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“Sanders’ White Posses”: Bernie Sanders And Racism Lite

In a statement on the Nevada rampage by some of his supporters, Bernie Sanders said a remarkable thing. He said, “Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence.”

Who lives in “high-crime areas”? We all know the answer: dark people. But it wasn’t dark people hurling chairs and death threats at the Nevada Democratic Party convention. It was Sanders’ own white followers. (The YouTube videos make that clear.)

One reason there’s been no violence at Sanders’ rallies is that outsiders aren’t disrupting them. It is Sanders’ white posses that are invading the events of others, be it Democratic Party meetings or Donald Trump rallies.

Now, the Sanders statement did say, “I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.” But then he likened this outrage to shots being fired into his campaign office.

The problem with this attempt at symmetry is that we don’t know who fired into his campaign office. It is my hope that the perpetrator is caught and thrown in jail. But we know exactly who threw chairs. The FBI, meanwhile, should be hot on the tails of the creeps who made death threats against a Nevada Democratic Party official and her family. That’s a federal crime.

Sanders should have made his condemnation of violence short and sweet. In doing so, he could have emphasized that the vast majority of his supporters are good, nonviolent people.

But then he went on, stoking the self-pity that has permeated his campaign. This was not the time to go into his allegedly unfair treatment at the hands of Democratic officials as he’s been doing ad nauseam.

If Sanders’ tying of political violence to “high-crime areas” were his only racially tinged remark, one might give it a pass. But he has a history.

There was his infamous waving-of-the-hand dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s commanding Southern victories, which were powered by African-American voters.

“I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality,” he said.

Whose reality, one might ask. Actually, the overwhelmingly white electorates of Iowa and New Hampshire (where Sanders won big) got to go first. He didn’t have a problem with that.

This is a veiled racism that cannot find cover in Sanders’ staunch pro-civil rights record. Real black people seem to make Sanders uncomfortable (as Larry David captured on his “Saturday Night Live” skits).

Sanders’ idea of a black surrogate has been the academic Cornel West. West has called Barack Obama “a Rockefeller Republican in blackface” and “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs,” among other nasty things. Ordinary African-Americans tend to revere Obama, so where did this crashing insensitivity come from?

It may have come from decades of being holed up in the white radical-left universe. In the 1960s, Sanders abandoned the “high-crime areas” of Brooklyn, his childhood home, and repaired to the whitest state in the nation. (Vermont had become a safe haven for liberals leaving — the word then was “fleeing” — the cities.)

Nuance alert: Sanders has done good work in attracting more white working-class voters to the Democratic side. His emphasis on economic issues is a welcome change from the party’s frequent obsession with identity politics. That is admirable.

Less admirable are the windy justifiable-rage explanations in what should have been a simple censure. And to then link expectations of violence to “high-crime areas” was pretty disgraceful. There should be no white-privilege carve-out for thuggery.


By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, May 19, 2016

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Nevada Caucus, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There Aren’t Two Donald Trumps”: The Only Trump We Need To Care About Is The One Totally Unqualified To Be President

Remember when then-Sen. John Edwards ran for president on a platform of two Americas, one rich and one poor? Former Presidential contender Ben Carson has offered a variation on that theme: two Donald Trumps, one bombastic and one thoughtful.

Last week, Carson endorsed Trump’s run for the presidency, throwing his weight behind the billionaire’s rise to the Republican nomination. In his endorsement speech, Carson said, “There are two different Donald Trumps. There’s the one you see on the stage, and there’s the one who is very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully, you can have a very good conversation with him.” Carson was also insistent that the country would soon start to see more of this other side of Trump.

It’s a great theory, but one that is very much untrue.

After the insults that Trump hurled at him during the campaign, Carson’s support for him is a bit surprising. Perhaps he’s angling for a role in a potential Trump administration or perhaps he’s just not ready to step out of the limelight now that his campaign is over. Maybe he saw an opportunity for the front-runner to carry his ideas forward– according to The Hill, Trump said Carson will have a “big part” in his campaign.

Whatever the reason, Carson’s message appears to be part of a new strategy on Trump’s part to combat criticism that he’s not serious, thoughtful or of the right temperament to be president. The event with Carson came on the heels of a Republican debate that some described as “subdued” and Trump’s performance during it as “measured” and “restrained.”

It’s useful for Trump that he’s finally realized he has an image problem. It’s interesting that his campaign may be acknowledging that even if its current tactics propel Trump forward to the nomination, they won’t play well in the general election.

But the two Donald Trumps message is just smoke and mirrors. There aren’t two different versions of Trump. For those who take the leadership of the country seriously, running for president is an awesome opportunity and a serious business. If the cerebral side of Trump existed, we would have seen it before now because that is what making your case to be leader of the free world demands.

If there were two Donald Trumps, he wouldn’t have based his campaign on racist rhetoric and vague policy proposals. If there were two Donald Trumps, his campaign events wouldn’t inspire protest and violence. If there were two Donald Trumps, his ascendance wouldn’t be threatening to divide the party he’s called his own. There truly only is one Donald Trump, and he’s the one we’ve been seeing all along. He’s the one that should never be president.


By: Cary Gibson, Government Relations Consultant with Prime Policy Group; Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, March 14, 2016

March 15, 2016 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump’s Thuggery Is Inexcusable”: One In The Same, The Bullying Thug And The Self-Pitying Victim

As he edges closer to winning the Republican nomination, it is possible to discern, at intermittent intervals and in trace amounts, an instinct in Donald Trump to act presidential. There was Trump in Thursday’s debate with a paean to the relative civility of the encounter. There was Trump in his Super Tuesday victory lap pronouncing himself a “unifier.”

But Trump being Trump, the presidential urge can never proceed very far before being overtaken by his real self: Trump the bullying thug and Trump the self-pitying victim.

Both aspects of Trump’s personality have been on rampant display over the past several days, as the protests at Trump’s rallies have spun dangerously, predictably out of control.

Trump, reaping a whirlwind of his own creation, could have risen to the occasion. He could have dialed back the taunts. He could have, unlikely as it sounds, expressed just a tinge of un-Trumplike regret.

Instead, in a development as disappointing as it was unsurprising, Trump ramped up. “Go home to mommy,” he told one protester in Missouri on Friday. “Get a job,” he told another. “These people are bringing us down, remember that,” he told the crowd. These people. How presidential.

Trump took no responsibility — zero — for the anger his divisive rhetoric has generated among the demonstrators, nor for the violence it has incited among his supporters. He was only sorry the protesters had to be treated so delicately. “They’re being politically correct the way they take them out,” he said. “There used to be consequences.”

To be clear, protesters have a right to be heard — but in an appropriate place and manner. Hecklers are a fact of political life, yet no candidate should have to contend with a campaign event so constantly disrupted the candidate cannot share his own message. The scene of Secret Service agents swarming around Trump after a protester broke through the security barrier at a rally in Ohio on Saturday was an unsettling reminder of the lurking potential for tragedy.

But candidates bear responsibility, as well — for the tone of their rhetoric and for the way they respond, and encourage their supporters to respond, to dissent. Not Trump, though, at least according to Trump.

He says things that are hurtful and divisive, then is surprised when his language provokes a counter-reaction. At that point, he sees freedom of speech as a one-way street — Trump’s freedom to speak — and lashes out at those who would dare to interrupt.

“The organized group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment rights in Chicago, have totally energized America!” tweeted the man who recently vowed to “open up” libel laws so he could sue critics in the media.

And when Trump’s supporters turn, inevitably, violent, his response is more empathetic than condemnatory.

“People come with tremendous passion and love for their country, and when they see protest — you know, you’re mentioning one case, which I haven’t seen, I heard about it which I don’t like,” Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper at Thursday’s debate, responding to videotape of a Trump supporter punching a protester in the face.

“But when they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger. They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals, they don’t like seeing higher taxes, they don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. . . . There is some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.”

No, nor egg it on. This is a candidate who says of protesters things like, “I’d like to punch him in the face.” Or, “In the good ol’ days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast.” Or, “Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously, Okay just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise.”

Trump, characteristically, regrets nothing. On Friday, accepting the endorsement of Ben Carson, a man he once described as “pathological” and likened to a “child molester,” Trump reaffirmed his inclination to meet violence with violence, citing the example of a protester who was “swinging” at the audience.

And the audience hit back,” Trump said, approvingly. “And that’s what we need a little bit more of.”

Not actually. But it is, I fear, what we will be getting much more of, with Trump at the top of the GOP ticket. He is not a unifier, he is an igniter. The fuse is short and the electorate flammable. The match in Trump’s hands is a dangerous weapon.


By: Ruth Marcus, Columnist, The Washington Post, March 11, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Trump Supporters | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Challenge To Conservative Principles”: Humankind Is Better Off Than It Has Ever Been, And It’s Thanks To Government

There has never been a better time to be a human being than in March 2014. People live longer, wealthier, happier lives than they ever have. Each of the Four Horsemen — disease, famine, war, and death — are being beaten back.

This isn’t just my opinion. The data is incontrovertible. Life expectancy is the highest it’s ever been, and getting higher. Global GDP has never reached our present heights. The number of humans in poverty has never been lower. Wars between nations are almost extinct, and wars in general are getting less deadly.

The notion of human progress isn’t a grand theory anymore; it’s a fact. So why do so many people insist on telling you it’s impossible?

Almost everywhere you turn, some pundit or “literary intellectual” is aching to tell you the “hard, eternal truths” about the way the world works. Progress is a false idol, they’ll say — and worse, an American one. The harsh reality is that nothing ever changes; the sad truth of the human condition is pain and misery.

These people position themselves as besieged truth tellers, braving the wrath of the masses to challenge our dominant, rose-tinted national narrative. In reality, they’re just saying what most people think. A reasonably large majority of Americans think the country’s “best years” are behind it. Post-Great Recession, doom-and-gloom is in.

But while pessimism may be the conventional wisdom nowadays, its intellectual avatars have never been more anemic. Take British philosopher John Gray. Gray has made debunking the notion of “progress” his life’s work, having written two whole books on the matter in addition to innumerable columns and magazine articles. His review of Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, a book that carefully assembles immense amounts of statistical evidence showing that war and violence claim fewer lives than ever, does not dispute a single bit of Pinker’s data. Incredibly, Gray thinks pointing out that some Enlightenment thinkers disagreed with each other constitutes a devastating rebuttal to Pinker’s detailed empirical argument. The review’s shallowness is emblematic of the general tenor of Gray’s sad crusade.

It’s not just John Gray. Given the enormous amounts of data on the optimists’ side, pessimists have little more than handwaving left to them. The pessimists babble on about “permanent human nature” and “timeless verities.” The optimists cite U.N. life expectancy statistics and U.S. government crime data. Having no answer to books like Pinker’s, Charles Kenny’s Getting Better, or Angus Deaton’s The Great Escape, the pessimists resort to empty pieties.

The irony here is obvious. The pessimists accuse optimists of falling prey to a seductive ideological thinking; “the worship of Progress,” as Christian conservative Rod Dreher puts it. Yet the only people being seduced are the pessimists, clutching the pillars of their ideological house while its foundation shatters.

Today’s optimists notice clear evidence that humanity’s lot is getting better — a point that does not require assuming that it must get better as a consequence of some inevitable historical law. Opponents respond by asserting the world simply cannot be getting better, as their own pessimistic theory of history says it’s impossible. The critics of blind faith have put out their own eyes.

The reason that purportedly hard-boiled realists adhere to the absurd pessimistic ideology is plain. Their own political views depend crucially on the idea that nothing about the world can be improved. The clear evidence that human inventions — government, the market, medicine, international institutions, etc. — have improved the world point to devastating truths adherents to pessimistic ideologies are loath to admit.

The two ideologies I have in mind have been at odds of late: American conservatism and foreign policy “realism.” Yet popular versions of both rely on the notion of an unchanging, conflict-filled political landscape.

For many conservatives, the idea of “progress” constitutes liberalism’s fatal conceit. Russell Kirk put it most eloquently: “Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created.” Bill Kristol, living proof that movement conservatism has been immune from the happy trends improving the world, is more blunt. “Progressivism is a touchingly simple-minded faith,” he says. “The higher the number of the century, the better things should be. But progressivism happens not to be true.”

Kristol’s understanding of progressivism is wanting, to say the least. But the reason he needs to stamp his feet and deny the evidence of progress is that hard evidence of human improvement challenges his conservative first principles. Improvements in human welfare have come from government — most notably through public health programs, like the campaign against leaded gasoline, but also through institutions like the welfare state and mixed-market economies. It’s no surprise that the wealthiest, healthiest, and happiest countries are all welfare state democracies.

But more fundamentally, human progress runs against the conservative assumption that human nature does not permit fundamental victories over evils like war. Government will always fail, as Kirk suggests, because human nature will frustrate any attempt to eradicate suffering.

But as it turns out, human nature itself is shaped crucially by the institutions we find ourselves surrounded by — including government. The newest research on humanity’s basic psychology, lucidly explained in recent books by neuroscientist Jonathan Greene and primatologist Frans de Waal, find that human “nature” is malleable. We’re naturally inclined toward both conflict and cooperation, and thus have the potential for both great good and great evil. The crucial deciding factor is the circumstances we find ourselves in. The reality of human progress, then, suggests that the political and social arrangements we’ve created are bringing out our better angels. This is a truth the conservative view of human nature cannot abide.

Foreign policy realists are also concerned by human nature, but nowadays tend to rely more on arguments about “the international system.” For them, global harmony is impossible because nations can never trust each other. Without a world government, no one can really ensure that another country’s army won’t come calling on your doorstep. States are driven to conflict by the need to secure themselves from an always-there risk to their security.

The decline in violence constitutes an existential threat to this worldview. There is strong evidence that international institutions, trade interdependences, and the spread of democracy have all contributed to war’s decline. If that’s true, then it really does seem like the globe isn’t destined for conflict forever. Neither human nature nor the international system make war inevitable.

Now, there are real grounds to worry about the future of human progress. Most notably, climate change has the potential to wipe out much of what we’ve accomplished. The reality of human progress isn’t an argument against heading off ecological disaster.

But that crisis hasn’t happened yet. You can simultaneously celebrate the fact that humanity is better off than it has ever been and argue that we need to take drastic action if we want to make sure that progress doesn’t stop with our generation.

So there’s no reason not to sing progress’ praises. Today’s world is much more Lego Movie than True Detective: everything really is kind of awesome, and time is not a damn flat circle.


By: Zack Beauchamp, The Week, March, 13, 2014

March 15, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Government | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blood Stained Hands”: America Safe For The Dick Cheneys But Not The Trayvon Martins

The heart just given to Dick Cheney…was Trayvon Martin’s. One is 71, the other 17.

What if that were literally true?

Let’s just say the metaphor tells a bitter truth: We are a nation safe for mean old white men in frail health. However, healthy black youths (most of all in the South) may be in peril with every breath and step they take out on the streets alone and unarmed. Just for living in black skin.

Apparently, wearing a hoodie further ratchets up the risk of being a black youth. The 17-year-old black slaying victim, Trayvon, was wearing one as he fell to the ground. “Hoodie protests” in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and other cities in his memory have pointed to the loaded pack of prejudices associated with a simple sartorial style.

Oh, did I mention his fatal encounter was in a “gated community” (an oxymoron)? While they tend to be suspicious of dark teenage strangers, the message they send to all comers is “keep out,” not “come in.”

In the saddest story of 2012, a neighborhood watch “volunteer,” George Zimmerman, apparently concluded young Trayvon had no right nor reason to be walking the streets of Sanford, Fla., by himself with just a can of iced tea and some Skittles candy.

Zimmerman, an armed civilian, took the law into his own hands, reportedly starting a confrontation with Trayvon, even as he was told by a dispatcher to stop following the youth tagged as trouble. But it was Zimmerman who spelled trouble, in my reading of the facts. (No charges have been pressed against Zimmerman as of now.) Federal authorities are going to step in and investigate, thank goodness—a little late better than never.

In other words, if Zimmerman wasn’t looking for a fight, spoiling for one with his gun, this tragedy would not have come to pass. As it was, Trayvon knew he was facing serious danger and begged for his life—his very short life, I might add. All that he never got to see: “Gleams that untravelled world,” as the poet Lord Alfred Tennyson put it. It all ended with a bullet wound to the chest in February in Florida.

Florida bears blame for the outrage by having a vigilante justice system under a sitting Republican governor. The law they call “stand your ground” sanctions weapons of law enforcement to trigger-happy civilians like Zimmerman who have none of the training, scrutiny, code of conduct, or judgment of sworn police officers. Very nice, Florida, you’ve done it again. The year 2000 seems like yesterday.

I’ve seen law experts compare this case to the brutal murder of a 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, down South in the Mississippi Delta. Emmett, a black youth from Chicago, was a city boy visiting relatives that summer in a small town named Money. He didn’t know what he was up against in the strict code of conduct between whites and Negroes. Seen by some as a boy who stepped out of his place, he paid the ultimate price for it.

No question Till’s murder was a race-related hate crime in 1955, the year after Jim Crow laws were struck down by the Supreme Court. Yes, he was out of place, far from home when he lost his life for nothing.

But here’s the rub in 2012: Tall Trayvon was just a soon-to-be dead boy walking, on the way to becoming a young man. He got caught in racial crossfire on his own southern state’s home ground, not while visiting a strange land of hateful segregation. And yet he still got gunned down, in the eyes of multitudes, and for the color of his skin.

Meanwhile Cheney, doctors say, is doing “exceedingly well” in his white skin after a heart transplant. In his time, he’s been known to get aggressive in starting some scrapes, but they never left a mark on him. They are known as wars of choice in far-off lands. You can’t see the blood, but it’s on his hands.


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 27, 2012

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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