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“How To Lose A Voter For Life”: A Once Great Party Rips Itself Apart, One Voter At A Time

We frequently talk about how intolerant rhetoric can cost the Republicans support among the targets of their contempt. They’re going to lose support among young women, we say, and gays and lesbians, and Latinos and Asians and blacks and…

That’s all true, but this is a general phenomenon that actually goes on in an atomized and individualized way– one voter at a time.

Here’s one of those voters:

At midday on the eve of the [Iowa] caucuses, into the Hockenberry house walked two men who had driven to Dubuque from Milwaukee in a white Mercedes SUV. One of them was Ismail Fersat, who was from Turkey, and Muslim, and a successful entrepreneur who ran his own granite-countertop business. Once, back in Turkey, he was the national boxing champ. He came to America from Istanbul 16 years ago in hopes of becoming a professional boxer.

What did America mean to him? “For me, the key is democracy,” said Fersat, still two years away from citizenship. “I feel that if the people can tell honestly and confidently what they think without any fear, no matter what religion they belong to, what culture they belong to — that, to me, is democracy.” He had more than anything admired this about America — until he started to worry about it during this campaign.

For years in Wisconsin, he had thought that he should support the Republicans, because they would be best for business. Then along came Trump. “When Trump came out, I felt offended by the comment he made. The Muslim is blah, blah. That hurt me in a big way. I see democracy as something else. When Trump came out, boom, no more. I’m done with the Republicans. I said, ‘I’m on the wrong side!'”

Here’s an entrepreneurial immigrant, a job creator and small businessman. The chances are pretty good that he has some traditional ideas about gender roles and family and human sexuality. He was a Republican, he says, because he believed they would be better for his business. That stands to reason since their economic rhetoric is aimed like a laser at people like him. How many times did Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan talk about small business owners and entrepreneurship? It was like a mantra, or Chinese water torture, or an annoying involuntary tic.

Yet, once Donald Trump came out and said that “Islam hates us” and Muslims shouldn’t be allowed into the country and they should be forced to register with the government and that he might shut down mosques because virtually 100% of them are anti-American?

Once Donald Trump said all that, Ismail Fersat got the hint and said, “I’m on the wrong side!!”

And Ismail Fersat didn’t become some anti-American saboteur or terrorist. He and his buddy jumped in their white Mercedes SUV and drove down to Iowa to campaign for Hillary Clinton. They decided to knock doors for her campaign because they believe in democracy and they believe in the right to say (and be) what you want without fear.

Everyone has their own story, but there are millions of people in this country who are making, or have already made, or will soon be making the same voyage as Mr. Fersat and his friend.

That’s how a once great party rips itself apart– one voter at a time.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 18, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Hillary Clinton, Islamophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Death By Privatization In US Prisons”: Maximizing Profits Means Minimizing Medical Staffing And Care

More than 20,000 immigrant prisoners are serving their sentences at 11 privatized, immigrant-only contract prisons run by three companies: the Geo Group, the Corrections Corp. of America and the Management and Training Corp. Many of these prisoners are convicted only of illegal entry.

Private prisons cost less than federal prisons because they provide less. Immigrant prisoners — who are deported after serving time — don’t receive rehabilitation, education or job training, services considered essential for U.S. citizens held in government-operated prisons.

Even worse, these prisons fail to provide minimally adequate health care to inmates, leading to death for some and misery for many. Basic human rights standards require prisons to provide adequate medical care to inmates, regardless of their legal status.

Reports show a pervasive pattern of inadequate medical care at privately run immigrant prisons in the United States. A Jan. 28 report by Seth Freed Wessler, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, analyzed medical records of 103 immigrant prisoners who died in private prisons from 1998 to 2014. It concluded that in at least 25 of those cases, subpar care “likely contributed to the premature deaths of the prisoners.”

Mexican immigrant Claudio Fagardo-Saucedo was one of the prisoners whose death was investigated by Wessler. Fagardo-Saucedo arrived at a private prison in Texas on Jan. 27, 2009, with a positive tuberculosis screen. Medical protocols call for an HIV test for anyone with a positive TB screen. But he wasn’t tested for HIV. Over the next two years, he went to the prison clinic numerous times in pain, but a doctor never saw him. Instead, the clinic’s licensed vocational nurses, who receive only one year of training, prescribed ibuprofen or Tylenol. Fagardo-Saucedo was hospitalized on New Year’s Day 2011 after he collapsed. He died four days later, shackled to his hospital bed. An autopsy showed an HIV-related infection in his brain.

Martin Acosta, a Salvadoran immigrant who served time at the Texas prison for illegal re-entry at the same time as Fagardo-Saucedo, “began complaining of abdominal pain late in the summer of 2010,” according to Wessler’s report. He went to the prison clinic more than 20 times in less than five months. Despite his complaints of vomiting blood and having blood in his stool, no lab tests were performed. In December 2010 he landed in a hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe metastatic stomach cancer. He died in January 2011.

Nestor Garay had a stroke during the night at another Texas immigrant prison. His cellmates called for help. Prison personnel refused to take him to the emergency room, instead isolating him in another cell. By morning, when he was finally taken to the hospital, it was too late for the clot-busting medication that could have saved his life.

Medical care is dismal across the U.S. prison system. Even in publicly run prisons, health care is frequently privatized, penny pinching and inhumane. The Brennan Center for Justice has characterized prisoner medical care as “atrocious.”

But the lack of medical care at these immigrant-only private prisons receives less scrutiny than any public or other private prisons. Families of immigrant inmates often live outside the United States. This limits their ability to fully advocate for imprisoned family members. They have little access to visit or maintain phone contact with prisoners. They don’t have access to U.S. courts for medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuits. They cannot vote and are not represented in Congress.

The way forward

All prisoners deserve humane treatment and adequate medical care while incarcerated. It is immoral to intentionally discriminate against noncitizen prisoners and segregate them in private prisons with fewer services and woefully inadequate care. A prison sentence should never be a sentence to a miserable, unattended death. Privatization of medical care is deadly and must be stopped not only in immigrant-only prisons but also in all prisons — state and federal — across the country.

When government takes away people’s liberty and exerts total control over their lives, it needs to be held accountable for what happens to those in its custody. Prisoners are vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment by authorities. Some degree of accountability still exists in publicly run prisons. Voters can demand answers from elected officials and can vote them out of office. Accountability is diluted to the vanishing point when the government delegates the running of prisons to for-profit companies.

The first step toward adequate medical care for immigrant inmates is to end the segregation that isolates them in private prisons. The two Democratic presidential candidates — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — have pledged to end privatization of federal prisons.

A second and crucial step is to end the privatization of prison health care and ensure equitable access to medical care for all prisoners. Privatized prison health care is a multibillion-dollar industry, with more than half the states contracting out part of or all prison medical care. But for-profit companies have failed time after time to provide adequate medical care to inmates. And prisoners, particularly noncitizens, have little recourse and no other options for treatment.

Unsurprisingly, private prison companies and the prison health care industry have well-paid lobbyists in Washington and in state capitals. Since prisoners can’t vote or lobby elected officials, voters must speak out for them. In the 2016 presidential election season, we must raise public awareness about the deadly consequences of privatizing prisons and continue to pressure candidates to honor their campaign pledges to end prison privatization.

 

By: Mary Turck, AlJazeera America, February 24, 2016

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Immigrants, Mass Incarceration, Privatized Prison System | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Immediacy Of The Harm”: This Is No Time For The Soft Rebuke

Earlier this week, I was wandering around a department store in suburban Cleveland, when a clerk spotted me and mercifully offered to help.

When I told her what I was trying to find, she laughed and said, “You are definitely in the wrong department.” Then, almost immediately, her smile vanished and she took a step back. “I didn’t mean–.”

She was wearing a hijab to cover her head, and we were standing face to face just days after the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack and within hours of Donald Trump’s widely publicized attempt to cast all Muslims as potential terrorists. Like so many other Americans, I am appalled by his racist vitriol, but this encounter with a clerk just trying to do her job drove home the immediacy of the harm. This woman with the kind face was afraid, and in that moment, both of us knew it, and we knew why.

I began to babble, assuring her that I am as likely to get lost in a department store as I am on a country road in rural Ohio. She smiled and nodded, but her eyes were moist as she pointed to the escalator. “Thank you,” she said. As she turned and walked away, I realized she was thanking me for being nice to her.

This is what we’ve come to — a country where innocent Americans fear that their every encounter with a stranger in this country could be their last.

You don’t have to be a Muslim to experience this anxiety. You just have to be someone Trump and his fellow Republican candidates insist on casting as “the other,” which always means someone who isn’t white. Such political posturing threatens to cripple discourse in our communities, as Deepinder Mayell learned recently.

Mayell is an attorney and the director of the Advocates for Human Rights’ Refugee and Immigrant Program in Minneapolis. This fall, however, he was hoping to be just one of thousands of Minnesota Vikings fans as he showed up with friends for his first NFL game.

In an op-ed for StarTribune, Mayell wrote what happened after a man pushed others aside to make a beeline for him, demanding to know whether he was a refugee.

“In that moment, I was terrified,” Mayell wrote. “But what scared me the most was the silence surrounding me. As I looked around, I didn’t know who was an ally or an enemy. In those hushed whispers, I felt like I was alone, unsafe and surrounded. It was the type of silence that emboldens a man to play inquisitor. I thought about our national climate, in which some presidential candidates spew demagoguery and lies while others play politics and offer soft rebukes. It is the same species of silence that emboldened white supremacists to shoot five unarmed protesters recently in Minneapolis.”

The man who presumed he had the right to demand proof of Mayell’s citizenship had no idea whom he was picking on. He didn’t know that Mayell was born in Queens, New York, and grew up on Long Island. He also didn’t know that Mayell’s parents are Sikh Americans, not Muslims.

After summoning a security guard to his side, Mayell confronted the man and told him that he had frightened him and that what he had said was racist. The man apologized, but Mayell said that wasn’t enough. He wanted the man to be ejected. That didn’t happen.

In the newspaper’s online comments section under Mayell’s op-ed, the usual ugliness flourished like maggots on a carcass. He should have a thicker skin, commenters said. Many called him a liar, accusing him of making up the incident. A number of commenters assumed he is Muslim. Because, you know, his name isn’t Jim Bob or John-Boy and his face isn’t white.

“The man shouted, ‘You’re a refugee!’” Mayell said in a phone interview this week. “Not ‘you’re a Muslim’ or ‘a terrorist,’ just ‘refugee.’ It says so much about how national dialogue affects others.”

Fortunately, Mayell fielded far more positive responses to his op-ed. “In texts, phone calls and emails, there was overwhelming support,” he said. “People are pretty shocked this happened.”

What struck me about his essay and our conversation was how alone and vulnerable he felt in that crowd. “I wish somebody else would have stuck up for me. I understand how stunning it was, that they were in disbelief, perhaps. … But speaking out goes a long way for the person who is afraid — and for everyone in the public sphere.”

But in the moment, no one said a word.

We keep having this conversation in this country, asking ourselves: When is it appropriate to speak out against bigotry and racism? As if there were ever a bad time to stand for what is right or a right time to stay silent.

Our silence is our acquiescence. The time to stand up is now. The appropriate place to speak out is everywhere.

 

By: Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist; The National Memo, December 10, 2015

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Muslim Americans, Terrorists | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“He’s Made The Republican Party More Trump-Like”: Donald Trump May Not Get The Nomination, But He Has Already Won

In his speech from the Oval Office on Sunday night, President Obama took care to urge his fellow citizens not to equate the extremism of ISIS with the beliefs of Muslims as a whole. “Just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans, of every faith, to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently.” Obama made his case on both pragmatic grounds (mistreating Muslims would feed into ISIS’s preferred narrative) and on moral grounds (Muslim-Americans deserve the same rights as the rest of us). Obama’s comments drew particular ire from Senator Marco Rubio, a leading Republican presidential candidate. “And then the cynicism, the cynicism tonight to spend a significant amount of time talking about discrimination against Muslims,” Rubio declared on Fox News. “Where is there widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims?”

It is unclear what sort of evidence Rubio would accept. According to FBI statistics, hate crimes against Muslim-Americans, which spiked in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, have settled in at an elevated level five times higher than before 2001. If Rubio considers these dry statistics too abstract, he could look to current Republican poll leader Donald Trump, who last night proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Trump has dominated the Republican race by channeling the passions of its base more authentically than any other candidate. Trump’s imprint has been felt in ways that go far beyond his mere chances of capturing the nomination, which (I continue to estimate) remain low. Liberals fall into the habit of assuming that the most authentic spokesperson for the party’s base must necessarily be its most likely leader. The vociferous opposition Trump provokes among Republican leaders guarantees the last non-Trump candidate left standing will enjoy their consolidated and enthusiastic support. What Trump has done is to make the Republican party more Trump-like.

After 9/11, George W. Bush mostly succeeded in channeling nationalistic feelings away from anti-Muslim bigotry. Bush’s departure opened a sewer of ugly sentiments. One early episode of right-wing hysteria focused on a planned Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan, which conservatives denounced as a “Ground Zero Mosque.” Republicans argued at the time that freedom of religion, which would normally safeguard a minority group’s right to build a cultural center with a house of worship, was overridden by anti-Muslim anger. (Marco Rubio: “We are a nation founded on strong principles of religious freedom. However, we cannot be blind to the pain 9/11 caused our nation and the families of the victims.”) In the intervening years, Ben Carson has suggested a Muslim should not be allowed to serve as president, and large numbers of his fellow partisans agree. A poll this fall found that only 49 percent of Iowa Republicans believe Islam should be legal. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have both proposed to allow only Christian refugees into the U.S. — a proposal that has absorbed zero percent of the backlash generated by Trump’s comments despite being three-quarters as noxious.

Republicans distrust Trump for many reasons, beginning with his short and unconvincing record of loyalty to the party’s well-being. As threatening as they have found Trump’s candidacy, it has the convenient side effect of allowing them to define a general tendency in their party as a personal quirk associated with a buffoonish individual. The antipode of the Democratic belief that Trump is certain to rule the GOP is the Republican conviction that the cancer he represents can be cleanly severed from the body.

Take, for instance, David Brooks’s insistence a month ago that Marco Rubio needs to denounce Trump more forcefully if he is to prevail. “I’m sorry, Marco Rubio, when your party faces a choice this stark, with consequences this monumental, you’re probably not going to be able to get away with being a little on both sides.” This high-minded sentiment is actually closer to the opposite of reality. The way to consolidate leadership of a political party is not to polarize it but to straddle its divide. Trump’s most plausible opponents have doled out their rebuttals in carefully calibrated doses. “Well, that’s not my policy,” says Cruz.

Rubio goes a bit further: “I disagree with Donald Trump’s latest proposal. His habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together.” But note the contrast between Rubio’s condemnation of Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry and his earlier condemnation of Obama’s rejection of anti-Muslim bigotry. Rubio impugns Obama’s motives for rejecting discrimination against Muslims. (“Cynicism”!) He makes no such judgment about Trump’s motives. Rubio needs to harness the same passions that Trump is exploiting, but to do so more carefully. His anti-anti-bigotry message cleverly redirects conservative resentment away from Muslims and toward the liberals who cynically denounce anti-Muslim prejudice and refuse to present the case against ISIS as a war of civilizations.

Parliamentary systems channel far-right nationalistic movements of the sort Trump is leading into splinter parties. The American winner-take-all system creates two blocs that absorb far-right movements into the mainstream. Rubio, like all the Republican contenders, has promised to endorse Trump if he wins the nomination, a constraint that limits their ability to denounce him. You can’t call a man a fascist while promising to support him if he collects the requisite delegates. Unless Republican elites are willing to actually cleave the GOP in two — and they have displayed no such inclination — they are going to live with the reality that they are part of an entity that is substantially, if not entirely, a party of Trump.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 8, 2015

December 10, 2015 Posted by | 9-11, Donald Trump, ISIS, Muslims | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump Proves That Liberals Have Been Right All Along”: Republicans Letting Expediency Get The Better Of Them

If you’ve been following Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy and his effect on the Republican primary closely, you were perhaps beset Monday by a strange sense of speechlessness—one born less of ineffability than of tedium.

Trump’s plan to prohibit Muslim immigration into the U.S. is indeed extreme, but to students of the Trump phenomenon and conservative politics more broadly, it was neither unexpected nor the source of any new or profound lesson.

While closing the country to foreign Muslims altogether is a radical idea relative to our founding ideals and current policy, it is but an incremental step relative to the outer bounds of legitimate debate in the GOP primary. Republican presidential candidates have supported discriminating against Muslims in our refugee policy, and opposed the very notion of a Muslim-American president, all without subjecting themselves to universal condemnation. The most surprising part of the latest Trump story is that it proves a Republican candidate can take Islamophobia too far for his party’s tastes.

For most liberals, and for the Trump-backing or Trump-curious segments of the right, the Trump phenomenon needs little further explanation. The only people who claim to be befuddled by the Trump phenomenon are officials on knife-edge in the party he leads.

On the left, the view that Republicans allowed the conservative grassroots to turn their party into a political action committee for white ressentiment has evolved over the years from an argument into a creed. Since at least 2012, liberals have been warning (at times mockingly, but never disingenuously) that by indulging and at times fanning the hostilities and procedural extremism of this part of their coalition, Republicans were letting expediency get the better of them.

When large swaths of the conservative movement resisted the notion that the GOP needed to widen its appeal to minorities, and could win by appealing to a broader base of whites, it was liberals who warned that these voters would drag the party into a racial abyss.

Trump is the fulfillment of that prophecy. Better than any Republican candidate in recent memory, he intuits the mood of the disaffected Republican electorate. Or rather, because he’s almost entirely uninterested in straddling party factions, he gives voice to their paranoia and racism without massaging it the way the pretenders to his lead do. It’s possible to imagine a more traditional politician, like Ted Cruz, taking up Trump’s mantle without ever making Reince Priebus or House Speaker Paul Ryan angry, but their platforms would look practically identical.

This is the main reason GOP protestations, five months after Trump reached the top of the polls, ring so hollow. Republicans behave as if Trump is both a self-contained phenomenon and a singular mouthpiece for the most important segment of their electorate. An unmetastasized malignancy and a vital organ, simultaneously. The former view serves to reassure the rest of the public (and GOP donors among them) that Trump is merely a passing fad—an unlovely figurehead for a perfectly lovely segment of the voting base. That once he’s gone, everything will return to normal.

But the former view is also facially incompatible with the latter. It’s why their condemnations of Trump are either half-hearted, or paired with some alternate, less overtly discrediting appeal to his fans. The modus operandi of second-tier candidates has been to tiptoe around Trump’s controversies, rather than create contrast with them. Even Ryan, who denounced Trump’s Monday comments in the most unambiguous terms, still pledged to support him should he win the Republican nomination.

The Republican National Committee developed its candidate pledge as a way to hem Trump in. The pledge has evolved into a symbol of the party’s commitment to keeping Trump’s fans in the fold. If Trump were to vanish suddenly, his supporters would either defect to an alternate poll leader over whom the party could better exert control, or else the remaining candidates would enter a race to the bottom to win their support.

And yet, while there’s something novel and fascinating about the pageant—the Republican House speaker rebuking his party’s presidential frontrunner; the fraying ties between Trumpistas and the rest of the party—the nature of the crisis is totally mundane to liberals. So common is it on the left to compare the Trump phenomenon (and the Sarah Palin phenomenon before it) to a Frankenstein’s monster, that the analysis has become trite.

To really shake things up—to raise new questions and provoke new thinking about conservative politics—the Republican Party would have to do something drastic like rescind the loyalty pledge as it pertains to Trump. Unless and until that happens, Trump is likely to continue shoring up support on the basis of increasingly grotesque views, and leave those of us who’ve been clear-eyed about it all along with nothing much to add.

 

By Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, December 9, 2015

December 10, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Liberals, Muslims | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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