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“Assessing The Threats We Face”: Which Candidate Has Most Accurately Defined Those Threats And Offered A Way Forward

Obviously, Hillary Clinton’s firewall held – at least in South Carolina – where she beat Bernie Sanders by almost 50 points on Saturday. In doing so, she won 86% of the vote from African Americans. But perhaps even more importantly:

Black voters in South Carolina cast 6 in every 10 Democratic primary votes, according to CNN’s exit poll data. That ratio is huge — and sets a record-high in South Carolina black voter participation rate. The previous high was 55 percent, set in 2008, when the first black president was on his way to being elected.

For a while now, the question has been whether or not people of color – particularly African Americas – would turn out for the Democratic candidate in the numbers we saw when Barack Obama was on the ballot. At least in the South Carolina primary, they actually exceeded that benchmark.

That was surprising to some people. But perhaps a quick walk down memory lane explains what happened.

First of all, I’ve already noted how the nomination and election of Barack Obama was greeted with both hope and terror in the hearts of many African Americans. The hope was the culmination of something most thought they wouldn’t see in their lifetimes. Beyond that, the way this President and his family have handled themselves in office has been a great source of pride, while his accomplishments will give him a place of honor in our history. Therefore, in many Black homes he has been adopted as part of the family.

But the terror indicated that those who felt it were very aware of the fact that we had not reached a post-racial America. Almost immediately during the 2008 election Obama was accused by those on the right of “paling around with terrorists,” saw vicious attacks on his pastor and had his citizenship in this country questioned. Once he was elected, we witnessed unprecedented obstruction and disrespect of – not just his policies – but his very personhood. This country’s first African American president consistently faced an opposition that challenged his legitimacy in office.

Meanwhile, the courts and Republican legislators all over the country have been attempting to roll back the voting rights that so many African Americans fought and died for, and they are watching their sons and daughters be killed at the hands of police officers and vigilantes.

We are now witnessing a Republican presidential primary where the candidates are racing to outdo each other in their contempt for people of color. The field is being led by someone who has been embraced by white supremacists and just yesterday refused to disavow the support he is receiving from KKK groups – claiming he needs to do research to understand who they are.

With all of that, is it any surprise that African Americans would assume that this country is facing the threat of a confederate insurgency?

Into that mix comes the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, whose campaign is based on the idea that we are living in an oligarchy where both Parties have been captured by the forces of Wall Street. That defines the threat very differently than what many African Americans see and feel right now.

In addition, Sanders has a history of calling President Obama naive and suggesting that he should be primaried in 2012. One of his most prominent surrogates in the African American community once said that the President had a “fear of free black men” and just recently suggested that civil rights heroes like Rep. John Lewis and Jim Clyburn have been bought off by Wall Street.

Compare that to Hillary Clinton, who has embraced President Obama and promised to build on his legacy. Not only that…she recognizes the challenges we face in breaking down the barriers that divide us and keep people marginalized.

Clinton and Sanders have assessed the threats we face very differently. Voters are faced with a choice of which candidate has most accurately defined those threats and offered a way forward. It should come as no surprise to anyone why African Americans are vigorously aligned with Clinton’s vision.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 29, 2016

March 1, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shorter GOP Debate: What Domestic Terrorism?”: Terrorism To Republicans Looks Like Someone Else

About two-thirds of the way through the GOP Debate/Goat Rodeo last night, in the midst of yet another Syrian refugee pile-on, I tweeted, “How about vetting the multiple white guys who committed domestic terrorism in Colorado?”

My friend Tom Sullivan retweeted it with a note, “White college students from CA caused more terror in CO than any refugee ever will.”

Tom, tragically, would know. His son Alex was murdered in the Aurora theater gun massacre.

The debate was billed to focus on national security. You heard lots about Paris and San Bernardino and the threat that shut down the Los Angeles school system Tuesday. Not a word about Charleston. Or Aurora. Or Colorado Springs. Or Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Or Sandy Hook, just a day after the anniversary of what was a most horrific day among so many in the American timeline of mass shootings. A distinction shared by no other developed country, many of whom have seen homeland violence but none with the numbing regularity of ours.

Ben Carson did a moment of silence for San Bernardino – which is appropriate. But nobody said a word about a school full of dead teachers and 6- and 7-year-olds, almost three years to the day since they died.

Terrorism to Republicans looks like someone else. Terrorism to many other Americans looks like someone they know and we know, someone who takes cues from Internet mutterings about baby parts, or a deranged and feeble young man with available mass-killing weapons at home or a white supremacist acting on ramblings from the darkest corners of a disturbed mind.

We actually have met the enemy, which is why there are reproductive health care doctors who go to work wearing bulletproof vests. But Republicans don’t want to talk about it. And frankly, CNN whiffed on bringing it up.

As the scorecard goes, Jeb Bush finally woke up the fact that yes, he is losing to That Guy, the Short Fingered Vulgarian Donald Trump, about four debates too late. As my friend Mike Gehrke put it, Rand Paul actually sounded sane to drunk Democrats. I don’t understand Ted Cruz’s base, but he appeared to speak to it effectively while attacking Rubio for being soft on immigration. Trump blustered his way through as usual, and his supporters don’t care. Chris Christie seems to have adopted Rudy Giuliani’s “noun, verb, 9/11” approach. The air has gone out of the Carly Fiorina balloon to the point she made multiple “pay attention to me” pleas to the moderators.

The penultimate moment of the whole thing may have been when Ben Carson, having sufficiently malapropped “Hamas” into “hummus” last week, dubbed the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Pubis. Who knew he had a porn name?

Along with domestic terrorism, the other thing notably absent from the campaign was much mention of Hillary Clinton, which suits her just fine. The longer Republicans stay divided, keep bloviating among themselves and persist in throwing duck-face shade on the split screen, the better for Democrats in what will be a hard-fought 2016 election.

 

By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, December 16, 2015

December 17, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Mass Shootings, National Security | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Immediacy Of The Harm”: This Is No Time For The Soft Rebuke

Earlier this week, I was wandering around a department store in suburban Cleveland, when a clerk spotted me and mercifully offered to help.

When I told her what I was trying to find, she laughed and said, “You are definitely in the wrong department.” Then, almost immediately, her smile vanished and she took a step back. “I didn’t mean–.”

She was wearing a hijab to cover her head, and we were standing face to face just days after the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack and within hours of Donald Trump’s widely publicized attempt to cast all Muslims as potential terrorists. Like so many other Americans, I am appalled by his racist vitriol, but this encounter with a clerk just trying to do her job drove home the immediacy of the harm. This woman with the kind face was afraid, and in that moment, both of us knew it, and we knew why.

I began to babble, assuring her that I am as likely to get lost in a department store as I am on a country road in rural Ohio. She smiled and nodded, but her eyes were moist as she pointed to the escalator. “Thank you,” she said. As she turned and walked away, I realized she was thanking me for being nice to her.

This is what we’ve come to — a country where innocent Americans fear that their every encounter with a stranger in this country could be their last.

You don’t have to be a Muslim to experience this anxiety. You just have to be someone Trump and his fellow Republican candidates insist on casting as “the other,” which always means someone who isn’t white. Such political posturing threatens to cripple discourse in our communities, as Deepinder Mayell learned recently.

Mayell is an attorney and the director of the Advocates for Human Rights’ Refugee and Immigrant Program in Minneapolis. This fall, however, he was hoping to be just one of thousands of Minnesota Vikings fans as he showed up with friends for his first NFL game.

In an op-ed for StarTribune, Mayell wrote what happened after a man pushed others aside to make a beeline for him, demanding to know whether he was a refugee.

“In that moment, I was terrified,” Mayell wrote. “But what scared me the most was the silence surrounding me. As I looked around, I didn’t know who was an ally or an enemy. In those hushed whispers, I felt like I was alone, unsafe and surrounded. It was the type of silence that emboldens a man to play inquisitor. I thought about our national climate, in which some presidential candidates spew demagoguery and lies while others play politics and offer soft rebukes. It is the same species of silence that emboldened white supremacists to shoot five unarmed protesters recently in Minneapolis.”

The man who presumed he had the right to demand proof of Mayell’s citizenship had no idea whom he was picking on. He didn’t know that Mayell was born in Queens, New York, and grew up on Long Island. He also didn’t know that Mayell’s parents are Sikh Americans, not Muslims.

After summoning a security guard to his side, Mayell confronted the man and told him that he had frightened him and that what he had said was racist. The man apologized, but Mayell said that wasn’t enough. He wanted the man to be ejected. That didn’t happen.

In the newspaper’s online comments section under Mayell’s op-ed, the usual ugliness flourished like maggots on a carcass. He should have a thicker skin, commenters said. Many called him a liar, accusing him of making up the incident. A number of commenters assumed he is Muslim. Because, you know, his name isn’t Jim Bob or John-Boy and his face isn’t white.

“The man shouted, ‘You’re a refugee!’” Mayell said in a phone interview this week. “Not ‘you’re a Muslim’ or ‘a terrorist,’ just ‘refugee.’ It says so much about how national dialogue affects others.”

Fortunately, Mayell fielded far more positive responses to his op-ed. “In texts, phone calls and emails, there was overwhelming support,” he said. “People are pretty shocked this happened.”

What struck me about his essay and our conversation was how alone and vulnerable he felt in that crowd. “I wish somebody else would have stuck up for me. I understand how stunning it was, that they were in disbelief, perhaps. … But speaking out goes a long way for the person who is afraid — and for everyone in the public sphere.”

But in the moment, no one said a word.

We keep having this conversation in this country, asking ourselves: When is it appropriate to speak out against bigotry and racism? As if there were ever a bad time to stand for what is right or a right time to stay silent.

Our silence is our acquiescence. The time to stand up is now. The appropriate place to speak out is everywhere.

 

By: Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist; The National Memo, December 10, 2015

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Muslim Americans, Terrorists | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“He Has Adopted A Retro Racism Strategy”: Donald Trump Is Running The Most Explicitly Racist Campaign Since 1968

Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy is unique and remarkable in many ways. Never before has someone with no experience in government, not even a shred of understanding of public policy, and little in the way of an organized campaign done so well. Trump has been leading the Republican race for nearly five months, and shows no sign of faltering.

And here’s one other way it’s remarkable: After decades of rhetorical evolution from Republicans on matters of race, Donald Trump is now running the most plainly, explicitly, straightforwardly racist campaign since at least George Wallace’s third-party run in 1968, and maybe even Strom Thurmond’s in 1948.

All the way back in 1981, Republican strategist Lee Atwater explained how his party’s candidates had changed the way they talked about race and government to white voters over time. “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,'” Atwater said. “By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Atwater’s point — that you could get whites to vote on the basis of racial resentments without using explicitly racist language — formed the basis of the GOP’s “Southern Strategy,” first adopted by Richard Nixon. Though you can hear blatant race-baiting just by turning on your favorite conservative radio host (particularly during the Obama presidency), what comes from the man at the top of the ticket has for some time been more subtle. Ronald Reagan may have complained in 1976 about the “strapping young buck” buying steak with his food stamps, and four years later thundered about “welfare queens,” but a Republican candidate today wouldn’t talk in those terms. In 1988, Atwater masterminded the campaign of George Bush, which made “Willie Horton” a household name, convincing voters that Michael Dukakis was going to send murderous, hypersexualized black men to rape their women and kill their men (though not in so many words, of course). But today no GOP nominee would use that story the way the Bush campaign did, because they know they’d be immediately called out for the clear racism of their appeals.

But here comes Donald Trump, who started his campaign by ranting about how Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers — in his announcement speech, no less. It was clear right then that Trump would say what others would only imply. And in the last week or so he has claimed that in Jersey City, “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” as the World Trade Center fell on 9/11. After a Black Lives Matter protester was punched and kicked at a Trump rally, Trump said “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” And he retweeted a graphic with fake statistics about black people supposedly murdering whites, which turns out to have been created by a neo-Nazi.

After innumerable media outlets confirmed that there were no mass celebrations in Jersey City on 9/11, Trump could have said, “I guess you’re right — I was probably remembering scenes I saw of people cheering in the West Bank.” But he didn’t; instead, he insists that he’s right and the facts are wrong. But the real point isn’t that Trump isn’t telling the truth; that has happened many times before and will again. What’s important is the thing Trump is trying to communicate with this story.

It isn’t an argument about the alleged threat posed by Syrian refugees, or something about ISIS (which didn’t exist in 2001). Trump is talking about Americans. He’s telling his supporters: Your Muslim friends and neighbors? They’re not the assimilated, patriotic Americans they want you to believe. They’re not regular people with jobs and families and lives like yours. They’re a threat, people to be surveilled and harassed and hated and feared.

Let’s be clear about one thing: The rest of the Republican Party’s more subtle language on race doesn’t excuse their actions. Making it as hard as possible for black people to vote and stirring up racial resentment on the part of whites are still at the core of GOP strategy. But whether out of the goodness of their hearts or simple political calculation, they’ve agreed that certain kinds of naked bigotry are simply unacceptable in the 21st century.

Donald Trump is not willing to go along with that consensus. So he has adopted a retro racism, telling primary voters in no uncertain terms that if you’re looking for the candidate who will indulge and validate your ugliest impulses, Trump is your man. And nearly as shamefully, his opponents tiptoe around the issue, unwilling to criticize him too severely. Even Chris Christie, whose own constituents are the ones being slandered by Trump’s 9/11 celebration lie, could only muster that “I do not remember that. And so, it’s not something that was part of my recollection. I think if it had happened, I would remember it. But, you know, there could be things I forget, too.” The supposedly tough guy from Jersey turns out to be a moral coward of the first order.

The reason isn’t hard to discern: Christie and the other candidates don’t want to alienate Trump’s supporters, who are greater in number than those behind any other Republican candidate. And that could be the most disheartening thing of all: not that there’s a candidate willing to make these repugnant appeals, but that so many Republican voters hear them and cheer.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, November 25, 2015

November 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Racism, White Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Out Of Control Now”: First, Donald Trump Came For The Muslims

I have never truly feared for the well-being of my family or friends because of the words uttered by an American politician. But that has changed after Donald Trump’s comments over the past few days about Muslims.

When I tell you that Trump’s remarks about what he has planned for Muslims in America if elected president are bone chilling, I’m not exaggerating. But to me the most frightening—and yes, I mean frightening—incident in all of this is what happened Saturday at Trump’s rally in Birmingham, Alabama.  It was not just his words, but the way Trump conveyed them and the setting that conjured up a truly dark time in human history.

During his rally Saturday deep in the heart of Dixie, Trump told the crowd of thousands in no uncertain terms what Muslims could expect if he leads our nation. “Just to set it clear,” Trump stated, pausing slightly for dramatic effect. A sternness then came over his face as he declared emphatically: “I want surveillance of these people.”

You see to Trump, we are not your fellow Americans who are teachers, doctors, taxi drivers, member of Congress, etc. No, he has dehumanized us into a faceless group he calls “these people.” And Trump has unilaterally determined that “these people,” Muslim Americans, are not worthy of the same rights as other Americans. That we, Muslims, are less than fully American simply because of our faith.

Trump then implored the crowd to cheer for his plan that would strip the constitutional rights of a minority group in America with the call, “Are you ready for this? Are you ready?” And on cue, thousands in the crowd cheered as their leader beckoned.

Then something else happened at the event that should give all Americans pause. In this sea of adoring Trump fans stood a black man by the name of Mercutio Southall Jr., a well known local activist. Southall had been shouting “Black Lives Matters,” which had so upset Trump supporters that some began to assault him.

Trump, who later admitted that he had been annoyed with the interruptions by this black activist, can be heard bellowing out to his followers as they are assaulting Southall: “Get him the hell out of here, will you, please?” Adding, “Get him out of here. Throw him out!

And shockingly on Sunday morning when Trump was asked on Fox News about the assault of Southall, he defended it: “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.

But Trump’s demonization of minorities in his quest for power didn’t begin or end on Saturday. He launched his presidential campaign in June in a way that earned him the praise of white supremacist groups for his demonization of Latino immigrants. But I’m sure Trump was already on the radar of these hate groups, which he has refused to denounce, given his infamous racist birther campaign versus President Obama.

And earlier last week, Trump commented to a reporter that he was open to creating a Muslim database and possibly even requiring Muslims to carry special ID cards.

Trump has also doubled down in the past few days on his pledge to order warrantless spying on Muslim Americans and even to close down American mosques. This is no different than racial profiling of Latinos and blacks and it’s no less unconstitutional.

Trump, however, was not done with his Muslim bashing.  In fact, he upped it Saturday by claiming that “thousands and thousands” of Arabs and Muslims in New Jersey were cheering as the World Trade Center came down on 9/11. This is a lie. And that’s not a matter of opinion, it’s fact. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos challenged Trump on Sunday, telling the GOP’s leading candidate point blank that the “police say it didn’t happen.” Yet Trump refused to back down, claiming he saw this on television 14 years ago.

The bigger question here is why Trump would even bring up this incident that occurred more than 14 years ago? How is it relevant to the key issues in the 2016 presidential campaign? It’s not. It simply plays well with the GOP base. In fact, just a few days before Trump began his jihad versus Muslims, a poll was released finding that three-quarters of Republicans think Islam is “at odds” with American values. Trump’s demonization of Muslims, as well as other minority groups, is simply part of his strategy to achieve power.

Thankfully, we have seen a cross section of Americans pushing back against Trump’s hate. Therein lies the silver lining. On the claim that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11, numerous elected official from the Garden State have made it clear that Trump is absolutely wrong. These include the current mayor of Jersey City and longtime New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who tweeted bluntly:  “To Trump: Stop your inflammatory lies about Americans.

Even the Anti Defamation League (ADL) swiftly condemned Trump, telling BuzzFeed that Trump is “giving new life to long-debunked conspiracy theories about 9/11.” The ADL dubbed it a “a variation of the anti-Semitic myth that a group of Israelis were seen celebrating as the Twin Towers fell.”

And many on social media made it clear that if Trump ever required American Muslims to register with the government, they would too, even they weren’t Muslim. One of the most moving shows of support came from Rabbi Joshua Stanton, a man who says he tries to avoid politics, but still felt compelled to pen a touching article titled, “Register Me, Too, Mr. Trump.

The GOP is at a crossroads that will define its party for years.  They can nominate Trump, a man who has demonized American minority groups, or choose someone who truly embraces American values. But if Trump is the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, they will have made it clear to America that the Grand Old Party is no longer the party of Lincoln, but the party of hate.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, November 23, 2015

November 24, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Muslim Americans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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