“Roger L. Simon Gets Racism Backwards”: Racism Made A Comeback Because It Worked Politically For Republicans
I just wonder if Mr. Simon is aware of the psychological projection involved in his conclusion.
Just a few years later, the scab appeared very much healed with the inauguration of America’s first African-American president, a man who would be elected twice. I didn’t vote for him for policy reasons, but his election brought tears to my eyes as a former civil rights worker. America’s long nightmare, as Dr. King might have put it, was over, at least as over as things could be in this imperfect world.
But it wasn’t – not by a long shot. It went the other way. Driven by what I call in my book “nostalgia for racism,” racial enmity was brought back as surely as Michael Corleone was pulled back in in Godfather III.
Power, of course. The Democratic Party relies on the perceived reality of racism for the identity politics on which it feeds. Racism is the lifeline of the Democrats. Votes lie there.
I agree that the explanation for our curdled race relations lies in the quest for power, but not in the way that Simon says.
It was certainly possible to treat President Obama the way that Morgan Freeman asked to be treated by 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace, as a person rather than as a black person. But that’s not the way he was treated. From at least the time of the Beer Summit with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the right chose to attack the president on racial grounds. No white president would have felt compelled to produce their birth certificate just to quell the cacophony of nonsense he was encountering that threatened to drown out everything he wanted to prioritize.
This wasn’t necessary. John McCain showed some actual restraint during his campaign in refusing to make a major issue out of Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and in making the decision to dispute accusations by his supporters that Obama is an Arab or a Muslim. After McCain’s loss, however, no one of similar stature stood up to quiet down those same racially charged accusations.
The Republicans were fully supportive of the Tea Party revolt, and the result was the end of Eric Cantor, John Boehner, and 18 Republican candidates for president (not named Trump)’s careers. They were all shortsighted, but they made their mistake because they put their quest for power over their responsibility to show real moral leadership.
I can’t identify a single thing that President Obama has gained by being subjected to this racism, and he certainly didn’t encourage it. I doubt very much that he got any votes out of it, although the Republicans certainly lost a few. On the whole, though, ramping up racial polarization helps the Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives because a racially divided country divvies up the districts in a way that is advantageous for the white party. Racial minorities are much more regionally concentrated.
The truth is, most Republican officeholders probably aren’t all that racist, but “votes lie there” and it takes actual moral fiber to make the decision that some power isn’t worth having on some terms.
Racism made a comeback because it worked politically for the out-party. But it quickly devoured them, and now they’re left with a nominee who all decent people cannot support.
By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 12, 2016
In conservative circles, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts used to be a respected figure, held in high regard. Roberts enjoyed a lengthy record as a center-right jurist, and when then-President George W. Bush nominated him to the high court, Republicans everywhere were delighted.
Roberts did not, however, stay in the right’s good graces. After the chief justice voted to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act – twice – quite a few conservatives, and even some Republican presidential candidates, turned on Roberts, questioning his judgment, intellect, and integrity.
Right about now, I suspect FBI Director James Comey can relate to how Roberts must feel about his former admirers abruptly changing their opinions.
Comey, in case anyone’s forgotten, is a lifelong Republican who served as a top official in the Bush/Cheney Justice Department. He cut his teeth as a public-sector attorney in the 1990s, when Comey signed on “as deputy special counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee,” where he went after, of all people, Hillary Clinton.
I’m not aware of anyone on the right questioning Comey’s abilities or professionalism ahead of yesterday’s announcement in the email matter. On the contrary, Republicans gave Comey a vote of confidence as recently as June. Politico published this report one month ago today:
Should the FBI not recommend an indictment of Hillary Clinton following its investigation of the setup of her private email server, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Monday said he and his Republican colleagues would “probably” accept the outcome.
“Oh, probably, because we do believe in [FBI Director] James Comey,” the Utah Republican said during an appearance on Fox News’ “Outnumbered.” “I do think that in all of the government, he is a man of integrity and honesty.”
Yesterday, however, Chaffetz said the exact opposite, and accused Comey of failing to carry out his duties. Other GOP members of Congress made related arguments, while some Republican pundits adopted an even harsher posture.
The pattern matters. John Roberts was an excellent justice, Republicans said, right up until he strayed from the partisan script. Trey Gowdy was the perfect person to lead the GOP’s Benghazi Committee, they said, right up until he failed to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And Jim Comey was a fine FBI director, right up until he left his party dejected by exercising independent judgment.
In reality, Roberts, Gowdy, and Comey aren’t guilty of corruption or partisan betrayals – their “failures” exist solely in the minds of lazy ideologues. What their Republican critics don’t seem to appreciate is that their ostensible allies asked them to go too far, ignore their responsibilities, abuse an otherwise legitimate process, and look out for the “team,” whether the facts warranted it or not.
Comey didn’t play along with a partisan game, and his reward is a round of condemnations from the same people who, up until 24 hours ago, sang their praises.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 6, 2016
“Most Would Join His Ticket Only If He Kidnapped Their Children”: How Badly Will Trump Hurt Himself With His Choice Of A Running Mate?
When Donald Trump was asked by a local television station about his potential choice of a running mate, he responded, “Everybody wants it, that I can tell you.” Like many of the things Trump says, it was a laughably transparent lie; there are any number of Republicans who have said that they wouldn’t run with Trump, and that only counts the ones who have been asked by reporters. The number of prominent politicians interested in that job is pretty small, and you can’t blame them; while it’s possible to run on a losing ticket and emerge with your reputation intact (as Paul Ryan did), spending a few months going around the country talking about what a great president Donald Trump would be is unlikely to be a career booster. To emphasize the point, today Trump tweeted, “The only people who are not interested in being the V.P. pick are the people who have not been asked!” Which is actually much closer to the truth, since there are lots of people he hasn’t asked (he may not have actually asked anyone yet), and most of them would join his ticket only if Trump kidnapped their children.
Nevertheless, there are some willing to take that plunge into the unknown with Trump, and he’s been meeting with them as he gets closer to a decision. On Saturday he got together with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and today he’s meeting Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. The other names we’ve heard mentioned most often are former House speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who is managing Trump’s transition planning), and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose relationship with Trump seems based on their shared anger about immigration.
Of course, as a successful businessman who has hired many people, Trump will give this decision all the care and deliberation it deserves, arriving at a choice that nearly all Americans will praise for its wisdom and foresight.
Or maybe not. In fact, there are multiple forces pushing Trump to make a choice that will hurt him, not help him.
He wouldn’t be the first nominee to do so. The truth is that running mates almost never help the nominee win the election; at best, their selection provides a few days of positive news coverage that gives a small bump in the polls, which soon settle right back down to where they were before. The only times where a running mate had an appreciable impact on the race were those where they hurt their nominee, as Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin did.
So the best strategy is for the nominee to choose someone who would actually make a good vice president. Judging by what he’s said to this point, Trump might have a hard time determining who could perform well in the job, since he seems to have virtually no idea what the federal government does or how it works. But the most important factors are that the VP have a strong relationship with the president (vice presidents can’t be effective unless everyone knows they can speak for the president) and that he have a detailed knowledge of government. The ones who have been effective, such as Joe Biden and Dick Cheney (in George W. Bush’s first term, though less so in his second) are those with long experience in Washington that enabled them to navigate the federal government’s complexities to accomplish the tasks the president set out for them.
Trump has seemed to acknowledge this by saying that he wants someone with Washington experience as a running mate, an insider who can make up for what Trump himself lacks. But many of the people on his list don’t really qualify. Christie hasn’t served in Washington, and Ernst has been there only a year and a half, during which time she’s just been a backbench senator in a Congress that does almost nothing. Sessions has been in Washington for almost two decades, but he’s not exactly known as a legislative wizard, not to mention the fact that when people are calling your campaign racist, choosing the guy who once said that he thought members of the KKK were “were OK until I found out they smoked pot” might not be a great idea. Pence spent a decade in Congress, so he’d have a case to make, as would Gingrich, who engineered the GOP takeover of 1994, then went down in flames just a few years later after he oversaw the impeachment of Bill Clinton while simultaneously carrying on his own extramarital affair.
If those are the only options, one might think Pence is the obvious choice. He’s colorless, bland, uncharismatic and has the appropriate résumé. But is it really plausible that Donald Trump would make that kind of choice? Wouldn’t he want someone with a little more pizazz?
Now add in the fact that Trump is trailing in the polls, which increases the incentive to try to do something dramatic to dominate the news and shake up the race — which Trump is inclined to do anyway. Of course, that’s the same impulse that led John McCain to pick Palin.
The internal dynamics of the Trump campaign are opaque, but one can’t help but picture the candidate leaning back in his chair and saying, “I gotta tell ya, I really think Newt would be great,” at which everyone else in the room grinds their teeth and looks around nervously at one another, until someone finally speaks up and says, “Sir, the problem with Newt is that, well, everyone hates him. Republicans, Democrats, independents — nobody can stand the guy.” On the other hand, Newt is such a self-important, pretentious blowhard that he and Trump must get along great. He’s a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like, which might make him irresistible to Trump.
On the other hand, Trump might surprise us and choose a running mate who hasn’t been publicly discussed. He might be persuaded by his staff to choose someone sober and responsible. But given what has happened up until this point, the real surprise would be if Trump didn’t make a decision that looked bad on first glance, then revealed itself to be even worse than anyone had imagined.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 4, 2016
“Every Republican’s Stench”: Trump’s White Supremacist Tweets Aren’t The Problem. They’re A Symptom Of The Problem
We get worked up about a lot of silly stuff in presidential campaigns, micro-controversies driven by faux outrage that are inevitably forgotten in a couple of days once the next micro-controversy comes along. On first glance, that’s what the kerfuffle over Donald Trump’s latest Twitter hijinks — once again, passing on something from white supremacists — looks like. After all, should we really care what’s in Trump’s Twitter feed, when we’re talking about our country’s future? The answer is that we should care, but it’s not about the tweet. The tweet isn’t the problem, the tweet is the result of the problem.
In case you haven’t heard, here’s what we’re talking about, from The Post’s David Weigel:
It was so close to the message that Republicans say they want from Donald Trump: a tweet describing Hillary Clinton as “crooked” and the “most corrupt candidate ever,” on the morning that the likely Democratic presidential nominee met with the FBI.
But the image that Trump chose to illustrate his point, which portrayed a red Star of David shape slapped onto a bed of $100 bills, had origins in the online white-supremacist movement. For at least the fifth time, Trump’s Twitter account had shared a meme from the racist “alt-right” and offered no explanation why.
Trump’s campaign later did some quick photoshopping, replacing the Star of David with a circle. But as Anthony Smith of mic.com discovered, the image originated on an online forum where unapologetic racists and white supremacists gather to bathe in each other’s vomitous hate. I assume that, as with the other times Trump has retweeted something from the alt-right, he was unaware of its origin; one of his followers tweeted it to him, he liked what he saw, and he passed it on.
It’s just a tweet, and in and of itself it doesn’t make Trump a racist or an anti-Semite. To be honest, it doesn’t even make the top 20 most bigoted things Trump has said or done in this campaign. But it should leave Republicans with even more questions about how to square the ideals they claim to hold with the man their party has chosen to lead the United States of America.
We have to understand that this is about both rhetoric and substance. There’s a stylistic element, the way Trump gives people permission to let their ugliest feelings and beliefs out for display under the guise of not being “politically correct.” But there are also meaningful consequences for the course we would take in the future. Trump tells voters to hate and fear people who don’t look like them, but he also tells them to take action. Just the other day he told a crowd that “We are going to be so tough, we are going to be so smart and so vigilant, and we’re going to get it so that people turn in people when they know there’s something going on,” complaining that too many people are worried about being accused of racial profiling to turn in their neighbors. So if you spot a Muslim, go ahead and dial 911. When a woman at one of his events suggested that we “Get rid of all these heebeejabis they wear at TSA, I’ve seen them myself,” Trump responded, “We are looking at that. We’re looking at a lot of things.” I’ll bet.
By this time we’ve all become accustomed to this pas de deux of hate between Trump and his supporters. When he says that a Latino judge from Indiana can’t do his job because “he’s a Mexican,” we shake our heads. When he tells an apocryphal story about a general executing Muslim prisoners with bullets dipped in pig’s blood as a lesson in how America ought to act, our shock doesn’t last more than a day. When he laments the fact that the Islamic State can behead people while we’re restrained by our laws and morality, saying “They probably think we’re weak” and “You have to fight fire with fire,” we barely take notice. When he weds his support of bigoted policies like bans on Muslims to a fetishization of violence and brutality, promising to use torture and telling his supporters how he’d love to beat up the protesters who come to his rallies (“I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya”), we predict that any day now he’ll “pivot” and start acting “presidential.”
And we forget that not long ago the man now leading the GOP made himself into America’s most prominent birther, going on every TV show he could to claim that President Obama might be the beneficiary of a decades-long conspiracy to conceal the fact that he was actually born in Kenya. If you’re wondering whether that’s just stupid and crazy, or if it’s inherently racist, let me clear it up for you: Yes, it’s racist.
In my analysis of American politics I try as often as possible to put myself in the shoes of people I disagree with, to take their arguments seriously and understand where they’re coming from even when I’m convinced they’re wrong. And I’ve argued that there are perfectly rational reasons a committed Republican would grit their teeth and support Trump even if they found him to be an ignoramus and a buffoon. But there comes a point at which one would have to say: Even if a Trump presidency would deliver much more of what I would want out of government policy, from the Supreme Court to domestic policy to foreign policy, I simply cannot be a part of this. Donald Trump’s appeal to Americans is so rancid, so toxic, so foul that my conscience will not allow me to stand behind him, even with the occasional protest that I don’t agree with the latest vile thing he said, or the insistence that my fellow Republicans and I will do our best to restrain his ugliest impulses.
You might respond: Easy for you to say. Would I be saying that if I had something to lose, if we were talking about some liberal version of Trump who had secured the Democratic nomination? If it meant handing the Supreme Court over to conservatives, and repealing the Affordable Care Act for real, and privatizing Medicare, and dismantling environmental and worker protections, and so many other things that would pain me?
To be honest, I can’t say for sure, partly because I cannot fathom who a liberal version of Trump would be or what that person’s equally noxious campaign would look like. The closest analogy in my lifetime to this situation is the Lewinsky scandal, where Democrats argued that although Bill Clinton’s behavior in having an affair with a 22-year-old White House staffer was repugnant, it wasn’t an impeachable offense and could be separated from his performance as president.
But the difference then was that it could be separated from his performance as president. Clinton wasn’t trying to persuade the country to embrace adultery, or counting on fellow adulterers to put him in office, or promising to institute a government program of adultery.
Donald Trump isn’t hoping that he can keep his bigotry a secret; he’s running on it and promising to enshrine it in federal government policy. He may not be responsible for all the things his fans say, and you might even excuse him for passing on some of their hate by mistake. What he is responsible for is all the reasons those people became his fans in the first place. It isn’t because of economic anxiety, or because he’s an outsider, or because he tells it like it is. It’s because Donald Trump appeals directly to the worst in us, and the worst of us.
And every Republican who stands with him, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them or how much they wish he would change, will have that stench on them for a long time to come.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 4, 2016