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“This Joke’s Not Funny Anymore”: Donald Trump’s Talk Of Registering Muslims And Closing Mosques Is Deeply Un-American

Donald Trump is no longer funny.

For the last several months, the former reality TV star has provided comic relief as the front-runner in the Republican presidential field – especially if, like me, you have remained in the camp that believes that Trump is not going to be the GOP nominee, let alone president of the United States. Granted, his antics have been juvenile, offensive and reflected an unappealing seam in the national character, but his focus on dumb insults and general oafishness kept Trump’s pronouncements for the most part in the realm of clumsy diversion. As The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote yesterday, “Since so much of what Trump says is hot air, it’s tempting to dismiss all of it as mere rabble-rousing or showboating.”

But things have changed.

Trump’s rhetoric since last week’s Paris attacks has taken a dark turn and, as Greg Sargent writes in The Washington Post today, it’s spiraling downward: “[I]n the endless Trumpathon that the GOP primaries have become, every idea, no matter how startling at first hearing, must always be superseded, or Trumped, by a new, yuuuger idea.” So in a matter of days he went from entertaining the idea of shutting down houses of worship to saying that we have “absolutely no choice” but to do so; he doesn’t dismiss appalling notions like forcing certain religious groups to register or carry special religiously based identification. The fact that the religion in question is Islam is beside the point – this sort of targeting and discrimination is fundamentally un-American as is his apparent belief in “security” uber alles. (“Some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” he told Yahoo News this week – and surely the trains will run on time as well.)

Trump told Yahoo News that “certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy.” As my colleague Emily Arrowood noted this morning: “It can’t happen here used to be a warning that it really can if we’re not careful – not a campaign promise that it will.”

And Cassidy again:

Trump must know that his proposals don’t make sense, but he’s pushing on regardless. He has moved from rabble-rousing to demagoguery, or something even uglier. And this time, sadly, we have no option but to take him seriously.

I am deeply uncomfortable with comparisons to the Nazis. They are thrown around too lightly and inherently cheapen the sheer scope of the evil acts committed by Hitler and his henchmen. But that doesn’t give lesser nods to fascism a pass until they rise to Holocaust levels; and this talk of religious registration and identification flirts with fascism in a way that should be deeply upsetting to Americans of all political stripes.

Trump should explain himself – let him hoist himself on his own petard. And every other candidate in the race should be put on the record as to whether they’re with the GOP’s unhinged front-runner or with basic American values of liberty and justice for all.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U. S. News and World Report, November 20, 2015

November 21, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“The GOP Has A Lot Of Rotten People In It”: The Right’s Turn Away From Representative Government

Of all the unhealthy developments in this country, I think the following is the most depressing:

As partisan divisions solidify, the [Democratic] party’s electoral chances increasingly depend on turning out its core supporters—racial minorities, young voters and unmarried women, among others. That’s much of the reason for the big drop in the party’s recent performances in midterm cycles compared to presidential years.

It’s a reality the GOP understands just as well—hence the party’s efforts to make voting harder. As DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee put it while speaking to reporters in March, Republicans “know that when the electorate is large, they lose, when the electorate is smaller, they win.”

In announcing the Arbor Project, the Democrats are demonstrating their focus on increasing voter participation. This is certainly in their self-interest, but it’s also wholly consistent with traditional American values about both the right of everyone to vote and the importance of citizen involvement in politics. There is no corresponding effort to prevent likely Republican voters from registering to vote or to kick registered Republicans off the voter rolls.

The Republicans have concluded, as Mo Elleithee said, that the path to electoral victory isn’t to craft the better campaign or come up with the most broadly appealing policies, but to control the shape of the electorate by making it smaller. This puts their entire political party at odds with the cherished ideals of representative government. It also has an inevitable racial component, since the best visual predictor of how someone will vote is the color of their skin.

Part of this is explained by the fact that the GOP has a lot of rotten people in it, but I understand that if you are socially or fiscally conservative you want to have your views prevail, and if your views aren’t prevailing you’ll begin to devalue other objectives like determining the true will of the people. If everything I cared about was at risk because my party couldn’t win elections, I might start to waver on this whole democracy thing, too.

I understand that it’s easy to be for the broadest possible electorate when that clearly advances your political goals, and that it becomes hard when it doesn’t. But what’s so depressing about this is that this country has sorted itself into a political alignment where one party sees disenfranchisement and disengagement as their best hope.

I also see this as a consequence of the Conservative Movement’s fervent desire not to have to change their core beliefs about anything. They don’t want to moderate their positions on gay marriage or abortion or immigration, and as those positions become giant liabilities they feel that their only option is to turn against individual voters and try to keep them from casting their votes.

This is related to all the calls for secession, for example, in the rural areas of Colorado and California. It’s really taking on an ugly tone, with expressions of racism and xenophobia combined with a growing disdain for our democratic system of government. When you combine it with the libertarian strain in the GOP, it really begins to resemble fascism, because it’s nationalistic, race-based, often pro-corporate (although it has populist anti-corporate elements, too), anti-immigrant, and basically revolutionary in its opposition to the central government. Add in the attraction to pseudoscience and “creating their own facts,” its basic anti-intellectualism, its source of strength with the “job-creating” small entrepreneurs (anti-communist bourgeoisie) and you begin to see too many parallels with the fascists of old.

Admittedly, it more closely resembles the fascism of Franco or Mussolini than the death-camp fascism of the Nazis, but it’s a strain of politics that had to be destroyed once at great cost. And it’s growing right here in our neighborhoods and metastasizing throughout our legislatures.

 

By: Martin Longman, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 8, 2014

June 9, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Liberal Fascism” And Other Rightist Deceptions: The Republican Tyranny Of Cliches

It turns out that for $50 and the time it takes to fill out an application you too can be a Pulitzer Prize Award nominee. Well, actually, you can’t. All you really get for your 50 bucks is the right to call yourself a Pulitzer Prize “entrant.”

But that hasn’t stopped conservative blogger and book author Jonah Goldberg (last year’s #7 on Alex Pareene’s popular Salon “Hack List”) from falsely claiming on the dust jackets of his last two books that he’d “twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize” — until his faux honorific was exposed as (to use Pareene’s words) the “utter bullshit” it was.

According to Bill Dedman who writes for msnbc.com, when Goldberg’s “résumé inflation” was first pointed out to him, Goldberg claimed he hadn’t meant to mislead anyone and later had it removed from his National Review Online bio.

Goldberg’s publisher, Penguin Group (USA), said the error was unintentional and promised to also remove the Pulitzer reference from future reprints just as it would “any other innocent mistake brought to our attention,” reports Dedman.

I know a Pulitzer Prize winner. I work with a Pulitzer Prize winner. A Pulitzer Prize winner is a friend of mine. And you, Jonah Goldberg, are no Pulitzer Prize winner — nor even a “nominated finalist,” only three of whom are chosen in each category by Pulitzer juries out of the thousands of wanabees just like you.

But I am not surprised Goldberg would twist the meaning of words to artificially enhance his standing or the interests of those he serves since twisting words and ideas is what Goldberg does for a living. It’s why he has a job at all in the conservative movement.

Pareene calls Goldberg “a uniquely pathetic figure in contemporary conservative thought,” who wants to be taken seriously as an intellectual but is “the world’s laziest thinker.”

But to me, the National Review Online editor-at-large is a reverse barometer of everything that makes right wing conservatives most nervous about themselves.

Four years ago, when charges of actual fascism against conservatives were hitting just a little too close to home as Tea Party Republicans were veering sharply to the far right, Goldberg achieved bestseller status while throwing pursuers off the scent with his laughable, if lucrative, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. It’s a book that left many puzzled reviewers wondering: “Secret History? Why secret?”

So, to judge by Goldberg’s most recent literary effort — A Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas – conservatives must be worried Americans are starting to take to heart what scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein recently said about them: “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”

We’re likely to see much more of this sort of thing moving forward as conservatives commission people like Goldberg to attack liberals for whatever is worst in themselves in a classic expression of “I am rubber and you are glue” projection.

But the hard truth is that liberals who believe in democracy will always be at a disadvantage against conservatives who don’t because, while respect for opponents and openness to their dissenting points of view is a defining quality of the liberal worldview, conformity to orthodoxy is at the core of the conservative one. And the strangulating rigidity only gets worse the further conservatives move to the right.

What makes neo-conservatives in particular such formidable opponents is that most of their intellectual (and genetic) forbearers began their political careers on the totalitarian left and never really abandoned its thuggish, anything goes ways in pursuit of a one-party monopoly of power — even when the one-party state they hoped to create was a rightist one.

And one of the worst offenders is the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer.

Take Krauthammer’s column just this week in which he calls President Obama a “divider-in-chief” running a “slice-and-dice” campaign.

Kruathammer’s specific complaint is the fear-mongering he accuses the President of waging whenever Obama charges Paul Ryan of wanting to cut Pell Grants by $1,000 per student, which the Ayn Rand devotee does in a House budget he calls “Pathway to Prosperity.”

The President arrived at the $1,000 figure by taking Ryan’s total non-defense discretionary cuts and applying them evenly across the board to all existing programs. Ryan says that’s not true but refuses to say why or specify how much he does intend to cut individual programs.

While Ryan keeps those cuts close to the vest so he doesn’t have to pay the political price of defending them, Krauthammer helpfully steps in to call Obama a liar for attacks against Ryan that Krauthammer says are a dishonest “fabrication” meant to be nothing more than “a great applause line.”

But as Greg Sargent points out, the White House has openly admitted it is making assumptions about Ryan’s budget in the absence of details Ryan won’t provide himself.

“Ryan wins conservative adulation from the likes of Krauthammer for his pose as a deficit scourge, even though he isn’t detailing the actual consequences of his proposed deficit reduction policies in any meaningful way,” says Sargent. “And anyone who even tries to game out the consequences of Ryan’s plan gets attacked for inventing them out of thin air. Neat trick, eh?”

There’s a reason for all this secrecy, says Sargent. “If Ryan were to spell out the consequences of his vision in any meaningful detail, it would be deeply unpopular. Similarly, any reasonable assumptions about what his vision would mean in the real world also risk making it deeply unpopular. So they must be attacked as fabrications. This is worse than a shell game. It’s a shell game without the pea.”

The Ryan Budget is a variation of the supply-side “voodoo” economics that Republicans sold to a gullible public 30 years ago. Back then, the idea that tax cuts for the rich paid for themselves allowed Republicans to cut those taxes without facing political heat from liberals for cutting popular programs or incurring the ire of traditional, green eye-shade conservatives like David Stockman, who worship God, Country and Balanced Budgets in that order.

Conservatives always knew supply-side economics was a hoax and said so privately to one another. But they understood the political value of painless tax cuts a generation ago just as today Paul Ryan understands the value of massive budget cuts to popular programs — with details To Be Named Later.

Going further, Krauthammer says Obama’s criticism of Ryan’s dishonest budget “makes a mockery” of the President’s “pose as the great transcender, uniter, healer of divisions.”

It’s touching that Krauthammer cares so much about unity considering that the Republican Party he defends is the most conservative it’s been in a century. And as Robert Draper points out in his new book on the Tea Party Republican House, conservatives were meeting the very day Barack Obama put his hand on the Bible to become America’s 44th President in order to plot not only how Republicans could win back political power but also how they could put a grinding halt to the entire Obama legislative agenda before it even got off the ground.

For the minority Republican Party that had lost the two previous national elections, “bipartisanship” meant a liberal Democratic President governing as a right wing Republican — or not at all.

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes one Republican Congressman saying at that first strategy meeting on Inauguration Day 2009. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

As Jamelle Bouie at American Prospect explains: “In other words, there was nothing President Obama could have done to build common ground with Republicans. From the beginning, the plan was to relentlessly obstruct Obama, regardless of whether that was good for the country. The GOP’s high-minded rhetoric of compromise and bipartisanship was bunk.”

Krauthammer uses words like “divider” and “divisive” cynically like the Bolshevik-style propagandist that he is in order to score a few cheap political points not illuminate a political truth.

For the true-believing right winger, “divisiveness” on the part of adversaries is merely the mirror image of the rigid “conformity” to conservative orthodoxy which the right wing worldview demands.

And isn’t that what Krauthammer really means when he accuses Obama of hypocrisy in not finding greater unity with a party for whom the only possible unity is the one that demands abject capitulation and unconditional surrender from all those outside the Republican Party itself?

 

By: Ted Frier, Open Salon, Salon.com, May 11, 2012

May 12, 2012 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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