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“The Ugly Truths America Hides From Itself”: ‘Roots’ Kindles In Us The Courage To Confront The History That Made Us

Everything was different, the day after.

If you are a child of the millennium, if you’ve never known a world without 500 networks, it may be difficult for you to get this. You might find it hard to appreciate how it was when there were only three networks and no DVR nor even VCR, so that one major TV program sometimes became a communal event, a thing experienced by everybody everywhere at the same time.

So it was on a Sunday night, the 23rd of January, in 1977. I was a senior at the University of Southern California, working part time at the campus bookstore. When I went to work the next day, you could feel that something had shifted. Your black friends simmered like a pot left too long on the stove. Your white friends tiptoed past you like an unexploded bomb.

We had all watched the first episode of “Roots,” had all seen the Mandinka boy Kunta Kinte grow to the cusp of manhood, had all borne witness as he was chained like an animal and stolen away from everything he had ever known. Now we no longer knew how to talk to one another.

I had a friend, a white guy named Dave Weitzel. Ordinarily, we spent much of our shift goofing on each other the way you do when you’re 19 or so and nothing is all that serious. But on that day after, the space between us was filled with an awkward silence.

Finally, Dave approached me. “I’m sorry,” he said, simply. “I didn’t know.”

It is highly unlikely the new version of “Roots,” airing this week on the A&E television networks, will be the phenomenon the original was. There are, putting it mildly, more than three networks now and, with the exception of the Super Bowl, we no longer have communal television events.

But the new show will be a success if it simply kindles in us the courage to confront and confess the history that has made us. I didn’t know much about that in 1977. Sixteen years of education, including four at one of the nation’s finest universities, had taught me all about the Smoot-Hawley tariff, but next to nothing about how a boy could be kidnapped, chained in the fetid hold of a ship, and delivered to a far shore as property.

As a result, I had only a vague sense of bad things having happened to black people in the terrible long ago. It stirred a sense of having been cheated somehow, left holding a bad check somehow, but I didn’t really know how or why.

I was as ignorant as Dave.

Small wonder. The history “Roots” represents embarrasses our national mythology. As a result, it has never been taught with any consistency. Even when we ostensibly spotlight black history in February, we concentrate on the achievements of black strivers — never the American hell they strove against. So you hear all about the dozens of uses George Washington Carver found for a peanut, but nothing about Mary Turner’s newborn, stomped to death by a white man in a lynch mob.

We don’t know what to do with those stories, so we ignore them, hoping that time, like a tide, will bear them away. But invariably, they wash up instead in mass incarceration, mass discrimination and the souls of kids who know their lives are shaped by bad things from long ago, even if they can’t always say how.

Almost 40 years later, I’m embarrassed by the righteous vindication I got from Dave’s apology. Dave Weitzel, the individual man, had not done anything to me. But like me, he had never been given the tools to face the ugly truths America hides from itself, had never been taught how to have the conversation.

So we had only his shame and my anger. Had we managed to push through those things, we might have found common humanity on the other side. But we couldn’t do that because we didn’t know how.

Indeed, as best I can recall, we never talked about it again.

 

By:Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 29, 2016

May 30, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, American History, Roots | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Souring On Their Own Party”: America Hasn’t Disliked The Republican Party This Much Since 1992

A shocking new poll suggests that Donald Trump may actually be hurting the image of the Republican Party. While most assumed that the GOP’s embrace of an openly misogynistic, proudly ignorant pseudo-fascist would improve the party’s standing with minority voters and millennials, Pew Research’s latest survey finds that Republicans’ unfavorable rating is now 62 percent — the highest it’s been in more than two decades.

Back in October, Pew found 37 percent of the country viewed the GOP favorably, while 58 percent saw it in a negative light. Today, those numbers are 33 and 62, respectively. That downturn is driven almost entirely by Republicans souring on their own party: In the current poll, 68 percent of red America views the GOP favorably, down from 79 percent last fall.

Trump is doubtlessly responsible for much of that dip. The GOP front-runner has alienated Republicans who don’t like menstruation jokes and anti-trade populism, while simultaneously encouraging those who do like those things to see the party as a corrupt institution hell-bent on defying their will.

Meanwhile, 61 percent of Hispanics and 79 percent of African-Americans have a negative view of the Party of Lincoln, while majorities in both groups approve of Democrats. Even white people are losing their taste for elephant, with 58 percent giving the GOP a thumbs-down. The party’s friendliest audience is whites without college degrees — and 52 percent of them don’t like Republicans.

America isn’t crazy about Democrats either. Half of the country views Team Blue unfavorably, while 45 percent approve. And a full quarter of the American public says, “A pox on both their houses.”

Still, Republicans are in a much worse place than their friends across the aisle. The last time 62 percent of the country disliked the GOP was 1992. Oddly enough, that was also the last time a (non-incumbent) Democrat named Clinton won the White House.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 28, 2016

April 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Republican Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Uber Drivers And E-Cigarette Users”: Grover Norquist’s Plan To Stop Hillary…Seriously

Over the last few years there has been a lot of discussion about the Rising American Electorate (unmarried women, millennials and people of color) that Barack Obama tapped into in order to win two presidential elections. Back in November, Stan Greenberg cautioned that these voters weren’t being engaged in the 2016 election. But in a more recent poll, he found that things had changed.

The disengagement pall has been lifted. Our focus groups with white unmarried women, millennials and African Americans showed a new consciousness about the stakes in November. In this poll, the percentage of Democrats giving the highest level of engagement has increased 10 points.

The result is that the country might be heading for an earthquake election in November.

Rather than embrace the recommendations of the RNC autopsy report following the 2012 presidential election, the response of Republicans has typically been to drill down on the idea that there are millions of white voters they can tap into who didn’t show up to vote for Mitt Romney. But even Sean Trende, whose original article spurred that discussion, says that there aren’t enough missing white voters available to swing an election.

Into this breach comes Grover Norquist with…what can I say…a “creative” solution. He has identified six new voting blocs that have developed over the last 30 years that won’t want Hillary Clinton in the White House. Between the lines, his contention is that she is just so out of touch with what is happening in the world that she’s missed them.

Either this revelation is so ground-breaking that no one in the political world is as in-touch as Norquist, or it’s a load of huey put out by someone who is desperately grasping at straws rather than face the fact that his predictions about a “permanent Republican majority” are drowning in a bathtub.

Here are Norquist’s six voting blocks that will challenge the Rising American Electorate:

1. Home schoolers
2. Charter school supporters
3. Concealed-carry permit holders
4. Fracking workers
5. Users of e-cigarettes and vapor products
6. Uber drivers

I kid you not! Those are the voting blocs Grover Norquist said the Republicans can tap into in order to stop Clinton in November. We could spend some time deconstructing each one. But that would give this nonsense from Norquist more attention than it deserves. I merely point this out in order to show how vacuous Republican attempts are these days to deal with the fact that they are in the midst of alienating large swaths of the American electorate. If the best they’ve got to combat that reality is mobilizing people like e-cigarrette users, you know they’re in big trouble.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 11, 2016

April 13, 2016 Posted by | Electorate, Grover Norquist, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why Trump Won’t Win”: The Demographics Do Not Look Good For Him In A General Election Campaign

Shortly after Donald J. Trump announced for president, I published a blog post on these pages entitled “No Filter and No Chance.” This was followed by a number of pieces lamenting the surprising lack of substance evident in his campaign, the out of control ego and the sad descent into outrageous, violent, racist, sexist comments repeated with abandon. I, like many others, had predicted his downfall. Hmm, brilliant, right?

But now it is more clear than ever that Trump has all the makings of a George Wallace candidacy, only with less experience in government.

So how could this nasty, vitriolic blowhard become president of the United States?

According to Stephen Moore, the conservative writer, here is how he does it: “Trump is remaking the GOP into a populist/reform party of working class/evangelical and entrepreneurial class voters.” And Pat Buchanan writes: “A Trump campaign across the industrial Midwest, Pennsylvania and New Jersey featuring attacks on Hillary Clinton’s support for NAFTA the WTO, MFN for China – and her backing of amnesty and citizenship for illegal immigrants, and for the Iraq and Libyan debacles – is a winning hand.”

Thus, the bottom line for the Trump trumpeters is that he mobilizes large numbers of new voters who are angry and fed up with Washington, pulls in the Reagan working-class Democrats and independents, and carries states that have voted Democratic over the last 25 years.

There are several problems with this analysis.

First and foremost, Trump is not a candidate who is appealing to the majority of Americans – 67 percent can’t see themselves voting for him in November, according to a March NBC/WSJ poll. He has a 25 percent positive rating and a 64 percent negative rating and is trailing Hillary Clinton by 13 points and Bernie Sanders by 18. (This was before the Clinton sweep of five primary states on March 15.)

Furthermore, 43 percent of Republicans believe he will be harmful to their party; 27 percent of all voters feel Trump’s version of change for the country would be right and a full 52 percent believe it would be wrong.

And even before most of the violence at the Trump rallies and the latest Trump rhetoric, 50 percent believe “Trump’s comments are frequently insulting and he has the wrong approach to the issues.” Only 18 percent believe Trump “tells it like it is and has the right approach on many issues.”

My guess is that these numbers are not going to get better as the campaign progresses but will only get worse for Trump. This is not a zebra who will change his stripes – if anything, the numbers will become more pronounced. Can you imagine the recording of Trump from Howard Stern’s radio show turned into political advertisements? More and more examples of his inconsistencies and outright falsehoods? His complete and total lack of knowledge about policy and failure to articulate issue positions?

He is also outright dangerous. Is this the person Americans want two feet from the nuclear codes?

Many of Trump’s supporters are arguing that he will bring to the polls millions of new voters – basically angry white males. Data on this is very sketchy given where we are in the primaries. There has not been a huge surge in voter registration beyond normal numbers and there is some evidence that turnout models may, in fact, hurt Trump and the Republicans, as Robert Schlesinger argues so persuasively in this space.

Here is a run-down of Trump’s problems:

Hispanics: Washington Post polling shows 80 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump. Romney got 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, Trump will be lucky to reach the upper teens. According to Pew, 48 percent of Hispanics voted in 2012 and more than 1.4 million new registrations have been recorded since 2008. Clearly, the number of Hispanic voters will only continue to grow. You better believe that turnout in 2016 will be closer to the mid-60 range for whites and blacks, not the upper 40s of the past.

African-Americans: It may be difficult to match the Obama numbers but given Trump’s treatment of blacks at his rallies and his talk of “political correctness,” it will be close.

Women: Of course, women will be a majority of the electorate in 2016. Trump’s problems with them, I believe, are just beginning. The more women see of him, hear of his past statements, view the treatment of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and others, the more they will be turned off by his antics. Never mind his position on issues affecting women, which will be highlighted and are of grave concern.

Millennials and younger voters: Sen. Bernie Sanders may have excited them, but it is hard to believe they will sit on their hands if Trump is the nominee against Hillary Clinton. Voters in this age group are growing fast and flexing their political muscle.

Educated voters: This is a serious problem for Trump. Turnout for people with advanced degrees is over 80 percent: about 75 percent for those with bachelors degrees, 64 percent for those with some college, a bit over 50 percent for those who are high school grads and less than 40 percent for those without a high school degree. Trump’s strength right now is with less-educated voters. The big question is: Can he put together an organization that produces a sea change in registering and bringing to the polls the less educated, non-voters? There’s not much evidence yet that he can.

Finally, as we all know, the electorate is more diverse with each passing year. Close to 30 percent of 2016 voters will be non-white. Given the failure of the Republican Party, and particularly Donald Trump, to appeal to those voters, this is a serious problem. The current and future demographics do not bode well for a Trump or any other candidate who fails to appeal to all of America.

It is still possible that Trump will not be the nominee, but most Republicans who are worried about their party are looking right now at a train wreck come November. And maybe for years down the tracks. Unless things change, 2016 could make the Johnson-Goldwater election of 1964 look like a nail biter.

 

By: Peter Fenn, Head, Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, March 21, 2016

March 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, George Wallace, GOP | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bernie Sanders’s New Plans To Win The Nomination”: Convince The Corrupt Establishment That He’s Their Man

After a less-than-super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders’s campaign faces a virtually insurmountable deficit in pledged delegates. With her blowout wins in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio — and narrow victories in Illinois and Missouri — Clinton could lose the vast majority of remaining states and still earn the nomination. But to keep his political revolution churning as the primary shifts to friendlier pastures, Sanders needs to offer his supporters and donors some vision for how a come-from-behind win could come about.

The best one his campaign has come up with is … not great. According to Politico, Sanders’s plan is to get as close in the race for pledged delegates as possible, and then convince the very Establishment that he’s been disparaging for months to override the consensus of voters and throw the primary to a socialist insurgent.

“The arguments that we’re going to muster are going to be based on a series of facts,” Sanders campaign manager Tad Devine told Politico (emphasis ours). “People will look at different measures: How many votes did you get? How many delegates did you win? How many states did you win? But it’s really about momentum.”

The Sanders campaign is not explicitly calling for superdelegates to negate the democratic will — a notion that it recently condemned. But Devine’s emphasis on momentum implies as much. Sanders has little chance of overcoming the delegate advantage that Clinton wracked up in her southern landslides, but he has a decent shot of winning more states than the front-runner between now and the nomination. Which is why, in Devine’s view, “it’s really about momentum.”

It seems doubtful that Sanders has genuine faith in this cockamamie scheme. The superdelegate system pretty much exists to prevent the nomination of someone like Sanders, a socialist insurgent looking to chase the money lenders from the Democratic temple.

Most likely, his campaign is merely looking for any narrative that can keep its supporters mobilized from here to the convention. Even if Sanders isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee, his political revolution has plenty to gain in collecting as many delegates as it possibly can. Sanders’s surprising strength in the race thus far — and, in particular, his dominance among millennial voters — has led many pundits to predict that his social-democratic vision represents the future of the Democratic Party. The next month of primary contests looks like the most Sanders-friendly stretch of the race thus far. According to FiveThirtyEight’s demographic projections, Sanders is favored to win seven of the next eight primaries or caucuses. If Sanders wishes to demonstrate the broad appeal of his ideology, there’s little sense in dropping out with those potential victories still on the table. Thanks to his campaign’s incredible fund-raising apparatus, the democratic socialist should have plenty of cash to keep fighting, even if donations slow down in the wake of last night’s losses.

Sanders is not going to convince the Democratic Party’s elders to back the candidate with fewer pledged delegates and Establishment connections. But suggesting that such a thing might be possible will allow him to send a louder message to the party’s younger politicians and operatives: Economic populism works. Clinton, for one, seems to have heard that message quite clearly.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 16, 2016

March 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Establishment, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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