Tag Archives: Trump

It’s Getting Harder To Ignore

In the wake of the events in Charlottesville– especially in the wake of the White House’s reluctance to name and blame those responsible and yesterday’s return to a defensive insistence on the equivalence of “both sides”– it has become much more difficult for Trump apologists to deny what has been obvious to many of us since well before the Presidential campaign: this needy, damaged ignoramus desperately needs to feel superior to others, and the “others” he feels most superior to are minorities.

His entire campaign was a none-too-veiled appeal to bigotry. His base is populated with “alt-right” figures–Klansmen and Nazis like David Duke who enthusiastically endorsed him and whom he refused to repudiate. As a recent column in the Guardian noted,

Duke, in Charlottesville on Saturday, told the USA Today Network: “We’re gonna fulfil the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s gonna take our country back.”

Neo-Nazis and the so-called “alt-right” have been a crucial part of the Trump base. Critics have noted the nods, the winks, even the Republican national convention speech, with its giant screens and logos that bordered on fascist parody.

Trump’s bigotry, and especially his racism, is neither new nor recently adopted for reasons of political expediency. This is a man who has been sued for refusing to rent apartments to blacks, who flogged “birtherism” in order to delegitimatize a black President, and who has filled his administration and the White House with unapologetic white supremacists.

Trump’s attorney general is Jeff Sessions, who has long been dogged by accusations of racism. His chief strategist is Steve Bannon, who once proudly said of Breitbart News: “We’re the platform for the alt-right.”

Trump’s deputy assistant is Sebastian Gorka, who has worn a medal awarded to the Hungarian group Vitezi Rend, linked by some to Nazi collaborators. Gorka said last week: “It’s this constant, ‘Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.’ No, it isn’t … go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East, and tell me what the real problem is today. Go to Manchester.”

A president’s actions and words can only do so much, but they can create a climate in which certain groups, attitudes and mindsets flourish. Trump, 71, will not switch course now, for as Michelle Obama once observed: “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.”

Paul Krugman’s Monday column in the New York Times, titled “When the President is UnAmerican” is worth reading in its entirety; it is impossible to disagree with his conclusion.

These days we have a president who is really, truly, deeply un-American, someone who doesn’t share the values and ideals that made this country special.

In fact, he’s so deeply alienated from the American idea that he can’t even bring himself to fake it. We all know that Trump feels comfortable with white supremacists, but it’s amazing that he won’t even give them a light tap on the wrist. We all know that Putin is Trump’s kind of guy, but it’s remarkable that Trump won’t even pretend to be outraged at Putin’s meddling with our election….

Whatever role foreign influence may have played and may still be playing, however, we don’t need to wonder whether an anti-American cabal, hostile to everything we stand for, determined to undermine everything that truly makes this country great, has seized power in Washington. It has: it’s called the Trump administration.

I will repeat what I have said previously: when Trump’s poll numbers finally hit bottom and stop their slide (when the people who held their noses and voted for him because they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary or desert the GOP have deserted him), the extent of American bigotry will be starkly obvious.

Trump’s loyalists are America’s White Nationalists, Nazis and racists. We’re about to see just how many of these despicable people there are.

Trump and White Christian Nationalism

The past few days, in addition to the spectacle of two immature, ignorant and nuclear- armed heads of state throwing verbal poo at each other, the media has been filled with images of torch-wielding White Nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A “Unite The Right” rally organized by white nationalist Richard Spencer descended into chaos and violence Saturday in Charlottesville, as thousands of “alt right” activists, Nazis, KKK members, other assorted white supremacists, and armed militia groups fought with anti-fascist groups and other counter-protesters.

Thanks to Trump, the haters now feel confident “coming out.”

Donald Trump’s election was the culmination of years of seething White Christian Nationalist resentment, constantly fed by a conservative media harping on “those” people– immigrants, the LGBTQ community, blacks, feminists– and brought to a boiling point by Obama’s Presidency.

Evangelicals’ embrace of Donald Trump may seem incomprehensible to traditional Christians and certainly to the rest of us, but we shouldn’t confuse genuine evangelical Christianity with the White Christian Nationalism that has increasingly replaced it. As ThinkProgress explains:

Where did this cross-toting, flag-waving, and sometimes confusion-inducing form of Trumpian Christian nationalism come from, and why does it appear to resonate with throngs of Americans? And how in the world did Trump, hardly a paragon of conservative Christian virtue, end up as its champion?…

[T]he Christian nationalist scaffolding currently propping up Trump is … relatively new. It shares many theological ideas with the broader spectrum of evangelicalism, but adds a different brand of intensity and emphasis (especially domestically). Its origins are also more recent, beginning with the rise of the Religious Right in the 1970s, when leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Sr. and Pat Robertson characterized America as a “Christian nation” and urged their supporters to elect conservative Christian leaders who shared their rabid opposition to abortion, LGBTQ equality, and euthanasia, among other things.

The article traces the history of “dominionism,” a theology that has been described as a “strange fundamentalist postmodernism that denies that there is any such thing as objective reality.” That history–and the convoluted doctrine that allows some Christian Nationalists to insist that Trump was “chosen by God”– is well worth reading. In most cases, however, this “Christian” embrace of the president has more to do with his willingness to pander to them and promote their causes than with doctrine.

It also has a lot to do with the fact that Trump’s rhetoric makes their bigotry seem acceptable; he constantly demeans the “others” they hate, and steadfastly refuses to call them out.(CNN reported that Trump condemned hate “on many sides” in response to the violent white nationalist protests and terror attack in Charlottesville; the President did not even mention white nationalists and the alt-right movement in his remarks, and later called for a “study” of the “situation.”)

Analyses of data from the 2016 election have made it increasingly clear that the great majority of Trump voters–whether they self-identified as Christian Nationalists or not–were motivated by racism and traits associated with racism.  A commentary in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology reports that a majority of Trump voters displayed one or more (usually more) of the following social-psychological traits:

  • authoritarianism and social dominance orientation (authoritarianism is characterized by deference to authority, aggression toward outgroups, a rigidly hierarchical view of the world, and resistance to new experiences);
  • prejudice (racial prejudice as well as prejudice against immigrants and outgroups in general);
  • lack of intergroup contact (Trump’s white supporters report far less contact with minorities than other Americans); and
  • relative–not real–deprivation (Trump supporters feel deprived relative to what they erroneously perceive other ‘less deserving’ groups possess).

The horrendous spectacle in Charlottesville is only the beginning. We can see clearly now just what it is that motivates “Trump’s Troops,” and it isn’t Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Policy For Dummies

Permit me to channel–okay, parody– Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

How do I ridicule thee? Let me count the ways.
I sneer to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach…

President Trump–in his obsessive effort to eradicate anything and everything that his predecessor did (he was black, you know)– has reversed Obama’s moratorium on new leases for coal mining on federal lands.

Although that moratorium was good for the environment, the impetus for it was actually financial. As Think Progress has reported,

Taxpayers are estimated to be losing $1 billion a year in revenues because coal companies are not paying royalties on the actual market price of coal extracted from federal lands. Royalty payments are split between the federal government and the state where the coal is mined, and coal lease sales in the in the past decade garnered close to $1 per ton in bids.

This is above and beyond the so-called “royalties loophole,” which allows coal companies to sell publicly owned coal to subsidiaries at artificially low prices. An Obama-era rule had closed that loophole, but the Trump administration has already stayed the legally binding rule, and has initiated court proceedings to throw it out entirely. Under the loophole, taxpayers lose millions of dollars annually.

So–let’s just “count the ways” that this latest impulsive eruption was both stupid and venal.

As noted, it will cost taxpayers. And it will cost us without doing anything at all for coal miners.

Even if new leasing goes forward, critics say Trump’s order to lift the moratorium will do more for coal industry executives than it will for coal communities. Coal jobs have been in decline for decades — and not just because coal production is falling. Automation and new mining processes have diminished the number of jobs per ton of coal.

“This order won’t bring the coal industry back, but it will ensure coal companies rip off American taxpayers for years to come,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, advocacy director for the Center for Western Priorities.

Trump has already loosened regulations that prohibited coal companies from polluting the nation’s drinking water, alarming public health officials, among others. But his love affair with coal also ignores market economics. Between coal companies’ massive amount of reserves (over 20 years worth) and the rapidly declining use of coal, the market has sent a strong signal about coal’s future.

Receiving such signals–or, let’s face it, comprehending reality–isn’t Trump’s strong suit.

Reporting on the move, Reuters made similar observations.

Since 2012, coal production has plunged more than 25 percent to the lowest levels since 1978 due to falling prices. The industry has been hit with massive layoffs and bankruptcies.

Even if the rollback of the moratorium helped coal miners– an outcome analysts uniformly dispute–the number of Americans employed as coal miners is far fewer than Trump evidently believes. According to the Washington Post, more people work at Arby’s than in coal mines.

Experts in the industry have already pointed out, repeatedly, that the coal jobs are extremely unlikely to come back. The plight of the coal industry is more a function of changing energy markets and increased demand for natural gas than anything else.

Another largely overlooked point about coal jobs is that there just aren’t that many of them relative to other industries. There are various estimates of coal-sector employment, but according to the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns program, which allows for detailed comparisons with many other industries, the coal industry employed 76,572 people in 2014, the latest year for which data is available.

That number includes not just miners but also office workers, sales staff and all of the other individuals who work at coal-mining companies.

Although 76,000 might seem like a large number, consider that similar numbers of people are employed by, say, the bowling (69,088) and skiing (75,036) industries. Other dwindling industries, such as travel agencies (99,888 people), employ considerably more. Used-car dealerships provide 138,000 jobs. Theme parks provide nearly 144,000. Carwash employment tops 150,000.

Maybe we can get Trump to turn his attention to carwashes. Used-car dealerships would be a natural fit…

Or maybe he can enlist a new ghostwriter and publish another book; it could be titled The Art of the Very Bad Deal or Policy for Dummies.

 

 

 

 

Tell Me Again It Isn’t All About Race

The latest polling has Donald Trump at 33% approval. Most of the rest of us find it incomprehensible that anyone approves of this profoundly damaged and embarrassing man or his Keystone Kop administration. The folks that Molly Ivins used to call the “Chattering Classes” have filled column inches, airwaves and much of the Internet with efforts to explain his election and the continued loyalty of his rabid base.

The more I read, the more convinced I become that Trump owes that victory and that loyalty to what scholars delicately term “racial resentment.” There were certainly lifelong Republicans and Hillary haters who held their noses and voted for him; their defections account for the steady erosion of his support.  His remaining base, however, is composed of the people who understood that “Make America Great Again” was (none-too-subtle) code for “Make America White Again.”

As his poll results decline and his troubles mount, Trump needs to feed and energize that base. So his administration is ratcheting up his war on immigrants (especially brown and Muslim ones), throwing some red meat to anti-Semites, and promising to protect those poor, oppressed white people from “reverse” discrimination.

As Paul Waldman writes,

To many people reading this, the idea that white people are being discriminated against in higher education — or anywhere else — is absurd. The idea that discrimination against whites is such a significant problem that it demands Justice Department action is positively ludicrous. But we should understand that this is exactly the kind of thing many of Trump’s voters wanted him to deliver. And the administration will be only too pleased to hear the condemnations from the left over this initiative.

That’s not to say that the policy doesn’t have its origins in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s sincerely felt belief that white folks can’t catch a break in America. I’m sure it does. But it’s also part of a long and extraordinarily successful Republican project to convince white voters that minorities in general and African Americans in particular enjoy a panoply of free benefits from the government that make their lives comfortable and easy. It’s a lie, but it’s extraordinarily widespread.

Waldman reminds us that regular viewers of Fox News, readers of Breitbart, and fans of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk are constantly inundated with “evidence” supporting white racial grievance. It’s a central theme in the media that shapes conservative reality.

Hate groups and so-called “alt-right” organizations have grown dramatically since the Presidential campaign–a campaign that saw Trump endorsed by the KKK, David Duke and other panicky “race warriors” who had slithered from under their rocks to revile and demean an African-American President.

The Guardian recently reported on a gathering in Tennessee of one such group.

This weekend, American Renaissance held its annual conference at a venue in Montgomery Bell state park, an hour west of Nashville, Tennessee. Attendees and speakers clearly felt a growing confidence. They have seen appreciable growth in membership of established and emerging far-right groups. They have also seen the election as president of Donald Trump.

Speakers at the event addressed subjects including “Race realism and race denialism” and “Has the white man turned the corner?” One considered “The Trump report card – so far”….

Many were millennials. Though all attendees wore conference dress code – jacket and tie – more than a few younger men sported the “fashy haircut”, short back and sides with a severe parting, which has become a signature of the so-called alt-right.

Many such young men lined up for selfies with Richard Spencer, the president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute thinktank who has achieved fame since greeting the election result with a cry of “Hail Trump”.

This resurgence of open, unapologetic racism is profoundly depressing. Like most sentient Americans, I realized that these attitudes still existed, but I’ve been appalled by how widespread and overt their expression has become in the Age of Trump.

When Trump’s poll numbers finally bottom out, we’ll have a pretty good idea what percentage of our fellow citizens are willing to jettison American ideals in return for continued White Christian privilege.

Looking For A Bright Side

We are all hungry for good news these days–even if the search for the “bright side of life” sometimes seems reminiscent of that famous scene from Life of Brian….

So–can we look for any good news emanating from the Trump Administration? I’ve previously pointed out that civic participation is up dramatically since the election–huge numbers of people who were previously apathetic about government have evidently realized that public policy really does matter. (I know, clutching at straws here…)

Granted, any positive consequence coming from this misbegotten administration is by definition inadvertent. But that doesn’t make such consequences nonexistent.

In a recent column, Fred Hiatt expanded on that inadvertence, which he dubbed “The Boomerang Effect.”

Did your head spin when Utah’s Orrin Hatch, a true conservative and the Senate’s longest-serving Republican, emerged last week as the most eloquent spokesman for transgender rights? Credit the Trump boomerang effect.

Much has been said about White House dysfunction and how little President Trump has accomplished in his first six months. But that’s not the whole story: In Washington and around the world, in some surprising ways, things are happening — but they are precisely the opposite of what Trump wanted and predicted when he was sworn in.

Hiatt reminds his readers of the conventional wisdom–or at least, the conventional punditry–that saw Brexit and Trump’s election as harbingers of a global white nationalist resurgence. Putin and Russia would gain power, the European Union would fracture or disintegrate. That didn’t happen.

But European voters, sobered by the spectacle on view in Washington, moved the other way. In March, the Netherlands rejected an anti-immigrant party in favor of a mainstream, conservative coalition. In May, French voters spurned the Putin-loving, immigrant-bashing Marine Le Pen in favor of centrist Emmanuel Macron, who went on to win an overwhelming majority in Parliament and began trying to strengthen, not weaken, the E.U.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Trump belittled for having allowed so many refugees into her country, has grown steadily more popular in advance of a September election.

Conventional wisdom also saw the GOP’s control of Congress and the White House as evidence that the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare” was doomed. Thanks in no small part to the Trump’s incompetence and the internal divisions within the once Grand Old Party, that didn’t happen either.

But here’s the boomerang effect: Obamacare is not just hanging on but becoming more popular the more Trump tries to bury it. And if he now tries to mismanage Obamacare to its death, we may boomerang all the way to single-payer health insurance. This year’s debate showed that most Americans now believe everyone should have access to health care. If the private insurance market is made to seem undependable, the fallback won’t be Trumpcare. It will be Medicare for all.

I fervently hope Hiatt is correct about that, although I admit to having my doubts.

Among the other “boomerangs” that Hiatt identifies are several that are familiar to most of us: firing Comey really ratcheted up the Russia investigation, and increased the public’s perception that Trump has something (many things, probably) to hide. Withdrawing from the Paris Accords prompted state and local governments to increase their efforts to combat climate change. Trump’s threats of massive cuts to the NIH research budget may have strengthened that agency’s hand .

Unfortunately, none of this really mitigates the harm this administration is doing every day.  We have a racist Attorney General who is sabotaging civil rights and criminal justice reforms; an appalling Secretary of Education who wants to destroy public schools and use vouchers to “build up God’s Kingdom;” a climate denier in the pocket of fossil fuel interests is in charge of the EPA.  Whatever Rex Tillerson’s strengths or weaknesses, the State Department staff and institutional memory have been eviscerated…

The “boomerang” we desperately need is a clean sweep of Congress in 2018.