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“Trumpism Won’t Disappear When He Does”: In The End, Only One Thing Can Kill A Bad Idea

On Saturday, someone tried to kill Donald Trump.

You may not have heard about it. The story didn’t get much play, the attempt wasn’t well planned and the candidate was never in jeopardy.

Still the fact remains that authorities arrested one Michael Steven Sandford, 19, after he allegedly tried to grab a gun from the holster of a Las Vegas police officer with the idea of using it to kill Trump at a campaign rally. Authorities say Sandford, who carried a UK driver’s license but who had been living in New Jersey for about a year and a half, had visited a nearby gun range to learn how to handle a firearm. They say he has wanted to kill Trump for a year.

Let us be thankful he was not successful. The assassination of Donald Trump would have been a new low for a political season that is already the most dispiriting in memory. It would have deprived a family of its father and husband. It would have traumatized a nation where political murder has been a too-frequent tragedy.

And it would have imparted the moral authority of martyrdom to Trump’s ideas. That would be a disaster in its own right.

Like most would-be assassins, what Sandford apparently did not understand is that you cannot kill an idea with a bullet. Even bad ideas are impervious to gunfire.

Trump, of course, has been a veritable Vesuvius of bad ideas in the year since he took that escalator ride into the race for the presidency. From banning Muslim immigrants to building a wall on the southern border to punishing women who have abortions to advocating guns in nightclubs to judging judicial fitness based on heritage, to killing the wives and children of terror suspects, if there has been a hideous, unserious or flat-out stupid thought floated in this political season, odds are, it carried the Trump logo.

It is understandable, then, that even people who wish Trump no bodily harm might feel as Sandford presumably did: that if he were somehow just … gone, the stench of his ideas — of his anger, nativism, coarseness and proud ignorance — might somehow waft away like trash-fire smoke in a breeze.

But it doesn’t work that way. Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality did not die on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Nor did Adolf Hitler’s dream of racial extermination perish with him in that bunker beneath Berlin. Ideas, both transcendent and repugnant, are far hardier than the fragile lives of the men and women who give them voice.

So, any hope that Trump’s disappearance would somehow fix America is naive. America’s problem has nothing to do with him, except to the degree he has made himself a focal point.

No, America’s problem is fear. Fear of economic stagnation, yes, and fear of terrorism. But those are proxies for the bigger and more fundamental fear: fear of demographic diminution, of losing the privileges and prerogatives that have always come with being straight, white, male and/or Christian in America. It was the holy quadfecta of entitlement, but that entitlement is under siege in a nation that grows more sexually, racially and religiously diverse with every sunrise.

Trumpism is only the loudest and most obvious response to that, and it will not disappear when he does. Indeed, there is no instant cure for what has America unsettled. There is only time and the hard work of change.

In a sense, we are bringing forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women really are created equal. If for some of us, that fires the imagination, it is hardly mysterious that for others, it kindles a sense of displacement and loss. The good news is that their Trumpism cannot survive in the new nation.

In the end, you see, only one thing can kill a bad idea.

And that’s a better one.

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 22, 2016

June 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, Gun Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The American Fascist”: Why Donald Trump Presents Such A Profound Danger To The Future Of America And The World

I’ve been reluctant to use the  “f” word to describe Donald Trump because it’s especially harsh, and it’s too often used carelessly.

But Trump has finally reached a point where parallels between his presidential campaign and the fascists of the first half of the 20th century – lurid figures such as Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Oswald Mosley, and Francisco Franco – are too evident to overlook.

It’s not just that Trump recently quoted Mussolini (he now calls that tweet inadvertent) or that he’s begun inviting followers at his rallies to raise their right hands in a manner chillingly similar to the Nazi “Heil” solute (he dismisses such comparison as “ridiculous.”)

The parallels go deeper.

As did the early twentieth-century fascists, Trump is focusing his campaign on the angers of white working people who have been losing economic ground for years, and who are easy prey for demagogues seeking to build their own power by scapegoating others.

Trump’s electoral gains have been largest in counties with lower than average incomes, and among those who report their personal finances have worsened. As the Washington Post’s Jeff Guo has pointed out, Trump performs best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest.

The economic stresses almost a century ago that culminated in the Great Depression were far worse than most of Trump’s followers have experienced, but they’ve suffered something that in some respects is more painful – failed expectations.

Many grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, during a postwar prosperity that lifted all boats. That prosperity gave their parents a better life. Trump’s followers naturally expected that they and their children would also experience economic gains. They have not.

Add fears and uncertainties about terrorists who may be living among us, or may want to sneak through our borders, and this vulnerability and powerlessness is magnified.

Trump’s incendiary verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants and Muslims – even his reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan – follow the older fascist script.

That older generation of fascists didn’t bother with policy prescriptions or logical argument, either. They presented themselves as strongmen whose personal power would remedy all ills.

They created around themselves cults of personality in which they took on the trappings of strength, confidence, and invulnerability – all of which served as substitutes for rational argument or thought.

Trump’s entire campaign similarly revolves around his assumed strength and confidence. He tells his followers not to worry; he’ll take care of them. “If you get laid off …, I still want your vote,” he told workers in Michigan last week. “I’ll get you a new job; don’t worry about it.”

The old fascists intimidated and threatened opponents. Trump is not above a similar strategy. To take one example, he recently tweeted that Chicago’s Ricketts family, now spending money to defeat him, “better be careful, they have a lot to hide.”

The old fascists incited violence. Trump has not done so explicitly but Trump supporters have attacked Muslims, the homeless, and African-Americans – and Trump has all but excused their behavior.

Weeks after Trump began his campaign by falsely alleging that Mexican immigrants are “bringing crime. They’re rapists,” two brothers in Boston beat with a metal poll and urinated on a 58-year-old homeless Mexican national. They subsequently told the police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”

Instead of condemning that brutality, Trump excused it by saying “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

After a handful of white supporters punched and attempted to choke a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his campaign rallies, Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

There are further parallels. Fascists glorified national power and greatness, fanning xenophobia and war. Trump’s entire foreign policy consists of asserting American power against other nations. Mexico “will” finance a wall. China “will” stop manipulating its currency.

In pursuit of their nationalistic aims, the fascists disregarded international law. Trump is the same. He recently proposed using torture against terrorists, and punishing their families, both in clear violation of international law.

Finally, the fascists created their mass followings directly, without political parties or other intermediaries standing between them and their legions of supporters.

Trump’s tweets and rallies similarly circumvent all filters. The Republican Party is irrelevant to his campaign, and he considers the media an enemy. (Reporters covering his rallies are kept behind a steel barrier.)

Viewing Donald Trump in light of the fascists of the first half of the twentieth century – who used economic stresses to scapegoat others, created cults of personality, intimidated opponents, incited violence, glorified their nations and disregarded international law, and connected directly with the masses – helps explain what Trump is doing and how he is succeeding.

It also suggests why Donald Trump presents such a profound danger to the future of America and the world.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, March 8, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, White Working Class | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paris, The City Of Light”: Light Reveals Bankrupt Ideologies For The Failures They Are

“I believe the light that shines on you will shine on you forever … though I can’t guarantee there’s nothing scary hiding under your bed.”

“Father and Daughter” by Paul Simon

My wife has a bad knee and isn’t much for long walks, so that night after the Chunnel train had brought us over from London and we set out on foot from the hotel to do some exploring, I wasn’t expecting to go far. Maybe a block, maybe two.

I have no idea how far we actually went, but I know it was a lot further than a couple blocks. I kept asking if she was okay. Marilyn kept assuring me that she was and wanted to keep going.

She was enraptured, as was I. Walking through Paris was like walking through magic. We went down a fairytale street, paused on a bridge overlooking the Seine to watch the glass-topped dinner cruises plying the water, ended up at the Place de la Concorde, looking west along the Champs-Elysees. In the distance the Arc de Triomphe glowed.

Some cities disappoint you. Some cities you visit and that thing they are known for, that thing people come from around the world to experience, turns out to be exaggeration, myth or mirage. In the ’70s, I used to feel sorry for tourists who came to Hollywood (which has since been largely redeveloped), only to find that the fabled film capital was little more than office buildings, souvenir shops and street corners where prostitutes gathered six deep.

But Paris is exactly what they say. Paris is, in reputation and in fact, the City of Light.

So I suppose we ought not be surprised that it now finds itself under attack from the forces of shadow.

By now, you’ve already heard all you can stand — and then some — about the series of coordinated terrorist assaults by ISIS that left well over a hundred people dead on Friday. By now, you have already wept or prayed or vented your fury or wondered aloud what this world is coming to or simply stood mute in the face of humankind’s seemingly bottomless capacity for savagery.

I almost called it animalism, but that’s an insult to animals. They, after all, kill to feed or defend themselves. Only human beings kill for beliefs — in this case, a twisted, fundamentalist strain of Islam.

And it’s no accident it was Paris. Like New York City 14 years ago, it was a representational target. New York stands for American power and Sept. 11 was meant to spit in the eye of that power. Paris stands for light and the events of Nov. 13 sought to eclipse the glow — not simply the glow of beauty and romance, but also of enlightenment and hope.

Paris has always been a beacon of such things. That may have been part of the reason Adolf Hitler ordered the city destroyed when his troops were driven out in 1944. It may have been part of the reason Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz disobeyed the order.

The quote at the top of this column is from a song not about terror, but about a father’s love for the bright light that is his daughter and his promise to be there for her in a world of uncertainty and threat. But though they were not crafted for this moment, the words feel apropos to it.

No, it is not monsters hiding under the bed by which civilization is menaced. But it is monsters just the same, forces of savagery, ignorance, hatred, fundamentalism and extremism striking from corners where light does not reach. And no one can guarantee perpetual safety against such threats.

But we can strike back hard when they come, as France is doing now. In the long run, though: It isn’t bullets and bombs these monsters fear the most, hate the most, or that hurts them the most. No, that which lurks in shadow despises light — and well it should. Light reveals bankrupt ideologies for the failures they are. Light draws people together. Light gives courage. And light gives hope.

So Vive la France!

And shine on.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald: The National Memo, November 18, 2015

November 18, 2015 Posted by | Civilization, ISIS, Paris Attacks, Terrorism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Carson Thrives Because Of, Not In Spite Of, Bizarre Rhetoric”: Comments About Muslims, Hitler And Slavery Attractive To Likely Republican Caucusgoers

For much of the summer, Donald Trump dominated Republican presidential polls everywhere, and Iowa was no different. The New York developer may not seem like a natural fit for Hawkeye State conservatives, but statewide surveys consistently showed Trump leading the GOP field.

This week, however, he’s been replaced. A Quinnipiac poll in Iowa, released yesterday, showed retired right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson leading Trump, 28% to 20%, a big swing from early September, when Quinnipiac showed Trump ahead in Iowa by six points.

Today, a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll offers very similar results, with Carson leading Trump in the Hawkeye State, 28% to 19%. In August, the same poll showed Trump up by five.

But this line in the DMR’s report on the poll results stood out for me:

Even Carson’s most controversial comments – about Muslims, Hitler and slavery – are attractive to likely Republican caucusgoers.

This isn’t a conclusion drawn through inference; the poll actually asked Iowa Republicans for their thoughts on some of Carson’s … shall we say … eccentricities.

The poll told GOP respondents, “I’m going to mention some things people have said about Ben Carson. Regardless of whether you support him for president, please tell me for each if this is something that you find very attractive about him, mostly attractive, mostly unattractive, or very unattractive.”

If we combine “very attractive” and “mostly attractive” responses, these are Iowa Republicans’ positive feelings about Ben Carson:

1.“He is not a career politician”: 85%

2.“He has no experience in foreign policy”: 42%

3.“He was highly successful as a neurosurgeon”: 88%

4.“He has said the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is the worst thing since slavery”: 81%

 5.”He has an inspirational personal story”: 85%

 6.“He has raised questions about whether a Muslim should ever be president of the United States”: 73%

 7.“He has said he would be guided by his faith in God”: 89%

 8.“He has said that Hitler might not have been as successful if the people had been armed”: 77%

 9.“He approaches issues with common sense”: 96%

 10.“He has conducted research on tissue from aborted fetuses”: 31%

In case it’s not obvious, pay particular attention to numbers 4, 6, and 8.

For many political observers, one of the questions surrounding Carson’s candidacy for months has been how he intends to overcome some of the ridiculous rhetoric about his off-the-wall beliefs. But this badly misses the point – Iowa Republicans like and agree with Carson’s ridiculous rhetoric about his off-the-wall beliefs.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, October 23, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Another Way Of Saying Palestinians Are Nazis”: The Dangerous Motivation Behind Netanyahu’s Holocaust Revisionism

In a speech to the 37th Zionist conference on October 20, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shocked the world by exculpating Adolf Hilter for responsibility for the Holocaust. The destruction of the European Jews, Netanyahu suggested, came from a suggestion by the Arab nationalist Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was the Mufti of Jerusalem.

In Netanyahu’s own words:

And this attack and other attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution. He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, “If you expel them, they’ll all come here.” “So what should I do with them?” he asked. He said, “Burn them.”

The first thing to say about Netanyahu’s historical narrative is that it is absurd. Husseini was a real person. It’s accurate to say he was an evil man: He led anti-Jewish riots that were motivated not just by opposition to Zionism but also anti-Semitism. He was an eager, although largely ineffectual, collaborator with the Nazis. Husseini hoped to work with the Nazis to thwart the creation of a Jewish state in Israel. To that end, he raised an army of 6,000 Arabs. This stands in contrast to the tens of thousands of Arabs who fought against the Nazis, including the 9,000 Palestinians who fought with the British. As Hussein Ibish,  senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, noted in an article for The National, “The record is a complex, mixed and nuanced one, but the overarching fact is that Arab and Muslim involvement in the war was overwhelmingly on the Allied side, and was a significant factor in fighting on the ground. The overwhelming majority joined the cause voluntarily, despite British and French colonialism.”

Among the millions who fought in World War II, Husseini’s brigade was a sideshow. To elevate him to the level of having “a central role in fomenting the final solution” is a lie.

Responding to Netanyahu’s comments, Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, re-iterated the historical fact that Germany bears responsibility for the Holocaust. “All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust,” Seibert said. “This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten. And I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.”

Reviewing a biography of Husseini in The New York Times, historian Tom Segev acutely described the problem of over-emphasizing Husseini’s importance in the history of the Holocaust.

[O]ne can question whether Husseini “played an important role” in the Holocaust. For as Bernard Lewis wrote in “Semites and Anti-Semites”: “It seems unlikely that the Nazis needed any such additional encouragement from outside.”…

The mufti’s support for Nazi Germany definitely demonstrated the evils of extremist nationalism. However, the Arabs were not the only chauvinists in Palestine looking to make a deal with the Nazis. At the end of 1940 and again at the end of 1941, a small Zionist terrorist organization known as the Stern Gang made contact with Nazi representatives in Beirut, seeking support for its struggle against the British. One of the Sternists, in a British jail at the time, was Yitzhak Shamir, a future Israeli prime minister.

The second thing to say about Netanyahu’s statement is that he’s trying to smear Palestinian nationalism as being intrinsically anti-Semitic, indeed genocidal. Netanyahu’s fanciful excursion into Holocaust historiography comes in the context of the larger argument of his speech: that the current outbreak of violence in Israel has nothing to do with Israeli management of the Temple Mount or the on-going occupation. In effect, Netanyahu is arguing that Palestinians have no grievances and are simply motiveless, violent, Jew-hating psychopaths. Which is another way of saying: Palestinians are Nazis.

 

By: Jeet Heer, Senior Editor at The New Republic, October 21, 2015

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Holocaust, Israel, Nazis, Palestine | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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