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“The Johnson-Weld Ticket”: An Opportunity For #NeverTrump Republicans To Save Face

Let’s face it: the #NeverTrump movement is an admission of embarrassment on the part of veteran Republicans, an acknowledgment that the Southern Strategy was suicidal, a concession that as a result of fifty years of playing to ignorant fears, the GOP base is largely comprised of people who think the term “animal husbandry” refers to bestiality. You can’t blame these veteran Republicans for wanting to wash their hands of their creation–and you can’t blame them for seeking alternate political routes:

For some Massachusetts Republicans, the return of Bill Weld — the law-and-order Yankee who charmed his way into two terms as governor of a liberal state — is nothing short of face-saving.

Finally, they have a reason to show up on Election Day.

“I think for a lot of Republicans, especially in a state like Massachusetts, it gives us an option,” said Virginia Buckingham, a Republican who once worked as Weld’s chief of staff, and will vote for him this fall. “We were kind of in a difficult position facing voting for Donald Trump.”

Weld’s reemergence as a vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has been viewed largely as another curiosity in a crazy election cycle in which, it seems, anything might happen…

Although the #NeverTrump movement isn’t beating down their door, Johnson and Weld are reaching for voters disenchanted with Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In a Web ad launched last week, Johnson and Weld presented themselves as a “credible alternative to ClinTrump.”

I have previously suggested that it is not beyond possibility for the Johnson-Weld ticket to perform strongly enough in national polls to warrant inclusion in the presidential debates. If so, the symbolism will be powerful. Think about it:  Clinton, Johnson and Trump–a Democrat demonized for decades by the demagogues who dote on the Donald, an ex-Republican who was regarded as a RINO by the same twits who think Trump is terrific, and the Orange Goblin himself, the single most unqualified individual to ever secure a major American party’s nomination, the single most irrational figure in modern politics, a hero to haters, a Jesus to jerks.

I give Johnson credit for defying both Republican and Libertarian taboos in his July 1 appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (relevant segment runs from 3:02-5:15):

Other than former Cato Institute fellow Jerry Taylor, I have never heard anyone associated with libertarianism acknowledge that human-caused climate change is real. That’s progress. If Clinton and Johnson appear on the debate stage next to Trump and affirm that mainstream climate science is legitimate, and Trump reiterates his belief that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese government, climate hawks will be able to declare a moral victory, because the optics will not work in Trump’s favor.

The Johnson-Weld ticket is an option, and an opportunity, for veteran Republicans to save face. It will be interesting to see how many Republicans avail themselves of this option and this opportunity. Having said that, I hope Republicans who support this ticket at least have the decency to admit that men like Johnson and Weld were effectively forced out of the GOP because they were not blind ideologues, because they understood that some issues are not left or right, because they recognized that we’re all Americans first…because they were too nice, too civil, too human for the Trumpublican Party.

Clinton will be able to hold her own in a three-way debate with Johnson and Trump. She will also not hesitate to remind viewers that if the GOP had not gone grotesque, a man like Johnson–flawed but not foul, mistaken but not malicious, incorrect but not insane–would be the Republican nominee, and not a deacon of derangement like the Donald.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 10, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Johnson-Weld Ticket, Never Trump Movement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Exploitation Of White Resentment”: Donald Trump’s Ready-Made Constituency

There are competing narratives being discussed right now about what is driving the white male support for Donald Trump. Last weekend, David Atkins did a great job of articulating one of them.

In short, voters really are angry about the economy. They want greater security. They don’t want more jobs so much as they want answers for how their jobs are ever going to pay for the lifestyle and security they deserve. And they want justice and accountability against the people they believe have cheated them.

Another narrative about what is animating white male Trump supporters was recently described by Jamelle Bouie.

…we’ve been missing the most important catalyst in Trump’s rise. What caused this fire to burn out of control? The answer, I think, is Barack Obama.

Bouie goes on to suggest that, unlike the theories about this on the right, Obama has not implemented a radical political agenda. But there is something else at play.

We can’t say the same for Obama as a political symbol, however. In a nation shaped and defined by a rigid racial hierarchy, his election was very much a radical event, in which a man from one of the nation’s lowest castes ascended to the summit of its political landscape. And he did so with heavy support from minorities: Asian Americans and Latinos were an important part of Obama’s coalition, and black Americans turned out at their highest numbers ever in 2008…

For millions of white Americans who weren’t attuned to growing diversity and cosmopolitanism, however, Obama was a shock, a figure who appeared out of nowhere to dominate the country’s political life. And with talk of an “emerging Democratic majority,” he presaged a time when their votes—which had elected George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan—would no longer matter. More than simply “change,” Obama’s election felt like an inversion. When coupled with the broad decline in incomes and living standards caused by the Great Recession, it seemed to signal the end of a hierarchy that had always placed white Americans at the top, delivering status even when it couldn’t give material benefits.

In terms of the shock Barack Obama represented, I was reminded of something Jonathan Chait wrote after watching the movie 12 Years a Slave.

Notably, the most horrific torture depicted in 12 Years a Slave is set in motion when the protagonist, Solomon Northup, offers up to his master engineering knowledge he acquired as a free man, thereby showing up his enraged white overseer. It was precisely Northup’s calm, dignified competence in the scene that so enraged his oppressor. The social system embedded within slavery as depicted in the film is one that survived long past the Emancipation Proclamation – the one that resulted in the murder of Emmett Till a century after Northup published his autobiography. It’s a system in which the most unforgivable crime was for an African-American to presume himself an equal to — or, heaven forbid, better than — a white person.

Perhaps the specter of “calm, dignified competence” reminds you of someone. I have often said that freeing Black people from slavery and giving them civil rights were the first two challenges to the racism that was embedded in this country’s founding. But going from Black people as equals to Black people as leaders is the one Obama put on the table. Even a lot of people who don’t consider themselves to be racist have struggled with that one.

But we really don’t need to see the arguments made by Atkins and Bouie as opposing one another. That is because this country has a very long history of using racial resentment to exploit the economic anxieties of white working poor people. That is the basis on which the modern Republican Party was formed with the advent of the Southern Strategy. But it goes back much further than that. Tim Wise points out that it was the very reason for the development of the concept of “whiteness” in the late 1600’s to use racism as a way to divide and conquer.

Over this country’s history African Americans have gained their freedom from slavery, fought for equal rights, and even risen to positions of leadership. The one thing they can’t do is change the hearts and minds of white people who insist on blaming them for their insecurities. That is on us. Until that happens, the Donald Trumps of the world will have a ready-made constituency to exploit.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 12, 2016

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Trump Supporters, White Men | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Ignorance, Racism And Rage”: The GOP’s Transformation To The Party Of Stupid Started Long Before Donald Trump

The top leadership of the Republican Party expresses horror at the popularity of Donald Trump as though his positions and values are somehow alien from their own. This is disingenuous. As other commentators have observed, the presidential candidacy of the bigoted, misogynist, ignorant Trump is a creature of the party’s own making.

This Frankentrump was not fashioned in a mere eight years, however. The Obama administration suffered only from an acceleration of Republican partisanship, not a change in its character. Instead, the transformation of the Republican base from the conscience-driven party of Lincoln to the anger-driven party of Trump has been a half-century in the making.

No political party neatly reflects political philosophy, of course. Parties always aim to mobilize diverse — and therefore conflicting — constituencies in order to win. But the original Republican Party, formed in 1854 after the Democrat-sponsored Kansas-Nebraska Act overturned decades of federal policy against the spread of slavery, came close to embodying the political philosophy behind it. And the founding Republican philosophy was liberal.

Not liberal in the sense the term came to be used in the twentieth century, to signify commitment to the type of federal welfare policies enacted in the New Deal of the Democrats. Not liberal as either epithet or fixed policy commitment. And certainly not liberal as in morally loose.

To be liberal in the nineteenth century meant to be devoted to freedom of thought above all. Above tradition, the American liberals who helped found the Republican Party valued the freedom to choose what is right and the freedom to develop socially, intellectually, and morally toward the highest possible potential. This is why liberals favored public schools for all children, which started in Massachusetts in the 1830s and only got established in the South thanks to Reconstruction.

The liberal principle of “moral agency,” as they called this divine right and duty to choose, also lay behind Republican opposition to slavery. Slaves cannot choose if they are coerced by their so-called masters, and if slaves have no moral choices they cannot develop. The liberal moral ethic centered on independent, open-ended thinking, constructive dialogue across differences, and a belief in the divine potential of every human being. Even slaves.

“Liberty of conscience” is how the Republican Party platform of 1856 gestured to its liberal roots. The phrase came from old Protestant arguments over whether Christians are free to believe non-Calvinist ideas, but it developed secular, political uses over the nineteenth century and lay behind the opposition to the expansion of slavery for which Republicans originally stood. Lincoln stated the liberal faith most robustly, perhaps, at the end of his famous Cooper Union Address of 1860: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

This got the Republican Party boycotted in the (white) South, not only during the years of the Confederate rebellion but long after.

Most Republicans, including Lincoln, were unsure just how equal African Americans could be, but some Republicans in Congress favored complete civil equality for the former slaves and their descendants. They drove the first civil rights legislation, including the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery and providing the rights of voting and due process under the law regardless of race. The first African-American members of Congress were Republican.

The Democrats ran the party of white supremacy. Woodrow Wilson — the Virginian who segregated the federal government — knew how to keep the South in the Democratic fold. So did Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who allowed his New Deal policies to be administered in such discriminatory ways that one historian claims they amounted to affirmative action for whites.

The Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower is the leader who submitted civil-rights legislation to Congress to combat Jim Crow in 1957. It was Democrats in Congress who watered the bill down.

The partisan poles of the United States changed after the dramatic activism of the 1950s and early ‘60s prompted the Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sending white Southern and white working-class Democrats into Republican arms.

The Republican wooing of these voters took time and delicacy. Never did its strategists aim to become the party of blatant racism. Instead, they created concepts like the “moral majority,” “religious right,” “family values” and even color-blindness in order to attract white voters concerned about African-American socio-economic and political gains. And in so doing, they betrayed their moral roots in three ways.

First, Republicans allowed bigotry safe haven under the guise of morality, in the very name of morality, by broadcasting scary tales of black urban life as though it were proof of the irredeemable inferiority of African Americans. From the Southern Strategy of Nixon to the cynical electioneering of Lee Atwater, the campaign manager for George H. W. Bush, the line was straight. In 1981, Atwater explained that by 1968, the N-word repelled voters rather than attracting them, so he trained Republicans to “say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.” Reagan acted his part in disdaining welfare queens and “young bucks,” a phrase straight out of the antebellum South. In 1994, Charles Murray broadcast pseudo-scientific racism in “The Bell Curve” — amazingly, Murray is still in service today — arguing that so-called blacks simply are less intelligent and moral, if more athletic, than whites. Donald Trump’s retweets from white supremacist origins are consistent with this Republican precedent.

Second, the Republican Party adopted fixed positions on issues. The nineteenth-century liberal commitment to open-mindedness had meant that any position was only provisional, awaiting the testimony of further evidence or wider viewpoints for modification. For many decades now, the Republicans have insisted that lowering taxes, beefing up the military, and cutting social programs are what America needs. They oppose abortion because they need white evangelical voters, so Republican politicians claim that the resemblance of a fetus to a baby is more important than the resemblance of a criminal to a human being — Republicans favor the death penalty, after all, which they have to reconcile with their so-called pro-life conviction. Along comes Trump, calling for women who terminate their pregnancies to be punished.

Finally, the Republican Party has increasingly refused to engage in meaningful dialogue with its opponents. It has betrayed its origins in the culture of learning by attacking higher education in the United States — the colleges and universities all too liable to teach young people how to think critically — and by trying to privatize public education in the names of meritocracy and religious freedom. At the very least, Republican strategists have undermined public schoolteachers and pathologized urban schoolchildren. By deploying the language of culture wars, left versus right and liberal versus conservative, Republican strategists have fed a polarization allegedly too extreme to tolerate constructive dialogue toward consensus.

No wonder Frankentrump cannot even tolerate debate with his fellow Republican contenders for the nomination.

Since 2008, it seems that the top Republican leadership has realized that it must curry favor with voters other than white evangelicals, white workers and the moneyed elite. But it is too late for Trump’s enthusiasts to get the memo. Whenever thinkers concoct slogans, they produce culture. And the culture Republican strategists produced is decidedly illiberal.

To echo the words of Malcolm X in 1963, the Trump candidacy is as clear a case of chickens coming home to roost as ever history did see.

 

By: Amy Kittlestrom, serves on The Editorial Board of The Journal of American History; Associate Professor at Sonoma State University;  Salon, April 9, 2016

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Owns This Phenomenon”: Donald Trump Is Merely The Symptom. The Republican Party Itself Is The Disease

We no longer have to speculate whether fascism, in Sinclair Lewis’ famous words, would come to America wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. We already know what its beginnings look like in the form of Trump rallies, which are carrying an increasingly violent, overtly racist, authoritarian aura strongly reminiscent of the 1930s in Germany or Italy.

Those comparisons were once the province of liberal activists or traffic-seeking headline writers. No longer. The incipient racist violence has reached such a fever pitch that a Trump rally in Chicago had to be canceled entirely. It’s one thing to talk in theoretical or strictly political terms about Trump’s authoritarian behavior, his effect on the Republican Party generally or the potential feasibility of Trump’s policy proposals. But the influence of Trumpism on the country is already so obviously toxic and dangerous that it must be called out and mitigated before people start getting seriously hurt or killed.

That’s just the basic decency aspect. Politically, the Republican Party knows that it has to do something to separate itself from the wildfire of racially charged violence or else lose the votes of every minority constituency for a generation. It’s not just for temporary personal advantage that the other GOP presidential candidates are calling on Trump to act to mitigate the rabid passions of his flock. Those who still have careers to make in Republican politics know that this a point of no return for the entire party and every connected to it.

But try as they might, they will not be able to escape from Trumpism. Even if the Republican establishment does somehow manage to subdue Trump, another will likely come to take his place later on. The genie is out of the bottle, and hucksters of all kinds now realize that the populist GOP base can easily be cleaved from its corporatist handlers with enough brash promises of independence and open bigotry under the guise of truth-telling.

That’s not the fault of Donald Trump. It’s the fault of the GOP itself, for three main reasons.

First, the Republican Party abandoned the notion of shared truths and shared reality. They set up an alternative media empire and convinced their voters that every set of authorities from journalists to scientists were eggheaded liberals not to be trusted. They peddled conspiracy theories and contrafactual dogmas of all stripes–from the notion that climate scientists were all lying about global warming in order to get more grant money, to the notion that tax cuts for the rich grow the economy and pay for themselves. Their base became convinced that no one could be trusted except for the loudest and angriest voices who told them exactly what they wanted to hear. Fox News, talk radio and the Drudge Report became the only trusted media sources. But at a certain point those outlets stopped becoming the media arm of the Republican Party; instead, the Republican Party became the legislative arm of those media outlets. It should come as no surprise that when the Republican establishment seemed unable to deliver on its promises to their voters, conspiracy theory peddlers new and old from Breitbart to Drudge would turn on the establishment and convince the GOP masses that Fox News was the new CNN, just another liberal arm of the media not to be trusted.

Second is, of course, the Southern Strategy of exploiting racial resentment. That worked just fine for Republicans while whites were the dominant majority under no particular threat. It was a great way to win elections in much of the country while discounting voters who couldn’t do them much damage. As long as the rhetoric remained, in Lee Atwater’s words, “abstract” enough, the tensions created wouldn’t boil over into anything much more damaging than the slow, quiet destruction of generations of minority communities via legislatively enforced instituional racism. But as whites have become a smaller and smaller part of the electorate, that Southern Strategy has not only cost the GOP elections by throwing away the minority vote; it has also heightened the fears and tensions of the formerly dominant white voters it courts. What was once quiet and comfortable racism has become a loud and violent cry of angst. That, again, isn’t Donald Trump’s fault. It’s the Republican Party’s.

Third and most important is the effect of conservative economics. For decades laissez-faire objectivism has hurt mostly the poorest and least educated communities in America. Due mostly to institutional racism, those have tended in the past to be communities of color. The deregulated economy simply didn’t need their labor so it tossed them aside, leaving squalor and a host of social problems in its wake. This was convenient for those peddling racist theories, as it laid the blame for drug and family problems in those communities directly on the individuals involved–and by extension on their racial background.

But now a combination of globalization and automation, buoyed by intentional deregulatory corporatist policies, have rendered large swaths of white America also useless to the capitalist economic machine. And lo and behold, drug use, suicide and other social problems have followed in tow. Huge numbers of white Americans now find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty and despair once reserved for the minorities they despised, without even the psychic wage of perceived racial superiority to maintain their dignity. That, too, is a recipe for violent tension.

Don’t blame Donald Trump for any of this. He’s merely the symptom, not the disease. The Republican Party owns this phenomenon. Its media, economic and political strategies guaranteed Donald Trump’s rise. And they guarantee that regardless of Trump’s electoral success or failure, Trumpism will continue to dominate among their voters.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 12, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, GOP, Institutional Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Racism By Region”: Donald Trump And The Rise Of The New Dixiecrats

There is one man who might be able to beat Donald Trump. But it would involve amending the Constitution, exhuming former Alabama governor George Wallace and re-constituting his ashes.

The current Republican frontrunner has been able to accomplish something that Wallace, in his living days, could not. In the months since Trump announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination, he has singlehandedly built a bipartisan, largely white coalition of conservatives who are attracted to his nativist brand of economic populism. For them, the fine details of actual policy proposals appear to be less important than the notion that Trump is the one who can take their country back.

Much like Wallace—who was a Democrat—and despite his inconsistencies on the issues, Trump has tapped into a reservoir of resentment. He gives voice to the grievances of his supporters in a way that no other viable candidate for national office arguably has or can. As Trump continues to intensify his rhetoric, he has revealed deep fissures between the Republican establishment and the party’s grassroots. But his support does not stop at the water’s edge.

Those measuring Trump’s electoral “ceiling” should look again. There was certainly a ceiling on how much support Wallace received nationally. And, without a doubt, there is a cap on how high Trump’s stock will rise. But Trump is getting some unanticipated help—from Democrats.

Feasting on a public mood that is strikingly similar to what fueled Wallace, backing for the billionaire businessman has crossed the partisan aisle. The Trump voter is buoyed by his proclamations that he can “make America great again.” One constant refrain is that he “tells it like it is,” a thinly veiled reference to the way Trump eschews politically correct speech and frequently deploys bigoted, divisive language.

Among his electoral strongholds are so-called “blue dogs.” According to The New York Times, Trump carries a full 43 percent of voters who are registered Democrats, but who lean to the right.  In the mold of Wallace, Trump has given rise to a modern-day Dixiecrat—only this one is not contained to the American South.

Up North, he is drawing support from “Reagan Democrats”—those who are disaffected by the broadening diversity of the Democratic Party. Reminiscent of Reagan, at least one poll shows that 20 percent of Democrats would defect and pull the lever for Trump this November.

His promises to rebuild the nation’s manufacturing base, hunt down Muslim terrorists and stop “illegal aliens” at the border have earned him deep support across the South, in rural areas in the country’s mid-section and in rusting smoke-stack cities in the North and upper Midwest. Never mind the fact that many of his proposals are unworkable and others would bust the national bank or qualify as war crimes. Trump’s “us versus them” mentality has attracted substantial support from white evangelicals and catapulted him into what is likely an insurmountable lead.

Without question, Trump has shocked the chattering class, energized his base and driven up turnout numbers in Republican primaries and caucuses. As the real estate denizen steamrolls through states like Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee on Super Tuesday, it is worth noting that he polls strongest among working class-whites who are less educated and who were the least likely to vote. His reach also extends to north to Massachusettes and his home state of New York.

Nate Cohn says it is a “familiar pattern.”

“It is similar to a map of the tendency toward racism by region, according to measures like the prevalence of Google searches for racial slurs and racist jokes, or scores on implicit association tests,” Cohn writes for The New York Times.

Trump may also be benefitting from the election of the country’s first African-American president. Once thought to be an augur of a post-racial America, the 2008 election instead gave rise to tensions thought by some to be already resolved. For some people, that clear demonstration of black voting power within the highly diverse Obama Coalition was something to be feared rather than embraced.

Wallace, a segregationist who is perhaps most famous for the assertion, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” would later come to rebuke that ugly ideology, but he never let go of economic populism.

However, what some political prognosticators miss about Wallace is the way in which he and his contemporaries used racial animus and economic fears to destabilize the Democratic base after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts. While Wallace never actually became a Republican himself, he helped to inspire the party re-alignment that would last for generations. That schism would become the precursor to the “Southern Strategy” adopted by Republicans to maintain national political power.

Trump appears to have taken up the mantle in a way that separates him from Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who continue to trail him in the polls.  But even as he benefits from the old Southern Strategy built by Republicans, Trump is remaking the tactical approach in his own image. He has rejected critical elements of the modern-day conservative doctrine.

“Trump has called for abolishing the carried-interest tax loophole for hedge-fund and private-equity managers,” writes James Surowiecki for The New Yorker. “He’s vowed to protect Social Security. He’s called for restrictions on highly skilled immigrants. Most important, he’s rejected free-trade ideology, suggesting that the U.S. may need to slap tariffs on Chinese goods to protect American jobs.”

Trump’s impact on party alignment is unknowable today. But Democrats and Republicans are right to fear the result. Like Wallace, Trump is shaking the table and there is no telling where the pieces might fall.

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Dixicrats, Donald Trump, George Wallace, Regional Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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