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“Eradicate The Inequality And Anger”: If You Want To Beat Donald Trump, You Have To Do More Than Call Him A Fascist

The American political establishment, from the Democratic Party elite to their Republican counterparts, have discovered something alarming. There is now wide agreement that Donald Trump is a gigantic bigot and at least a quasi-fascist. He has been described as such by many ideologically diverse politicians and commentators, from the liberal Martin O’Malley to the conservative Max Boot.

And it hasn’t dented his support at all. On the contrary, Trump has surged ever higher in the polls.

As Matt Yglesias argues, Trumpism is the natural result of conservative political strategy. Republicans refuse to accept immigration reform — even though it could potentially help them make inroads among Latinos. They have also long refused to promulgate any economic policy that isn’t preposterously slanted towards the rich. Their only political road left is turning out lower-class whites — a not insignificant number of whom are outright racists — with rank race- and Muslim-baiting. As Ta-Nehisi Coates once wrote, race hustling — “profiting from their most backward impulses…stoking and then leeching off of their hate” — has a long history in American politics. As Greg Sargent points out, the rest of the GOP field, and particularly Ted Cruz, is only slightly behind Trump in anti-Islam fear-mongering.

Trump is obliterating the GOP brand among Latinos. Other minority groups who might have a natural affinity for conservative policy — ironically, including American Muslims, who are generally well-off and broke for Bush in 2000 — will be repelled by the perception that the GOP is the party of racists. Any such damage to the Republican image will be extremely hard to undo, so there will be continual temptation to go all in on the politics of racism.

Demonstrating the bigotry of Trumpism is a worthy and necessary task. Condemning Trump as the rebirth of Mussolini (as I have done), or attacking his supporters as unpatriotic, is worthwhile. But it’s not enough.

It’s time for liberals to start thinking about what to do against a political opponent that openly subscribes to bigotry. It’s time to start building anti-fascist political institutions. I fear that calling Trump a fascist will make no dent at all in the Trump phenomenon. Left-leaning Americans need to start thinking about building the brute political muscle to beat him.

What does that mean? Namely, that only a broad-based political movement, aimed at providing jobs and economic security for every American of every race, can permanently defeat what Trump represents.

That means politically activating the people who are the recipients of Democratic policy but do not vote (particularly the poor). One of the most devastating lines I’ve heard in American politics comes from a Republican political advisor in Kentucky: “People on Medicaid don’t vote.” That is part of why Matt Bevin was able to cruise to easy victory in that state after having promised to snatch health insurance from hundreds of thousands of people.

Unions should take the lead. Organizing is flaring up in food and service industries, contributing to small policy successes such as a $15 minimum wage at the city level. A small fraction of VW workers at a Chattanooga plant recently got union representation — the first United Auto Workers victory at any foreign-operated firm. Further organizing is desperately needed, and Democrats who know what’s good for them should immediately pass pro-union legislation such as card check or a repeal of Taft-Hartley the second they get a chance.

Churches also play an underrated role in left-leaning politics. Though regular church attendance is generally correlated with more conservative politics, fully 40 percent of people who attend church weekly still voted Democratic in 2004 (and 49 percent of white Catholics). As Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig points out, the teachings of Jesus Christ are highly amenable to a left-leaning interpretation.

Other parties could also be built up, particularly in insanely corrupt blue states like Illinois or New Jersey. The sad truth is that the Democrats — the party of Andrew Cuomo, Hillary Clinton, and Rahm Emanuel — are not a particularly great vehicle for the sort of policy that would actually benefit unions or the poor. The Working Families Party has had limited success shifting the balance of power in New York politics; more could be done.

Other experiments, such as Jacobin‘s reading group network, or perhaps a revitalization of tired online organizational models from the Bush years, ought to be tried or expanded.

Inequality in America is enormous. For the first time since the ’60s, at least a majority of Americans are not in the middle class. This is another way of saying that society has largely ceased to function for great swathes of the population. That, I believe, is a big root cause behind the rise of Trumpism. Anger and hatred — powerful political motivators indeed — fester under such conditions. To beat Trump, we can’t just call him a fascist. We have to build the movement and institutions that will eradicate the inequality and anger in which fascism thrives.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, December 11, 2015

December 16, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Donald Trump, Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Just Hiding In The Weeds”: Why Ted Cruz Is Happy Hiding In Donald Trump’s Shadow

On Monday, a few hours before Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Ted Cruz was asked whether he expects Trump to come after him, now that one leading poll has the Texas senator ahead in the coveted early voting state of Iowa. “Listen, I like and respect Donald Trump,” said Cruz. “I continue to like and respect Donald Trump. While other candidates in this race have gone out of their way to throw rocks at him, to insult him, I have consistently declined to do so, and I have no intention of changing that now.”

True to his word, Cruz refused to join the pack of Republican hopefuls who piled onto the front-runner’s latest obscenity. At a press conference the following morning to announce a Senate bill barring the resettlement of Syrian refugees, Cruz appeared alongside Texas Governor Greg Abbott and continued to dance around the question of Trump’s naked racism, at one point commending the Donald for “focusing the American people’s attention” on the urgency of fending off foreign invaders. Pressed for a direct response to Trump’s ban on Muslims, Cruz finally conceded, “I do not agree with [Trump’s] proposal. I do not think it is the right solution.”

The right solution, you may be surprised to learn, is Cruz’s solution, which he just happened to introduce in the Senate the morning after Trump belched out his own. The modestly titled “Terrorist Refugee Infiltration Prevention Act” would substitute Trump’s blanket, possibly unconstitutional ban with a more targeted—and, in certain senses, crueler—three-year moratorium on the resettlement of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and any other country determined to contain “terrorist-controlled territory.” Where Trump’s answer is typically lacking in nuance, Cruz’s bill is designed to “focus very directly on the threat.” He’s casting it as the principled, measured alternative to a vaguely defined problem that both candidates insist exists.

“This is not about the Islamic faith,” Cruz explained to NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Wednesday. “It is about Islamism, which is a very different thing.” The conservatives Cruz is courting don’t appear to recognize the distinction, and it would be naive to think that Cruz isn’t perfectly aware of that. According to a new Bloomberg poll, two-thirds of likely Republican voters support Trump’s indiscriminate prohibition; one-third say it makes them more inclined to vote for him.

If Cruz truly wanted to set his intentions apart from Trump’s, he could start by refuting the white-supremacist propaganda Trump has pointed to as evidence that “Muslim” is indeed synonymous with “terrorist sympathizer.” But Cruz, the champion debater and seasoned appellate attorney, is careful to present his disagreement with Trump as rooted in policy, not premise. “That is not my view of how we should approach it,” Cruz told NPR. He’s happy to let voters decide what the “it” is.

Trump’s precipitous descent into outright fascism is widely considered to be a problem for the GOP—and in some ways it is. But for Cruz, never a party loyalist to begin with, it’s also created a unique opportunity to channel the energies of racial anxiety into a comparatively palatable, mainstream campaign for the presidency. A number of commentators have noted that Cruz is positioning himself to consolidate Trump’s support in the eventual event of his collapse—which, we keep being told, will be arriving any day now.

But the net, and more dangerous, effect of Cruz’s strategy is to legitimize the racism that informs Trump’s. Two weeks ago, Cruz was on the extreme end of a national debate over admitting people fleeing the ravages of countries the United States has made war on. By allowing Trump to “effectively outbid” him in the wake of the San Bernadino massacre, as NPR’s Inskeep put it, Cruz has come out looking relatively moderate and responsible in an entirely new discussion about whether the basis of U.S. policy should be overt xenophobia or implied xenophobia.

Each of the remaining Republican contenders is cognizant of the need to create rhetorical distance from Trump without disavowing the sentiments he’s churned up from below. Carly Fiorina called closing the borders to Muslims an “overreaction”—a euphemism that became a false equivalence when she compared it to President Obama’s “dangerous” underreaction to the supposed threat. Marco Rubio criticized the form of Trump’s comments but not their substance, saying only that Trump’s “habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together.” Jeb Bush, who supports imposing a religious test on the admission of refugees, called Trump “unhinged.” Ben Carson, who disagrees with Trump’s proposed ban because he does “not advocate being selective on one’s religion,” has previously stated that a Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to be president.

The other candidates may recognize the dilemma posed by the stubborn popularity of Trump’s ravings, but no one has been as deliberate, or effective, in incorporating the strains of white nationalism into their own overarching strategy as Cruz has. He’s hewed closely—but, critically, not too closely—to Trump’s noxious line on immigration and refugees, which Cruz frequently ties together with warnings of an impending invasion from the south. “Border security is national security,” he said in a statement on Sunday prior to President Obama’s address about terrorism and the San Bernadino shootings. “I will shut down the broken immigration system that is letting jihadists into our country,” he reiterated later.

So far, Trump’s flamboyant nativism has drawn all the scrutiny, leaving Cruz to concentrate on raising money and building out his ground game. He knows better than to openly embrace the most jarring of Trump’s flourishes, but he won’t attack them, either—and when others do, Cruz is right there holding the flank. President Obama sounds like a “condescending school marm lecturing the American people against Islamophobia,” Cruz told NPR’s Inskeep. At the last Republican debate, he invoked his Cuban-American heritage as a cover for the field’s more general shift in the direction of mass deportation and wall-building: “For those of us who believe people ought to come to this country legally, and we should enforce the law, we’re tired of being told it’s anti-immigrant. It’s offensive.” Two weeks later, campaigning on the road in Iowa alongside Representative Steve “Cantaloupe Calves” King of Iowa, perhaps the most aggressively ignorant anti-immigration crusader in Congress, Cruz assured reporters that “tone matters” when it comes to these issues.

In an effort to explain his latest step down the road to the internment camp, some have speculated that Trump is attempting to fend off Cruz’s surging poll numbers. If so, he misunderstands the nature of Cruz’s maneuvering, as well as the depth of Cruz’s patience. With each reflexive lurch toward a darker, more explicitly ugly politics, Trump draws more attention to himself but also clears more ideological space for Cruz. Lindsey Graham, who’s polling somewhere ahead of Louis Farrakhan in the race for the Republican nomination, told the Guardian, “It’s time for Ted Cruz to quit hiding in the weeds and speak out against Donald Trump’s xenophobia and racial bigotry.”

But Ted Cruz likes it in the weeds just fine. He’s made it this far trudging through the muck, and there’s no reason for him to change course anytime soon.

 

By: Steven Cohen, The New Republic, December 10, 2015

December 12, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Giving The People What They Want”: A Whack-A-Mole Of The Asinine And The Repugnant

“You got to give the people what they want.”
—O’Jays

Even by his standards, it was an astounding performance.

Over the course of just two days last weekend, Donald Trump spewed bigotry, venom and absurdity like a sewer pipe, spewed it with such utter disregard for decency and factuality that it was difficult to know what to criticize first.

Shall we condemn him for retweeting a racist graphic on Sunday filled with wildly inaccurate statistics from a nonexistent source (“Whites killed by blacks — 81 percent”)?

Or shall we hammer him for tacitly encouraging violence when an African-American protester was beaten up at a Trump rally in Birmingham on Saturday? “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” Trump told Fox “News.”

Shall we blast him for telling ABC on Sunday that he would bring back the thoroughly discredited practice of waterboarding — i.e., torturing — suspected terrorists?

Or shall we lambaste him for claiming — falsely — at the Birmingham rally that “thousands and thousands” of people in Jersey City, New Jersey, applauded the Sept. 11 attacks and reiterating it the next day, telling ABC that “a heavy Arab population … were cheering.”

Trump is a whack-a-mole of the asinine and the repugnant. Or, as a person dubbed “snarkin pie” noted on Twitter: “Basically, Trump is what would happen if the comments section became a human and ran for president.”

Not that that hurts his bid for the GOP nomination. A Washington Post/CNN poll finds Trump with a double-digit lead (32 percent to 22 percent) on his nearest rival, Ben Carson, who is his equal in nonsense, though not in volume. Meantime, establishment candidate Jeb Bush is on life support, mired in single digits.

And the party is panicking. In September, Bobby Jindal called Trump “a madman.” Two weeks ago came reports of an attempt to lure Mitt Romney into the race. Candidate Jim Gilmore and advisers to candidates Bush and Marco Rubio have dubbed Trump a fascist. Trump, complains the dwindling coven of grown-ups on the right, is doing serious damage to the Republican “brand.”

Which he is. But it is difficult to feel sorry for the GOP. After all, it has brought this upon itself.

Keeping the customer satisfied, giving the people what they want, is the fundament of sound business. More effectively than anyone in recent memory, Trump has transferred that principle to politics. Problem is, it turns out that what a large portion of the Republican faithful wants is racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, the validation of unrealistic fears and the promise of quick fixes to complex problems.

That’s hardly shocking. This is what the party establishment has trained them to want, what it has fed them for years. But it has done so in measured tones and coded language that preserved the fiction of deniability. Trump’s innovation is his increasingly-apparent lack of interest in deniability. Like other great demagogues — George Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Huey Long, Charles Coughlin — his appeal has been in the fact that he is blunt, unfiltered, anti-intellectual, full-throated and unapologetic. And one in three Republicans are eating it up like candy.

Mind you, this is after the so-called 2013 “autopsy” wherein the GOP cautioned itself to turn from its angry, monoracial appeal. Two years later, it doubles down on that appeal instead.

And though candidate Trump would be a disaster for the Republicans, he would also be one for the nation, effectively rendering ours a one-party system. But maybe that’s the wake-up call some of us require to end this dangerous flirtation with extremism.

“You got to give the people what they want,” says an old song. Truth is, sometimes it’s better if you don’t.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, November 30, 2015

December 1, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, GOP Base, Racism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“But Is It Too Late?”: The GOP Is Finally Emerging From Trump Denialism

The contours of the outsider-as-favorite Republican primary began to take shape this summer, when the candidates without establishment support, led by Donald Trump, consolidated half of the vote in national polls.

The news for GOP elites has grown consistently worse since then. And only now, as those contours stretch far enough to squeeze the establishment entirely out of contention, are the party faithful emerging from their state of Trump denial. They’re beginning to reckon publicly with the calamity of this campaign, and are grasping to reassert control over the process. The only questions now are whether they’re too late, and whether they can defeat Trumpism without acknowledging and atoning for their complicity in his ascent.

A few months ago, Trump and his fellow outsiders were a clear threat to the party, but it took several of them—Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina—to amass 50 percent support, with Trump contributing the lion’s share.

Today, they eclipse it easily. In some early-state polls, Trump and Ted Cruz alone enjoy the support of more than half of all likely voters, while the outsiders combined enjoy the support of more than two thirds of all respondents.

This presents the GOP with a new nightmare scenario. Earlier in the year, Republicans could take solace in the likelihood that the field of elected officials would winnow and that the party would coalesce around a single alternative to the insurgents as it did in 2008 and 2012. They were sure it would come down to a frontrunner against two or three formidable conservative challengers who were splitting the activist vote among themselves.

That winnowing hasn’t happened. And now, if and when it does, it’s conceivable that the combined forces of the party will only be able to marshal about one-third or less of the overall vote—not enough to guarantee victory even if Trump and Cruz battle it out beyond Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. And even that assumes supporters of candidates like Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie don’t defect to Cruz or Trump instead of Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.

Whether motivated by this particular analysis or not, party elites are snapping to attention. John Kasich’s SuperPAC is promising a multi-million-dollar anti-Trump blitz. A more concerted effort, spearheaded by GOP operative Liz Mair, is called Trump Card LLC, and operates on the premise that “unless something dramatic and unconventional is done, Trump will be the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton will become president.”

Prominent surrogates for leading candidates have embraced the notion, first propounded by liberals, that Trump is a “fascist.” But the principals they back won’t go near the term. Some, like Rubio and Cruz, won’t criticize Trump at all, and Cruz in particular is a Trump sycophant—“a big fan.” Which raises the question of whether a party that enables Trump and Trumpism can effectively root out either.

Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush aide who now writes an opinion column for the Washington Post, acknowledged that “Trump has, so far, set the terms of the primary debate and dragged other candidates in the direction of ethnic and religious exclusion. One effect has been the legitimization of even more extreme views—signaling that it is okay to give voice to sentiments and attitudes that, in previous times, people would have been too embarrassed to share in public.”

With the denial fading, Gerson asks, “Is it possible, and morally permissible, for economic and foreign policy conservatives, and for Republicans motivated by their faith, to share a coalition with the advocates of an increasingly raw and repugnant nativism?”

The answer appears to be “yes.” As much as they want Trump vanquished, the problem for the other Republicans in the field is that they’ve all pledged to back the GOP nominee, no matter who wins. John McCain, a man of the party who nevertheless agreed to place Sarah Palin in line for the presidency, says he will support Trump if faced with a choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

That’s not the Breitbart crew talking. It’s the RNC, the entire primary field, and one of the party’s most recent presidential nominees. Which is why when writers like National Review’s Kevin Williamson lay the blame for Trump’s ascent at the feet of conservative movement jesters Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, and shrug that nothing can be done—“as a matter of culture, Trump is—unhappily—right where a great many conservatives are: angry, sputtering, lashing out. Trump may not last; Trumpism will.”—it rings hollow.

As much as they’ve awakened to the threat that Trumpism poses to their party, Republicans and the conservative intelligentsia lack the self-awareness—or perhaps the temerity—to acknowledge that though they now resent it, they’ve been courting it all along.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, November 25, 2015

November 30, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Moses, Jesus And Louie”: The Confessing Church Of The Christian Right

Another day, another Louie Gohmert outrage, and another use of Nazi analogies by a Christian Right pol. Nothing to see here, right?

Well, there is one thing I’d like to point out in the context of Gohmert taking to the House floor to complain that gay rights advocates are behaving like Nazis in calling him and people like him “haters” (as reported by TPM’s Tom Kludt). Yes, part of the reason Christian Right types like to use Nazi analogies is that they seem so very apt to those who believe or claim to believe zygotes are exactly like you and me, and thus that legalized abortion (or even post-fertilization forms of birth control) represents a “Holocaust” unlike anything the world has seen since Hitler. But Gohmert’s Nazification of the argument over same-sex marriage puts the spotlight less on his tormenters than on himself and other brave defenders of traditional marriage.

It is amazing that in the name of liberality, in the name of being tolerant, this fascist intolerance has arisen. People that stand up and say, you know, I agree with the majority of Americans, I agree with Moses and Jesus that marriage was a man and a woman, now all of a sudden, people like me are considered haters, hate mongers, evil, which really is exactly what we’ve seen throughout our history as going back to the days of the Nazi takeover in Europe. What did they do? First, they would call people “haters” and “evil” and build up disdain for those people who held those opinions or religious views or religious heritage. And then the next came, well, those people are so evil and hateful, let’s bring every book that they’ve written or has to do with them and let’s start burning the books, because we can’t tolerate their intolerance.

Not even Gohmert is dumb enough to call marriage equality advocates “Nazis,” given, among other things, the murderous behavior of the actual Nazis towards gay people (they also violently opposed abortion, at least among Aryans, but that’s another matter). But what he really wants to do is to claim the mantle of the Confessing Church Christians who opposed the Nazis (hardly anything like a majority of Christians in Germany, BTW, particularly in the case of conservative Christians) out of fidelity to their faith.

This is an old habit in the Christian Right, and an ideal way to turn the tables and pose as conscience-wracked Here-I-Stand dissenters against power instead of defenders of patriarchy and privilege, and with them the enormous power of the status quo ante (or what Chesterton once called “the democracy of the dead”), a power that’s ruled daily life for millennia. Standing up for “your principles” is a lot more attractive than standing up for the day-before-yesterday and oppressing anyone who gets uppity. So of course you want to go there again and again, and if you are Louie Gohmert, why not? Nobody but those guilty of “fascist intolerance” will object.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 9, 2014

May 11, 2014 Posted by | Christian Right, Louie Gohmert | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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