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“The Johnson-Weld Ticket”: An Opportunity For #NeverTrump Republicans To Save Face

Let’s face it: the #NeverTrump movement is an admission of embarrassment on the part of veteran Republicans, an acknowledgment that the Southern Strategy was suicidal, a concession that as a result of fifty years of playing to ignorant fears, the GOP base is largely comprised of people who think the term “animal husbandry” refers to bestiality. You can’t blame these veteran Republicans for wanting to wash their hands of their creation–and you can’t blame them for seeking alternate political routes:

For some Massachusetts Republicans, the return of Bill Weld — the law-and-order Yankee who charmed his way into two terms as governor of a liberal state — is nothing short of face-saving.

Finally, they have a reason to show up on Election Day.

“I think for a lot of Republicans, especially in a state like Massachusetts, it gives us an option,” said Virginia Buckingham, a Republican who once worked as Weld’s chief of staff, and will vote for him this fall. “We were kind of in a difficult position facing voting for Donald Trump.”

Weld’s reemergence as a vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has been viewed largely as another curiosity in a crazy election cycle in which, it seems, anything might happen…

Although the #NeverTrump movement isn’t beating down their door, Johnson and Weld are reaching for voters disenchanted with Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In a Web ad launched last week, Johnson and Weld presented themselves as a “credible alternative to ClinTrump.”

I have previously suggested that it is not beyond possibility for the Johnson-Weld ticket to perform strongly enough in national polls to warrant inclusion in the presidential debates. If so, the symbolism will be powerful. Think about it:  Clinton, Johnson and Trump–a Democrat demonized for decades by the demagogues who dote on the Donald, an ex-Republican who was regarded as a RINO by the same twits who think Trump is terrific, and the Orange Goblin himself, the single most unqualified individual to ever secure a major American party’s nomination, the single most irrational figure in modern politics, a hero to haters, a Jesus to jerks.

I give Johnson credit for defying both Republican and Libertarian taboos in his July 1 appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (relevant segment runs from 3:02-5:15):

Other than former Cato Institute fellow Jerry Taylor, I have never heard anyone associated with libertarianism acknowledge that human-caused climate change is real. That’s progress. If Clinton and Johnson appear on the debate stage next to Trump and affirm that mainstream climate science is legitimate, and Trump reiterates his belief that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese government, climate hawks will be able to declare a moral victory, because the optics will not work in Trump’s favor.

The Johnson-Weld ticket is an option, and an opportunity, for veteran Republicans to save face. It will be interesting to see how many Republicans avail themselves of this option and this opportunity. Having said that, I hope Republicans who support this ticket at least have the decency to admit that men like Johnson and Weld were effectively forced out of the GOP because they were not blind ideologues, because they understood that some issues are not left or right, because they recognized that we’re all Americans first…because they were too nice, too civil, too human for the Trumpublican Party.

Clinton will be able to hold her own in a three-way debate with Johnson and Trump. She will also not hesitate to remind viewers that if the GOP had not gone grotesque, a man like Johnson–flawed but not foul, mistaken but not malicious, incorrect but not insane–would be the Republican nominee, and not a deacon of derangement like the Donald.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 10, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Johnson-Weld Ticket, Never Trump Movement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump Backer Says He’s Running ‘As A Racial Healer'”: Is Trump Prepared To Acknowledge His Role In The Problem?

Donald Trump has been called all sorts of things over the course of his controversial presidential campaign, but yesterday was probably the first time anyone, anywhere, said he’s positioned to play the role of “racial healer.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper interviewed Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), a vice presidential contender, and the host noted that he’s heard from “a number of Latino-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Native-Americans, Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, all expressing concerns about some of the things Donald Trump has said.” The Republican governor insisted most Americans have the same security concerns, regardless of who wins the election.

It led to this amazing exchange.

TAPPER: Respectfully, governor, you didn’t answer my question. Do you think Donald Trump has campaigned as a racial healer?

FALLIN: I think he is trying to campaign as a racial healer. I think that has been part of his message….

In case you’re curious, the governor said this with a straight face.

This comes on the heels of the Trump campaign issuing a statement on Friday morning, responding to the mass-shooting in Dallas, which read in part, “Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they’ve lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better.”

Questions about racial tensions are inherently difficult and multi-faceted, and Trump has done little to help answer them. But if the presumptive Republican nominee is correct, and tensions have intensified, is Trump prepared to acknowledge his role in the problem?

Slate’s Catherine Piner put together a lengthy collection of incidents involving Trump’s racially divisive campaign tactics, adding, “His observation about racial tensions is especially curious given the many racially and ethnically divisive statements he has made.”

I’m also reminded of this column in June from the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank.

The things Trump is doing now – disparaging the “Mexican” judge, disqualifying Muslim judges, calling somebody claiming Native American blood “Pocahontas” and singling out “my African American” – is very much in line with what he has been doing for the past year, and before.

More than six months ago, I began a column by proposing, “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.” His bigotry went back decades, to the Central Park jogger case, and came to include: his leadership of the “birther” movement suggesting President Obama was a foreign-born Muslim, his vulgar expressions for women, his talk of Mexico sending rapists into America, his call for mass deportation, his spats with Latino news outlets, his mocking Asian accent, his tacit acceptance of the claim that Muslims are a “problem” in America, his agreement that American Muslims should be forced to register themselves, his call to ban Muslim immigration, his false claim about American Muslims celebrating 9/11, his tweeting of statistics from white supremacists, his condoning of violence against black demonstrators and his mocking of a journalist with a physical disability.

This assessment – a sampling, really, of Trump’s record on matters of diversity and respect – was published a month ago, and things have gotten even worse since.

All of which brings us back to the truly breathtaking assertion that Trump is “trying to campaign as a racial healer.” The next question for the GOP candidate’s allies is, if the last year is what it looks like when Trump is trying to bring people together, what would it look like if he were trying to tear us apart?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 11, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mary Fallin, Racism | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Just Another Day On The Campaign Trail”: Donald Trump To Republican Lawmakers: Hey, Losers, Vote For Me

Donald Trump spent his day on Capitol Hill calling fellow Republicans losers, complaining that the media is just too mean, and doubling down on his defense of Saddam Hussein.

So basically, just another day on the campaign trail for the GOP nominee.

It’s just 124 days til the election and less than two weeks until he gets officially nominated, and Trump’s stop on Capitol Hill proved that—while he’s won some converts—Republican unity is still very theoretical.

Some of his relationships here are complicated. Others are simple. You can put his dynamic with Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in the latter category.

The Washington Post reported that Kirk skipped Trump’s Capitol Hill huddle, and that Trump called him a “loser” in the closed-door meeting. The mogul also predicted that Kirk will lose his re-election bid, but that Trump,  himself, will win Illinois—a state which hasn’t voted for the Republican nominee since 1988.

Kirk told reporters, flatly, that he thinks Trump is wrong.

“I’ve never been defeated in Illinois,” he said.

Then he added that he thinks Trump will bomb in Illinois, predicting that he will do about as well as Alan Keyes did in 2004—when he only got 27 percent of the vote in the Senate race against then-state Sen. Barack Obama.

Kirk wasn’t the only Senate Republican to tussled with Trump. Sen. Jeff Flake, of Arizona, confronted him in the meeting, according to the Post, criticizing him for belittling Sen. John McCain’s time as a POW in Vietnam. Next on Trump’s “to alienate” list:  Sen. Ben Sasse for criticism.

Sasse is a dogged, long-time opponent of Trump, and called him a “megalomaniac strongman” on the Senate floor last December. He left the meeting long before his fellow Republican colleagues did, and was blank-faced and silent as reporters swarmed him with questions.

Later, his spokesman released a statement saying the 2016 contest “remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.”

Trump’s courtship of House Republicans didn’t seem to generate that level of fireworks. But it also wasn’t a lovefest.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who backed Jeb Bush and then Marco Rubio in the primary, told reporters that Trump’s overtures left him unmoved.

“It was a lot of stream-of-consciousness again,” he said of the mogul’s remarks, “like what you’d hear at the rallies but with less cheering.”

Multiple members told reporters that Trump doubled down on his comments on Saddam Hussein. When asked how it felt to hear the Republican presidential nominee say nice things about the late Iraqi dictator, Kinzinger gave a one-word response:

“Awkward.”

He added that he thinks giving him credit as a terrorist-hunter is “disgusting and despicable.”

“To somehow give him credit for killing terrorists—he also killed a lot of innocent people, fed them into acid and did some really terrible things,” he said.

And Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican from a swing district in Pennsylvania, also told reporters that when a member asked Trump how he would reach out to Hispanic voters, he gave an answer we’ve all heard before.

“He said Hispanics love him,” Dent said.

Dent added that the polls do not back up that assertion, and that Trump also said he is “all for trade.”

When asked if Trump’s remarks about supporting trade were persuasive, Dent chuckled.

“No!” he said.

Other members said they were charmed.

Rep. Peter King, who once joked he would leave politics if Republicans nominated Trump, said the mogul got a warm welcome. He added that his daughter, Ivanka, got even more applause. She attended the meeting along with her husband, Jared Kushner. And Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, said he’s made a complete 180 on Trump. He was a longtime detractor, but now said he’s enthusiastic about the candidate.

“I may have been one of Trump’s most vociferous opponents in the primary, and I am now one of his most committed supporters,” he said, “partially because I understand the profound significance of the coming election. If I tell you that the party’s coming together, you can believe it. Because I’m living proof.”

Kirk and Flake probably beg to differ.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, July 7, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Floating Around The Political Ether”: Has Trump Reached The Self-Sabotage Stage?

In my lifetime, and I’m assuming in the life of the United States of America, there has never been a major-party candidate other than Donald Trump who anyone would think to ask if they’d actually serve as president if elected as president. But that’s what New York Times reporters asked Trump during a recent interview with him in his New York office. His answer wasn’t what you’d expect.

Presented in a recent interview with a scenario, floating around the political ether, in which the presumptive Republican nominee proves all the naysayers wrong, beats Hillary Clinton and wins the presidency, only to forgo the office as the ultimate walk-off winner, Mr. Trump flashed a mischievous smile.

“I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens,” he said, minutes before leaving his Trump Tower office to fly to a campaign rally in New Hampshire.

And he definitely left more than a spoken impression.

But the only person who could truly put any doubts to rest seemed instead to relish the idea of keeping everyone guessing, concluding the recent conversation with a you’re-on-to-something grin and handshake across his cluttered desk.

“We’ll do plenty of stories,” Mr. Trump promised enigmatically. “O.K.?”

Now, maybe he’s just messing with people’s minds, but it hardly helps him to leave the impression that he considers this just a game and that he won’t serve as president even if elected. It’s actually a kind of dangerous impression to leave at a time when he has not yet actually been confirmed as the nominee of the party.

I think this show was a lot more fun for Trump when he was leading in the polls and he wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s fate. Maybe, consciously or unconsciously, he actually wants to have the nomination wrested away from him in Cleveland. That’ll make him much more of a martyr than a loser, or at least he might feel that he can spin it that way.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 7, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Nominee, Republican National Convention | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pagan Symbolism, As Ancient As Imperialism”: Religious Symbols, The Original Cultural Appropriation

I have a theory about Donald Trump’s success. I think that one reason he manages to survive the terrible things he says and does is that he gives liberals too much material. With so much insensitivity, racism, and misogyny pouring out of his campaign, it’s hard to focus on one thing. Complimenting Saddam Hussein? Racist slurs about Mexicans? Misogyny? It’s like being at Ikea—I feel overstimulated and exhausted.

The notorious Star of David Hillary graphic, however, seems to be holding people’s attention. After tweeting the image of Clinton accompanied by a six-pointed star over a pile of money with the words “most corrupt candidate ever,” Trump denied that he intended to imply anything anti-Semitic. It was, he says, a simple sheriff’s star; he never meant to invoke anti-Semitic tropes that link Jews to corruption and money. The country western explanation was rejected not only by media commentators but also by David Duke, former Grand High Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan—and he should know anti-Semitism when he sees it.

While this particular invocation of the Star of David invokes dangerous anti-Semitic caricatures, Trump is hardly the first person to appropriate the religious symbols of another group. Religious appropriation has a longer history and is more prevalent than you might think.

Syncretism, appropriation, cultural mingling—call it what you want, religious appropriation is as ancient as imperialism. The Romans, in a magnanimous display of noblesse oblige, allowed conquered subject peoples to continue to worship their own deities and imported those religions to Rome. The cult of the Persian god Mithras proved exceptionally popular among soldiers, as did the cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis. In the cafeteria of ancient paganism, people enjoyed sampling the full length of the buffet.

The first Christians, too, appropriated the religious imagery of their predecessors. In the catacombs of Rome, some of the earliest visual images of Jesus portray him as a shepherd with a sheep slung over his shoulders. The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is well known to any readers of the New Testament, but the image was based almost entirely on depictions of the Greek god Hermes. Other images show him in the guise of Orpheus, the romantic poet of Greek mythology, who descended into the underworld to rescue his beloved Eurydice, or as Helios, the sun God.

The reason for this adaptation is two-fold: in the first decades of the Christian Era artisans were skilled in carving Orpheus and Helios. Assimilating Jesus to mythological figures was pragmatic. At the same time, the assimilation was communicative: both Jesus and Orpheus were believed to have descended into the underworld. Both Jesus and Helios were believed to be deities with power over the order of the universe. Appropriating pagan symbolism allowed the fledgling religious movement to communicate something about their beliefs in a way that would be broadly intelligible to their contemporary audience.

But today and in recent history religious appropriation has a different kind of history. The most blindingly horrific example of appropriation must be the lifting of the Hindu symbol of auspiciousness or good fortune—the svastika—to make the Nazi swastika. But Nazi fondness for the symbol didn’t emerge out of vacuum: as Steven Heller showed in his book The Swastika: Beyond Redemption?, the beginning of the twentieth century saw a huge fad in which everyone from Coca-Cola to the Girl Scouts to the British and American military adopted the symbol.

Children of the 80s will remember the sacrilegious imagery of Madonna videos and the frequent juxtaposition of the rosary in her attire. The trend of ironically wearing Catholic “jewelry” as an act of subversion or mockery is prevalent to this day. Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim symbols are also favorite accessories for Westerners, but there’s something a little less sacrilegious in their application. In the case of the latter there is usually aesthetic appreciation that accompanies the blissful ignorance about a symbol’s origins. As many have pointed out, there’s no merit to be had in appreciating the beauty of a culture if you don’t also want to understand its history and suffering.

In many cases religious appropriation is well-intentioned and shrouded in blissful ignorance. There is a fierce debate over whether or not the Western practice of yoga and meditation is inherently colonialist. Full disclosure: I am exactly the kind of Lululemon-wearing yoga practitioner you might accuse of this. I have none of the knowledge of my sensitive and well-informed yoga teacher Lauren Harris, and it’s convenient for me to follow this argument about why yoga isn’t cultural appropriation. But colonialist or not, good intentions don’t obscure the fact that very few of us aspiring yogis could name the elephant-headed god in the room. (Wikipedia tells me that it’s Ganesh.)

Interestingly, religious appropriation is generally more accepted than other aspects of cultural appropriation. The pushback against appropriating Native American dress receives less attention than the appropriation of Native American spirituality at sweat lodges or on Oprah. This is in part because of the commodification of religion in general and in part because of our cultural commitment to the process of conversion. Sometimes the line between cavalier accessorizing and sincere religious practice is hard to discern.

What’s the difference between adaptation and appropriation? Two things: knowledge and power. The ill-informed appropriation of a marginalized and/or oppressed religious group’s heritage by members of the dominant group is more problematic than the ironic critique of mainstream religious power. Madonna’s use of Catholic religious imagery in her music videos may have been in poor taste, but it was better informed than her appropriation of “vogue-ing” from Latino and African-American dancers.

At the end of day, whether or not it’s your body or your propaganda, accessorizing with religious symbols matters, especially when those symbols belong to someone else.

 

By: Candida Moss, The Daily Beast, July 10, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Religious Symbols | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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