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“For Trump, Presidential Means Being Polite”: Why Donald Trump’s Idea Of ‘Presidential’ Is Both Curious And Disturbing

Just as St. Augustine asked the Lord to grant him chastity, just not yet, Donald Trump is ready to be “presidential,” just not yet. Whenever he brings up the idea of presidential-ness, Trump always says that a personality transformation is on its way, but will have to be delayed while some more pressing campaign matters are attended to. Like so much about Trump, his conception of what it means to be presidential is both curious and disturbing.

As near as one can surmise, for Trump, to be presidential means to be polite. When he’s criticizing his opponents, he isn’t being presidential. So he says that when his daughter Ivanka begged him to be more presidential, he replied that he had to knock off the other Republican candidates first. “Let me be unpresidential just for a little while longer, and maybe I’ll be a little bit unpresidential as I beat Hillary.” He’ll often add, “At some point, I’m going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored.”

But he promises that at the right time, he will bring the presidential-ness, and bring it hard. “If I want to be, I can be more presidential than anybody. You know, when I have 16 people coming at me from 16 different angles, you don’t want to be so presidential. You have to win, you have to beat them back, right?” But he will be “more presidential than anybody other than the great Abe Lincoln. He was very presidential, right?”

Well, yes. But Lincoln was happy to make his disagreements with other people clear; his presidential qualities did not consist in turning the other cheek. So what does “presidential” mean to the rest of us? At the simplest level it suggests a combination of dignity and command, someone who holds enormous power and demonstrates him or herself worthy of it. But for most people, “presidential” is less about behavior than about identity: A person doesn’t act presidential, a person is presidential.

And until recently, that meant a certain kind of person: a tall, handsome white man, in late middle age, but aging well, strong of jaw and grey of temple, with a firm handshake and a steely gaze. Basically, Mitt Romney. Which is why back when he ran for president, so many people said Romney looked “straight out of Central Casting.”

But it may be more accurate to say that Mitt Romney is what used to be considered “presidential.” In 2016, that’s no longer the case, though it was just a short time ago. When the film Deep Impact was released in 1998, the fact that Morgan Freeman — a black man! — portrayed the president of the United States was seen as somewhere between notable and shocking. Since then, however, Hollywood has given us a whole spate of non-Romneyesque presidents of varying ethnicities and genders. Even 24, in many ways the prototypical right-wing drama of the George W. Bush era, had not one but two black men serve as president, followed by a woman.

Hollywood, of course, is always trying to cram its liberal values down the throats of good old-fashioned heartland Americans. But Barack Obama may have changed forever what we think of when we think of someone being presidential. The default face of a president may still be that of a white man, but the idea is no longer exclusively and necessarily white and male. And now it’s entirely possible, perhaps likely, that the nation’s first black president will be followed by the nation’s first woman president.

That thought makes some people very displeased; as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre said last year when considering Clinton’s run for the White House, “I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically significant president is enough.” And many of them happen to be the people Donald Trump is appealing most directly to: those who feel that in a changing country, they’ve lost something as others have gained. With women and African-Americans and Latinos and Asian-Americans all demanding respect and consideration, with popular culture embracing polyglot sounds and challenging ideas, they feel diminished, ignored, passed by, and passed over. They want their country back, and Trump promises to give it to them.

There are many qualities we might associate with being presidential, like maturity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, or compassion. But Donald Trump obviously isn’t thinking of that when he talks about being presidential; he seems to think it just means not making up schoolyard nicknames for people or talking about the size of your hands. He may not realize it, but just by being a 69-year-old rich white guy, in the eyes of his supporters he’s as presidential as could be. But in 2016, people who see that as the beginning and end of being presidential are probably in the minority. Just like people who support Donald Trump.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, April 29, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Presidential Candidates, Trump Supporters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hillary Still Best Candidate To Defeat GOP”: The Nation, America’s Oldest Weekly Magazine, Endorse Sanders For President

The Nation magazine, America’s oldest continuously published weekly magazine, endorsed Democratic candidate Bernie Sander’s (I-VT) for President. “He has summoned the people to a ‘political revolution,’” they wrote in an editorial published Thursday. “We believe such a revolution is not only possible but necessary—and that’s why we’re endorsing Bernie Sanders for president.”

The editorial outlines numerous reasons to support his bid for the White House. He has attracted a majority of young Americans, historically a politically disinclined demographic, to his political positions. His decades-long defense of progressive causes such as the $15 minimum wage, immigrants’ rights, bank regulation, and LGBT rights has attracted legions of young Americans who increasingly support such unapologetically liberal stances. Sanders’s endorsement is just the third time in 150 years that the publication has endorsed a candidate, the first two being Jesse Jackson in 1988 and Barack Obama in 2008.

The editorial made no effort to conceal the fact that Sanders’s path to the White House is a dubious and fraught one. “His economic-populist message has resonated with many progressives and young voters, but he has yet to marshal deep support among the African-American, Latino, and Asian-American voters who form core constituencies of the Democratic Party,” said the editorial. But his support has been growing steadily. He has maintained a six point lead over Hillary Clinton, once the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, in New Hampshire. And in Iowa, he has narrowed Clinton’s lead from 34 points to a mere four.

That is not to say that The Nation’s editors dislike Clinton. They readily admit they would prefer her to any of the “extremists running for the GOP nomination.” She has unrivaled experience, and is incredibly intelligent and perceptive, they write. During the campaign, she has been lured left to champion of many of the same causes that Sanders brought to the fore. “She has responded to the populist temper of the times: questioning the sort of free-trade deals that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have championed; calling for reforms on Wall Street and tax increases on the wealthy; courageously defending Planned Parenthood; challenging the National Rifle Association; and supporting trade unions,” the editorial said.

In a piece endorsing Clinton, Katha Pollitt, one of The Nation’s most prominent columnists, wrote about the seeming apathy of even wealthy, educated, white feminists to Clinton’s campaign. “You would think these women, of all people, would be jumping for joy at the prospect of someone so like themselves winning the White House.” But she still laid out a convincing argument for supporting Clinton.

It seems clear that the former secretary of state is still the best candidate to defeat the Republicans in the general election, given the numerous posts she’s held during her decades in government and the fact that Sanders is hampered by his self-applied label as a “democratic socialist.” She also would be the country’s first woman president, although it is not so unusual to have a female world leader today. Socially conservative countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines have previously had female heads of state. She would also be campaigning as a feminist at a time when the movement has gained newfound attention. According to a poll done by Vox, 78 percent of respondents said they believe in social, political, legal and economic equality between the sexes. A further 85 percent said they believe in equality for women.

But Clinton’s associations with big banks and Super PAC funding have left a sour taste in the mouths of Democrats looking for money to wield less influence in the country’s politics. The Nation editorial board wrote that “money in politics doesn’t widen debate; rather, it narrows the range of possibility. While Sanders understands this, we fear that his chief rival for the Democratic nomination does not.”

Sanders’s rising popularity and growing list of endorsements so close to the start of the primary season have surprised the political establishment. Clinton is now ramping up criticisms of Sanders’s platform in an effort to remain ahead in Iowa. But with The Nation’s endorsement, a rare event, Sanders and his supporters have already made their mark on the Democratic race.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, January 15, 2016

January 17, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, The Nation | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Racial Hunkering Down”: Republicans Pave The Way To All-White Future

Even Senator John McCain has surrendered. A steadfast supporter of immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, McCain essentially acknowledged yesterday in Georgia that his party’s anti-immigration forces have demolished any hope of soon legalizing the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

McCain’s assessment is as unimpeachable as it is irrational. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he said, “I understand now, especially in my home state of Arizona, that these children coming, and now with the threat of ISIS … that we have to have a secure border.”

Follow that? Immigration reform, including the legalization of millions of immigrants already living in the U.S., is on hold because tens of thousands of Central American children have surrendered to border authorities. Also, because a sadistic army is killing people in Syria and Iraq. McCain, often a summer soldier when the forces of demagogy call, was perhaps too embarrassed to link Ebola to the new orthodoxy; of course, others already have.

It’s hard to see how Republicans walk this back before 2017 — at the earliest. What began with the national party calling for immigration reform as a predicate to future Republican relevancy has ended with complete capitulation to the party’s anti-immigration base. Conservatives are busy running ads and shopping soundbites depicting immigrants as vectors of disease, criminality and terrorism, a 30-second star turn that Hispanic and Asian voters, in particular, may not entirely relish.

“The day after the 2014 election,” emailed immigration advocate Frank Sharry, Republicans will “face a future defined by an anti-Latino and anti-immigrant brand and the rapid and relentless growth of Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voters.”

Sharry is bitter about the Republican rejection of comprehensive immigration reform. And public opinion has turned against immigration in the wake of the border influx of Central Americans earlier this year. But is Sharry’s analysis skewed? There has never been a convincing “day after tomorrow” plan for Republicans if they abandon reform and embrace their most anti-immigrant wing.

Yet it looks as if Republicans have done just that. “Secure the border” is an empty slogan and practical nightmare. But if you’re a conservative politician desperate to assuage (or exploit) what writer Steve Chapman calls the “deep anxieties” stirred by “brown migrants sneaking over from Mexico,” it’s an empty slogan with legs. It will be vastly easier for Republicans running in 2016 to shout “secure the border!” than to defy the always anxious, politically empowered Republican base. Perhaps Republicans in Congress will muster some form of Dream Act for immigrant youth or a visa sop to the tech industry, but they seem incapable of more.

In that case, the path of least resistance — and it has been many years since national Republicans have taken a different route — will be to continue reassuring the base while alienating brown voters. (After six years in which Republicans’ highest priority has been destruction of the nation’s first black president, it’s doubtful black voters will be persuadable anytime soon.) The party’s whole diversity gambit goes out the window. The White Album plays in perpetuity on Republican turntables.

That would be a significant problem if it resulted only in the marginalization and regionalization of the nation’s conservative party. But a racial hunkering down in an increasingly multi-racial nation will not be a passive or benign act. Pressed to the demographic wall, Republicans will be fighting to win every white vote, not always in the most high-minded manner. Democrats, likewise, will have a powerful incentive to question the motives and consequences of their opponents’ racial solidarity.

Immigration has always been about more than race. November’s election will go a long way toward making it about nothing else.

 

By: Francis Wilkinson, The National Memo, October 18, 2014

 

 

 

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Immigration Reform, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bill O’Reilly And White Privilege”: Race Hustler, Bathing In Privilege

Is white privilege real? Not according to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

This week O’Reilly debated the issue of white privilege with a fellow host and then returned to the topic the next day with this doozy of a statement:

“Last night on ‘The Factor,’ Megyn Kelly and I debated the concept of white privilege whereby some believe that if you are Caucasian you have inherent advantages in America. ‘Talking Points’ does not, does not believe in white privilege. However, there is no question that African-Americans have a much harder time succeeding in our society than whites do.”

It is difficult to believe that those three sentences came in that order from the same mouth. Why would it be harder for blacks to succeed? Could interpersonal and, more important, systemic bias play a role? And, once one acknowledges the presence of bias as an impediment, one must by extension concede that being allowed to navigate the world without such biases is a form of privilege.

That privilege can be gendered, sexual identity based, religious and, yes, racial.

When one has the luxury of not being forced to compensate for societal oppression based on basic identity, one is in fact privileged in that society.

O’Reilly even trotted out the Asian “model minority” trope to buttress his argument, citing low unemployment rates and high levels of income and educational attainment for Asians compared not only to blacks but to whites.

Whenever people use racial differences as an argument to downplay racial discrimination, context is always called for.

What O’Reilly — like many others who use this line of logic — fails to mention (out of either ignorance or rhetorical sleight of hand) is the extent to which immigration policy has informed those statistics and the extent to which many Asian-Americans resent the stereotype as an oversimplification of the diversity of the Asian experience.

A 2012 Pew Research report entitled “The Rise of Asian Americans” found:

“Large-scale immigration from Asia did not take off until the passage of the landmark Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Over the decades, this modern wave of immigrants from Asia has increasingly become more skilled and educated. Today, recent arrivals from Asia are nearly twice as likely as those who came three decades ago to have a college degree, and many go into high-paying fields such as science, engineering, medicine and finance. This evolution has been spurred by changes in U.S. immigration policies and labor markets; by political liberalization and economic growth in the sending countries; and by the forces of globalization in an ever-more digitally interconnected world.”

Following the publication of the Pew report, the news site Colorlines spoke with Dan Ichinose, director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center’s Demographic Research Project, who was critical of some parts of the Pew report, but seemed to echo the role immigration had played. Colorlines put his response this way:

“The more complex and far less exciting explanation for Asian Americans’ relatively high rates of education has more to do with immigration policy, which has driven selectivity about who gets to come to the U.S. and who doesn’t, said Ichinose.”

Much of the African-American immigration policy came in the form of centuries of bondage, dehumanization and unimaginable savagery visited on their bodies. And that legacy is long and the scars deep.

O’Reilly mentions this in his rant, as a caveat:

“One caveat, the Asian-American experience historically has not been nearly as tough as the African-American experience. Slavery is unique and it has harmed black Americans to a degree that is still being felt today, but in order to succeed in our competitive society, every American has to overcome the obstacles they face.”

But this whole juxtaposition, the pitting of one minority group against another, is just a way of distracting from the central question: Is white privilege real?

In arguing that it isn’t, O’Reilly goes on to raise the seemingly obligatory “respectability” point, saying:

“American children must learn not only academics but also civil behavior, right from wrong, as well as how to speak properly and how to act respectfully in public.”

Then he falls back on the crux of his argument:

“Instead of preaching a cultural revolution, the leadership provides excuses for failure. The race hustlers blame white privilege, an unfair society, a terrible country. So the message is, it’s not your fault if you abandon your children, if you become a substance abuser, if you are a criminal. No, it’s not your fault; it’s society’s fault. That is the big lie that is keeping some African-Americans from reaching their full potential. Until personal responsibility and a cultural change takes place, millions of African-Americans will struggle.”

No, Mr. O’Reilly, it is statements like this one that make you the race hustler. The underlying logic is that blacks are possessed of some form of racial pathology or self-destructive racial impulses, that personal responsibility and systemic inequity are separate issues and not intersecting ones.

This is the false dichotomy that chokes to death any real accountability and honesty. Systemic anti-black bias doesn’t dictate personal behavior, but it can certainly influence and inform it. And personal behavior can reinforce people’s belief that their biases are justified. So goes the cycle.

But at the root of it, we can’t expect equality of outcome while acknowledging inequality of environments.

Only a man bathing in privilege would be blind to that.

 

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 27, 2014

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Racism, White Privilege | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shameful And Historically Illiterate”: Dear Fox News; Please Stop Using Asian Americans To Attack Black People

“Talking Points does not—does not—believe in white privilege.”

That was Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s big, brave pitch during his third-person “talking points” segment on Tuesday’s edition of The O’Reilly Factor. The peg for the segment was the uproar and race issues surrounding the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, this month. O’Reilly was blasting the idea of people citing “white privilege” to help explain anger or inequality in a predominantly black community. He railed against a perceived failure of black leaders to spark a “cultural revolution” in their “precincts,” and the lack of personal responsibility instilled in young African Americans.

Of course Bill O’Reilly doesn’t believe that the concept of white privilege exists. (Neither does much of the rest of Fox News.) He has denied the existence of such a privilege for white Americans in previous segments, including one in which he falsely claimed that Harvard Kennedy School was requiring freshmen to take a class on the subject.

O’Reilly’s latest salvo of white-privilege denialism has already been mocked and (rightly) criticized enough. But one aspect of his crotchety monologue that was particularly unappealing was how he invoked the general economic and academic successes of Asian Americans in order to highlight the supposed failings of African Americans.

“So, do we have Asian privilege in America?” the Fox host asked rhetorically. “Because the truth is that Asian-American households earn far more money than anyone else.”

O’Reilly also compares the statistic on Asian-American children raised in single-parent households (13 percent) to that of African Americans (a “whopping” 55 percent) to make the point that Asian families in this country are stronger. This is a favorite bugaboo of O’Reilly’s, and in the past he’s even said that First Lady Michelle Obama should come on his show and tell black teens, “You stop having sex; you stop getting pregnant.

O’Reilly has made the Asian-privilege point before. He’s also praised Asian folks by asserting that, “Asian people are not liberal, you know, by nature” because “they’re usually more industrious and hard-working.” (It’s worth noting that not all Asian demographics fit neatly into this positive stereotype that colors the way O’Reilly talks about Asian citizens.)

First, let’s be consistent and call this phenomenon “yellow privilege.” So, sure, you could reasonably argue that there is a general yellow privilege that people who look like me enjoy in the United States. For instance, Asian-American men under the age of 35 have a far lower chance of being wrongly accosted by a police officer than a young black man would. The difference is that, unlike white people, we don’t have a bitter, well-paid armada of commentators to go on TV and complain about black people every time someone brings said privilege up.

But the real reason O’Reilly’s black-yellow comparison is so annoying and intellectually dishonest is because it is patently bizarre to compare the Asian-American experience to the African-American one. Such a crass talking point—one that uses the favorable stats of one minority group to attack the culture of another—overlooks, or at least glosses over, some of the most obvious facts and tragedies in our nation’s history. Generations of Asian Americans did not endure the traumas, legacies, and residual effects of slavery, Jim Crow, and decades of racist housing policy. These are factors that O’Reilly mentions only as an aside, preferring to talk more about the importance of getting black kids to “speak properly” and behave themselves in public.

Asian Americans and African Americans have had very different experiences in America, a complicated reality that O’Reilly and many of his colleagues do not seem eager to tackle. But at least his commentary in the wake of the Michael Brown tragedy has been more refined than some of his co-workers—a thought that is less a compliment to Bill, and far more indicative of the kind of organism that Fox News has become.

 

By: Asawin Suebsaeg, The Daily Beast,August 27, 2014

August 30, 2014 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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