Tag Archives: Trumpism

Yes! Virginia: There Is A Santa Claus

Yes, as I used to tell students when I was a high school English teacher, punctuation makes a difference…

Wordplay aside, I am gratified to report that, on Tuesday, Santa Claus–aka Virginia voters–brought Americans a welcome gift: Sanity, and a resounding repudiation of white nationalism and the politics of fear.

Ed Gillespie ran a campaign based squarely upon Steve Bannon’s promise that “Trumpism without Trump” would carry the day. It is no longer plausible–if it ever was– to characterize “Trumpism” as anything other than racial resentment, and the appeals to bigotry in Gillespie’s ugly and reprehensible political ads were anything but subtle.

Virginia voters also repudiated homophobia, replacing one of the most anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender members of Virginia’s legislature with a trans woman–and by a very healthy margin. Rejection of the politics of hate wasn’t limited to Virginia, either; in Minneapolis, a black trans woman was elected to the city council. Even in more conservative areas of the country, voters ignored efforts to stigmatize immigrants, non-Christians and African-Americans. A Liberian refugee is the new mayor of Helena, Montana. Hoboken, New Jersey has its first Sikh mayor.

Initial analyses of Virginia voting patterns brought confirmation of widening divides between urban and rural voters, and between college-educated and non-college-educated white voters. It also gave political observers a better understanding of which non-urban precincts should be categorized as “rural” for purposes of electoral prediction.  As the Guardian noted, despite a campaign that repeatedly stumbled, and a candidate who was earnest and moderate, but considerably less than charismatic,

Northam still won by overwhelming margins in suburban and exurban areas, taking 60% of the vote in both Prince William and Loudoun counties, rapidly growing suburbs and exurbs of Washington DC. When Gillespie ran for Senate in 2014 against the popular incumbent Mark Warner, he won Loudoun County and lost Prince William by less than 3%.

It wasn’t just in Virginia that suburban voters rejected Trumpism.  Democrats won victories with suburban votes in races across the country. From the  populous New York suburbs of Nassau County and Westchester County, to mayoral races in  cities like Charlotte, North Carolina; St Petersburg, Florida; and Manchester, New Hampshire, voters in the nation’s suburbs decisively favored Democrats. As the Guardian article concluded,

The midterms are a year away and a lot can happen between now and then. But the changing political demographics of the US, combined with Trump’s low approval ratings, mean that Democrats can feel confident they are on the right track at present. They may no longer be the party of coalminers in Appalachian hollows but, based on Tuesday’s result, they are now the party of an increasing number of suburban subdivisions.

It will be interesting to see whether and how this dynamic plays out in red states like Indiana. According to the last polling I saw, despite the fact that he won the state handily, Trump’s Indiana favorability has declined by 19 points since the election. That decline probably won’t matter much to contests in the truly rural parts of the state, but it will be interesting to see if the more affluent, educated and cosmopolitan suburbs follow the pattern that emerged on Tuesday.

Tuesday provided us with a gratifying reaffirmation of Americans’ basic goodness, but it’s not nearly time to stop agitating, protesting and resisting.

 

 

 

In Praise of George W. Bush (No Kidding)

Where was this guy while Dick Cheney was running the country?

Granted, George W. Bush has been looking a lot better during the disaster that is Donald Trump…but I’m still dumbfounded (and awed) by his speech last week at the Bush Institute’s Spirit of Liberty event in New York.

A few quotations:

“Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

 “Bigotry in any form is blasphemy against the American creed and it means the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation. We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools.”
“And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.”

“The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization.”

“Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions, forgetting the image of God we should see in each other. We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, [and] forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”

In a further reproach to Trump–whose name he never uttered and who has dismissed the evidence–Bush also underscored the conclusion of all the American intelligence agencies about Russian interference in last year’s elections, calling it real and labelling it “subversion.”

Credit where credit is due: during his presidency, Bush never came across as a bigot, although he often failed to push back against his party’s use of bigotry and especially homophobia to win elections.

It is obviously easier for politicians who are not facing another election to call out Trumpism, as we’ve seen with John McCain and Bob Corker. But it is also easier to refrain from publicly defying a sitting President of one’s own party, easier to avoid setting an example that cannot help but shame the current leadership of that party. Easier to keep your head down and enjoy the accolades that come from being an “elder statesman.”

Bush’s broadside is so important because it is his party (or more accurately, what his party has become). Trump ran as a Republican. The House and Senate are controlled by Republicans. Admonitions from Democrats–even previous Presidents–will be dismissed by the party’s base as partisan carping.

As welcome as this speech was, the fact that Bush delivered it is an ominous sign of how worried responsible people are. Those who understand government, who recognize the challenges facing the country and the incredible damage being done to America’s democracy at home and our stature abroad, are speaking up, and we need to recognize how  unprecedented that is.

Differences of opinion on policies would never prompt this behavior. Only a deep foreboding–a sense of existential crisis–can explain this departure from Presidential behavioral norms.

When George W. Bush feels it necessary to warn the country against Trump and Trumpism, we’re in trouble. Bigly.

Accurate, Not Funny

A friend recently sent me the following “joke:”

The Republican Congress is preparing to pass a resolution adding an “S” to WASP.  The S will stand for STRAIGHT, and “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant will henceforth be “Straight White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.”

The Democrats in Congress will respond by creating  a new acronym of their own. MAGPIE will stand for “Minority Americans, Gays, Poor, Immigrants, Educated, Seculars.”

Clever word-play, but much too accurate to be amusing.

Count me among the many Americans who heard Donald Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again” as a very thinly-veiled promise to “make America White Again.” Trump’s appeal was grounded in a notion of “true” Americanism that equated being a real American with being a straight white Protestant male. He appealed to nostalgia for a time when those white Protestant males dominated– and women and minorities “knew their place.”

That nostalgia, needless to say, is not shared by those encompassed by the MAGPIE acronym.

There are, as readers of this blog know all too well, many kinds of inequality. We tend to concentrate on economic disparities, and there is good reason for that—if you are a member of the working poor, unable to make ends meet even though you may be working two jobs, unable to afford adequate food and transportation, let alone health insurance—that lack of self-sufficiency hobbles you in virtually every other way.

People struggling just to survive don’t go to public meetings, rarely vote, and usually are in no position to assert their legal or constitutional rights. They lack the time (and too often the self-confidence) to complain about inadequate city services or substandard schools.

Economic equity is thus incredibly important. But as we all understand, in a society that privileges certain identities over others, the people most likely to be poor, the people most likely to be economically marginalized, are the people consigned to the “Other” categories. The MAGPIES.

One of the most depressing realities about Trump’s America is the increasing division of the population into tribes contending for advantage in what most see as a zero-sum game.

Rather than a liberal democracy in which elected officials work for their vision of a common good, America is rapidly devolving into a corporatist system where elected officials decide who they will favor with tax cuts, subsidies and other governmental prizes. (Those decisions, needless to say, are not made on the basis of what is good for all Americans—they are made in exchange for campaign donations and/or partisan estimates of what is good for the official’s “tribe.”)

From time to time, someone will repeat the old story about the Chairman of General Motors who reportedly said “What’s good for General Motors is good for the United States.” What he actually said was “What’s good for the United States will be good for General Motors.”

That recognition—that we are all in this together, that prosperity must be shared to be sustainable, and that sound management of any business requires a concern for the national welfare—is all but gone, replaced by Trumpism’s far more constricted and un-self-aware concern with the immediate prospects of ones own tribe.

The SWASPs.