Tag Archives: Justice Department

Losing Privilege And Throwing A Tantrum

In 2016, following Trump’s win of the Electoral College vote, reasonable Americans  debated a foundational question: why? What would prompt a voter to cast a ballot for someone so obviously unfit for any office, let alone the Presidency? There were plenty of theories offered: hatred of Hillary, misogyny, a desire to blow up “the system,” Trump’s overt appeal to racism.

In the almost three years that have followed, the question changed. Now the mystery is his continued support by a significant majority of present-day Republicans. (I say present-day, because there have been sizable defections from the GOP in the wake of Trump’s election.) After three years of embarrassing behavior, constant obvious lies, and ample evidence of both ignorance and mental illness, how has he managed to retain the loyalty of his base?

A lot of us have guessed the (depressing) answer, but three years of academic research and simple observation have confirmed it. As a recent article initially published by Salon put it,

Trumpism is a form of backlash politics fueled by white rage at a perceived loss of privilege and power in a more diverse and cosmopolitan world. Trumpism is a temper tantrum along the global color line fueled by anxieties about power and social dominance.

That about sums it up.

It isn’t like the administration is trying to hide its bigotry. Aside from the horrendous treatment of brown people seeking asylum, there have been homophobic Executive orders about who can serve in the armed forces, anti-Semitic characterizations of Jews who disagree with Trump’s policies on Israel, attacks on Congresspersons of color, and a wide variety of other assaults aimed at those considered “other.”

Recently, reporters uncovered the fact that the Justice Department, among others, has been including white nationalist propaganda in official emails.

The Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review last week included a blog post from an anti-immigrant hate site in its daily news briefing to immigration court employees—and it was no accident: BuzzFeed News reports it has done this several times over the past year. It hasn’t been just the DOJ, either. “In addition, similar newsletters sent to the Labor Department, ICE, HUD, and the Department of Homeland Security included links and content from hyperpartisan and conspiracy-oriented publishers.” Among the sites have been Western Journal and Epoch Times, two sites that have spread birther and QAnon nonsense.

But a good chunk of this egregious behavior has come from the Justice Department, which has distributed links from VDARE, a white supremacist site popular with anti-Semites and other shits, at least six times since last September. In the most recent incident last week, the Justice Department shared a VDARE post that attacked immigration judges by name and “with racial and ethnically tinged slurs,” said National Association of Immigration Judges Union President Ashley Tabaddor. “If I had sent this,” she commented, “I would be facing serious disciplinary action.”

As the Salon report noted,

In their 2016 article “Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism,” social scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris also locate Trumpism as part of a global right-wing movement that is channeling what they describe as “retro backlash.” This is a feeling “especially among the older generation, white men, and less educated sectors, who sense decline and actively reject the rising tide of progressive values, resent the displacement of familiar traditional norms, and provide a pool of supporters potentially vulnerable to populist appeals.”

In the absence of principled Republicans in the Senate, Trump has been able to populate government agencies and–what is more frightening–the federal bench with men (and a very few women) who share his hostility to disfavored minorities.

The Salon article cites research suggesting that Trump voters embrace chaos in the hopes that what emerges will allow them to regain what they feel they have lost.

Whatever the psychology, there is one overriding lesson for Democrats: they will not “peel off” many–if any–Republican voters. Those who still support Trump are a lost cause, and trying to appeal to them is a fool’s errand. What will defeat Trump and his cult is turnout. 

Most Americans, fortunately, strongly disapprove of Trump and his racism. Our job is to make sure they vote.

What Planet is This?

Never in a million years did I think I’d write what I am about to write: progress on gay rights and same-sex marriage is the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal political landscape.

Yes, you read that correctly. Think about it.

Within the past couple of months, the Justice Department concluded that DOMA is unconstitutional, and announced that it will not defend it in court. The silk-stocking law firm hired by the Republican troglodytes in Congress to defend the measure backed out, citing its own commitment to gay equality.

In the last few weeks, I’ve read an impassioned essay by a conservative Evangelical pastor berating his fellow Evangelicals for their political activism against same-sex marriage and taking them to task for hypocrisy. I’ve seen a You Tube of a young Republican (and boy, are they rare) testifying to a state legislative committee in favor of same-sex marriage. I’ve seen two polls conducted by respected national opinion research firms, both of which found a slight majority of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage. And most recently, this news item appeared on the ABC News website:

“The Navy will allow same-sex couples to wed in ceremonies on its bases and officiated by Navy chaplains after the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is officially repealed, according to new training guidelines published last month by the Navy’s chief of chaplains.”

This ship has sailed. There will be rearguard actions, there will be setbacks, but the war is over, and the good guys won.

Unfortunately, the rest of the country is going to hell.

State legislatures are passing increasingly insane measures. In Texas, the legislature has overruled law enforcement and the administrations of the state’s universities, and authorized students who are so inclined to carry guns on campus. (That should “shoot down” their academic recruiting—nothing as comforting as knowing that the student you just failed is mad as hell and packing heat…). Arizona was just the first of several states to pass anti-immigrant measures that—whatever their highly dubious merits—they know to be unconstitutional. (Profiling aside, the Constitution makes immigration an exclusively federal issue.) Here in Indiana, where I live, in addition to passing our own version of such a bill (over the strenuous protests of our largest employers), the legislature passed–and the Governor signed—the nation’s most restrictive abortion bill, which among other things de-funded Planned Parenthood, the only provider of healthcare services for some 22,000 low-income women. (The fact that denying two million dollars to Planned Parenthood will cost the state four million dollars in federal family planning money didn’t matter any more than the health of Indiana’s poorest women mattered.)

I won’t even mention the efforts of Governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan to deny public sector workers the right to engage in collective bargaining, or their wars on public schools and teachers. Or the states that have passed their very own “birther” bills.

When you look at Congress, it’s even worse. The 2010 elections swept a large number of absolutely crazy ideologues into office, where they are busily trying to abolish Medicare and Medicaid, cause the national government to default on its obligations by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, voting that climate change doesn’t exist (I kid you not!) and engaging in all sorts of other mischief, the consequences of which they clearly do not begin to understand.

Seriously, if it weren’t for the progress on gay rights, there’d be no progress at all. And if that isn’t enough to make you head out for the nearest bar, I don’t know what is.