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“What Donald Trump Owes George Wallace”: Demagogue’s Ability To Tap Into Fear And Anger In American Politics

Donald J. Trump, reality television star and real estate mogul, is different in many ways from major political figures in our past. But there are striking similarities between Mr. Trump and George C. Wallace, the Deep South politician who ran for president each opportunity he got from 1964 through 1976. The connections between the two — their rhetoric and their ability to fire up crowds — give us a better sense of what Trumpism will mean once he is gone from the campaign stage. After all, political losers as well as winners can shape the future.

Mr. Trump started his business career with what he called a “small loan” of a million dollars from his father. Mr. Wallace, the son of a struggling South Alabama farmer, clawed his way to power with hard work and a political antenna always ahead of the next public opinion poll.

And despite his reputation as a belligerent speechmaker, the insecure Mr. Wallace privately sought to ingratiate himself with friends and foes alike. It’s hard to imagine the egotistic Mr. Trump beginning a call to a hostile newspaper editor by cheerfully explaining, as Mr. Wallace once did, “I just called up to kiss your ass some more.”

What both share is the demagogue’s instinctive ability to tap into the fear and anger that regularly erupts in American politics.

Mr. Wallace’s 1963 inaugural address as governor of Alabama (“Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”) and his “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” that same year seemed to limit his role to that of a strictly regional figure, part of Dixie’s long tradition of racist politicians. His presidential candidacy in 1964 and surprising strength in Democratic primaries in Wisconsin, Indiana and Maryland did little to change that national image. In April 1967, when Mr. Wallace told a Syracuse, N.Y., audience that he had decided to run for president as a third-party candidate, the television networks ignored his announcement, as did most of the major newspapers.

But in 1968, against a backdrop of urban riots, a war in Vietnam that dragged on inconclusively, tumultuous antiwar demonstrations and the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, a fiery Mr. Wallace began to draw interest across the nation; by September the crowds at his rallies rivaled those for his two main opponents, Richard M. Nixon and Hubert H. Humphrey. Mindful of his reputation as a defender of segregation, the Alabama governor avoided explicitly racist language. He was a pioneer in the use of code words to attack African-Americans while seldom mentioning race, instead condemning “asinine” school busing, the “bloc vote” and the “thugs” from America’s inner cities who supposedly stalked the nation’s streets.

Uncertain of what to make of the political upstart, the nation’s print media initially played down their coverage of Mr. Wallace rather “like parents who refuse to look when their child is doing something naughty for fear it might encourage him to show off,” in the words of one British journalist.

As his poll numbers rose from single digits in the spring to more than 20 percent by the fall, it was no longer possible to ignore Mr. Wallace, and the major newsmagazines and largest newspapers attacked him with a barrage of thinly veiled invective: He was “simplistic”; he had not “one constructive proposal to offer a troubled nation”; he sought “political profit in fear and hate.” Attacks by the mainstream media only strengthened his support. As one of Mr. Wallace’s followers told a newspaper reporter, “I could care less what Time magazine thinks; I only use it once a day in the outhouse.”

The hypersensitive Mr. Trump obviously cares a lot more about Time’s opinion. When the magazine failed to choose him as its 2015 Person of the Year, he complained that, despite being “the big favorite,” Time had snubbed him in favor of Germany’s Angela Merkel, “who is ruining Germany!”

Hostility to the civil rights movement was only a part of Mr. Wallace’s rhetorical repertoire. He was a “populist” of sorts, defending good, hard-working (white) Christian Americans, but his enemies were not the economic bankers and monopolists of his 19th-century forebears. He had found new dragons to slay.

On paper his speeches were stunningly disconnected, at times incoherent. But videotapes of those 1968 rallies captured a performance. A wild energy seemed to flow back and forth between Mr. Wallace and his audience as he called out their mutual enemies: bearded hippies, pornographers, sophisticated intellectuals who mocked God, traitorous anti-Vietnam War protesters, welfare bums, cowardly politicians and “pointy-head college professors who can’t even park a bicycle straight.”

For the television networks the spectacle became irresistible, particularly since rallies often erupted into violent chair-throwing confrontations between Mr. Wallace’s supporters and angry demonstrators. Hunter S. Thompson understood that George Wallace’s followers were not interested in position papers on banking regulations or the pros and cons of thermal energy. Watching the Alabama governor perform was awe-inspiring to the gonzo journalist, who likened the rallies to a Janis Joplin concert “in which the bastard had somehow levitated himself and was hovering over us.”

Both George Wallace and Donald Trump are part of a long national history of scapegoating minorities: from the Irish, Catholics, Asians, Eastern European immigrants and Jews to Muslims and Latino immigrants. During times of insecurity, a sizable minority of Americans has been drawn to forceful figures who confidently promise the destruction of all enemies, real and imagined, allowing Americans to return to a past that never existed.

At the same time, the rejection of the euphemisms of polite political rhetoric is part of the great appeal of such figures. As one of Mr. Trump’s supporters at a Dallas rally told a Slate reporter: “I love that he’s talking in everybody else’s language. He’s not trying to be politically correct.”

That response is simply an update from one of Mr. Wallace’s 1968 followers: “George doesn’t give us some mealy-mouth ‘on the one hand and on the other’ spiel. He tells it like it is and if it offends some government bureaucrats and loudmouth civil rights agitators, so what? He’s standing up and fighting for real Americans.”

George Wallace was never going to be president; neither is Donald Trump. But their influence, even far from the White House, has an impact. The Alabama governor’s success in mobilizing white working-class voters forced other candidates — particularly Nixon — to adapt a housebroken version of his rhetoric and policies. Mr. Wallace may have begun his career as a New Deal Democrat, but the way he appealed to these predominantly Democratic voters by channeling their frustrations against the federal government did much to pave the way for Ronald Reagan’s more genial anti-government ideology.

It is more difficult to assess the long-term implications of a figure like Mr. Trump, whose “policies” seem even more incoherent than those of George Wallace. He, too, has learned how to exploit the deepest fears and hatreds of white Americans frightened about the present and despairing of the future.

Whether he is nominated by the Republican Party or simply disappears into the long line of discredited demagogues, he has already left his mark. Just listen to what some of his fellow Republican candidates are saying.

 

By: Dan T. Carter, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina; Opinion Pages, The New York Times, January 8, 2016

January 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, George Wallace, Racism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dr. Oz’s Shameless Play For Ratings Discourages Life Saving Procedure While Demeaning True Cancer Survivors

The cardinal rule of practicing medicine is that old adage, “First do no harm.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the TV physician who was given his big break by Oprah Winfrey, apparently missed that day in medical school.

In this week’s Time Magazine, Oz manages to scare people away from getting important colonoscopy procedures while trivializing anyone who has ever faced a truly life threatening bout with cancer or some other potentially life-ending disease – and all in the service of delivering a few rating points.

The piece is entitled, “What I Learned From My Cancer Scare.”

Sounds like a real page-turner, yes?

It’s not.

It’s not because, by any reasonable person’s definition let alone what we might expect from a licensed physician, Dr. Oz didn’t have a cancer scare- unless you consider a cancer scare to include being told that you could possibly develop cancer in 10 to 15 years if you don’t have a simple, routine and painless procedure that people all over the world experience every day which, in virtually every instance, completely resolves the problem.

Indeed, Dr. Oz’s terrifying cancer crisis was something more akin to a child skinning his knee and being told that if his mommy doesn’t put a little iodine and a band-aid on the boo-boo, the open wound just might possibly fall prey to a flesh eating bacteria that will take the poor child’s life.

In his Time Magazine story, the doctor recounts his harrowing ‘brush with death’. We learn of the shock the Oz experienced on learning he had a pre-cancerous polyp – the same kind that one of every four men who has a colonoscopy routinely discovers and one that simply requires being quickly snipped from the colon.

Oz goes on to describe the extraordinary difficulty of sharing this heartbreaking news with his wife and the pain of informing his children that not only was their dad facing this life-threatening crisis (that wasn’t) but that his situation meant that they would be more likely to face this problem in their own lives. Tragically, his children would have to begin getting their own colonscopies at 40 years of age rather than the more typically recommended age of 50.

Oh, the humanity!

Oz goes on to express his angst over the question that filled his psyche, “How could this happen to me?”

The story is dramatic, heart rendering, poignant… and absolute hogwash. What the good doctor experienced was, by his own admission, something completely and utterly routine.

Here is how one of the nation’s top colorectal specialists described what afflicted Dr. Oz–

… this was a tiny adenoma, the same as anybody else. Adenomas are frequently found on colonoscopy with a minimum rate of 15% for women and 25% for men. Adenomas are the type of polyp that could turn cancerous over time (10-15 years) and that is why we remove them.”

That sums it up rather nicely.

The reason a colonoscopy is recommended for those over 50 is because, with age, we are more likely to have these pre-cancerous polyps in our colons just as we are more likely to find pre-cancerous growths on our skin. These polyps, if allowed to continue growing may become cancerous in 10 to 15 years, are routinely snipped out of the colon just as pre-cancerous skin growths are removed before the growth can become something dangerous.

As a result, anyone with any knowledge of this medical procedure knows that having a polyp removed during a colonoscopy is nothing to lose a moment’s sleep over and a great advertisement for why colonoscopy is a worthwhile procedure for us all.

Remarkably, Oz discusses how people avoid getting this procedure because they are afraid to face up to the result. He’s right. It is no secret that human psychology is such that we tend to think that if we don’t know a problem is there, we can pretend there is no problem at all. We avoid the test to avoid any bad news.

That kind of thinking is exactly what gets people in trouble-particularly when any such problem can easily be brought to a successful conclusion simply by having the colonoscopy procedure.

Yet, after pointing out this problem, Oz goes on to scare the you-know-what out of anyone who falls into this category by making his own story far more dramatic than the reality.

It’s really very simple.

If you’re 50 years old – or 40 if there is a family history – get the colonoscopy. Any polyps you have will be removed and you will leave the physician’s office comfortable in the knowledge that you have nipped any future problem in the bud. Repeat the procedure every five years so that any polyps that may have gotten going during the interim can be removed. The result is that your colon will remain happy, healthy and cancer free.

So, why was Oz so freaked out?

Beats me.

In describing Dr. Oz’s polyp, the physician who performed his procedure, CBS medical correspondent, Dr. John LaPook, said,

Statistically, most small polyps like his don’t become cancer. But almost all colon cancers begin as benign polyps that gradually become malignant over about 10-15 years.

Indeed, Oz was just another of these statistics-nothing particularly threatening or dramatic – except, of course, when Oz tells the story.

So, either Dr. Oz’s psyche is so sensitive that a routine matter easily resolved is enough to send his world reeling – despite allegedly having the medical knowledge to know that this was nothing much to sweat – or he knows a great ratings grabber when he sees one. I’ll leave it to the reader to reach a conclusion as to what might be the driving force behind Oz’s tale of terror.

I can, however, tell you how the Colorectal Cancer Coalition reacted to Oz’s histrionics when he first made a fuss over his experience on his TV show last September-

Did Dr. Oz scare you today?

The chances of your colonoscopy resulting in the made-for-TV near-death experience that Dr. Mehmet Oz detailed in a six-part video series on his show and website are highly unlikely. See, Dr. Oz didn’t have a near-death experience, and his colonoscopy story is very common. So can we cut it out with the hysterics, Dr. Oz? You’re scaring people.

Yes, there was a 10 percent chance it could have become cancerous over time, which is why it was removed. The rest of his overblown, overdone, overly-dramatic story, including his heartbreaking anecdote of having to tell his children (sob!) are for the mere benefit of getting people to watch his show.

Unfortunately, a side effect of Dr. Oz’s histrionics is that he’s taken a common condition and turned it into a death-defying act that will scare the living daylights out of anyone who may be approaching the screening age – or who may have already passed it. (If you’re like Dr. Oz and putting off that colonoscopy you naughty kid, go get screened!)

But the damage doesn’t end there.

Like many others before me and since, I happen to be someone who has had to tell my wife and children that I had been diagnosed with a cancer that could mean the end of my life in a rather short period of time. Not a pre-cancerous growth. Not “I might have a problem in 10 years and, oh, they can resolve the problem by just snipping something out in a fifteen minute procedure.”

No, it was looking like I was in some very immediate and serious trouble.

Of course, relaying this bit of information to your family is not a particularly pleasant experience and I’m one of the lucky ones who, after 6 months of chemotherapy (not a fifteen minute painless procedure), is still here to tell the story.

Imagine, if you will, how I -and the millions of others who have faced this difficult experience – might feel when Dr. Oz makes such a fuss about telling his wife that he might have gotten cancer in ten years if he hadn’t had the procedure that virtually insured that this wouldn’t happen?

It’s wrong on so many levels.

Yes, Oz is a television performer and, as such, must be concerned with his ratings if he wants to keep the big bucks flowing.

However, he is still a doctor and that comes with some responsibility- responsibility that Dr. Oz has sadly ignored. For this he should be very ashamed.

As for Time Magazine, would it have killed them to actually look into the reality of Oz’s non-crisis before putting this on their cover?

By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, June 2, 2011

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Consumers, Education, Health Care, Media, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The “Serious Republican Candidate”: Mitch Daniels Suddenly Discovers Planned Parenthood Funding

About a month ago, Time’s Joe Klein noted his disgust with the Republican presidential field, lamenting the fact that the candidates are “a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers.” The whole lot looks like a “dim-witted freak show.”

But, Klein said, the field may not be set. The columnist pleaded with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) to run. “I may not agree with you on most things, but I respect you,” Klein said. He added that Daniels seems to respect himself enough not to behave like a “public clown.” This is an extremely common sentiment. Daniels, the former Bush budget director who helped create today’s fiscal mess, is supposed to be The Serious Republican Candidate For Serious People. He has no use for culture wars — Daniels famously called for a “truce” on these hot-button social issues — and despite his humiliating record, the governor at least pretends to care about fiscal sanity, earning unrestrained praise from the likes of David Brooks.

Perhaps now would be a good time for the political establishment to reevaluate their opinion of Mitch Daniels.

Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana said Friday that he would sign a bill cutting off Medicaid financing for Planned Parenthood, a move that lawmakers in several states have begun pondering as a new approach in the battle over abortion. Indiana becomes the first state to go forward.

Abortion rights supporters condemned the decision, saying it would leave 22,000 poor residents of Indiana, who use Planned Parenthood’s 28 health facilities in the state, with nowhere to go for a range of women’s services, from breast cancer screening to birth control.

Daniels, who apparently no longer has any use for his own rhetoric about a culture-war “truce,” said his decision was dictated by the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortion services, adding that the health organization can resume its state funding by refusing to help women terminate their unwanted pregnancies.

That only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s operations deal with abortions, and that public funding of abortions is already legally prohibited, apparently didn’t matter.

What’s especially striking about this is how cruel and unnecessary it is. Daniels has been governor of Indiana for more than six years, and he’s never had a problem with Planned Parenthood funding. He was Bush’s budget director for more than two years, and he never had a problem with Planned Parenthood funding.

But now that he’s thinking about running for president, and has hysterical right-wing activists to impress, now Mitch Daniels has suddenly discovered Planned Parenthood funding — which has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades — is no longer acceptable to him.

It’s not as if Planned Parenthood, its mission, or its menu of health services has changed. The only thing that’s changed is the radicalism of new Republican Party and those who hope to lead it. The real-world effect of Daniels’ cruelty is unmistakable: fewer working-class families will have access to contraception, family planning services, pap smears, cancer screenings, and tests for sexually-transmitted diseases. Indiana has 28 Planned Parenthood centers in the state, and most of its patients live in poverty.

Also note that this was as clear a test of Daniels’ purported principles as we’ve seen to date — he had to choose between fiscal considerations (millions of dollars in federal health care funding) and culture-war considerations (cutting off a public health organization to satisfy rabid conservatives). As of late yesterday — Daniels made the announcement late on a Friday afternoon, probably out of embarrassment — the governor prioritized the latter over the former. To prove his right-wing bona fides, Daniels decided to put politics ahead of women’s health.

Ironically, the Republican who claims to oppose abortions is going to make it more likely more women will have unwanted pregnancies.

It’s indefensible. Daniels should be ashamed of himself and the pundits who praised Daniels’ “seriousness” should feel awfully foolish right about now.

By: Steve Benen, Political Animal, Washington Monthly, April 30, 2011

April 30, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Class Warfare, Conservatives, GOP, Governors, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Planned Parenthood, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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