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“What Are Trump Fans Really ‘Afraid’ To Say?”: Trump Supporters Are Leading Him As Much As Following Him

Rhinestones twinkling around the perimeter of her shades, cornsilk curls undaunted by the Pensacola sun, Elizabeth Kemper, a supporter of Donald J. Trump, is all certainty. She is fed up. “You know, this country is so dang political correct,” she tells a CNN reporter. “I’m afraid to say what I really feel, you know?”

On her shirt, a silhouette of Mr. Trump’s head nestles in the protective crook of the state of Florida, his face turned stalwartly eastward, away from Mexico, his Mordor.

Ms. Kemper is blazing, passionate, incredulous. “I think this country better go back to some of those values. Some of the values my parents grew up with, my grandparents grew up with,” she says. “Whatever was wrong, they could point it out and tell you.”

The notion that Mr. Trump voices ideas that his supporters are “afraid” to express, vital truths lost to the scourge of political correctness, has been a rhetorical through-line of his campaign. Mr. Trump says exactly what he thinks, his fans gush — about immigrants, about Muslims, about women — a bygone pleasure now denied most Americans.

It’s an odd construction. Once you say, “He says what I’m afraid to say,” and point to a man who is essentially a 24/7 fire hose of unequivocal bigotry, you’ve said what you’re afraid to say, so how afraid could you have been in the first place? The phrase is a dodge, a way to acknowledge that you’re aware it’s a little naughty to be a misogynist xenophobe in 2016, while letting like-minded people know, with a conspiratorial wink, that you’re only pretending to care. It’s a wild grab for plausible deniability — how can I be a white supremacist when I’m just your nice grandpa? — an artifact of a culture in which some people believe that it’s worse to be called racist than to be racist.

Trump fans are flattering themselves if they think that, say, declining to shout slurs at black people or sexually harass female co-workers is some form of noble restraint. Not only is that a pathetically low bar, many do not seem to be clearing it. Video of a Trump rally in Kentucky on Super Tuesday shows a student named Shiya Nwanguma being shoved and jostled. She reported being called a racial epithet as well as an abusive term for the female anatomy. Video from a North Carolina rally on Wednesday shows a white Trump supporter punching a black protester in the face. One glance at your worst relative’s Facebook page, one toe dipped into the toxic sludge-fire that is pro-Trump Twitter, and it’s abundantly obvious that no one is holding much back.

It’s tempting to declare that the Internet isn’t real life, that online hate isn’t a credible barometer for offline behavior. But human beings built the Internet, we populate it, we set its tone, and collectively we’ve designated it a major engine of discourse. It’s been my experience that anonymity makes people more honest, more themselves. If you applaud the sentiment that “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” and “they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” from the mouth of a presidential candidate, why should I believe you aren’t saying worse in the privacy of your home?

Mr. Trump isn’t saying anything that his supporters wouldn’t. He hasn’t let an explicit racial slur slip on the campaign trail. It’s the other way around. They’re laying bare the subtext of his speech and policies, revealing how they appear to angry white people primed and frustrated by the past century of Republican dog-whistling. They’re saying what Mr. Trump can’t.

Regardless, even if Trump supporters were managing to toe some politically correct line with their words, they speak as clear as day with their votes.

A voter whose preferred immigration policy involves “a wall” and “a list” makes it clear where he stands on the humanity of refugees. A voter who thinks it’s perfectly reasonable not to immediately disavow the support of a white nationalist makes it clear where she stands on the Black Lives Matter movement. A voter who feels well represented by a candidate who has called women “fat pigs” and “dogs” makes it clear he is not to be trusted when it comes to women’s health.

It doesn’t take clairvoyance, or even tremendous mental dexterity, to see what Mr. Trump means by “make America great again.” It just takes a history book. Many of us remember what America used to be like, and don’t care to go back.

Some of Mr. Trump’s loudest critics come from the groups he’s built his campaign on demonizing — black people, Latinos, Muslims, women — historically marginalized groups whose voices are reaching wider audiences thanks to the democratizing power of the Internet. Political correctness is construed, deliberately and effectively, by its opponents as an attack on fun, but it’s really an attack on the status quo that made Mr. Trump both very wealthy and a viable presidential candidate.

We cannot ignore the fact that the populist sensation of this election hasn’t been Bernie Sanders. It’s been a racist, nationalist demagogue-for-hire with no sincere ideology beyond his own vanity. Mr. Trump is a cipher; his voters love him because he does nothing but hold up a mirror to their basest prejudices and bask in the feedback loop of narcissism. They’re not “afraid”; they’re leading Mr. Trump as much as following him. They called him into being, not the other way around.

 

By: Lindy West, Columnist with The Guardian; Opinion Pages, The New York Times, March 11, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Political Correctness, Trumpeteers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Politics, Power, And Change”: Here’s What You Need To Understand About How Hillary Clinton Views Race

This afternoon, Hillary Clinton will deliver a speech on race in Harlem. There’s a political context here, of course, which is that African American voters are central to both the Feb. 27 South Carolina Democratic primary and the entire campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But when Clinton speaks about race, something important happens: we get a revealing view not just of what she thinks is important, but of how she understands politics, power, and change.

According to guidance distributed by the Clinton campaign, today’s speech is going to cover a lot of policy ground, including criminal justice, education, housing, and economic opportunity. Clinton will also be discussing “systemic racism,” which is a key phrase to keep in mind to understand how she sees race, and how it differs from the way Barack Obama has dealt with racial issues over the past eight years.”

The idea of systemic racism has symbolic weight, but it’s primarily practical. It does speak to the fundamental truth that black people understand and that some whites resist, that racism exists in a thousand places at once, both those we can see and those we overlook. Saying you understand systemic racism is a way of saying that you see the problem as deep, wide, and historically grounded.

But it’s also a way of saying: This is a problem we, and the president him or herself, can actually do something about. If the racism that imposes itself on people’s lives is to be found in systems, then the way you attack it is to change the way those systems operate, through changes in law and policy.

In short — and if you’ll allow me to oversimplify things a bit — when it comes to race, unlike Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton doesn’t care how you feel.

Well of course she cares, but it’s not her primary concern. This is both her weakness and her strength.

Let me start this story in March 2008, when Obama delivered his much-praised speech in Philadelphia on race, after his former pastor Jeremiah Wright became controversial. In the speech you can see the stark difference between Clinton and him, or at least the candidate he was then. While Obama mentions in passing some of the ways racism has been embedded in institutions, most of the speech, and certainly the part people focused on after, was about different people’s perspectives on race. He talked about his white grandparents, noting that even the loving grandmother who largely raised him expressed fear of young black men. He talked about how white people who feel they never benefited from racial privilege can grow resentful of things like affirmative action. He talked about the anger of black people who continue to feel the sting of prejudice.

Like so many of Obama’s speeches in that campaign, it was extraordinarily eloquent and inspiring. It made you feel like no matter who you were, he understood you. Rereading it one can’t help but remember why many Americans went nuts for this guy.

As president, Obama has been extraordinarily cautious talking about racial issues. He obviously understands the way that his political opponents have cultivated racial resentments and used him as the symbol of everything anyone might fear about a time when white privilege is being challenged (regular listeners of conservative talk radio know, for instance, that Obama’s domestic policies are regularly described as “reparations,” wherein white people’s money is being stolen and then showered upon indolent, undeserving minorities). And though you could certainly point to any number of policy initiatives his administration has undertaken that address racial prejudice and its consequences, in his rare public statements on the topic Obama is far more likely to talk about people and their feelings, both black and white, than about the details of policy. It’s clear that he still believes that empathy and understanding are central to bridging the racial divides that his presidency has been unable to improve.

Clinton’s previous remarks on race, on the other hand, are essentially the inverse of Obama’s: some brief mention of values and feelings, quickly giving way to lengthy discussion of policy changes that can be made to address ongoing racial problems. You can see that in a major speech she gave in April about criminal justice reform. Early in the speech she articulated statements of values that link policy with ideas like justice and fairness: “There is something profoundly wrong when African American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.” She then talked about her own work as a young lawyer with the Children’s Defense Fund, but what stands out for me is that her discussion is about power and institutions. “I saw repeatedly how our legal system can be and all too often is stacked against those who have the least power, who are the most vulnerable,” she says, which is a statement about justice but also a way of saying, I understand this system. The speech is heavy with facts and figures, and while there are a few lines about hopes and dreams, it doesn’t address anyone’s feelings about race. Instead, it’s mostly about policy.

Or consider an even more vivid illustration, a fascinating spontaneous discussion she had with some Black Lives Matter activists in August. It may be the single clearest statement you can find illustrating Clinton’s perspective on social and political change as you’ll ever see.

The activists essentially argue to Clinton that symbolism, rhetoric, beliefs, and policy are all intertwined. At one point, Julius Jones says to her, “America’s first drug is free black labor and turning black bodies into profit, and the mass incarceration system mirrors an awful lot like the prison plantation system. It’s a similar thread, right? And until someone takes that message and speaks that truth to white people in this country, so that we can actually take on anti-blackness as a founding problem in this country, I don’t believe that there is going to be a solution.” He also wants to know what’s in Clinton’s heart, and how she feels about the mistakes of the 1990s. “What in you,” he asks, “not your platform, not what you’re supposed to say — like, how do you actually feel that’s different than you did before? Like, what were the mistakes? And how can those mistakes that you made be lessons for all of America for a moment of reflection on how we treat black people in this country?”

Clinton’s response, though she doesn’t put it these terms, is essentially that it’s not about what she feels. Again and again, she comes back to the idea that you need a program, an agenda of specific things government should do:

So, all I’m saying is, your analysis is totally fair. It’s historically fair. It’s psychologically fair. It’s economically fair. But you’re going to have to come together as a movement and say, “Here’s what we want done about it,” because you can get lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it, who are going to say, “Oh, we get it. We get it. We’re going to be nicer.” Okay? That’s not enough, at least in my book. That’s not how I see politics. So, the consciousness raising, the advocacy, the passion, the youth of your movement is so critical. But now all I’m suggesting is, even for us sinners, find some common ground on agendas that can make a difference right here and now in people’s lives. And that’s what I would love to, you know, have your thoughts about, because that’s what I’m trying to figure out how to do.

Then Clinton and Jones begin talking quicker, and when at one point Jones characterizes her position as being that “what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do to change white hearts is to come up with a policy change,” Clinton jumps in with this:

No, I’m not talking about — look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them to live up to their own God-given potential, to live safely without fear of violence in their own communities, to have a decent school, to have a decent house, to have a decent future. So, we can do it one of many ways. You know, you can keep the movement going, which you have started, and through it you may actually change some hearts. But if that’s all that happens, we’ll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation.

If I could put her point in terms that are a little more blunt, Clinton is basically saying that symbolism and feelings are all well and good, but they’re really not her concern. What she cares about is institutional power: who it belongs to, how it’s used, and what effects it has. Movement-building and consciousness-raising are not her job. They’re a part of the larger picture and can make her job easier, but her job is to make change within the institutions through which power flows.

You may or may not like this view of what a president does and how a president makes change. You may thirst for someone who can work the levers of power but can also inspire people, make them see things in a new way, offer a transformative vision of the future. But for better or worse, that’s not who Hillary Clinton is.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, February 16, 2015

February 17, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Hillary Clinton, System Racism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It’s About The Nuts And Bolts”: Why African-American Voters May Doom Bernie Sanders’ Candidacy

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are now arguing about race, and like many such arguments in campaigns, it has nothing to do with any substantive difference between them on policy issues. But the stakes could hardly be higher — indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that if Sanders can’t find a way to win over large numbers of African-American voters, he will have virtually no chance of winning the Democratic nomination for president.

Which is why, when Sanders released an ad showing him amidst his many adoring supporters, Clinton ally David Brock, who runs about a hundred different super PACs and other organizations devoted to getting her elected (I exaggerate, but only slightly) gave an interview in which he said: “From this ad, it seems black lives don’t matter much to Bernie Sanders.” Because of course, if the crowd shots in his ad aren’t diverse enough, that must mean Sanders doesn’t care whether black people live or die. (Full disclosure: some years ago I worked for David Brock for a time.)

Naturally, the Sanders campaign was outraged, but Brock’s attack cleverly alluded to the period last summer and fall when Black Lives Matter activists were interrupting Sanders at speeches and pushing him to endorse their agenda. Sanders was the perfect target for those actions, because he’s a liberal eager to show African-Americans that he’s on their side, but also someone likely to make the kind of verbal slips that would allow them to criticize him.

That’s because despite his commitment to civil rights, Sanders hasn’t spent his political career in an environment where African-Americans are what they are in most of the country: the very heart of the Democratic coalition. Since Vermont is 95 percent white, Sanders hasn’t had to build up the kind of partnerships and habits of mind and work that other Democrats do, which is just one of the reasons he has a steep hill to climb with African-Americans.

What I mean by habits of mind and work is this: Every politician and political organizer has things they learn to do by reflex in order to make sure the groups whose help they need are appropriately cared for. For instance, if you work on a Democratic campaign, you’d damn well better make sure that every flyer you print up has a union “bug” on it, the tiny mark showing it was printed at a union shop. And when you have a public event, you make sure that the people in view of the camera are appropriately diverse. I have a vivid memory of a photo-op on a campaign I worked on as a young man, when one of the campaign’s senior staff, an African-American, looked at one such array of supporters positioned behind the candidate and saw that the black people were mostly on one side and the whites were on the other. “Why don’t we salt-and-pepper this up a bit?”, he said, and everyone looked around, immediately understood what he meant, and shifted positions.

But it’s about a lot more than optics. One of Sanders’ many challenges is to turn a campaign built on idealism and vision into a machine that can turn out votes on the ground — state by state, town by town, and precinct by precinct. As Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman points out, Sanders does best with liberal whites, and “there is only one state where whites who self-identify as liberals make up a higher share of the Democratic primary electorate than Iowa and New Hampshire. You guessed it: Vermont.” So as soon as those two states are behind us, the campaign will move to places where African-Americans, among whom Hillary Clinton remains extremely popular, will make up a much larger share of the vote.

While Sanders would argue that he has a strong case to make to those voters about why they should support him, Clinton has ties to them that go back decades. And as a whole (and keep in mind that what I’m talking about doesn’t necessarily apply to any one individual even if it holds true for the group at large), African-Americans have a pragmatic view of politics. They had to fight — and some people even died — to secure the right to vote that whites always took for granted. They have to keep fighting to maintain that right in the face of a GOP that would put every impediment to the ballot it can find in front of them.

Ask anyone involved in Democratic politics about winning black votes in primaries, and they’ll tell you that it isn’t about hopes and dreams, though those are nice too. It’s about the nuts and bolts: the social networks, the key endorsers and officials, the neighborhood institutions, the systems that have been built up in the most trying circumstances to get people to the polls. Those kinds of factors matter among every voting bloc, but they’re particularly important among African-Americans. You can’t blow into town a week before election day with a bunch of eager white 20-something volunteers from somewhere else and win their votes.

It even took African-Americans a long time to commit to Barack Obama — against Clinton — during the 2008 primaries, despite the fact that he would become the first black president and today continues to command near-unanimous support from them. It wasn’t until he won the Iowa caucuses, making clear that he had a good shot at winning the nomination, that they began moving in large numbers away from their prior support of Clinton and toward him. And it’s no accident that one of the main lines of argument Clinton has been using lately is that Sanders has been insufficiently loyal to Obama. There are lots of Democratic voters among whom that might resonate, but none more than African-Americans.

So Sanders has multiple challenges among African-American voters: to show them that he’s really on their side, to show them that he really can win, and to do the complicated work in the field that will get them to the polls to pull the lever for him. He may be able to do all that, but it won’t be easy.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 22, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Terrorism By Any Other Name”:The Armed Domestic Terrorists In Oregon Should Be Treated Just As ISIS Terrorists Would Be

The big story of the day is the armed seizure of an empty federal building in rural Oregon by a group of domestic terrorists, some of whom are the sons of federal tax cheat and freeloader Cliven Bundy.

They’re apparently upset at the conviction and upcoming jail sentences of a couple of fellow domestic terrorists for arson. They believe that the federal government has no constitutional authority to own land, that national parks are essentially illegal, and that men like them have a God-given right to mine, log and otherwise destroy whatever forest land they want. (It remains unclear whether they would condone Native Americans for “standing their ground” and responding with force to their trespass on the same lands that God clearly gave to them first.)

I don’t want to dwell too much on the rationales and motivations for these domestic terrorists any more than I would for the people who fight for ISIS or Al Qaeda. It’s always the same thing: a group of armed, angry men believe that the Big Bad Western Government is infringing on their right to do whatever it is they very well please–whether it’s to the environment, or to minorities, women, people of different religious groups, etc. Undereducated, armed angry men are often upset at Western governments for upsetting their private power apple carts because in their small, solipsistic worlds they’re very used to being lords of their manors and local enforcers of bigoted frontier justice. That’s as true of Afghan militants in the Taliban as it is of rural Montana militiamen. The only difference is in the trappings, the external presence of the rule of law and the degree of violence involved.

What’s more interesting to focus on is the response to the incident so far. As with ISIS, the Bundy clowns are actively seeking a confrontation with the big bad wolf of Big Western Government. They believe that an active confrontation will spark a movement that will lead to the overthrow of Big Brother. So far, especially after the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, American leaders have been disinclined to give those opportunities to the domestic militiaman terrorists. Cliven Bundy and his miscreants got away with a wide range of crimes due to the forbearance of federal officials.

But the problem with taking that hands-off approach is that the treatment of left-leaning protesters is far different. Occupiers and Black Lives Matter protesters aren’t met with hand wringing and gentle admonishments. They’re met with batons and tear gas. If Black Lives Matter or Occupy protesters started arming themselves and taking over federal buildings, you can guarantee that police would start using live ammunition and people would die.

So on the one hand it’s understandable that federal officials would not want to make martyrs of the right-wing domestic terrorists who are actively seeking to engage in a confrontation and make themselves appear to be downtrodden victims of the federal beast. But on the other hand, it’s infuriating that they receive special kid glove treatment that would not be afforded to minority and liberal activists.

Personally, I feel that if ISIS fighters want a grand confrontation with the West on an open battlefield, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to give them one. The outcome of that battle would not be in doubt. Similarly, I feel that if Bundy’s little crew wants to occupy a federal building and assert that they’ll use deadly violence against any police who try to extract them, then they should get what they’re asking for just as surely Islamist terrorists would if they did likewise.

As much as restraint is the better part of valor when dealing with entitled conservative crazies, principles of basic justice and fair play also need to apply. What’s good for one type of terrorist must also be good for another.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthy, January 3, 2016

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Domestic Terrorism, Montana Militia | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Role Of Black Women In The Democratic Party”: A Group That Doesn’t Get Much Attention In Our Political Discussions

We’re hearing a lot these days about the angry white base of the Republican Party. Beyond analysis of this group as the core of support for presidential candidates like Donald Trump, there are people who suggest that Democrats (like President Obama) need to reach out to them either to calm the waters of our political divide or as people who might be lured back into the Democratic Party.

There are occasions when people also refer to the base of the Democratic Party. Often it is assumed that this group is made up of the most liberal activists – in this election cycle, Bernie Sanders supporters.

But take a moment to look at some of the data in a report about a group that doesn’t get much attention in our political discussions these days: The Status of Black Women in American Politics.

First of all, the number of black women who turn out to vote is higher than any other demographic group – 70% in 2012. That number has been rising since 1996, so it is more than a response to the candidacy of Barack Obama. And no group votes more consistently Democratic than black women. Here are the figures since 1992:

1992 Bill Clinton – 87%
1996 Bill Clinton – 89%
2000 Al Gore – 94%
2004 John Kerry – 90%
2008 Barack Obama – 96%
2012 Barack Obama – 96%

As a comparison, in the above elections no Democratic candidate got more than 48% of the vote from white women.

But, perhaps you say that the issue for Democrats these days isn’t presidential elections, but midterms and off-year elections. The report points to the following example:

In the 2013 gubernatorial election in Virginia, 91% of Black women voters voted for Democratic winner Terry McCauliffe, while 54% of non- Hispanic White women voters voted for Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

Some may suggest that this base of the Democratic Party doesn’t need to be catered to because they have no other place to go in our two-party system. There is some truth in that. Given the current status of the Republican Party, it is clear that they have no interest in wooing black women into their ranks. But when it comes to the future of the Democratic Party, it’s important to keep this in mind:

Finally, Black women represent a significant portion of the Rising American Electorate (RAE), an estimated 115 million eligible voters – and nearly half of the electorate – composed of unmarried women, people of color, and people under 30 years old. Black women sit at the intersection of these groups, representing just over half of the 26.9 million eligible Black voters and 19% of all eligible unmarried women voters (Lake, Ulibarri, and Treptow 2013). They also represent the most active and dependable contingent of the RAE, contributing to its growing influence and playing an essential role in building coalitions across RAE groups to influence electoral outcomes in future races.

Beyond all that, it is interesting to notice which groups in our political system continue to draw our attention and which ones are too often ignored. Black women are playing an increasingly active role lately in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Democrats who ignore that do so at their own peril.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 28, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Black Women, Democrats, GOP, White Women | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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