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Trump and Republicans

September 2, 2015

Thomas Edsall defines Trump’s single-issue constituency and their demography on today’s NY Times op ed page (“Donald Trump Understands Republicans“). What he understands is that the party’s latent Nativism trumps the rest of its ideolog(ies).

Republicanism has always been driven and led by business interests, but its coalition broadened considerably in the 1960s, when it began absorbing Southern Democrats; in the 1970s when it took in formerly Democratic anti-Abortion Catholics, and evangelicals, who had been apolitical for generations; and of course in the 1980s, when Reagan brought in so many blue collar voters. The Cold War consensus kept isolationists in both parties in the shadows, but under Bush II, Neo-con interventionism rose to the fore.

Trump’s Know-Nothingism resonates strongest with those blue collar and southern voters–who aren’t necessarily in synch with the ruling business interests on taxes (they want low taxes for themselves, but not for the 1 percent), Social Security, and interventionism, or with the evangelicals on moral issues. One of the commenters on my NY Times piece yesterday wrote “America First!” which brought the 1930s to mind in a chilling way.

It’s paradoxical that a billionaire should derive so much from benefit from wage inequality, but it’s not unprecedented–Henry Ford, who was both a more consequential businessman than Trump and a more principled hater, was pressed by rural populists to run for president in the 1920s.

The bottom line for me? Trump could break up the Republican Party, but he could also win.

Donald Trump’s Rosebud Moment

September 1, 2015

 

“Great salespeople truly understand the people they are dealing with,” Mr. Trump has written. And who are the people that he is closing his presidential deal with? People who are afraid that they are being made suckers too. Mr. Trump’s angry certainty that immigrants and other losers are destroying the country while the cultural elites that look down on him stand by and do nothing resonates strongly with the less-educated, lower-income whites who appear to be his base.

That’s me on Donald Trump in The New York Times–as visible a venue as I could have hoped for. It’s not going to change any minds, but added to all the other grains of sand, maybe it will help bring him back to earth.

Chance the Gardener

August 29, 2015

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If all goes well, the Donald Trump article I posted and took down the other day will reappear as an opinion piece in a big venue fairly soon–I will post a link.  In the meantime, Trump continues to loom large in my nightmares.

This article in The Hill is terrifying: “Trump’s business acumen is proven…..he isn’t afraid of the media, nor does he use the crutch of notes and prepared speeches. He’s a negotiator, not a political puppet. He’s a dealmaker who thrives in the hot seat of a boardroom. Logic suggests he’ll be the same in foreign negotiations or hunkered down in a military command center….Trump will sail to victory next year.”

I’m beginning to think that Trump is a mirror world Chauncey Gardner, the savant that Peter Sellers played in BEING THERE. He’s as mean as Chauncey was naive, and as cunning as Chauncey was simple, but he’s making it up as he goes along just the same. People look at him and listen to him and see and hear what they need to. Hillaryites see the buffoon that their standard-bearer can’t fail to beat; the silent majority (are they really a majority?) see their knight in shining armor.

How can I put this? If Trump does become our president, he will be precisely the president we deserve.

PS Wow, I just scrolled down and read what I wrote on June 26, after the court upheld gay marriage and Obamacare. I predicted that the Republicans would put the repeal of both at the center of the 2016 campaign. Instead their front-runner is a guy whose response to a reporter’s question as to what he’d say to a married gay couple who asked him how, with his multiple marriages, he could pass judgement on theirs, answered, “I guess I’d tell them that they have a point”; and who praised Scotland and Canada’s single-payer system at the first debate.

It kind of makes your head spin. When the chips are down, hate trumps ideology and even religion (excuse the pun) right down the line–the evangelicals are backing Trump two to one compared to Huckabee. It’s ironic that a billionaire should owe his populist appeal to wage inequality (you’d think they’d hate him), but as I’ve always said, the good Lord’s sense of irony is beyond post-modern. Actually I’ve never said that till now, but I probably will again.

Can we all agree that Trump isn’t funny anymore? And that he’s not good for the Democrats–at least if we nominate Hillary Clinton?

Late-breaking (but timely) review of THE NEW HATE

July 21, 2015

From the former NBA basketball player, activist, and businessman James Donaldson, a very generous review of THE NEW HATE. Money line: “Overall, this was a terrific history lesson for me, and I learned a great deal about what Pres. Obama alluded to when he talked about racism being part of our DNA here in the United States.”

Amazing Grace

June 28, 2015

I admit it, he had me in tears—I felt like I was listening to the Gettysburg Address, like I was living through a moment that will be revisited again and again and again over the next 200 years.

White America has had this long-standing nightmare in which a vengeful black man—Nat Turner, Faulkner’s Joe Christmas, Malcolm X—comes out of the shadows to menace us, and a happier dream in which a black-skinned mother or father-figure loves us and forgives us unconditionally (Jim in Huckleberry Finn; Dilsey in Faulkner’s Sound & Fury; Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy).  Then there’s the fantasy in which a gangster like, I don’t know, Spenser for Hire’s friend Hawk or rap’s Snoop Dogg, gruffly assures us that we can be his friend. Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons evoked those archetypes of reconciliation on stage; a lot of people, I suspect, projected some of them onto Obama too.

Obama changed the script in Charleston. Instead of an easy reconciliation (an un-earned grace that only Jesus can grant), he admonished white Americans to live up not just to our own ideals, but to the example that America’s black fighters and martyrs have set. He challenged us to open our eyes: to stop pretending that a proliferation of guns have nothing to do with gun violence; that racism and racial injustice have nothing to do with each other; that the Civil War was a noble cause with no lessons or implications for today.

So many martyrs. As Obama recounted the facts of Clementa Pinckney’s short life, I found myself thinking about how assiduous the Fox News machine has always been to remind us that Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddy Gray, and even the little girl in the bikini in Texas who was looking for her glasses, were “no angels”–and that the cops or would-be cops who hurt or killed them weren’t racists either, but just working stiffs doing a difficult job (which for all I know, some of them were–I can’t get inside their heads. But I have a pretty good idea about what’s going on in the heads of some of their loudest defenders).

Then an honest-to-God white supremacist gunned down nine angels in a historic church, a citadel of the Civil Rights movement, making sure to leave a witness behind so that there could be no doubt about his motive. It was as if, Obama said, God was using the killer to carry out a plan of His own. I’m no believer, but those words gave me chills.

When I finished listening to the president, I checked out the commentary at Twitchy. The upshot was that Obama’s “politicization” of the tragedy was narcissistic, unchristian, in poor taste, and of course race-baiting of the lowest kind. Obama, one wrote, is “a man whose messiah complex is so strong, that he’s found a way to turn a funeral into a pander-fest.” Can you imagine, talking about guns and racism at the funeral of nine victims of race-inspired gun violence? What possible place could progressive politics have in a eulogy for a progressive politician?

I almost felt sorry for them.

Raining on the Parade

June 26, 2015

I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade, but when the dust settles, I think the Republicans are going to have a two-pronged response to this week’s amazing events, one that will allow them to have their cake and eat it too.

To appeal to primary voters, they’ll call for the impeachment of Roberts and Kennedy and for the election of a truly conservative president who will nominate nine more Scalias. Supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman at a time and equating publicly-mandated and partially-subsidized insurance with tyranny will be as important a litmus test for their national candidates as being pro-life and pro-gun.

To appeal to white, socially-conservative Democrats in the general election, they’ll argue that a conservative Supreme Court isn’t such a terrible thing, that when it comes to keeping millions insured, or being on the right side of history vis-a-vis gays and ex-slaves, even a far-right court will rise to the occasion.

It’s important to remember that the people that own them are the primary voters (and contributors).

Dylann Roof’s Manifesto

June 22, 2015

I’ve written a lot (too much) about racism; I’m not going to spend any time parsing Dylann Roof’s manifesto–obviously he’s wrong and he’s bad, and so are the people who deplore his acts while endorsing his analysis.

I would just add that the KKK and the CCC and even the neo-Nazi groups like the NPI aren’t the biggest problem we face as a nation when it comes to racism–even most racists find them despicable. And they’re not being disingenuous when they disown Roof. The CCC’s Jared Taylor, for example, is a separatist, not an eliminationist; he believes that white nationalists should emulate Israeli settlers, Chasids in upstate NY, and the die-hard separatists in Rhodesia and build white-only ethnocracies.

One thing they do have in common with Roof is that they no longer presume to speak for “America,” but for cadres of right-thinking whites. They believe the Republic was poisoned at its inception by its “all men are created equal” rhetoric and finished by the Civil War and the 13th Amendment. If they aren’t as sanguinary as Roof, they hate the US with an equal passion. Here are Root’s words on patriotism, veterans, Jews, and the flag, which are sure to bring Tea Partiers and Libertarians and Democrats and Republicans together in execration:

I hate the sight of the American flag. Modern American patriotism is an absolute joke. People pretending like they have something to be proud while White people are being murdered daily in the streets. Many veterans believe we owe them something for “protecting our way of life” or “protecting our freedom”. But im not sure what way of life they are talking about. How about we protect the White race and stop fighting for the jews. I will say this though, I myself would have rather lived in 1940’s American than Nazi Germany, and no this is not ignorance speaking, it is just my opinion. So I dont blame the veterans of any wars up until after Vietnam, because at least they had an American to be proud of and fight for.

As loathsome as fringe racists like Taylor are, as despicable and dangerous as psychopathic nut jobs like Roof are, I believe that the mainstream enablers, sustainers, and normalizers of white privilege–the people who believe that separate and unequal schools and neighborhoods and opportunity structures, a militarized police force and citizenry, and an attendant prison-industrial complex are the bulwarks of their freedom–are far worse.

What matters the most isn’t what the likes of Dylann Roof wrote and said, but what so many “legitimate” politicians and pundits are NOT saying. Those are the people whose feet need to be held to the fire.

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