Tag Archives: Trump

The Fight Is Never Over

When I first began this blog, one of the issues I frequently addressed was gay rights. LGBTQ folks still faced formidable barriers to equality; same-sex marriage was a pipe dream, with DOMA at the federal level and so-called “mini-DOMAs” in many states.  Activists were fighting “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” and working to include protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in state civil rights statutes.

In Indiana, civil rights organizations and major businesses managed to defeat an effort to place a ban on same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution, but we still lack those “four little words”–sexual identity and gender identity–in our civil rights law.  Unless you live in an Indiana city with an inclusive human rights ordinance, it is still perfectly legal here to fire someone for being gay. We also remain one of only five states without an inclusive hate crimes law.

Even in states like Indiana, though, LGBTQ folks have benefitted from the truly dramatic shift in public opinion that has occurred over the past couple of decades. As homophobia ebbed–it certainly hasn’t disappeared, but it has greatly diminished–this blog focused on other issues.

Attacks on LGBTQ citizens may have diminished, but as young folks like to say, “haters gotta hate.” As an article in the Guardian recently illustrated, there is plenty of room for homophobia among the numerous bigotries exhibited by our accidental President and those who support him.

The Trump administration has attacked LGBT rights in healthcare, employment, housing, education, commerce, the military, prisons and sports.

These efforts, it turns out, were just the beginning.

The president’s anti-LGBT agenda could soon gain significant momentum at the US Supreme Court, where Trump’s Department of Justice (DoJ) is pushing to make it legal to fire people for being gay or transgender. The move would fundamentally reverse civil rights for millions of people, LGBT leaders say, and raises fears that LGBT people may lose the minimal protections and resources they have won in past years.

“This is a critical point in history,” said Alesdair Ittelson, the law and policy director at interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth. “The outcome of this case is going to have a tremendous impact on everyone.”

During the Obama administration, the LGBTQ community won significant victories:  repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” new protections under the Affordable Care Act, an anti-discrimination executive order and expanded recognition of trans rights, among other things. Those victories are now under attack.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has sought to reverse healthcare protections for trans people, moved to ban trans people from serving in the military, eliminated rules protecting trans students and pushed to allow businesses to turn away gay and trans customers if they seek a religious exemption.

Last month, the Trump justice department made its most aggressive anti-gay legal argument to date, urging the supreme court to rule that gay employees are not protected under a longstanding act that prohibits “sex discrimination”. The DoJ filed briefs related to three supreme court cases to be heard together on 8 October – two involving gay men fired from their jobs, and a third involving a woman terminated by her employer after she came out as trans.

The courts have repeatedly held that gay people are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Before Trump, the federal government agreed. But William Barr’s Department of Justice is now arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity are excluded under Title VII because “sex” means only whether people are “biologically male or female.”

Before Trump, the Justice Department pursued justice. Before Trump, judicial nominees elevated to the federal bench were vetted for legal competence, not for fidelity to radical “conservative” (actually fundamentalist Christian) ideology.

Before Trump, even our worst Presidents weren’t rabid White Nationalists, Islamophobes, homophobes, anti-Semites and proud and loud racists.

But that was then, and now is now.

At Least We Aren’t Alone…

In the United States, we apparently are divided into two completely different species: the know-nothing cult that is today’s GOP, and the people who live and worry in what has been called “the reality-based community.”

As depressing as it is dealing with the alternate reality inhabited by Trump and his defenders, we need to recognize that we aren’t the only once-dominant nation busily crapping in our own mess kit. (Sorry, but that seemed the most apt description.)

Britain has Brexit. And Boris Johnson. (Although I’ll note that the UK also has 21 Conservative lawmakers who were willing to put the interests of their country above their party. Thus far, that’s 21 more than we have.)

A couple of weeks ago, the Guardian reported on the likely consequences of a “hard Brexit”–the path they are being taken down by Boris Johnson.

No-deal Brexit has never loomed larger than in the current moment. Boris Johnson has said that Britain will leave the European Union on 31 October. His entire political strategy is based on the credibility of his threat to follow through, regardless of whether he has come to an agreement with the remaining 27 members. As a result, the need to understand what no deal may mean in practice has become increasingly urgent.

At the UK in a Changing Europe, we have tried to address this: our report on it is out on Wednesday. We don’t have any inside information. We’re not privy to material that others do not have. But we do have a team of scholars who have spent their careers studying the relationship between the UK and the EU, and so are well placed to consider the potential implications if the UK were to leave in this manner.

What does that increasingly likely no-deal Brexit look like?

No deal means a cliff edge; the full panoply of checks and tariffs will be imposed on our exports to the EU, and cross-border trade in services will face new restrictions.

So trade with the EU will become more difficult and more costly, with those costs being potentially catastrophic for smaller companies that do not have the margins to absorb them.

After noting the probable disruption to trade and freedom of movement, the article highlighted issues that have received less attention:

One little discussed consequence of no deal is that the UK will immediately lose access to EU databases and other forms of cooperation including the European arrest warrant, the Schengen information system and Europol. This will hinder policing and security operations in a world where data is key to solving crime. Nor is it inconceivable, say, that we will witness a rise in organised criminal activity, as gangs seek to profit from this disruption.

And then, there are the problems that have been foreseen, but not solved:

But perhaps the biggest and most dangerous unknown is what happens on the island of Ireland. The UK government has said it will not apply checks and tariffs at the Irish border – a stance which is at odds with its commitments under, inter alia, WTO rules. The EU, however, has made it clear it intends to apply the rules, though whether all checks will be imposed from day one is less obvious. Both sides are likely to blame the other, with unforeseeable political and economic consequences.

Over the longer term, the economy will adjust. But there will be a significant cost. Our earlier research, which analysed the effects of trading with the EU on WTO terms, found that after 10 years this would reduce the UK’s per-capita income by between 3.5% and 8.7%; other credible analyses come to much the same conclusion.

With or without a hard Brexit, the decision to leave the EU will weaken the UK in multiple ways. With or without Impeachment or a “blue wave” in 2020, the U.S. will need a generation–at least–to recover from the systemic damage inflicted by a mentally-ill ignoramus monumentally unfit for the office he holds. If we recover.

The UK and the US are both in a world of hurt because significant percentages of citizens in both countries voted their racism. In England, a vote for Brexit was an anti-immigrant vote; in the U.S., a vote for Trump rewarded his abandonment of dog-whistles in favor of full-throated, unembarrassed bigotry.

As a result, there’s you-know-what in the mess kit.

A Perfect Analogy

Amid the chaos and corruption of this administration, there is one positive thing we critics all need to concede: Trump, Pence and company have been gold for political satire.

He’s probably less well-known than  the large and appreciative audiences for John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, et al,  but Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has also been turning out some really excellent snark. And since the mood–at my house and on this blog–has been pretty depressed, I thought I’d share one of Milbank’s more recent columns.

This one was titled “American Pharoah Joins the Resistance.” American Pharoah, for those who (like me) don’t follow such things, is a Triple Crown winning horse. And Mike Pence recently alleged that the horse bit him. Hard.

I saw the initial report of Pence’s accusation, thought “good for the horse,” and promptly forgot about it. Milbank didn’t.

On Friday, Vice President Pence informed House Republicans that Triple Crown winner American Pharoah “bit me so hard” on the arm during a Kentucky visit last year that he (man, not horse) “almost collapsed.”

Some might disbelieve the vice president’s tale of American Pharoah carnage, because Pence said nothing about this grievous injury at the time and because the manager of the racehorse-breeding company said that if the “sweet” thoroughbred had bitten Pence, “I’d know it.” Pence did show people a bruise on his arm back then, but that could have been from one of the many times President Trump walked all over him.

I’ve never known a member of the Trump administration to tell an untruth, so I have no reason to disbelieve Pence’s harrowing account.

Sweet-natured or not, Milbank says there are several reasons the horse might have chosen to bite Pence:

Pence saw him and another stallion grooming each other, and American Pharoah worried he’d be sent to the glue factory.

Pence told the stud that sex is only between one stallion and one mare, whom the stallion should call “mother.”

Pence advised American Pharoah not to eat oats with a mare unless others are present at the same trough.

Alternatively, as Milbank writes, since horses are very hierarchical and alpha horses bite those they consider beneath them, perhaps Pharoah had seen how Pence is treated at the White House? Or had drawn conclusions about status from Pence’s nauseatingly obsequious behavior around Trump?

The column is all worth reading, but here is my absolute favorite paragraph. It’s a perfect analogy to this disastrous–almost comically destructive–administration:

Trump might not have American Pharoah’s speed, but their behaviors are similar. The comedian John Mulaney likens Trump’s presidency to a horse loose in a hospital: “No one knows what the horse is going to do next, least of all the horse. . . . So all day long you walk around, ‘What’d the horse do? What’d the horse do?’ The updates, they’re not always bad; sometimes they’re just odd. It’ll be like, ‘The horse used the elevator? I didn’t know he knew how to do that.’ The creepiest days are when you don’t hear from the horse . . . those quiet days when people are like, ‘It looks like the horse has finally calmed down.’ And then 10 seconds later the horse is like, ‘I’m gonna run toward the baby incubators and smash ’em with my hooves.’”

Perfect.

Trump, Guiliani And Ukraine: Words Matter

Talking Points Memo has the best explanation of the unprecedented treachery that I’ve encountered.

Josh Marshall begins his analysis by emphasizing the importance of the words we use to describe the situation.

Over the last two days, I’ve been trying to take stock of the quick rush of new details about this emerging Trump/Ukraine scandal. It is clear purely on the basis of what is now undisputed in the record that the President and Rudy Giuliani are guilty of a criminal abuse of power and that most or all of the President’s top national security advisors have been complicit in and quite likely participated in that criminal activity.

But before we can really understand this story in any coherent way we need to realize that many of the words and concepts are simply wrong. Indeed they pack the criminal conduct and deception into the very vocabulary we use. That makes it next to impossible to make sense of what’s actually going on.

Josh points first to the standard description of this scandal: Rudy Giuliani pressing the government of Ukraine to launch an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. That, as Josh writes, is inaccurate. There has already been a thorough investigation of these allegations, and absolutely no wrongdoing was uncovered. So what’s being demanded isn’t an investigation. Trump and Giuliani are demanding that Ukraine manufacture damaging and false information.

The U.S. government has ample resources to conduct its own investigations and little compunction about investigating bad acts that Americans commit abroad. Indeed, there’s a whole set of laws to cover corrupt acts by Americans abroad. To the extent the FBI needs assistance of local law enforcement, treaties or geo-strategic clout will make that happen. The central claim – that Biden got a Ukrainian prosecutor fired to protect his son – is preposterous on its face to anyone who followed what was happening at the time…When you demand an “investigation” when investigations have already happened and there’s demonstrably nothing to investigate, this is a mislabeling of what is happening. You’re pressuring someone to manufacture damaging information – in this case, using the existential threat of withholding great power military support.

Also misused is the frequent identification of Giuliani as “the President’s private lawyer.” Marshall explains why crazy Rudy is not acting as a lawyer– and why the appropriate designation is the President’s ambassador, and that is incredibly dangerous. It allows Giuliani to speak with the authority of and issue threats on behalf of the President of the United States, “and conduct what amounts to personal diplomacy in the President’s interest” unrestricted by the rules governing public officials.

Giuliani is President Trump’s personal ambassador and Ukraine isn’t his only stomping ground. He has continued to work for the MEK, the Iranian dissident group until recently classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, while President Trump tries to topple the government of Iran. Josh Kovensky assembled this list of nine other countrieswhere Giuliani has traveled, since becoming Trump’s “personal lawyer” for either private consulting or speaking engagements: Armenia, Ukraine, Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, Israel, Albania, France and Poland. Giuliani has been doing foreign consulting work with regimes around the world since 2002, leveraging his reputation as Mr. 9/11. So foreign consulting isn’t new for Giuliani. But it’s impossible to imagine that his juice hasn’t been turbocharged to an infinite degree by the fact that he is now the personal emissary of the President of the United States. It also seems quite unlikely he isn’t doing business for the President too, either for the President’s businesses or for his political protection.

 The U.S. Constitution gives the American President great power to conduct foreign policy and enforce the laws on behalf of the Republic. They are delegated specifically for that purpose, much as a private individual might delegate to an investment advisor or attorney the power to act on the individual’s behalf or in their interest. The President also has great latitude to decide what is in the national interest. But when he or she clearly uses those powers – which are massively inflated by the power of the American state – to profit personally or defend his personal interests they immediately become an abuse of power. When they are used to interfere with conducting a free and fair election in the U.S. they clearly constitute criminal abuse of power.

The words here matter. Giuliani is the President’s private diplomat, private ambassador. If those words are too rich for your blood call him the President’s personal representative. Whatever it is, the President has given him the power to threaten and negotiate with the full weight of presidential power for Donald Trump’s private gain. That’s not lawyering. He’s not a “personal lawyer.” And he’s asking a foreign power to manufacture evidence to tamper with a U.S. presidential election.

If this isn’t a constitutional crisis, nothing is.

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.