Friday Reads: The Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly

cagle-trump-pied-piperGood Afternoon!

It’s been a difficult year for those of us that generally relish and appreciate the drama and throes of the ever-becoming state of American Democracy. Watching pols devour Iowa Corn Dogs and pizza in New York City with the awkwardness of landing gooney birds is always great fun.  However, this year’s campaigns and candidates have some worrisome dynamics.  My spidey sense tingles with vibes of cultural upheaval and a heavy side of disturbing blow back wrapped up in some of the worst racism I’ve seen since I was a kid in the 1960s.

I was barely cognizant of political dynamics back in 1968 but I lived open-eyed through enough of it to appreciate the number of historians drawing parallels between that rambunctious election year and this one.  I finished the year as a teenager so you could probably write a gooey coming of age story.

Every weekend, we visited my Grandfather in KCMO including the weeks of race riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.  I remember really strange things afoot that year when we were in Madrid and Rome  It was probably the first time I tried to pass as something other than American while travelling outside the country being supremely embarrassed to be seen among a bunch of them by the rest of the world.  Americans were loud, obvious, and always on the defensive. I decided to keep up with my French homework at that point, just in case.

I remember being keenly aware of technology like lots of TV and movies in the classroom.   The DNC convention riots were all over TV at the time.  Nothing like watching wars, riots, and your basic street chaos along side your moon shots, Monkees, and Laugh-In.  There’s this similar vibe of violence, anger, misplaced patriotism, over the top entertainment and music all wrapped up in a technology-induced information overload.

Are we about to party like it’s 1969?

Donald Trump’s campaign and followers have overwhelmed the abilities of American journalists.  He’s running and an overtly racist campaign and his followers images (11)are responding in kind.  BB alerted me to both this article and the response to the author by the Trumpsters last night. The UK Guardian has a fairly succinct tick tock as well as analysis about the blatant, over-the-top antisemitic attacks on writer Julia Ioffe for profiling the current Trump arm candy/wife.

In the 24 hours since her profile of Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, appeared in GQ magazine, the Russian-American journalist has received a torrent of antisemitic, vitriolic and threatening messages from supporters of the Republican frontrunner.

In the deeply disturbing response to her piece, Ioffe said she sees a frightening future of what freedom of the press – and the country – might look like under President Trump.

“What happens if Donald Trump is elected?” Ioffe said. “We’ve seen the way he bids his supporters to attack the media, his proposal to change libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists.”

The harassment from Trump supporters is not directly linked to the candidate. Yet he has fomented a culture of violence at his rallies, encouraging supporters to retaliate against protesters. He once offered to pay the legal fees for a man who sucker punched a protester at his rally. He also failed to immediately disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who said he supports Trump’s candidacy. His campaign has been contacted for comment.

On Thursday, Ioffe answered a phone call from an anonymous caller who played a Hitler speech. She received another call from “Overnight Caskets”. On Twitter, users posted photos of her face superimposed on a mug shot from Auschwitz. The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist site, attacked Ioffe in a blogpost titled: “Empress Melania Attacked by Filthy Russian Kike Julia Ioffe in GQ!”

giphy (2)This is appalling.  Yet, at least it’s out there instead of some coded little side attack that no one knows quite how to handle. I’ve written about this before but found a succinct description this morning on Paul Krugman’s site about the Southern Strategy and the Republican Establishment’s historical need to bring over some voters to be able to do the bidding of the richest of the rich in this country. Krugman says that what we’re experiencing is the “wrath of the conned” in that white, blue collar men have found what they really want in Donald Trump. These angry disenfranchised white men no longer have to watch their anger be channeled into policy that only benefits the one percent while some side act panders to them.

Things are very different among Republicans. Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — which don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the G.O.P.’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American president (who the establishment has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.

What Donald Trump has been doing is telling the base that it can order à la carte. He has, in effect, been telling aggrieved white men that they can feed their anger without being forced to swallow supply-side economics, too. Yes, his actual policy proposals still involve huge tax cuts for the rich, but his supporters don’t know that — and it’s possible that he doesn’t, either. Details aren’t his thing.

Establishment Republicans have tried to counter his appeal by shouting, with growing hysteria, that he isn’t a true conservative. And they’re right, at least as they define conservatism. But their own voters don’t care.

If there’s a puzzle here, it’s why this didn’t happen sooner. One possible explanation is the decadence of the G.O.P. establishment, which has become ingrown and lost touch. Apparatchiks who have spent their whole careers inside the bubble of right-wing think tanks and partisan media may suffer from the delusion that their ideology is actually popular with real people. And this has left them hapless in the face of a Trumpian challenge.

Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the G.O.P.’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American president (who the establishment has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.

The point, in any case, is that the divergent nomination outcomes of 2016 aren’t an accident. The Democratic establishment has won because it has, however imperfectly, tried to serve its supporters. The Republican establishment has been routed because it has been playing a con game on its supporters all along, and they’ve finally had enough.

Krugman also argues that “Trump is playing a con game of his own”.   But seriously, there are folks that are arguing that the Trump candidacy looks a lot like George Wallace’s 1968 run for the Presidency. Wallace was a true believe–at the time–in strong arm, government enforced racism.  Is Trump cynically using racism to win or is he really the new George Wallace?699f303796098d250833b9be7368e302

Some 50 years ago, another vociferous candidate put the scare in traditional power brokers. George Wallace fired up crowds with a similar anti-establishment message, and drew protests as passionate as are being seen at Trump’s rallies today. Wallace also became a face of racial tension in America as the leading symbol for segregation in the 1960s.

When Wallace entered presidential politics in 1964, the then-Alabama governor was famous for declaring, “Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. And segregation forever.”

Wallace allies and family see parallels today in Trump.

“It’s just a replay,” Charlie Snider, one of Wallace’s most trusted political aides, told NPR. “We’re looking at a modern-day George Wallace.”

Snider is a Trump supporter. Wallace’s daughter, a Democrat, hears it, too, but in a different way.

“Trump and my father say out loud what people are thinking but don’t have the courage to say,” Peggy Wallace Kennedy told NPR. Wallace Kennedy was 18 when she was on the campaign trail with her father in 1968. She believes Trump is exploiting voters’ worst instincts, the way her late father once did.

“They both were able to adopt the notion that fear and hate are the two greatest motivators of voters that feel alienated from government,” she said.

The Trump campaign has not responded to NPR’s request for comment on the comparison.

Which brings me to this headline at CNN and another group of disgruntled, angry primarily white men:  “Donald Trump’s new target: Bernie Sanders supporters”.  You’ll 165906_600remember that there was much anger all over the place in 1968.  This is another resemblance to 1968. Much of the left was outraged by the ongoing, long Vietnam War but there were still civil rights issues percolating out there in groups that weren’t related directly to the interests of white men.  White men didn’t want to get drafted. Most of the rest of us just wanted civil and rights and equal treatment under the law in those days. Peace was a bonus card.

The GOP front-runner has ratcheted up his rhetoric against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in recent weeks, calling her a “crooked” politician who is unqualified to be president. But when it comes to her challenger, Bernie Sanders, Trump has taken a notably softer tone, praising the Vermont senator’s rhetoric and encouraging him to launch a third-party bid.
“I think Bernie Sanders should run as an independent. I think he’d do great,” Trump said at a victory rally in New York City Tuesday night, after sweeping five GOP contests in the Northeast.
The next morning, Trump said on MSNBC: “Bernie Sanders has a message that’s interesting. I’m going to be taking a lot of the things Bernie said and using them.”
Trump’s advisers say these comments are a preview of more explicit overtures the campaign is ready to make to Sanders’ supporters once the populist liberal exits the 2016 race. That strategy is based on the broad areas of overlap between voters attracted to Trump and those who have flocked to Sanders. Both have angrily denounced the political system as corrupt and expressed deep frustration that Washington is not helping ordinary people. They both oppose international trade deals, saying they hurt American jobs.
And, of course, targeting Sanders supporters could serve to undermine Clinton.

“You have two candidates in Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders which have reignited a group of people who have been disenfranchised and disappointed with the way Washington, D.C. and career politicians have run the country,” Lewandowski said. “Bernie Sanders has large crowds — not as large as Mr. Trump’s, but large crowds — and so there is a level of excitement there for people about his messaging and we will bring those people in.”

My guess is this may be somewhat successful. I’m still not convinced that all the white men in the Bernie movement aren’t in it for themselves and will go where they think their personal interest will flourish.  Those of us active in 1cbc6e3241e776b5cb8bf0d2f42825d0social media are still taking shit from BernieBros.  Again, this fits in very well with the Trump tactics of slash and burn.  As I write this, there are protests happening in Orange County outside of a Trump Rally.

Hundreds of demonstrators filled the street outside the Orange County amphitheater where Donald Trump held a rally Thursday night, stomping on cars, hurling rocks at motorists and forcefully declaring their opposition to the Republican presidential candidate.

Traffic came to a halt as a boisterous crowd walked in the roadway, some waving American and Mexican flags. Protesters smashed a window on at least one police cruiser, punctured the tires of a police sport utility vehicle, and at one point tried to flip a police car.

 About five police cars were damaged in total, police said, adding that some will require thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs.

“Dump the Trump,” one sign read. Another protester scrawled anti-Trump messages on Costa Mesa police cars.

“I’m protesting because I want equal rights for everybody, and I want peaceful protest,” said 19-year-old Daniel Lujan, one of hundreds in a crowd that appeared to be mostly Latinos in their late teens and 20s.

“I knew this was going to happen,” Lujan added. “It was going to be a riot. He deserves what he gets.”

Video footage showed some anti-Trump demonstrators hurling debris at a passing pickup truck. One group of protesters carried benches and blocked the entrance to the 55 Freeway along Newport Boulevard, with some tossing rocks at motorists near the on-ramp.

There’s a really good bit of analysis at The Observer by Lincoln Mitchell  on how we might remember this election cycle.  It even has a nod to the 1968 one.trumpusanimated

Presidential campaigns are also a way to tell stories. The 1968 presidential campaign, for example, was, among other things, a way we now understand the stories of street protests around the war in Vietnam, the racist backlash led by George Wallace, the terrible assassinations of the decade and the victory of the silent majority represented by Richard Nixon. More recently, the 2008 election told the story of America’s ongoing efforts to wrestle with its apartheid past, the continued rise of the angry, but unfocused, right wing and the country’s exhaustion with the Bush years.

The 2016 election will also tell a story about our country, but at the moment it is hard to determine exactly what the plot will be. One of the complex, perhaps even paradoxical, dynamics at this point in the election is that despite the tremendous amount of coverage and buzz around the notion of outsiders, voter anger and similar sentiments among the American people, as well as the energy and excitement generated by the two candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who best speak to that element within the American electorate, the outcome of this election will probably tell a very different story.

It is still too early to say anything for certain about what will happen in November, but the public opinion data as well as most expert opinion, including that of many Republican experts, suggest that when the election is finally over the winner will not be an entertaining, or inspiring outsider, or somebody who has successfully tapped into voter anger, but a consummate insider. Hillary Clinton has all but won the Democratic nomination and is in a strong position to defeat any Republican opponent in November.

What then does this tell us about America in 2016? It would be a mistake to dismiss altogether the voters who have been excited by Bernie Sanders progressive outsider campaign, but it would also be a mistake to overstate the significance of that campaign by not placing it in the context of similar Democratic primary campaigns such as those of Jerry Brown in 1992, Howard Dean in 2004 and even to some extent, Barack Obama’s more successful campaign in 2008. Mr. Trump, however, seems to have mobilized a different force within the American electorate. He has energized a group of voters who are generally Republicans and who have no affection for the socially liberal and, in their views, elitist leadership of the Democratic Party. However, the Trump campaign has successfully divorced those voters from their longtime support of a conservative economic orthodoxy that has for years done little to help them.

This analysis of the appeal of Trump echoes Krugman’s.  Does this election have more parallels to 1968?  (It’s a piece by Howard Fineman.) I certainly don’t want to people-who-hate-trump-cartoonargue that Hillary Clinton is Nixon unless I can also make the argument that she’s representing the silent majority of women, African Americans, Hispanic immigrants, GLBT who are now voting to ensure they have a continuing voice in the White House.  BB’s argued that Trump’s borrowed that Nixonian phrase.  I’ve certainly felt the Nixon in the dirty tricks of campaigns this year. However, Fineman argues that Clinton is HHH.

The Hillary Clinton role in 1968 was played by Hubert Humphrey, the beleaguered vice president of the by-then-wildly unpopular President Lyndon B. Johnson. Like Clinton, Humphrey had the support of most of the party’s establishment: African-Americans, unions, Jewish voters, elected officials at the federal, state and local levels.

But Humphrey was weighed down by the administration’s unpopular policies, chief among them the war and the draft. This time around, Hillary is having trouble defending her own version of interventionism (in the Middle East) as well as the free-trade and pro-big-business policies of both President Barack Obama and her own husband.

And the prospects for a disastrously disrupted convention this time aren’t on the Democratic side, but within the Republican Party.

For one, there is no certainty Trump will amass the 1,237 delegates that he needs for a majority before the GOP convention in Cleveland in July. Indeed, there is no certainty that, even if he does, it will prevent establishment efforts to derail him.

It will be messy, in part because the GOP hasn’t had such an experience since 1976 (when Ronald Reagan narrowly lost a challenge to President Gerald Ford) and the Trump people have no idea what to expect or how to plan.

“I’m not sure the Trump people fully understand what the establishment is going to try to do to them in Cleveland,” said Roger Stone, a longtime advisor, friend of Trump’s and student of how to win (or disrupt) conventions.

The scene outside the arena in Cleveland could be even more chaotic. Hosts of protest groups, from Black Lives Matter to to various Hispanics and Muslim groups, joined together to protest a Trump appearance in Chicago last week. They will have months to plan for Cleveland, and they have every reason to be indignant and afraid. (And they will show up for the Democrats in Philadelphia, too, no matter what Hillary and Bernie do to make peace.)

So, I’m not wanting to elucidate the role of Cruz/Fiorina in all of this waxing poetic on the chaotic year of 1968. I only want to say that I hope that Carly’s next song is a version of “You’re so Vain” sung at the Republican Party to all of them and that every one of them loses miserably. Meanwhile, where’s our rocket to Mars?

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


Early Morning Open Thread: The Voting Rights Act

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, 1965

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, 1965

Lyndon Johnson: Voting Rights Act Address

Delivered March 15, 1965, Washington, D.C.

I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.

I urge every member of both parties—Americans of all religions and of all colors—from every section of this country—to join me in that cause.

At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.

There is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem.

And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans—we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.

This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, north and south: “All men are created equal” — “Government by consent of the governed” — “Give me liberty or give me death.”…

Those words are a promise to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in man’s possessions. It cannot be found in his power or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom, he shall choose his leaders, educate his children, provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being….

Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.

Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes….

Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. No law that we now have on the books—and I have helped to put three of them there—can ensure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it.

In such a case our duty must be clear to all of us. The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or his color. We have all sworn an oath before God to support and to defend that Constitution.

We must now act in obedience to that oath.

Wednesday I will send to Congress a law designed to eliminate illegal barriers to the right to vote….

To those who seek to avoid action by their National Government in their home communities—who want to and who seek to maintain purely local control over elections—the answer is simple. Open your polling places to all your people. Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin. Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land. There is no constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of States rights or National rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.

I have not the slightest doubt what will be your answer….

But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

Their cause must be our cause too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome….

This great, rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all—all black and white, all North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies—poverty, ignorance, disease—they are our enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor. And these enemies too—poverty, disease, and ignorance—we shall overcome.

Montgomery Advertiser, February 26, 2013: Has South changed enough to end Voting Rights Act?

Lyndon Johnson had been a southern U.S. Senator from Texas.

He had fought all civil rights legislation with as zealous an effort as the other bloc of southern senators. This southern bloc of U.S. Senators totally controlled the Senate through their seniority and prowess. They were a formidable coalition. However, Lyndon had now become a national politician. He had ascended to the presidency at the death of John Kennedy and aspired to win the brass ring on his own in 1964.

When Lyndon Johnson set his sights on something nothing or nobody better get in his way. Whatever it took or by whatever means necessary, Lyndon Johnson was determined to win.

Johnson called George Wallace to the White House to meet with him. Wallace was cocky and full of vim and vinegar. At barely 5’8” he was like a bantam rooster. Although he was used to being the cock of the walk, it did not take long for the tall, tough, crude, intimidating Johnson to put Wallace in his place.

Johnson scowled at Wallace and told him he was nothing more than a redneck, tin horn demagogue and he could shout segregation and racist jargon as much as he wanted but it was not going to make a bit of difference. Johnson went on to say that by the end of the year he was going to pass a civil rights bill and sign it. He told Wallace that Strom Thurmond and his allies could filibuster all they wanted but at the end of the day it was going to be the law of the land and it was going to propel Johnson to victory in 1964. Wallace came back to Alabama with his hat in hand. He knew Johnson meant business.

The bill passed and Johnson signed it. Being a southerner Lyndon Johnson knew the ramifications when he signed the Civil Rights Act. He looked up and said, I have just signed the South over to the Republican Party. His words were prophetic….

In 1965, Johnson set his sights on a higher goal and passed the Voting Rights Act. He took aim at the Deep South and bestowed his renowned retribution extraction in Section 4B and Section 5. It requires that those five states and certain regions that voted for Goldwater must have any changes to their voting laws or procedures approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

Voting Rights Act Signing (1)