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“It’s Time To Leave Home”: There Is Nowhere You Can Go And Only Be With People Who Are Like You; It’s Over, Give It Up

When I think about the problem of big money in politics and the challenges we face to citizen engagement, I am reminded of a prophetic speech Bernice Johnson Reagon (founder of “Sweet Honey in the Rock” – featured below) gave in 1981 titled: Coalition Politics: Turning the Century. She begins by summarizing the impact technology has had on our social constructs:

We’ve pretty much come to the end of a time when you can have a space that is “yours only”—just for the people you want to be there…To a large extent it’s because we have just finished with that kind of isolating. There is no hiding place. There is nowhere you can go and only be with people who are like you. It’s over. Give it up.

David Simon captured how the re-election of Barack Obama sealed this change when he talked about the death of normal.

America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions. The America in which it was otherwise is dying…

What makes Reagon’s words so prophetic is that she talked about what our reaction would likely be to this reality. We are seeing it play out today in the tension between the supporters of Bernie Sanders and the Black Lives Matter movement. She warned that it would lead us to retreat to spaces she called “home.”

Now every once in awhile there is a need for people to try to clean out corners and bar the doors and check everybody who comes in the door, and check what they carry in and say, “Humph, inside this place the only thing we are going to deal with is X or Y or Z.” And so only the X’s or Y’s or Z’s get to come in…

But that space while it lasts should be a nurturing space where you sift out what people are saying about you and decide who you really are. And you take the time to try to construct within yourself and within your community who you would be if you were running society. In fact, in that little barred room where you check everybody at the door, you act out community. You pretend that your room is a world.

She said that there are dangers associated with pretending “that your room is a world.”

I mean it’s nurturing, but it is also nationalism. At a certain stage nationalism is crucial to a people if you are going to ever impact as a group in your own interest. Nationalism at another point becomes reactionary because it is totally inadequate for surviving in the world with many peoples.

In order to survive in this world with many peoples, we have to learn how to build coalitions.

Coalition work is not work done in your home. Coalition work has to be done in the streets. And it is some of the most dangerous work you can do. And you shouldn’t look for comfort. Some people will come to a coalition and they rate the success of the coalition on whether or not they feel good when they get there. They’re not looking for a coalition; they’re looking for a home! They’re looking for a bottle with some milk in it and a nipple, which does not happen in a coalition. You don’t get a lot of food in a coalition. You don’t get fed a lot in a coalition. In a coalition you have to give, and it is different from your home. You can’t stay there all the time. You go to the coalition for a few hours and then you go back and take your bottle wherever it is, and then you go back and coalesce some more.

It is very important not to confuse them—home and coalition.

She says that forming coalitions is a matter of life and death.

It must become necessary for all of us to feel that this is our world…And watch that “ours’ make it as big as you can—it ain’t got nothing to do with that barred room. The “our” must include everybody you have to include in order for you to survive. You must be sure you understand that you ain’t gonna be able to have an “our” that don’t include Bernice Johnson Reagon, cause I don’t plan to go nowhere! That’s why we have to have coalitions. Cause I ain’t gonna let you live unless you let me live. Now there’s danger in that, but there’s also the possibility that we can both live—if you can stand it.

The tensions we’re currently seeing in our politics are a direct result of people looking for a home and being fearful of a coalition. Too many of us are simply seeking out the comfort of those who are like us and/or agree with us. As a weigh station to nurture ourselves, there is value in that. But in the end, we have to leave home and face the world as it really is.

This is exactly the message President Obama gave to the young graduates of Morehouse in 2013.

As Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; know what it’s like to be marginalized; know what it’s like to feel the sting of discrimination. And that’s an experience that a lot of Americans share…

So it’s up to you to widen your circle of concern — to care about justice for everybody, white, black and brown. Everybody. Not just in your own community, but also across this country and around the world. To make sure everyone has a voice, and everybody gets a seat at the table…

President Obama’s rhetoric about this is often uplifting and visionary. That is as it should be. But Reagon got down to the nitty gritty in her speech about what this actually means for all of us. Anyone thinking it’s about some kind of kumbaya moment is very mistaken.

There is an offensive movement that started in this country in the 60’s that is continuing. The reason we are stumbling is that we are at the point where in order to take the next step we’ve got to do it with some folk we don’t care too much about. And we got to vomit over that for a little while. We must just keep going.

In other words, its time to leave home, vomit for a little while about that, and get busy dealing with the world as it is rather than as we want it to be. In the end, its about survival…”Cause I ain’t gonna let you live unless you let me live. Now there’s danger in that, but there’s also the possibility that we can both live—if you can stand it.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 16, 2015

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Coalitions, Discrimination, Nationalism | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Shock Endorsement”: How Desperate Is Rand Paul? He’s Calling In Daddy For Help

Look at all of you, thinking Rand Paul’s presidential campaign was going nowhere but downward, in both polling support and money. Quite a feint that Rand Paul put out there, getting you all clucking. But the last laugh will be his. Because on Friday, Rand Paul trotted out a shock endorsement that threatens to upend the state of the race, the future of the country, the alignment of the planets, the mysteries of God.

Ron Paul has endorsed Rand Paul.

The two have some connections, so perhaps we should have seen this coming. Ron Paul served in Congress for years, just as Rand Paul has. Each are Republicans but gravitate towards libertarianism. Each has run for president. It’s also the case that Rand Paul’s mother is literally married to Ron Paul and they have a son and that son is Rand Paul. Still: pretty big endorsement here.

“Endorsement” is at least how Reason magazine is putting it, which is an effective framing job although perhaps not the most accurate. Ron Paul has always supported his son’s campaign, because he is his son. He was there with Rand at the campaign launch, in a mostly silent role. His role has been nearly totally silent as the campaign has progressed, though. As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel writes, it’s more accurate to call this Ron Paul’s first pitch on Rand’s behalf for donations, over four months into the process.

Here’s a sampling of some of the slick #content within this email:

Rand is the ONLY one in the race who is standing up for your Liberty, across the board….he is our best hope to restore liberty, limited government and the Bill of Rights and finally end the big spending status quo in Washington, D.C….

Remember, truth is treason in the empire of lies. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to Washington, D.C. and their media mouthpieces.

Even where Rand and I do have minor differences of opinion, I would take Rand’s position over any of his opponents’ in both parties every time…

Rand must be heartened to have his father’s full-throated public support and fundraising prowess at his back. But it’s the best symbol yet of how Paul’s political career has come full-circle: from niche politician to breakout GOP star and back to niche politician — and one who has little hope of growing his support for the nomination much further.

Leading up to the presidential cycle, much of the chatter about Rand Paul surrounded how he would utilize his “wild card” father, if at all. It was Ron Paul’s noisy base of supporters who raised him an awful lot of money for his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and who boosted Rand Paul to his surprising Senate primary victory in 2010. As Rand’s ambitions went higher though — he wanted to run for president with a chance to win, and not as a niche candidate in the style of his father — he had to move towards the party mainstream without abandoning his libertarian base.

That didn’t work very well. The rise of ISIS closed off whatever interest Republicans might have had in a slightly less military interventionist foreign policy. Rand sensed the winds changing and has tried several times to appease the party’s hawks, who do not and will not ever trust him, in the meantime turning some of his libertarian base against them. He has tried to walk the narrow line between mainstream acceptability and libertarian fire and failed.

And now he doesn’t have much money, or anything to lose, so he might as well trot out his father despite all the risks that entails.

It will be something when Rand Paul fares much, much worse in the early states this time than his father did in the early states in 2012. That’s not the way it was supposed to be.

 

By: Jim Newell, Salon, August 17, 2015

 

August 18, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Rand Paul, Ron Paul | , , , , , | 8 Comments

“The Tinker Bell School Of Foreign Policy”: The GOP Presidential Field’s Dangerous Fantasy On Iraq And Syria

Last week, Jeb Bush told an audience in California, “It is strength, and will, and clarity of purpose that make all the difference.” This is the Tinker Bell school of foreign policy that has spread over most of the Republican presidential field. Clap if you believe in a stable Middle East where Syria is rid of ISIS, Al Nusra, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and any Iranian influence. Clap if you believe Iraq will be safe for religious minorities and free of undue Iranian influence, too.

Candidates who want to lead on foreign policy issues — like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham — are offering the American people variations of a very implausible U.S. strategy in the Middle East. And they are underselling the grave costs that even the architects of this policy admit.

In the case of Syria, Bush has argued that “defeating ISIS requires defeating Assad, but we have to make sure that his regime is not replaced by something as bad or worse.” Careful readers of this space may remember that this same strategy was enunciated by Rubio, who said, “The reason Obama hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn’t want to upset Iran,” which is Assad’s main ally in the region.

At the time I said that Rubio’s statement was dumber than a brick in a tumble-dryer, betraying a total misunderstanding of the conflict by failing to grasp that ISIS and Iran are on opposing sides of the conflict. I was wrong; Rubio does, in fact, grasp this basic dynamic. It’s just that he — and, it turns out, Bush — believe that the United States can actually defeat Assad and Assad’s enemies simultaneously.

In fact, Rubio, Bush, and Graham believe that the only way to defeat one is to defeat the other. Hawkish policy advisers who like the sound of multiple victories at once go back and forth on conspiracy theories as to whether there is some explicit or implicit agreement between Assad’s Shiite regime and ISIS’s rabidly Sunni forces.

The strategy of defeating ISIS and Assad and Al Nusra all at once originates with Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, who co-authored a white paper on defeating ISIS with Jessica D. Lewis. Even the authors of the paper, normally possessed of supreme confidence in the power of American leadership, seem to admit that it will be a costly and difficult task. And yet, they see no alternative.

Then there’s Syria’s neighbor, Iraq. Bush last week held out the “success” of the 2007 surge in Iraq as an object lesson for re-engaging in Iraq and Syria. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of the surge, which tamped down violence in the hopes of creating a way for sectarian elements to broker a deal. At the time, Jeb’s brother helped tip the scales to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a corrupt and sectarian figure himself. And that government could not come to a status of forces agreement, and so the United States left.

The very possibility of asserting U.S. leadership in this region is hampered by our failures in the surge. ISIS has proven itself very effective in punishing and killing Sunni tribal leaders who were known to have collaborated with U.S. forces during the Sunni “Awakening” of 2007. The calculation on the ground in 2015 may be that finding some accommodation with the radicals of ISIS is a safer bet than trusting that the U.S. military won’t leave them to be slaughtered in the near future.

How did we get here? During the heady days of 2013, as news reports were flooded with confusing accounts of a use of chemical weapons in Syria, Frederick Kagan’s interpretation of the Syrian scene was that four distinct forces were at work: Assad and his military, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda affiliates, and the Free Syrian Army. Kagan concluded, “The only hope of managing Syria’s chemical weapons threat lies with the success of the FSA.”

The Free Syrian Army has not only disintegrated since that time, but many of its fighters have defected to ISIS or Al Nusra. And the possibility that American air support would create a moral hazard — including a bandwagoning effect in which not-so-secret Islamists joined or even overwhelmed a rebel coalition putatively led by the FSA — never seemed to cross his mind.

At the time, Kagan defined U.S. vital interests this way: “depriving Iran of its forward staging area in the Levant and preventing Al Qaeda from establishing a safe haven there.” It is because U.S. interests are defined so broadly that so many Republican presidential candidates are advocating what sounds like an insane strategy: dropping 10,000 to 20,000 American troops across northern Iraq and Syria, and marshaling, somehow, a coalition of regional “moderate” Sunni forces that will defeat at least three battle-hardened sides in a brutal, zero-sum, and long-lasting civil war.

Beyond that, the Kagan-GOP hopeful strategy is to somehow re-construct a “moderate” force like the Free Syrian Army as a “New Syrian Force,” in order to have someone to hand power over to when this conflict winds down. For now, the idea of a final victor in the battle for Syria is labeled “TBD.” In Iraq, the same.

Notably, the Kagan plan leaves open the possibility that Syrian moderates may be insufficient to the incredible tasks U.S. interests assign them. And further, Kagan, though very much a supporter of U.S. leadership, admits that U.S. forces would be entering an extremely confusing battlefield situation where ISIS has captured enough war materiel to disguise themselves as other forces, a trick they’ve used effectively against the Iraqi security forces.

Because the overriding regional concern of Republican hawks is the de-legitimization of the Iranian regime, policy experts and candidates are already ruling out the most obvious ways of defeating ISIS, such as collaborating with and strengthening Assad’s forces and the Iraqi army in their respective territories. Instead, the idea is to defeat everyone at once, at low cost, without ugly alliances, and to the benefit of unnamed good guys.

And you thought the first regime change in Iraq was tough!

As an electoral strategy, it is absolutely nuts that Republicans would preemptively tell the American people, “Elect me and I’ll put American troops back on the ground in Iraq.” And then add, “And Syria, too, and with allies TBD, and final victors TBD.” This seems like a 2016 death wish. Not just for Republican electoral ambitions, but for American troops, American prestige, and American power.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, August 17, 2015

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, GOP Presidential Candidates, Middle East | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Let ‘The Good Ones’ Return”: Why Donald Trump Is The Only GOP Presidential Hopeful Who Can Talk Straight On Immigration

Four years ago, deep within a process of convincing Republican primary voters that he was “severely conservative,” Mitt Romney declared that his solution for dealing with the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States was “self-deportation” — in other words, making life so miserable for them that they’d prefer to return to the countries they fled from rather than stay here. The chairman of the Republican Party later called Romney’s words “horrific,” not so much out of some moral revulsion, but because they sent a clear message of hostility to Hispanic voters, the country’s largest minority group and one that is growing fast. Since then, most Republicans have acknowledged that they have to be careful about how they talk about those 11 million immigrants if they want to have any hope of winning the White House again.

Then along came Donald Trump, who isn’t careful about anything (other than that glorious and extremely delicate mane of hair). Barreling into the campaign, Trump said he’d deport all 11 million, then let “the good ones” return to the United States. How would the unfathomably complicated task of locating all those people, detaining them, and moving them back to their countries of origin be accomplished? “It’s feasible if you know how to manage,” he said. OK then.

Compared to Trump, the rest of the GOP candidates have been models of reason and thoughtfulness on this issue, and between them they’ve taken a couple of different positions on how to handle the undocumented. If comprehensive immigration reform ever happens, this will be one of its key components, so it’s important to know where they stand.

But first, what about the public? Gallup just released a survey that sheds some light on this question, showing both why Trump is getting support and why most of the other candidates are taking a different tack. Asked whether the government should “deport all illegal immigrants back to their home country, allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States in order to work, but only for a limited amount of time, or allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become U.S. citizens, but only if they meet certain requirements over a period of time,” a full 65 percent said they should be allowed to become citizens, and only 19 percent said they should be deported.

But right now, the GOP candidates aren’t seeking the support of the whole country, they’re going after the Republicans who might vote in upcoming primaries. Among Republicans, the numbers are different — but not as much as you might expect. Fifty percent of Republicans said there should be a path to citizenship, while 31 percent said they should be deported.

Thirty-one percent isn’t a majority, but it’s still a lot — and you could say the same about Trump’s support in the polls. Right now he’s averaging around 24 percent, and while there are certainly people supporting him who don’t agree with him on immigration (and those opposing him who do), if you want the candidate taking the clearest anti-immigrant stance, your choice is pretty clear.

So where do the other candidates come down? When you ask them about a path to citizenship you’ll inevitably get a complicated answer, but most of them say one of two things: either they support a path to citizenship, or they support a path to some other kind of legal status, but not citizenship itself.

Interestingly enough, among the candidates who take the latter position — the more conservative one — are the son of a Cuban immigrant and the husband of a Mexican immigrant. Ted Cruz may be the farthest to the right (other than Trump) — he spends a lot of time decrying “amnesty” — but if pressed will say that he’s open to some kind of restrictive work permit that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. Jeb Bush talks about a “path to legal status,” but pointedly says that the path does not end in citizenship, but rather in something that resembles a green card, allowing the immigrant to work and live in the U.S., but not be an American citizen. (Bush used to support a path to citizenship, but not anymore.)

Others have taken the same position. Carly Fiorina says that some legal status might be acceptable, but not citizenship. Rick Santorum not only opposes a path to citizenship, but wants to drastically curtail legal immigration as well. Chris Christie used to support a path to citizenship, but has since changed his mind. Rick Perry is also opposed to a path to citizenship, but doesn’t seem to have answered a specific question about the undocumented in some time.

Whenever any of them describes their path, whether to citizenship or some kind of guest worker status, it contains some key features. It winds over many years, involves paying fines and any back taxes, and also involves proving that the immigrant speaks English. The truth is that this last provision is completely unnecessary — this wave of immigrants is learning English no slower than previous waves did — but it’s actually an important way for voters with complex feelings about immigration to feel less threatened and be reassured that the immigrants will become American.

For most of the candidates, the end of the long process is indeed citizenship. Scott Walker, after a bunch of incoherent and seemingly contradictory statements, finally said that he could eventually foresee a path to citizenship, once the border is secure (more on that in a moment). Marco Rubio will describe for you an intricate process that ends in citizenship, even if he seems reluctant to say so (Rubio was essentially cast out of the Tea Party temple after he proposed a comprehensive reform bill, which he has since dropped). Rand Paul has essentially the same position — he describes a path to citizenship, but doesn’t like using the word. Bobby Jindal also supports a path to citizenship, as does Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich, and George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham, who has even said that he would veto any immigration reform bill that didn’t contain a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Ben Carson has been vague on the subject, and as far as I can tell no one has asked Jim Gilmore.

But don’t get the idea that any of these candidates are all that eager to move undocumented immigrants down that path too quickly. All of them say we need to “secure the border” before we even begin talking about how undocumented immigrants might eventually become citizens. And they seldom elaborate on what “securing” the border would mean. Would it mean not a single person could sneak over? If not, then what? In practice, they could always say that we can’t get started on laying that path to citizenship because the border is not yet secure.

What all this makes clear is that you have to pay very close attention to understand what most of the candidates actually want to do, and even then you might not be completely sure. And even if there are plenty of Republican voters who would like to see a path to citizenship, at this point their voices are far quieter than the ones complaining about the invading horde. So if a Republican gets elected next fall, I wouldn’t expect him to be in too much of a hurry to create a way for undocumented immigrants to eventually become Americans under the law.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, August 17, 2015

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Abortion Opponents Show Little Concern For Poor Kids”: Those For Whom They Claim So Much Concern

Another year, another controversy over Planned Parenthood. Selectively edited videos filmed by an anti-abortion activist have given partisans another excuse to attack women’s reproductive services, starting with those provided by a well-established non-profit dedicated to women’s health care. Never mind that abortions represent a tiny percentage of Planned Parenthood’s work.

Some Republicans have gone so far as to threaten to shut down the government unless all federal funding for Planned Parenthood is eliminated. (By law, none of that money supports abortion services.) Even as prominent Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell try to tamp down that impulse, others — firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) among them — continue to insist that the entire government should be brought to its knees when Congress returns to work after Labor Day.

This is really just another opportunity to try to limit women’s reproductive choices, another chance to grandstand and exaggerate. If this outrage reflected genuine concern about lives ended while still in the womb, wouldn’t more conservatives be worried about what happens to poor babies once they are born?

For decades now, I’ve listened to anti-abortion activists rail against a “culture of death,” a callous disregard for the unborn, the “murder” of babies still in the womb. I’ve witnessed protests outside abortion clinics, listened to “pro-life” state legislators mischaracterize rape, and covered misleading campaigns that suggest abortions lead to breast cancer and mental illness. I’ve watched as hostility toward Roe v. Wade has become a litmus test inside the Republican Party.

But here’s the disconnect: Over those years, I’ve also seen anti-abortion crusaders become increasingly hostile to programs and policies that would aid poor kids once they’ve come into the world. Conservative lawmakers have disparaged welfare, criticized federal housing subsidies and even campaigned against food assistance. How does that affect those children for whom they claim so much concern?

In Alabama, where anti-abortion sentiment is as commonplace as summer heat waves, the state legislature is contemplating cutting millions from Medicaid, the program that provides health care for the poorest citizens, including children. Meanwhile, the state’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, are among those demanding that Planned Parenthood receive no more federal funds because of the controversy over the sale of fetal tissue.

To be fair, there are those among abortion critics who show a principled concern for poor children, whose opposition to abortion is paired with a passion for social justice. Take Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is among the rare GOP governors to support the Medicaid expansion offered by the Affordable Care Act. “Now, when you die and get to the meeting with Saint Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You’d better have a good answer,” he said in June.

Then there are the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, led by nuns. They’ve also adopted assistance to the poor as a core mission.

Their compassion stands in contrast to the U.S. Conference of Bishops, which is largely known for its conservative stances on abortion and same-sex marriage. (That may change with Pope Francis, who has made social justice his hallmark.) Last year, I attended a Catholic high school commencement where the headmaster, a priest, bragged about the number of his students who had attended anti-abortion protests. He said nothing about protests over cuts in assistance to the poor.

It’s easy enough to inflame with the Planned Parenthood videos; without context (again, selective editing), leaders of the organization are heard discussing money for the donation of fetal tissue. That’s not a conversation that’s easy to hear.

But Planned Parenthood is doing nothing illegal, and fetal tissue research has been vital to improving the quality of life for an aging America. Many of those who are angered by the videos would be surprised to know that they may have benefited from fetal tissue research.

Still, I’d take their criticism more seriously if they’d spend as much time trying to help poor children once they are born. Since they don’t, they’re just engaging in a war on women — especially women who don’t have any money.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker,  Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; Featured Post, The National Memo, August 15, 2015. 

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Planned Parenthood, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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