Back in February, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) did something no other senator was willing to do at the time: the Alabama Republican endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And now that the New York Republican is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sessions is helping lead the charge, urging others in the GOP to get in line.
The senator told Politico, in reference to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) skepticism, “[O]n some of these issues, Trump is where the Republicans are and if you’re going to be a Republican leader you should be supportive of that.”
And what about those in the party who believe Trump will struggle to win in November? Sessions told the far-right Daily Caller that those doubters don’t fully appreciate the breadth of Trump’s appeal.
[Sessions] is predicting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will attract black and Hispanic voters in the general election.
“Donald Trump is going to do better with Hispanics and African Americans, I am convinced, because he’s talking about things that will really make their wages go up,” Sessions said during a recent interview in his Capitol Hill office with The Daily Caller.
The senator didn’t specify what “better” might entail – he presumably meant stronger support than Mitt Romney received in 2012 – but it almost certainly doesn’t matter. By basing so much of his campaign on racial animus, Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to alienate voters from minority communities.
Romney won 27% of the Latino vote four years ago and 6% of the African-American vote. There is very little evidence to suggest Trump will “do better” than this performance in the fall.
But what struck me as especially interesting about this wasn’t just the message, but also the messenger.
As we discussed earlier in the year, the New Republic published a piece in 2002 on Sessions’ background, which included a stint as a U.S. Attorney, when his most notable prosecution targeted three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.
The piece added that Sessions, during his career in Alabama, called the NAACP “un-American” because, among other groups, it “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions recalled an instance in which he referred to a white attorney as a “disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans. Sessions later acknowledged having made many of the controversial remarks attributed to him, but he claimed to have been joking.
What’s more, Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later explained that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he “used to think they [the Klan] were OK” until he found out some of them were “pot smokers.” Sessions once again acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him “boy,” and once warned him to “be careful what you say to white folks.”
When the Reagan administration nominated Sessions for the federal bench in 1986, the Senate rejected him because of his controversial record on race.
But in 2016, Jeff Sessions is so “convinced” he has his finger on the pulse of the electorate that he’s willing to predict increased Hispanic and African-American support for the controversial Republican nominee.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 30, 2016
African Americans in the South can’t get a break when it comes to voting, as history can’t deny.
After all they’ve endured through slavery, Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, their voices are still treated dismissively by tone-deaf politicians who would ask for their votes.
If you’re thinking Bernie Sanders, you’re partly right.
This month, having lost massively to Hillary Clinton across the Southeast, Sanders commented that the bevy of early Southern primaries “distorts reality.” In other comments soon thereafter, perhaps covering for what was obviously a lapse in political acumen, he clarified that those early states are the most conservative in the country.
Not really. And not really.
While some segments of the South are undeniably conservative, Dixie is also home to a large and reliably Democratic cohort — African Americans. Many of the most liberal people serving in today’s Congress were elected by Southerners, and especially black Southerners. The reality is that Sanders failed to earn their votes in part by treating the South as a lost cause.
Many took Sanders’s remarks as insinuating that the black vote isn’t all that important. Adding to the insult, actor Tim Robbins, a Sanders surrogate, said that Clinton’s win in South Carolina, where more than half of Democratic voters are African American, was “about as significant” as winning Guam.
Not cool, Mr. Robbins, but you were great in “The Shawshank Redemption.”
The gentleman from Vermont (black population: 1 percent) and the gentleman from Hollywood failed to charm Southern Democratic leaders, who recently responded with a letter condemning Sanders’s remarks. The signatories, including the Democratic Party chairs of South Carolina (an African American), Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, expressed concern that Sanders’s characterization of the South minimized “the importance of the voices of a core constituency for our party.”
The letter writers also pointed out that some of Sanders’s victories have been in states that are more conservative than Southern ones, such as Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho.
That black voters would prefer a familiar candidate such as Clinton over someone whose personal experience among African Americans seems to have been relatively limited, notwithstanding his participation in civil rights demonstrations, is hardly surprising. For decades, the Clintons have worked for issues and protections important to the African American community.
But the Clintons, too, have been dismissive toward black voters when things didn’t go their way. During the 2008 primaries when it was clear that Barack Obama would trounce Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, Bill Clinton remarked that Jesse Jackson also had won the state in 1984 and 1988.
No one needs a translator to get Clinton’s meaning. His next hastily drawn sentence — “Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here” — did little to distract from the implication that Obama would win because he was black.
Not cool, Mr. President.
Hillary Clinton got herself into a hot mess when she asserted that President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Civil Rights Act, which many saw as dismissive of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. She scrambled to explain herself and mitigate the damage, but feelings once hurt are hard to mend.
Then again, time is a miracle worker, and all is apparently forgiven. Clinton is the new black and has been duly rewarded for her loyalty, patience and sportsmanship. She played nice with Obama, crushing her resentment beneath the heel of her sensible shoes and erasing from memory Obama’s condescending “You’re likable enough, Hillary” during a debate.
On the campaign trail, Clinton now tosses rose petals at Obama’s feats, promising to carry on his policies not because she necessarily agrees with them but because it’s politically savvy. For his part, the president has all but endorsed Clinton, returning the favor of her indulgence and her husband’s vigorous support.
The truth is, only Obama could have defeated Clinton for the 2008 nomination, and he probably did win at least partly because he was African American. The country felt it was time for a black president and Obama’s message of hope against a purple-colored backdrop of streamlined unity, baby, was intoxicating. He was a dazzling diamond in the rough world of partisan politics.
Clinton shares none of Obama’s sparkle, but she has more than paid her dues, and African American voters have rewarded her loyalty. For his part, Sanders not only confirmed African Americans’ concerns about his disconnect from their daily lives but also was badly mistaken about the South’s distance from reality.
In the South, black votes matter — a lot — and no one has understood this better than the Clintons.
By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 222, 2016
A wise friend once pointed out to me that the relationship between an individual and her to-do list is called “attitude.” Profound, right? If we think “I can’t do it all,” then we can be sure that we won’t. Whereas if we decide “I can do this,” we have a good chance.
Attitude applies to everything from work, to relationships, to weight loss. It also applies to things beyond ourselves, such as politics, leadership and governing.
So picture, for one moment, each of our leading presidential candidates. Are they smiling? Any of them? I didn’t think so.
Picture the American people, however you might conjure that. Do they look happy?
I’m sure you can see where I’m going here. The “I can do it” or “we can do it” attitude is embodied by one of the most beautiful human characteristics: the smile. “I can’t do it” or “we suck” is characterized by the most-unflattering frown or scowl.
Our country is past due for an attitude adjustment. We yearn for a leader to bring us that gift – to renew our optimism, our healthy attitude. We remember great leaders like Reagan and Kennedy as men who were smiling.
But if we aren’t going to get that type of leader any time soon, it might be up to us to enact a national attitude adjustment. So let us take a break from criticizing our politicians and our government. Let us focus on the good things about the U.S. of A.
We live in a country where a young, brilliant and stunningly wealthy entrepreneur – Napster founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker – just announced he is contributing his innovative leadership and personal wealth to cutting-edge efforts to cure cancer. That kind of thing happens here. It doesn’t happen everywhere in the world.
We have contributed – and continue to contribute – the most incredible technology, medicine and art to the world. To illustrate, I’ll point out just a few in each category: the light bulb, the telephone, television, airplanes, the personal computer, transistors and the integrated circuit, social media and, thanks to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, the swivel chair. General anesthesia, immunotherapy for cancer, 3-d printed prosthetics and organ transplants. Hemingway and Faulkner, American television (OK, bear with me, I’m talking about “Seinfeld,” “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad,” not “The Bachelor”), American movies, and American music. (How sad the world would be without the blues and jazz.)
Seriously, when you look at that very-short list, why are we – and our leaders – so busy beating ourselves up? I mean, I didn’t even mention how many medals we win at the Olympics. I didn’t even mention Oprah. Or Oreos. Or Yellowstone National Park. Or small business. Or Uber.
We all like to complain about our own political parties a lot, too, and maybe we ought to ease up a bit. After all, both the Republican and Democrat parties have produced some excellent leaders and public policies. When the parties have worked together, they’ve achieved many incredible successes, such as defeating the evils of fascism and imperialism in World War II, and then helping to rebuild post-war Europe and Japan, standing up to Soviet expansionism, and enacting civil rights laws to protect all Americans. Oh, and yes, it was America that put the first man on the moon.
A reminder to both citizens and leaders: If beating ourselves up was an effective way to make things better, we’d all be amazing. (For example, I, personally, would be very, very thin if my own hurtful self-critiques somehow magically produced weight loss.)
But that kind of attitude doesn’t work. Not for individuals, not for our country, not for our leaders. And if those leaders haven’t figured that out yet, we – the people – are just going to have to be the example. This power, like the power of our country, does still rest in our own hands.
By: Jean Card, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog; U. S. News and World Report, April 14, 2016
Yes, PayPal withdrew 400 planned jobs from the Tar Heel State in response to HB 2, which banned local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and required transgender people to use public bathrooms matching their birth certificates, but most major companies have simply signed a strongly worded letter to Gov. Pat McCrory asking for the law to be repealed.
After Mississippi’s HB 1523 was passed, many of these same companies sent a similar letter to Gov. Phil Bryant, urging him to repeal the law without detailing any specific consequences for leaving it in place.
But an emerging crew of entertainers isn’t content with this wait-and-see approach. By taking swift and decisive steps, they’re proving how little pro-LGBT press releases mean without concrete actions to back them up.
As soon as HB 2 was passed, for instance, actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner promised that he would “not film another production in North Carolina” until the law is repealed. CEOs take note: Reiner took action immediately and listed a punishment along with a specific condition.
Then, last week, Bruce Springsteen canceled a North Carolina show, highlighting the law’s horrifying anti-transgender provision in his statement. By contrast, the multi-company letter coordinated by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality North Carolina does not specifically address this first-in-the-nation attack on transgender rights.
The Boss called his announcement “the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”
Canadian singer Bryan Adams followed in Springsteen’s footsteps shortly thereafter, nixing a scheduled Mississippi concert to protest the state’s sweeping anti-LGBT law. On Facebook, he explained that he “cannot in good conscience perform in a state where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation.”
And this past weekend, comedian and Community star Joel McHale went ahead with a North Carolina performance but wore an “LGBTQ” shirt and donated all of his proceeds to a local LGBT center. In video taken from the show, McHale asks, “What the fuck is wrong with your government here, you guys?”
It’s not just individual celebrities who are taking decisive steps, either. Lionsgate canceled Charlotte shooting plans and A+E Studios has promised “not [to] consider North Carolina for any new productions” once shooting ends on a new show they are filming around Wilmington. Even porn giant xHamster is now banning all North Carolina IP addresses in order to put pressure on the state to change course.
Outside of the entertainment world, however, condemnation of the anti-LGBT laws may have been sudden and widespread but punitive actions have been fewer and further between.
The NBA could have summarily pulled the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte. It didn’t. Instead, the league sent out a statement calling HB 2 discriminatory but also cautiously noting that they “do not yet know what impact it will have” on the All-Star plans.
The NCAA is set to host Division I basketball tournament games in North Carolina over the next two years but, instead of relocating the games, the association pledged to “continue to monitor current events.”
The NFL is moving ahead with a May team owners meeting in Charlotte, justifying their decision based on the city council’s support of LGBT rights.
In sum, the major leagues are talking a big game but that’s about it. Their equivocating statements prompted Outsports’ Jim Buzinski to write that “sports leagues shouldn’t say another word about their ‘support’ unless it’s accompanied by action.” Or, as any good coach will tell you, talk is cheap.
Major corporations haven’t been much bolder, largely threatening to “reconsider” or “reevaluate” business in the offending states. Over one hundred businesses have signed on to the HRC letters but the more time passes, the emptier their words become. So far, only a select few businesses have gone beyond mere criticism of HB 2 and HB 1523.
The High Point Market Authority, which has been estimated to have an annual economic impact of $5.38 billion in North Carolina, warned last month that they could lose “hundreds and perhaps thousands of customers” at their annual spring furniture market. And Google Ventures CEO Bill Maris indicated in early April that he would not greenlight investments in any North Carolina startups “until the voters there fix this.”
Springsteen set a high bar for courage that few in the business world have been able to match.
This isn’t the first time that the entertainment industry has taken point in anti-LGBT legislative tussles. In March, Disney—and by extension Marvel—promised to end film production in Georgia if Gov. Nathan Deal did not veto a so-called “religious freedom” law that passed the state legislature.
“[W]e will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” the company wrote in a definitive statement.
The NFL, on the other hand, vaguely hinted that they might not host the Super Bowl in Georgia but their official statement was embarrassingly circumlocutory.
“Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with [NFL non-discrimination] policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites,” said league spokesman Brian McCarthy.
In March of 2015, when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed an anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a few companies like the business review website Angie’s List, which axed a $40 million expansion, made powerful moves.
But in what should by now be a familiar pattern, many corporate leaders chastised the governor without deploying any economic sanctions. The discrepancy prompted Fast Company to make a list of the “companies that are actually boycotting Indiana, not just tweeting about it.”
Among the only key players who actually acted before the Indiana legislature revised the discriminatory law were musicians and actors. The indie rock group Wilco pulled the plug on a show in Indianapolis. Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman announced he would donate his proceeds from an Indiana University show to the HRC and canceled a subsequent performance in the state.
Repeated entanglements over LGBT rights in the South have proved that governors may not sympathize with LGBT rights but they do respond to economic pressure. So long as corporate leaders remain hesitant to pull out of North Carolina, they will be locked in a game of economic chicken with a state government that does not seem eager to reverse HB 2.
Gov. McCrory’s re-election campaign has claimed that many businesses support the anti-transgender law and one state representative, Ken Goodman, seems more than willing to see if anyone will make good on their threats.
“April Market is not a vacation,” he tweeted in response to the High Point story. “It is critical for buyers. They’ll come.”
It has been illegal for many transgender people to use the right public restrooms in North Carolina for nearly three weeks. Anti-LGBT discrimination has been not just legal, but endorsed by the state of Mississippi, for almost two. At this point, signing a letter is no longer a proportional response to bigotry.
As Bruce himself once sang, “Walk tall, or baby, don’t walk at all.”
By: Samantha Allen, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2016
“Government Stumps Trump”: Donald’s Lack Of Understanding Of The Government’s Basic Functions Is Distressing
It is democratic, not elitist, to believe that all citizens should understand the two bedrock principles – separation of powers and federalism – upon which the American government rests. The framers enshrined these precepts in our Constitution to protect our individual liberty. For when power is distributed – either across the governing branches or between the states and the national government – tyrants are frustrated.
Yet, during Tuesday’s town hall interview on CNN, Donald Trump – no mere citizen but the leading presidential candidate in the Republican Party – revealed once again his knowledge deficit about our political system.
For those who skipped that middle hour of nonsensical rhetoric, an Army veteran and current Marquette University student asked an important, albeit simple question, “What are the top three functions of the United States government?”
Trump was stumped. With the exception of national security, he couldn’t seem to think of what other key duties were within the federal government’s purview. What about promoting justice (equality under the law), encouraging interstate commerce and managing our international relations? What about, in language more common among the framers, ensuring “domestic tranquility“?
Simply put, he seemed to not understand that when our government was established, it had only three cabinet departments – Defense (War), State and Treasury – because these are the feds’ main jobs: conducting war, promoting peace and encouraging prosperity.
Further, the other two functions that Trump named – health care and education – are not only not central to the national government’s mission, but they are generally understood, by an overwhelming majority of conservatives, to be activities that fall within the states’ police power. In other words, Trump’s answers showed that his political ideology is much closer to Democratic presidential hopeful and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders than to former President Ronald Reagan.
Perhaps, it shouldn’t be surprising. Throughout his campaign and without much consequence, Trump has been dismissive of separation of powers, civil liberties and civil rights. In fact, the only time he has really been pressed on constitutional issues was when he was forced to walk back his bluster earlier this month, after he had wrongly assumed that a president could order the military to torture prisoners of war.
Still, as a political scientist who agrees with former President Harry Truman’s observation that “it takes a lifetime of experience to understand how much the Constitution means to our national life,” Trump’s willful ignorance of our system is both shocking and distressing.
The only good news is that if Trump were to become president (by some strange twist of fate), he would quickly learn that he is no match for our governing system. His ignorance would be our nation’s saving grace. The framers were extraordinarily wise men.
By: Lara Brown, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, March 31, 2016