MSM. The sainted Reagan blew his party’s cover when to kick off his general election campaign in 1980 he spoke at the Neshoba County Fair, just outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been brutally murdered in 1964. He wasn’t there to demonstrate his sympathy to the civil rights movement, but to demonstrate his sympathy to those who opposed it. This was an ugly moment, and it didn’t go entirely unnoticed in the media. In fact, David Brooks would later be moved to defend the speech, which invoked the not-so-subtle buzz words “states’ rights,” and to act as if Reagan had been slandered by those who called him out on it.

But if some in the media did call out Reagan on his disgusting curtsy to George Wallace voters, the press seemed to lose its nerve once Reagan became president and the Republican Party lurched not just rightward, but extremist-ward. Do you remember these headlines: “Republicans Oppose Civil Rights”; “Republicans Work to Defeat Expansion of Health Insurance”; “Republicans Torpedo Extension of Unemployment Benefits”; “Republicans Demonize Homosexuals and Deny Them Rights”; “Republicans Call Climate Change a Hoax and Refuse to Stop Greenhouse Gases”? No, you don’t remember, because no MSM paper printed them and no MSM network broadcast them. Instead, the media behaved as if extremism were business as usual.

I don’t think the media would deny their indifference. They would say they don’t take sides. They’re neutral. They just report. Partisanship is for Fox News and MSNBC….

The White Party — Kelly J. Baker in The Atlantic on the history of the KKK.

Last weekend, Saturday Night Live produced a mock “Voters for Trump” ad, in which everyday “real Americans” gently describe why they support Donald Trump for president—before they are all revealed to be white supremacists, Klan members, and Nazis. Trump, of course, not only received former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s support for his candidacy, but also declined to disavow the Ku Klux Klan on CNN.

This has happened before. As The Atlantic’s Yoni Appelbaum pointed out, the Republican front-runner’s refusal to repudiate white supremacists’ support as well as the bombast in his campaign are both echoes of the Ku Klux Klan. As a historian of the 1920s Klan, I noticed the resonances, too. Trump’s “Make America great again” language is just like the rhetoric of the Klan, with their emphasis on virulent patriotism and restrictive immigration. But maybe Trump doesn’t know much about the second incarnation of the order and what Klansmen and Klanswomen stood for. Maybe the echoes are coincidence, not strategy to win the support of white supremacists. Maybe Trump just needs a quick historical primer on the 1920s Klan—and their vision for making America great again.

In 1915, William J. Simmons, an ex-minister and self-described joiner of fraternities, created a new Ku Klux Klan dedicated to “100 percent Americanism” and white Protestantism. He wanted to evoke the previous Reconstruction Klan (1866-1871) but refashion it as a new order—stripped of vigilantism and dressed in Christian virtue and patriotic pride. Simmons’s Klan was to be the savior of a nation in peril, a means to reestablish the cultural dominance of white people. Immigration and the enfranchisement of African Americans, according to the Klan, eroded this dominance and meant that America was no longer great. Simmons, the first imperial wizard of the Klan, and his successor, H.W. Evans, wanted Klansmen to return the nation to its former glory. Their messages of white supremacy, Protestant Christianity, and hypernationalism found an eager audience. By 1924, the Klan claimed 4 million members; they wore robes, lit crosses on fire, read Klan newspapers, and participated in political campaigns on the local and national levels.

To save the nation, the Klan focused on accomplishing a series of goals. A 1924 Klan cartoon, “Under the Fiery Cross,” illustrated those goals: restricted immigration, militant Protestantism, better government, clean politics, “back to the Constitution,” law enforcement, and “greater allegiance to the flag.” Along with the emphases on government and nationalism, the order also mobilized under the banners of vulnerable white womanhood and white superiority more generally. Nativism, writes historian Matthew Frye Jacobson in Whiteness of a Different Color, is a crisis about the boundaries of whiteness and who exactly can be considered white. It is a reaction to a shift in demographics, which confuses the dominant group’s understanding of race. For the KKK, Americans were supposed to be only white and Protestant. They championed white supremacy to keep the nation white, ignoring that citizenry was not constrained to their whims.

The Klan was facing a crisis because the culture was changing around them, and nativism was their reaction. Demographic shifts, including immigration, urbanization, and the migrations of African Americans from the South to the North gave urgency and legitimacy to the Klan’s fears that the nation was in danger. From 1890 to 1914, more than 16 million immigrants arrived in the United States, and a large majority were Catholics from Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Poland. Around 10 percent were Jewish. The Klan described the influx of immigrants as a “menace” that threatened “true Americanism,” “devotion to the nation and its government,” and, worst of all, America as a civilization. Evans claimed that “aliens” (immigrants) challenged and attacked white Americans instead of doing the right thing—and joining the Klan’s cause. (Yes, strangely, he expected immigrants’ support even though the Klan limited membership to white Protestant men and women. Of course, it’s also strange that Trump expects Latino support.) Writing in the Klan newspaper The Imperial Night-Hawk in 1923, Evans declared that immigrants were “mostly scum,” a dangerous “horde.”

Unsurprisingly, the 1920s Klan supported legislation to restrict immigration to preferred countries with Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian roots. The order championed the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited immigration visas to 2 percent or 3 percent of the population of each nationality from the 1890 census. When President Calvin Coolidge signed the bill into law, the Klan celebrated the continued protection of the “purity” of American citizenship. A white Protestant citizenry and the desire to maintain their dominance culturally and politically, then, defined 100 percent Americanism….

It’s In The Cards — Daniel Victor in The New York Times on the treasures among our trash.

The unattended bag found while cleaning out a great-grandparent’s home looked like trash, and it was nearly discarded. But someone decided to root through the pile of postcards and paper products, and was rewarded by finding seven baseball cards from 1909 to 1911 featuring the Hall of Fame player Ty Cobb.

Those cards, it turned out, may be worth more than $1 million, according to Joe Orlando, who authenticated them. The family, which he said wished to remain anonymous, had stumbled upon the kind of revelation that’s increasingly rare but consistently exciting for the flailing card industry.

“They are becoming more and more uncommon as time goes on, but until every attic is searched and every old box or bag examined, these finds represent the hope that all collectors dream about,” Mr. Orlando wrote.

The find, one of the industry’s most notable discoveries in years, could fuel the dreams of every longtime collector with eyes on a distant payday while boxes of cards continue to take up room in storage. But it also highlighted how much the industry has changed.

The mind-set that playing cards could represent not just a space-consuming hobby but also wise financial planning led to a boom in production and collecting in the 1980s and ’90s, as children were drawn to cheap packs they could trade among friends and adults saw financial opportunity. Parents, especially, could teach their children to see the hobby as an investment: Save these cards until you’re old and they’ll be worth a lot of money, the thinking went.

For the most part, that promise has fallen short as the value of modern cards has plummeted. If you held onto a 1984 Topps Darryl Strawberry rookie card, worth $15 in 1990, you perhaps should have sold it then: It’s down to $3 now, according to Beckett price guides. More bad news: Your 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco rookie card, worth $48 in 1990, is worth $15 today.

The cards’ popularity ultimately contributed to their own downfall. Companies printed more to keep up with demand and made the supply too abundant, said Brian Fleischer, senior market analyst for Beckett Media.

And collectors’ own seemingly savvy behavior fed the problem, said Dave Jamieson, 37, the author of “Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an America Obsession.” Since a generation of young collectors grew up thinking of their cards as investments, they’ve held on to them, shuffling them from one home to the next.

“The cards we grew up with never had a chance to become scarce because we kept them,” he said. “It became a better lesson in economics than any of our parents thought it would be.”

The cards Mr. Jamieson saved from his youth ended up being just about worthless, he said. When he finally decided to get rid of them, he couldn’t find anyone to buy, and no one would take them as donations. “These cards aren’t even worth a penny apiece,” he said.

The industry’s drop-off began around 1994, Mr. Jamieson said. Since then, most brick-and-mortar card shops have closed, shows are less frequent and more sales are happening via the Internet.

Jim Ryan, co-founder of JP’s Sports & Rock Solid Promotions, said cards remain a draw at memorabilia shows and autograph signings the company stages in the tristate area, but not like they were in the ’80s and ’90s. Children are still drawn by the chance to meet a player at an autograph signing, while adults are more likely to make a big-money purchase after physically seeing the cards.

Cards and collectibles for current players are like the stock market, rising and falling based on performance, he said. But the older cards tend to have safer values, he said.

“Mickey Mantle isn’t going to have a bad year,” he said. “His card’s always going to be worth money.”

Mr. Mantle’s cards are worth more than they used to be, reflective of a market for vintage cards that has not just remained strong, but has grown since the industry’s heyday.

The Yankee slugger’s 1952 Topps rookie card, worth $1,400 in November 1984, is now up to $30,000, according to Beckett price guides. A 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan rookie card, worth $33 in 1984, could now fetch $500.

The cards, which as far back as the 1880s were found in tobacco packs and later with bubble gum, weren’t always considered something to save, which is why children would sometimes bend them into bike spokes. The Ty Cobb find was exciting to collectors, Mr. Fleischer said, because it suggested such rare discoveries are still possible.

“There are still finds out there to be found,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Doonesbury — Lighting up.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday Reading

They Go Together — Robert Mann in Salon on how Donald Trump and David Duke are basically one and the same.

After watching him romp through the early weeks of the Republican Party’s primary season – spewing hate, stoking xenophobia and attacking the Washington establishment – this thought keeps coming to mind: Is Donald Trump just David Duke in a better suit?

Twenty-five years after the unrepentant neo-Nazi and former KKK leader made the runoff for Louisiana governor (then a GOP state representative, he lost to Democrat Edwin Edwards), Duke and his ideology are enjoying a renaissance, of sorts.

Last week, Duke shot back into the headlines when he urged listeners of his radio show to volunteer for and support Trump’s candidacy. Duke said his remarks were not an endorsement, but his support was enthusiastic nonetheless.

“Voting for these people [Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio], voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Duke said on February 24. Anyone who knows Duke and his decades of white supremacy knows that by “heritage,” he meant “white heritage.”

“I’m not saying I endorse everything about Trump,” Duke added, “in fact I haven’t formally endorsed him. But I do support his candidacy, and I support voting for him as a strategic action. I hope he does everything we hope he will do.”

After initially rejecting Duke’s endorsement, Trump appeared to backtrack in a CNN interview. Asked about Duke’s quasi-endorsement last weekend, Trump replied, “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?”

Trump eventually renounced Duke – he said, simply, “I disavow” – but offered nothing more than those words until after his Super Tuesday primaries victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. Safely on the other side of March 1, but just days before Saturday’s Louisiana primary, Trump finally coughed up a slightly more pointed renunciation on Thursday. “David Duke is a bad person, who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years,” Trump said.

Those were rather mild words from Trump, who is highly skilled in the art of the invective. What does it say about Trump’s supposed disdain for Duke that he has unleashed venomous attacks in recent days against Mitt Romney and Rubio but could muster only that weak insult against the former KKK leader?

Trump, however, was correct about one thing. He had, indeed, denounced Duke in 2000. That, however, was long before he launched his current White House bid and before we knew the real estate magnate as the racist he’s become.

Disavowing Duke while earning the votes of former and current Duke supporters has proved a bit more problematic. That may explain why he waited four long days to “attack” the former KKK leader. Did Trump defer criticizing Duke because he feared alienating the not-insignificant percentage of white voters in the South who have never been repelled by Duke and who are now attracted to Trump? Whatever the reason for Trump’s hesitation, it did not appear to cost him many votes in the South on Super Tuesday.

As Public Policy Polling (PPP) reported in mid-February: “Trump’s support in South Carolina is built on a base of voters among whom religious and racial intolerance pervades.”

What does that mean, exactly? PPP found that 70 percent of Trump supporters in South Carolina “think the Confederate flag should still be flying over the State Capital.” Even worse, PPP reported, 38 percent of Trump voters “say they wish the South had won the Civil War.”

Is there any doubt left that Trump’s support, at least in the South, is built on a foundation of racism and xenophobia? All of which begs these questions: What is it about Trump that Duke so admires? And what about Trump appeals to former and current Duke disciples and other racists?

Having watched Duke for 25 years, I am certain he would not support Trump unless he firmly believed they held similar views on race. To say that Duke and his supporters care about race is like saying Alabama coach Nick Saban cares about football. Duke is obsessed with race – more specifically, he is rabid about safeguarding his perceived “white heritage.”

Like Duke when he ran for U.S. Senate in 1990 and governor the following year, Trump is a master at racial dog whistles. His listeners know what he really means, even if others less attuned to his code words do not. For Trump (and much of the GOP) most of the dog whistles now summon listeners (including Duke) to hear unmistakable messages about immigration.

Duke and his supporters clearly like the way Trump talks about undocumented immigrants, particularly Mexicans.

“Anybody in this country illegally needs to be sent home. Simple as that,” the candidate has said. “We’ve had our policies that have been really wrong. We’ve had productive people been kept out. The Irish people are having a difficult time right now in Boston, where we have massive numbers of Mexicans and Haitians in the country right now and other immigrant groups who are not contributing to the country, who are loading up our welfare rolls, increasing our crime problems. They’re bringing in a lot of the dope that comes into the country.”

Actually, that quote was not from Trump, no matter how much it might sound like him. That was Duke in March 1992 at a press conference in Plymouth, Mass., as he campaigned for the 1992 Republican presidential nomination.

While Trump doesn’t pepper his speeches with references to “white heritage,” the tenor and tone of his belligerent rhetoric is remarkably similar to Duke’s – and not just on race. Trump and Duke sound very much alike when striking the pose of economic populist who will deal harshly with our trading partners.

In his March 1992 press conference, Duke insisted it was time to get tough with Japan over its refusal to allow more U.S. auto imports. He presaged the blustery Trump of 2016. “It’s about time the Japanese [open their markets] and if they’re not willing to do it, then we cut ’em off,” Duke declared. “We cut ’em off. Simple and surely as that.”

Announcing for president in June 2015, Trump said, “When did we beat Japan at anything? They send their cars over by the millions, and what do we do? When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo? It doesn’t exist, folks. They beat us all the time.”

When it came to driving a hard bargain – or, as Trump might put it, “making a deal” – Duke assured his 1992 audience he would do what then-President George H.W. Bush couldn’t. “If they know we mean business and we put that [protectionist] legislation into effect, I think they’ll open up their markets and there’ll be a lot of fairness,” Duke said of dealing with Japan. “I really believe that. I just believe we haven’t shown any will.”

In the quote above, simply substitute “Barack Obama” for “Bush” and you have Donald Trump speaking in 2016.

Duke also blamed weakness and lack of resolve – a constant Trump theme in 2016 – for the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979. “It’s kind of the same thing that happened when the hostages were taken in Iran and Jimmy Carter didn’t do anything,” Duke said in 1992. “And the ayatollah didn’t think Jimmy Carter would do anything. And he didn’t do anything. I think the same thing’s true right now of President [George H.W.] Bush. And I think we’ve got to have a tough guy in there in the presidency who will go and look the Japanese in the eye and say exactly what I said.”

The candidate added: “When somebody doesn’t treat you properly, you gotta be tough, you gotta be strong. You can’t let them push you around.”

Actually, that final quote was not from Duke, no matter how much it might sound like him. It was Trump in January speaking to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd about Fox News.

Clearly, the two men have much in common, which is why Duke is urging his supporters to back Trump. Does that mean Trump is a neo-Nazi white supremacist, just like Duke? Who knows?

What we know, however, is this: When Duke’s admirers listen to Trump talk about immigration, trade and other issues, they hear clear, unmistakable echoes of their racist hero.

Sticking Around? — Simona Supekar in The Atlantic on the evolution of the bumper sticker.

bumper sticker bumpersticker 03-05-16It’s election season, which means an uptick in the number of car bumpers declaring their drivers’ political allegiances. The application of the political sticker is a ritual I know well: When I was younger, one of my first purposely political acts was to cover the bumper of my used 1991 Toyota Corolla with progressive-minded messages.

But the bumper sticker has its origins in a very different realm. Before they were popular campaign tools, the stickers were used for marketing of another kind: vacation spots.In 1934, the Kansas City silkscreen printer Forest Gill launched Gill-Line Productions, the company credited with producing some of the country’s first bumper stickers. In the years following World War II, Gill began experimenting with new materials, combining an adhesive with DayGlo ink to create the first self-sticking bumper sticker. The new design was a significant upgrade from the paper-and-string contraptions known as “bumper signs.”
The bumper itself had only been around since about 1910. According to Leslie Kendall, a curator from the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, the earliest bumpers “were springy aftermarket devices designed to safely bounce obstructions (like oblivious farm animals) out of the way of the car, often during attempts to park”—helpful during a time when the roads were less well kept and the drivers less sophisticated.And, as it turned out, bumpers were also a boon to advertisers for national parks, motels, and other tourist attractions. Capitalizing on the wanderlust of war-weary Americans who’d scrimped and saved and were now eager to drive their new automobiles, marketers would often affix bumper stickers on tourists’ cars while they were visiting the attraction, explains Mark Gilman, the chairman of the board at Gill-Line. They were often a point of pride for consumers: “It meant that you’d been somewhere,” he says.By 1950, Gill had built a significant business selling stickers and similar products in the specialty advertising industry. The company’s first large volume request was 25,000 bumper stickers for Marine Gardens, a tourist attraction in Clearwater, Florida. But by the next decade, mass orders often skewed political: In 1968, the company printed 20 million stickers for the presidential campaign of the notorious segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. (It has also printed stickers for candidates including LBJ, Kennedy, and Reagan.)If you look closely at a bumper sticker, you’ll likely see a label indicating which union printed it—my Bernie Sanders sticker, for example, was made by Sign Display Local 100. For this reason, Gilman says, bumper stickers are often popular with Democratic candidates. “We’re making a lot of Bernie Sanders bumper stickers this year,” he tells me.

The company has sold more than $2 million in bumper stickers this year, Gilman says, but sales of bumper stickers have been dropping. He blames it on digital and social-media advertising as replacements for the stickers, buttons, and campaign pins of yore.

Larry Bird, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, agrees that social media has played a role in the decline of bumper stickers. For Bird—a specialist in American political history and symbols—bumper stickers represent the last vestiges of the old “hurrah” campaigns of the 1950s, which were characterized by parades, painted tractor trailers, and rallies where campaigners would distribute their wares. Today, campaigning is significantly more manicured for television, and has lost what Bird calls the “thingness” that comes with receiving a button or bumper sticker from your favorite candidate.
The premise of bumper stickers, he says, is “actual physical contact and connection through that thing. In other words, I’m giving you this thing with my name on it, and I’m looking at you and you’re looking at me, we’re interacting.” It’s a more tangible declaration than a Facebook post: Postwar tourist stickers said, “I went somewhere”; political bumper stickers say, “I care about something.”A nice idea, but bumper stickers and the people who sport them are now often seen in a negative light. Kim Kardashian, when asked by talk show host Wendy Williams if she had tattoos, famously offered this wisdom: “Honey, would you put a bumper sticker on a Bentley?” And a 2008 study by Colorado State University researchers found that people who put bumper stickers on their cars tend to be more aggressive, territorial drivers.Even so, there’s a benefit to the bumper sticker: While we are cloistered in the tiny, antisocial world of our automobiles, these bumper stickers offer us an invitation to interact with the outside world. In his book If You Can Read This: The Philosophy of Bumper Stickers, the author Jack Bowen explained that bumper stickers all contain an unspoken if-then clause: Behind a sticker bearing the command “Imagine World Peace,” for example, is the condition, “If you can read this, then Imagine World Peace.” It’s a formulation that allows the reader to get closer, to engage in conversation, to align themselves with or against a belief.Sometimes, of course, those beliefs are outdated, vestiges of a moment when a now-obsolete slogan was in vogue; at any rate, a sticker always specifies a particular time and circumstance. Even though Forest Gill made the bumper sticker removable so many years ago, it can still be hard to get one off. Unlike social media, the bumper sticker still involves a verifiable commitment, and a simply stated one. “It says everything,” Bird notes, “while at the same time saying very little.”

Dear Bernie — Iain Reid at The New Yorker intercepts a letter from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Bernie Sanders.

Dear Bernie,

Because I, more than anyone, understand the constant stress that comes with a modern political campaign, I wanted to reach out with some helpful tips. First, and this might be most important, to emerge as your party’s leader and then to defeat the Republicans, you’ll have to listen to the people. Not a revelatory concept, I know, but you’d be amazed at how few politicians actually do it. I’ve learned that just listening can make all the difference.

Next, and this word is crucial: empathy. If you listen, but can’t empathize—well, you’re going to have a hard time implementing positive change. Now, while you’re listening, and being empathetic, if someone wants to take a photo with you, so that they can post it online, maybe with a caption about your very symmetrical face, I say suck it up and go for it. All campaigns are full of surprises, and to come out on top you’ll have to roll with the punches.

Expect anything! You might be fully prepared to talk about a proposed tax increase on the wealthiest, but instead find yourself asked to parse your “implausible good looks.” You just never really know what questions will be lobbed at you by your constituents, or why.

Which leads me to another point: policy. You have to listen, of course, and you have to be empathetic and prepared for surprises, but, at the end of the day, you still need to have a firm grasp on domestic and foreign policy.

Contention can arise from an issue as innocuous as, say, un-airbrushed shirtless photos floating around the Internet that show off your chiselled body to millions of people. I’m not here to make any insane allegations, like that these photos aren’t accurate representations of reality, because, yes, they absolutely are. There are no filters, no tricks of the camera. That’s just me. With my shirt off. That’s literally what I look like, not just in photographs.

But don’t forget, I also pledged a ton of money to infrastructure, and before people were liking those photos on Facebook, I’d already outlined my strategy in plain English. That’s the point. I can’t stress this enough: avoid political jargon. Don’t needlessly inflate your vocabulary or dumb it down too much.

The next tip should be self-explanatory. You need a thick skin. That’s why so many people just aren’t cut out for public life. To have to endure, day after day, week after week, month after month, mobs of reporters; to put up with articles and essays and think pieces, not just from your own country but from all over the world, proclaiming how “sexy” you are—although accurate, it’s all quite wearisome.

Consider it from my perspective: you spend years preparing for a federal election, you defeat the once powerful Conservatives, and then, instead of getting to defend your voting record in Parliament, or explain why modest government spending isn’t the worst evil, all you read and hear about is how you’re the best-looking world leader, probably in history.

Essentially, what I want you to understand is that you’re not going to have complete control over the narrative that gets written about you and your administration.

Remarking on my height and calling my hair “lush” and “gorgeous,” as some have repeatedly done, is flattering, sure, and not incorrect. But I’ve also really, really worked on my empathy. I’m the elected leader of a G8 country! Canada is one of the wealthiest nations in the world! There has to be more to a leader of this stature than genuinely stunning physical characteristics.

But listen: at this point, even if an interviewer wants to spend a few minutes, or longer, pointing out, interpreting, and panegyrizing my undeniable physical appeal, I’m not going to sulk or storm away. Earmark this: leadership requires patience.

Take the high road, is what I’m getting at, Bernie. This is 2016, and personal questions, even superficial ones, are fair game. Be willing to talk about the environment and pipelines, but don’t freak out when the conversation inevitably takes a turn to one of those discouraging but sincere questions you’re bound to face, on the topic of your uncommon beauty.

For better or worse, this is modern politics, and it’s the life we’ve signed up for.

Your northern neighbor,

Justin Trudeau

Doonesbury — Can you help?

Friday, February 26, 2016

American Heritage

David Duke wants you to vote for Donald Trump to save America for the white people.

Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke told his followers Wednesday that voting against Donald Trump in the Republican primary would be an act of “treason,” and said none of the establishment candidates should be supported.

“Voting for these people [Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio], voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Duke said on his radio program, comments that were spotted by BuzzFeed. “I’m not saying I endorse everything about Trump, in fact I haven’t formally endorsed him. But I do support his candidacy, and I support voting for him as a strategic action. I hope he does everything we hope he will do.”

Duke then pressured his followers to “get off your rear end that’s getting fatter and fatter” and go volunteer for Trump’s presidential campaign. The Trump campaign is filled with people who have “the same kind of mindset that you have,” Duke assured his audience.

Another group called the American Freedom Party is sending out robocalls in Minnesota and Vermont using the unusual tactic of denying that they’re racists — or live in fear of being called racist — but urging voters not to vote for the Cubans.

A white supremacist super PAC is rolling out a fresh robocall campaign this week in Vermont and Minnesota telling voters, “Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.”

In a recording of the robocall sent to TPM, American National Super PAC founder William Daniel Johnson calls on white Americans to brush aside their fears of being branded as racist and stop the “gradual genocide against the white race” by electing Trump.

“The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist,’” Johnson says in the recording, which will be pushed out Wednesday in Vermont and Thursday in Minnesota. Voters in both states will head to the polls on Super Tuesday to vote in the Republican presidential primary.

Johnson, who serves as the head of the white nationalist American Freedom Party, has pushed out similar robocall campaigns through his PAC in Iowa and New Hampshire. Both the party and PAC explicitly praise Trump for championing what they see as a pro-white, anti-immigrant message.

The response from the Trump campaign to endorsements by the likes of Mr. Duke has been to shrug and say that they didn’t seek them out and move on.  But even if they were to denounce them, what is it about Mr. Trump’s campaign that garners the approval of the white supremacists in the first place?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Coloring Their Judgment

Did you know that Barack Obama is black?  Well, the New York Times finally figured it out.

After years of watching political opponents question the president’s birthplace and his faith, and hearing a member of Congress shout “You lie!” at him from the House floor, some African-Americans saw the move by Senate Republicans as another attempt to deny the legitimacy of the country’s first black president. And they call it increasingly infuriating after Mr. Obama has spent seven years in the White House and won two resounding election victories.

“Our president, the president of the United States, has been disrespected from Day 1,” Carol Richardson, 61, said on Wednesday as she colored a customer’s hair at Ultra Beauty Salon in Hollywood, S.C., a mostly black town near Charleston. “The words that have been said, the things the Republicans have done they’d have never have done to another president. Let’s talk like it is, it’s because of his skin color.”

Reflecting on the Supreme Court vacancy, Bakari Sellers, a former state representative from Denmark, S.C., likened the Senate treatment of the president to the 18th century constitutional compromise that counted black men as equivalent to three-fifths of a person.

“I guess many of them are using this in the strictest construction that Barack Obama’s serving three-fifths of a term or he’s three-fifths of a human being, so he doesn’t get to make this choice,” Mr. Sellers said. “It’s infuriating.”

The anger and outrage that Mr. McConnell’s position has touched off among African-Americans could have implications for the presidential election. Leading African-American Democrats are trying to use it to motivate rank-and-file blacks to vote in November, the first presidential election in a decade in which Mr. Obama will not be on the ballot and in which Democrats fear black participation could drop.

“Anger becomes action when it’s directly tied to a moment, and the moment now is the election on Nov. 8,” said Stacey Abrams, a Democratic state representative from Georgia and the House minority leader there, adding that Mr. Scalia’s death meant that this presidential campaign could no longer be construed as a mere “thought exercise.”

Nice of the Grey Lady to catch up.  Maybe now they’ll get clued into what the people really mean when they say they “want their country back,” or why the Republicans and conservatives recoil and shout “Socialism!” when the president proposes a healthcare plan that was a reprint of what Gov. Mitt Romney put in place in Massachusetts, which was originally conceived by Sen. Robert Dole (R-KS).  Or when the Orcosphere calls President Obama a lawless dictator for issuing executive orders (despite the fact that presidents do that) or lazy for taking a vacation even though he’d have to take the rest of his term off to catch up with George W. Bush’s use of time off.

I’m not sure why anyone thinks this is some complicated convergence of socioeconomic trends and intricate political movement of the dials between liberal, moderate, or conservative paradigms.  At least since the 1950’s the base of the Republican party has been benignly racist — they’re not burning crosses out in the woods but they wouldn’t mind toasting a few marshmallows as they pass by — and genially intolerant of people of other races, ethnic heritages, or non-Protestant faiths; they can clean their houses and take care of the kids, but wouldn’t let their son or daughter marry one.  And they’ve never been too wild about women having control over their own bodies or those folks down the street who are both men and live together as a couple.

Republicans are especially sensitive about the notion that they are diminishing Mr. Obama because of his race, and spokesmen for several Republican senators, including Mr. McConnell and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, declined to comment or would not make the senators available for comment.

The suggestion that racism is playing a role angers Mr. McConnell’s friends, who point out that his formative political experience was working for a Republican senator who supported civil rights, that he helped override President Ronald Reagan’s veto of sanctions against the apartheid government in South Africa and that he is married to an Asian-American woman.

But in the aftermath of Mr. McConnell’s statement on Saturday, a growing chorus of black voices is complaining that such a refusal to even consider a Supreme Court nominee would never occur with a white president.

“It’s more than a political motive — it has a smell of racism,” said Representative G. K. Butterfield, Democrat of North Carolina, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“I can tick instance after instance over the last seven years where Republicans have purposely tried to diminish the president’s authority,” Mr. Butterfield said. “This is just really extreme, and leads me to the conclusion that if this was any other president who was not African-American, it would not have been handled this way.”

What I don’t understand is why they try so hard to deny it.  It’s obvious to anyone who listens to any of the candidates running for federal or state offices for any more time than just a soundbite.  It’s what has defined the GOP at least within my living memory, which goes back to the 1950’s.  Sure, there have been racist Democrats and Republicans who support affirmative action and school desegregation, but ever since the GOP aligned themselves with movements like the Christian Coalition and the philosophy of the National Review, race has been a part of their platform so succinctly stated by Jessamine Milner in 1974.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

From A Dark Place

There might be more to the Republicans’ preemptive strike on President Obama’s last budget than just financial disagreement.

Since he was elected, Obama has gone head to head with Republicans in Congress who have seemed to reject the president’s ideas with a ferocity that has been unrivaled. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said that the decision not to entertain Donovan on the budget committee came from the committee chairmen, but that “we support the chairman.”

From his executive actions on immigration to his signature health care bill, Republicans have vowed at every turn to reverse Obama’s policies even after they have been implemented. In 2010, the now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), bluntly told National Journal that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

But, the backlash–especially on the President’s final budget–is raising eyebrows and questions about Congressional Republicans’ motivations.

“When I examine the GOP’s mistreatment of Barack Obama in the historical context of presidential scrutiny, I can only assume there are some deep, racial motivations behind their actions,” one senior staffer to a Congressional Black Caucus member said. “Republican leadership has long tried to disguise the racial undertones employed by some of their colleagues, but I think it’s painfully clear the disdain many have for President Obama comes from dark place.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA)–one of only two black Democrats on the House’s budget committee–said in a statement to TPM that “the decision of Budget Committee Republicans to reject the President’s budget – sight unseen, without even a hearing – further shows that Congressional Republican are glued to their extremist, Tea Party agenda.”

“It is clear from their budget proposals and actions that they have no interest in effectively governing or improving the lives of American families,” Lee said.

In other words, the GOP once again reminded Barack Obama that he’s black and they don’t like it.