Posts Tagged As: Donald Trump

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Jim Burroway

November 21st, 2016


I know I’ve told you about my great-grandmother Easter. She lived a block away from where I grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio. She was born in 1898 in the hollows of Kentucky, and I used to go to her house and ask her to tell me stories about “the olden days.” She was as good as any library to me and I loved spending time with her.

And I know I’ve also told you this story about the time I asked her what the word “hick” meant. I must have heard it somewhere. Maybe I heard it from her. I don’t remember. But I remembered that she answered by describing people who grew up in the hollows of Kentucky, much like she had, but who had never left those hollows and knew nothing about the world around them. They may have thought they knew about the wider world — nobody think’s they’re particularly ignorant, especially now that we had radio, television, movies and newspapers — but, as she said, unless you actually go out into the world, there are things you will never know. Hicks, she said, are people who never left their homes and knew nothing about the world outside of their tiny communities.

And then she stopped and thought about it a bit, and added, “You can find them back in the hollows, but you can also find them in some mighty fancy places. You can even find them in New York City.”

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about that lately. Two weeks after Donald Trump’s surprise election, I’ve been seeing various posts pop up in my Facebook and Twitter feeds and in following some of the discussions taking place in private email listservs of progressive activists. And their simplistic explanations for what went wrong in the election tell me that they are hicks, at least as Easter defined them. But since the word “hick” conjures a very particular pejorative image, I’ll discard it and coin another one that I think is more accurate: Blue Bubble Democrats.

Portsmouth, Ohio

Portsmouth, Ohio, my home town. This is the remnants of the coke plant. (Coke is an industrial fuel made from coal.) It was replaced with a Wal-Mart.

To be clear, you don’t actually have to be in a geographic blue bubble to be a Blue Bubble Democrat. You can easily do this by building your bubble through social media, carefully culled friends, and the particular neighborhoods you chose to call home. And also to be clear, there’s nothing sinister about it. It’s not a moral failing. In fact, it’s perfectly natural. We all do it. I’m in a rather nice blue bubble myself right here in blood red Arizona. But I’ve long recognized that this bubble exists and I’ve worked hard to stepped out of it, and I think I’ve recognized some disturbing trends that I think an awful lot of Blue Bubble Democrats have been ignoring for far too long.

So who are these Blue Bubble Democrats? Well, you can know them by their reaction to this month’s general election. They are the ones who, outraged over the abandonment of the Democratic party by blue collar Americans, are condemning and dismissing them as horribly racist, hopelessly xenophobic and congenitally homophobic. Their solution seems to be, as far as I can tell, to yell at those workers, demand that they stop voting against their interests, check their white privilege, and just generally get over themselves.

Coal Grove, Ohio

An abandoned school in Coal Grove, Ohio, near my home town.

And don’t get me wrong: many blue collar/white middle class Americans are racists. Maybe very many them are. I’d be perfectly stupid to argue otherwise. But let’s be honest here: not all of them are. Not even close. And think about it: those who are would never have voted for a Democrat even if Jesus Christ himself were the nominee. They certainly wouldn’t have voted for a Black man in 2008, and they wouldn’t have voted for a man they branded a Black Muslim Kenyan in 2012. These aren’t the voters who swung this election. They were already in the bag for Trump, just like they were there for Romney, McCain, Bush, and so forth all the way back to Nixon’s “southern strategy” which, truth be told, held an awful lot of appeal outside the South.

Racism was the most visible part of Trump’s campaign. It was visible because it was so shocking, and we reacted strongly (and rightly) to that shock. Neo-nazis, White nationalists and Klanners have openly rejoiced over having “one of our own” running for President. And Trump’s playing to the more sinister impulses of hatred has emboldened them, and more than a few others, to unleash a wave of attacks both before and especially immediately after the election, as we’ve documented here at BTB. We’re all rightly alarmed by it, and we will continue to call it out, as we should.

But while focusing all our outrage in that, we should have been also paying attention to the twin ravages of long term economic crisis and ballooning heroin epidemic in Middle America. In fact, that epidemic should have been our canary in the proverbial coal mines. Instead we just said we’d shut them all down.

And so millions of other blue collar, white working class Americans — who voted for a Black man, and who returned to vote for that Black Muslim Kenyan, turned to Trump. If you’re going to say their vote was all about racism, then you’re going to have to explain why they waited so long to act on it.

Waverly, Ohio

Downtown Waverly, Ohio, also near my home town.

Before I leave the subject of racism (and Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, and so forth), I do think it’s fair to ask how they could have excused Trump’s racism. Shouldn’t that have been a disqualifying factor in and of itself? My answer is yes, obviously. I voted for Clinton even though I strongly felt that she was, without a doubt, the single most flawed candidate the Democratic Party’s establishment could have put forward. (I also didn’t support Sanders either. I was beyond dismayed.) I’ll rant more about Clinton later, maybe, but getting back to that question: yes, I think Trump’s racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia — the list goes on far too long — should have been disqualifying on its face.

Youngstown, Ohio

Youngstown, Ohio. Detroit gets the attention. This is Ohio’s Detroit.

But I have the luxury of setting those priorities. Many of those who supported Obama but went with Trump didn’t feel they could do that. For decades, they had been telling Democrats that they have been facing an unrelenting economic crisis, in many places for decades without letup. To compound that misery, many of those once-prosperous communities along America’s rust belt are now being consumed by a disastrous opioid and heroin epidemic that is, each year, setting new records for killing their kids. Kirk Noden describes their reaction:

Deindustrialization was a traumatic experience for white working-class people. Yet we act surprised when this constituency exhibits post-traumatic-stress disorder. And it is we who perpetrate the myth that they are voting “against their interests,” despite all the facts on the ground indicating that for them it makes no difference which party is in power. They have lived through 40 years of decline.

Mingo Junction, Ohio

Mingo Junction, Ohio, where Appalachia meets the rust belt.

Progressives like to talk about the “erasure” of long-suffering groups from public discourse. There’s trans-erasure, bi-erasure, Latinx-erasure, and so forth. But I haven’t seen anyone talk about another erasure that’s been taking place. Blue collar middle-class Americans had been the bedrock of the Democratic party since the days of FDR. The Democratic party, which had once been the workers’ party, has studiously set about erasing this core constituency from among its ranks as soon as Bill Clinton entered office and his fellow New Democrats and their “third way” took over the party. Former MSNBC host Krystal Ball illustrates the problem: “There was an incredibly revealing moment at the DNC. In an effort to rev up the crowd one of the speakers called out: ‘Who in this room works with their hands?’ Silence.”

Democrats who have been active participants in the erasure of one of their core constituencies cannot be allowed to escape their responsibility for helping to bring about Trump’s victory. Ball, who now lives in Kentucky, has diagnosed the problem quite succinctly:

They said they were facing an economic apocalypse, we offered “retraining” and complained about their white privilege. Is it any wonder we lost? One after another, the dispatches came back from the provinces. The coal mines are gone, the steel mills are closed, the drugs are rampant, the towns are decimated and everywhere you look depression, despair, fear. In the face of Trump’s willingness to boldly proclaim without facts or evidence that he would bring the good times back, we offered a tepid gallows logic. Well, those jobs are actually gone for good, we knowingly told them. And we offered a fantastical non-solution. We will retrain you for good jobs! Never mind that these “good jobs” didn’t exist in East Kentucky or Cleveland. And as a final insult, we lectured a struggling people watching their kids die of drug overdoses about their white privilege. Can you blame them for calling bullshit?

… The arrogance of thinking that somehow we could ignore most of the country and still hold a claim on the nation’s highest office is breathtaking. Demographics are not destiny. Candidates do matter. And it is still the economy, stupid.

Lorain, Ohio

Lorain, Ohio

So to those who cling to the idea that racism and the other -isms and -phobias were the reason voters turned to Trump, I challenge them to undergo this simple experiment. Grab one of those county-by-county maps showing the red expanse and the blue bubbles. Drive out from those bubbles (if that’s where you happen to live, or get away from whatever bubble you’ve made for yourself). Get in the car and go out into the red. Go to a bright red county seat and get out of the car. Get off of Facebook and take your earbuds out. Look around. And tell me: what do you see?

Closed storefronts. Abandoned houses and empty lots where whole neighborhoods once stood. Crumbling factory buildings, boarded up schools that were once the pride of the community. Look around. You have to ask yourself, what are these people clinging to?

Lorain, Ohio, when it was great.

Lorain, Ohio, when it was great.

Well it turns out that many of those who live in these communities have been looking around and asking the same question. They saw their broken communities, abandoned by the very party that had once been their champion, and heard Trump say he was going to make America great again. Clinton countered that America was already great. They looked around again and said, no, it doesn’t look so great to me.

And then they voted.

Over the course of the next several posts on this subject, we’ll be taking a tour of some of those places that had turned out for Obama but voted for Trump.

Trump Selects Alt-Right Nationalist As “Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor”

Jim Burroway

November 14th, 2016

Steve BannonDonald Trump has named Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign chief and former editor of the extremist website Breitbart News, to be his “chief strategist and senior counselor.” It’s just one more example of the normalization of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism taking place in this country that leading news outlets are covering this announcement by highlighting Trump’s naming of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as chief of staff (oh, and Bannon will play some kind of a “major role“), even though, as the Guardian correctly notes, “The statement announcing Trump’s decision named Bannon first, despite the vague title of his role.”

Brietbart News is famous for its deplorably racist, anti-Semitic, trans- and homophobic and xenophobic headlines. The liberal Media Matters has a pretty good collection of headlines published during Bannon’s tenure: “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew”, “Trannies 49XS Higher HIV Rate”, “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy”, “Huma Abedin ‘Most Likely A Saudi Spy’ With ‘Deep, Inarguable Connections’ to ‘Global Terrorist Entity'”, “Lesbian Bridezillas Bully Bridal Shop Owner Over Religious Beliefs”, “Young Muslins In the West Are A Ticking Time bomb”, “6 Reasons Pamela Geller’s Muhammad Cartoon Contest Is Not different From Selma.” Also: “Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage.” That was two weeks after the Mother Emanuel massacre in Charleston, SC. The New York Daily News obtained court documents from Bannon’s 2007 divorce that gives some insight into how Bannon thinks:

Mary Louise Piccard said in a 2007 court declaration that Bannon didn’t want their twin daughters attending the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles because many Jewish students were enrolled at the elite institution.

“The biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend,” Piccard said in her statement signed on June 27, 2007.

“He said that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews,” Piccard wrote.

“I told him that there are children who are Jewish at (a competing school), and he asked me what the percentage was. I told him that I didn’t know because it wasn’t an issue for me as I am not raising the girls to be either anti-Semitic or prejudiced against anyone,” she wrote.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt responded to Bannon’s appointment: It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists — is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house.'” John Weaver, Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s top strategist, tweeted, “The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant America.” Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said, “The appointment of Stephen Bannon as a top Trump administration strategist sends the disturbing message that anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and White nationalist ideology will be welcome in the White House.”

Priebus, for his part, has been dutifully making the rounds of cable news shows this morning defending Trump’s choice for consigliere.

He was a force for good on the campaign. He’s very wise and smart. He’s gone to the London School of Economics, Harvard Business School. People don’t know that he was a ten-year naval officer at very high levels, advising admirals in the navy,” said Priebus on Fox News. “I have not seen any of these things that people are crying out about.”

Because, you know being a Harvard grad magically inoculates you against all that, doesn’t it?

Pence Takes Over Trump’s Transition Team

Jim Burroway

November 13th, 2016

Chris Christie is out as head of the transition team as Mike Pence asserts his control:

Mike PencePresident-elect Donald Trump’s decision to empower his running mate Mike Pence to steer the presidential transition gives the soon-to-be vice president a powerful hand in shaping the incoming government and could foreshadow that he will play an outsized role in the White House.

Pence’s ascension is in line with a recent trend toward influential vice presidents and appears similar to the last vice president who was handed the keys to a presidential transition: Dick Cheney.

…It also gives the vice president a chance to put his own stamp on the administration. While Trump ran as a political outsider and was not shy in burning bridges to establishment Washington, Pence is a popular GOP figure who may opt to select longtime allies for key roles.

“Those who get new jobs may feel beholden to the vice president and feel responsive to him,” said Goldstein. “It’s a way of guaranteeing a degree of loyalty.”

Key social conservatives are already filling key roles in Trump’s transition team. Family Research Council’s Kenneth Blackwell is in charge of the team’s Domestic Policy. Pence, as governor of Indiana, oversaw that state’s passage of its right-to-discriminate law, the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in 2015. The law’s intent of allowing discrimination against gay people was so obvious that even Pence was unable to explain how discrimination wasn’t really discrimination.

WITNESS: Texas State University Campus Sees Flyers Calling For “Arrest and Torture” of “Deviant University Leaders”

Jim Burroway

November 11th, 2016

TSU Flyer

Second page of the flyer. Click to enlarge

Second page of the flyer. Click the image to enlarge. You can also see an image of the flyer’s third page here.

A flyer is circulating around Texas State University at San Marcos calling for tar-and-feather vigilante squads to “arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off all this Diversity Garbage.” According to Austin’s KXAN:

The next page of the flyer begins with “Diversity?” The writer calls for predators, like snakes and piranhas, to be placed in the Rio Grande River to stop illegal immigrants. The message goes on to say “why not re-purpose our nuclear site radiation trash into the Mexican facing side of the wall to at least sterilize all those who try to dig under or climb over.”

Students are asked in the flyer to clog school toilets to send a message to university leaders. “Here’s what I think of your ‘diversity’ ideology —- overflowing all over your floor,” states the flyer.

The last page delves further into the writer’s problem with diversity claiming it is a code word for “white genocide.” The message concludes saying “diversity is just another way of wanting someone else to give you something you don’t deserve — in this case by the color of your skin you are ‘entitled.’”

University police are investigating. A University spokesperson confirmed to the San Antonio Express that the flyers were ere hung up in “several” campus facilities and have been removed.

TSU president Denise M. Trauth issued a statement calling for “constructive dialogue” to “better understand that which causes divisions among us.”

TSU is located about halfway between Austin and San Antonio. Students had been protesting Trump’s election in a free speech zone on campus.

White Nationalists Celebrate, KKK To Hold Trump Victory Parade in North Carolina

Jim Burroway

November 11th, 2016

Screen shot of the KKK's "Victory Klavalkade Klan Parade" announcement. (No link)

Screen shot of the KKK’s “Victory Klavalkade Klan Parade” announcement. (No link/Click to enlarge)

On November 2, the KKK officially endorsed Donald Trump, making its official newspaper one of just a tiny handful of papers to endorse him. The Trump campaign swiftly disavowed the endorsement, after having learned a lessen last February when The Donald demurrred when he was asked about former KKK leader David Duke’s endorsement.

Nevertheless, Trump’s race-bating messages and anti-immigrant/anti-Muslim sentiments have made him the darling of white nationalist groups across the country. And since Trump’s surprise win on Tuesday night, white nationalists have been dizzy with excitement. Duke tweeted, “Donald J. Trump now has the chance to become one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived – we have the moral high ground.” And Andrew Anglin wrote in his neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, “This has been the best year and a half of my life. We have won so much. And it has led to the ultimate win. The battle is far from over. Much, much, much work to be done. But the White race is back in the game. And if we’re playing, no one can beat us..”

And now one Klan website has announced that it will be taking its victory lap to the streets:

Details on the rally celebrating Trump’s victory are scarce. It’s being held by The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which is based in Pelham – a small, unincorporated community about 45 minutes north of Burlington, near the Virginia border.

…According to the group’s website, a North Carolina rally will be held Dec. 3. However, the KKK has not yet publicly announced a location or time for the rally.

The website refers to it as a “Victory Klavalkade Klan Parade” and announces in all-caps that “Trump’s race united my people.”

Family Research Council’s Kenneth Blackwell To Lead Trump’s Domestic Policy Transition Team

Jim Burroway

November 11th, 2016

Kenneth BlackwellPolitico reports that it has obtained an organization chart outlining who’s doing what on Donald Trump’s transition team. According to Politico, Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state and now the so-called Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at the Family Research Council, is the man in charge of charge of Donald Trump’s domestic policy transition team. Blackwell lobbied against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and has described homosexuality as “a compulsion.” He also called it “a lifestyle choice” comparable to kleptomaniacs:

The reality is, again…that I think we make choices all the time. And I think you make good choices and bad choices in terms of lifestyle. Our expectation is that one’s genetic makeup might make one more inclined to be an arsonist or might make one more inclined to be a kleptomaniac. Do I think that they can be changed? Yes

During the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit last September, Mandi Ancalle, the FRC’s general counsel for government affairs bragged about the FRC’s success in shaping the Republican Party’s platform, which has been described as “the Most Anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-Year History.” She also provided the FRC’s agenda for Trump’s first 100 days in office. That agenda includes rolling back President Barack Obama’s LGBT anti-discrimination protection measures, and to reverse U.S. foreign policies calling for the recognition of LGBT rights abroad.

True to Trump’s obsession with non-disclosure agreements, whatever Blackwell’s input on Trump’s domestic policy will be, it will remain strictly hush-hush:

Reached by the Enquirer on Thursday, Blackwell said he could not talk about his role and referred questions the Trump transition team.

“I’ve signed a non-disclosure statement that I do honor,” he said.

Newtown, Pa., School Plagued by Election-Related Bullying

Michael Airhart

November 10th, 2016

WPVI reports an outbreak of election-related bullying at Council Rock North High School in Newtown, Pa.

In an extraordinary letter to parents, superintendent Dr. Robert J. Fraser cites several incidents resulting from the election of Donald Trump. According to WPVI:

Fraser says someone drew three swastikas, wrote a derogatory comment about people who are gay, along with the words “I Love Trump,” on a paper found hanging in the girls’ restroom.

In another girls’ restroom, Fraser says someone wrote, “If Trump wins, watch out!” directly onto a toilet paper dispenser.

In a boys’ restroom, two swastikas were reportedly drawn directly onto a restroom stall.

Fraser says a Latina student found that a note had been placed in her backpack telling her to return to Mexico.

There is a related report of inappropriate comments being made to Latino students as well, Fraser says.

Fraser warns parents that such actions will not be tolerated, and that they were reported to local police for investigation.

“We are better than this, and ours is a community that must be based upon a mutual respect for ALL people, and ALL of Council Rock,” Fraser said.

Election Fallout: Racist Graffiti, School Bullying, and Car Theft

Michael Airhart

November 10th, 2016

CNN reports numerous incidents of prejudice-based violence as an outcome of Election Day 2016. Among the allegations:


New York University: “Trump!” written on a Muslim prayer-room door. The New York Police Department is investigating. Read more at NYU Local.

Maple Grove, Minn.: “Trump,” “Whites only,” and “White America” graffiti at a local high school. Read more at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Durham, N.C.: “Black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes,” was spray-painted by pro-Trump vandals on a wall, according to WNCN.

University of Louisiana: Pro-Trump vandals chalked the messages “Trump,” “Build wall” and “[Expletive deleted] your safe space” outside the Lafayette campus library. Campus police are investigating. The Vermilion student newspaper tweeted photos of the messages.

Philadelphia: Pro-Nazi graffiti appeared at several locations around Philadelphia. According to Anti-Defamation League regional director Nancy K. Baron-Baer said an incident at an abandoned storefront was isolated — for now — but CNN says that the words “Trump Rules,” “Trump Rules Black [expletive]” and the letter “T” were also spray-painted on three vehicles and a house.

Assault and car theft:

San Diego: Two men allegedly targeted a Muslim woman, made comments about Trump and Muslims, then grabbed her backpack and stole her car. Read more at NBC San Diego.

San Jose State University: A man yanked the head scarf off of a student — comparable to yanking the dress off of a Catholic nun — and then caused her to choke. Campus officials say they are investigating. Read more at The Mercury News.

Bullying and intimidation:

Students at Royal Oak Middle School in Michigan chanted, “Build the wall! Build the wall!” in the school cafeteria, scaring Mexican-American classmates. The incident was caught on video and shared on Facebook. The school district superintendent said personnel are addressing the incident, but parents say the response is inadequate, according to The Detroit News.

Canisius College: Students posted images of an African-American doll hanged from a dorm curtain rod on social media. College President John J. Hurley said students have been suspended and may be expelled. Read more at the college website.

Redding, Calif.: A student at Shasta High School tweeted a video of himself handing “deportation” letters to classmates of different ethnicities. According to the Redding Record Searchlight, students at another Redding school expressed ethnic slurs and held up offensive signs directed at a predominantly Hispanic boys basketball team earlier this year.

Buzzfeed is keeping a running list of incidents, including unconfirmed reports from social media.

Medium and Quartz have additional roundups of social-media incident claims.

Trump Flew To Baton Rouge To Stick It To Obama. And To Meet With Tony Perkins.

Jim Burroway

August 19th, 2016

Family “Research” Council’s Tony Perkins makes his home outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and commutes to his job in Washington, D.C. While in Louisiana, he is also serving as interim pastor at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, which was one of Donald Trump’s official campaign stops today. Perkins recently said that although “those on the left like to mock these things,” he speculated that God was sending hurricanes to punish America for same-sex marriage. This past week, Perksins’s home was destroyed in the worst flooding in Louisiana since Superstorm Sandy.

Trump made the stop today despite Gov. John Bel Edwards saying that such visits “would be a drain on resources as the state still works to respond to the flood.” Gov.  Edwards isn’t happy about Trump’s “photo op.”


Trump To Join Rubio At Anti-Gay Meeting In Orlando

Jim Burroway

August 10th, 2016

The Christian Broadcasting Network reported that Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump will appear at the anti-LGBT “Rediscovering God in America” conference in Orlando. The event will be held this week on August 11 and 12, coinciding with the two-month anniversary of the Pulse night club massacre:

Trump will speak to them about his push to repeal the Johnson Amendment. The law, which has been in place for decades, has made it more difficult for pastors to speak out on political issues and candidates from the pulpit. We should also note that former presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio will also speak to pastors at the two-day event.

Liberty Counsel Action, the political action arm of the Liberty Counsel, and the Florida Renewal Project, an affiliate of the American Renewal Project, are sponsering the the private event which will be closed to the public and press. About 700 pastors and spouses are expected to attend. David Lane, founder of the American Renewal Project told Bloomberg that Trump’s talking about the Johnson Amendment would be just “a good first step”:

“That’s a good first step,” said David Lane, the American Renewal Project’s founder. “But what about the religious liberty of Christian photographers, Christian bakers, Christian retreat centers, and pastors who believe same-sex intercourse and marriage is sin? These Christians were simply living out their deeply held convictions of their Christian faith when they politely refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding. Doesn’t the First Amendment give us all a right to our beliefs?”

Lane added, “Homosexual totalitarianism is out of the closet, the militants are trying herd Christians there.”

Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was named the event’s headliner, a move which brought fierce criticism from members of Orlando’s gay community. Rubio tried telling the Tampa Bay Times, presumably with a straight face:

“The event I will be speaking at in Orlando is a gathering of local pastors and faith leaders. Leave it to the media and liberal activists to label a gathering of faith leaders as an anti-LGBT event. It is nothing of the sort. It is a celebration of faith,” he said.

So is it an anti-LGBT event? You tell me. Here’s a rundown on some of the other speakers that Trump and Rubio will be sharing a platform with:

  • Mat Staver: He is head of the Liberty Counsel and Liberty Counsel Action. Liberty Counsel defended Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. When Staver was dean of Liberty University’s law school, he taught his law students that they should counsel their clients to break the law in favor of “God’s Law.” And according to a RICO lawsuit connecting his law school to the Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, his law school apparently practices what he taught. Last month, he denounced Orlando area churches for participating in “homosexual love feasts” by offering prayer services and open channels of prayer, and dialogue with the grieving community.
  • David Barton: He is a Texas-based fake historian who has said that God was preventing the medical profession from finding a cure for AIDS because it was “the penalty due them.” He has also repeated the false claim that gay people die decades earlier than straight people. In 2011 when Democrats still held the majority in the Senate, Baron claimed that prayers from the Senate side of the U.S. Capital can’t get through to God because “they get delayed twenty-one days because the principalities are up there fighting in the Heavenlies.”
  • David Lane: Right Wing Watch has this rundown, which included his 2013 statement that we would see “car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa,” because of “homosexuals praying at the Inauguration.” In 2015, Lane organized a trip to Israel for sixty Republican Party leaders which was paid for by the American Family Association.

Trump: “I Will Protect Our LG, BTQ Citizens From Hateful Foreign Ideology”

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2016

This video is the full speech, for those who care to watch the whole thing. I’ve cued it up to this point:

Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, forty-nine wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorists targeted LGBTQ community. No good. And we’re going to stop it. As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of the hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.

And I have to say as a Republican, it’s so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.

Trump’s congratulating the audience for congratulating his speech perfectly illustrates the problem here. We’re only useful when we can be used in the service of a different kind of phobia, especially since Trump is silent on whether he would protect “LGBTQ citizens” from violence and oppression of hateful domestic ideology of the kind enshrined in his own party’s platform. Scott Shackford, a libertarian who is, for example, no fan of non-discrimination policies, nevertheless looks at Trump’s speech alongside the party’s platform and is underwhelmed:

This has been characterized as a sign of advancement for the Republican Party in some fashion, but is it really something new for the Republican Party to say they don’t want gay Americans to be murdered? Certainly the left would love to characterize the party that way, but for those of us who see ourselves independent of party ties, is this an actual shift in the party or something that was simply expected?

…Taken holistically, the message from the GOP seems to be “Hey, at least we don’t want to kill you! Radical Islam and Muslim-dominated countries want to kill you, but we don’t.” Well … thanks?

So It’s Come To This: Ted Cruz Is the GOP’s Conscience

Jim Burroway

July 21st, 2016

I guess it takes a narcissist to take on a narcissist. As William Saletan wrote back in January, the Republican Party is a failed state, and Trump is its warlord.

Report: Trump To Seek New Powers To Purge the Civil Service

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2016

There are a whole range of policy-making positions in the federal government occupied by people who serve at the President’s pleasure. Cabinet secretaries are the obvious ones, but the range of positions extend several layers down from there. But there is a point in the hierarchy where jobs are shielded from political patronage by Civil Service laws. The President doesn’t get to fire those people based on the color of their shoes or the party ID on their registration cards. Trump surrogate Chris Christie is telling donors that they aim to change that if Trump is elected:

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

…Trump’s transition advisers fear that Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants, who have more job security than officials who have been politically appointed. This would allow officials to keep their jobs in a new, possibly Republican, administration, Christie said

…”One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws. Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people,” Christie said. He said firing civil servants was “cumbersome” and “time-consuming.”

They fear that “Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants” because every president before them did the same thing. And to be clear, this practice, called “burrowing,” is not simply declaring, say, an assistant to a deputy cabinet secretary as a a protected civil service job. Rather, it’s the practice of moving a political appointee from a policy-making position outside the purview of civil service laws and finding them non-political positions jobs in the government, with the hope that they might somehow still be able to wield some kind of influence. Every president has done this: Bush did it before he left office, as did Clinton, elder Bush, Reagan, and so on.

But this kind of proposed change to the Civil Service laws would go beyond endangering just former political appointees who are now in non-political positions. It would, in by Christie’s own admission, make it easy for Trump to fire whomever he pleases, just like he does on his TV show. It would open the gates to the kind of nineteenth century-style political patronage that the civil service laws were intended to abolish, when political litmus tests were standard for every government job from mail clerk to Postmaster General.

In fact, it was this kind of patronage that contributed to the assassination of President Garfield in 1881 by Charles Guiteau, a mentally unstable man who was furious that Garfield didn’t give him a government job in return for guaranteeing Garfield’s election thanks to a speech that Guiteau gave that nobody remembered. Garfield’s assassination was the last straw for a populace already outraged over the “spoils system” which saw the wholesale replacement of federal employees every time the government changed hands.

So imagine now a scenario where a new law goes through allowing those protections to be eliminated if the president or one of his minions doesn’t like the politics of some federal workers. There is precedent for that, from 1950 to 1953, when thousands were fired from government jobs because the were supposedly “subversives.” A particular kind of “subversive” sought during those times were gay people, a witch hunt that was codified in a 1953 Executive Order signed by Eisenhower. For the next twenty-two years, it was the official written policy to prohibit hiring and employing gay people by federal employment, and for the next twenty-two years, thousands of gay people, or simply people accused of being gay, were fired. One such firing turned Frank Kameny into an aggressive gay rights pioneer and a perennial thorn in the Civil Service Commission’s side until 1975, when the Commission finally modified its policy following a string of defeats in the courts.

So Trump now wants to replace a system designed to protect government employees from being fired for political purposes and replace it with a system specially designed to specifically allow employees from being fired for political purposes. Purges like what he has in mind are dangerous territory, especially in the hands of someone who already sees no constitutional problem with instituting a religious test banning Muslims from entering the U.S. So why stop with Democrats? Why wouldn’t he purge civil service employees based on religion? Or, given Trump’s famously thin skin and fondness for vendettas, just someone — anyone — he doesn’t like?

It’s hard to know whether this proposal would actually go anywhere, but with this Republican Congress, it’s hard to dismiss it outright. More importantly, though, this gives us a very clear view of the mindset inside the Trump campaign, which already has shown it has no concern about the nuts and bolts of the constitution or for laws, rules, norms, history, facts, etc. If you want to know what Trump’s American might look like, you might want to check out Turkey or Russia right about now. Especially Russia. He admires Putin.

Yeah, I Needed This…

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2016

Plagarism Should Be the Very Least Of Our Worries Right Now

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2016

And her speechwriters’s plagiarizing didn’t stop there:

He will never, ever give up. And, most importantly, he will never, ever, let you down.

— Melania Trump (2016)

Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down.

— Rick Astley (1987)

Sad! Pathetic! Weak!

Okay, the fun part of this post is over, because the bigger issue is that this silly controversy — and it is a silly one in the greater scheme of things — is overshadowing a much larger problem on display in last night’s convention speeches. If you had to pick one speech that wasn’t filled with gut-level bloodlust and hatred, Melania’s relatively optimistic and positive speech was the only one that stands out. Josh Marshall zooms back out:

In substantive terms, the much bigger story from last night was a hastily thrown together program focused on violence, bloodshed and betrayal by political enemies. We’ve become so inured to Trump’s brand of incitement that it’s barely gotten any notice that Trump had three parents whose children had been killed by illegal/undocumented immigrants to tell their stories and whip up outrage and fear about the brown menace to the South. These were either brutal murders or killings with extreme negligence. The pain of these parents is unfathomable.

But whatever you think about undocumented immigrants there’s no evidence they are more violent or more prone to murder than others in American society. One could just as easily get three people who’s children had been killed by African-Americans or Jews, people whose pain and anguish would be no less harrowing. This isn’t illustration; it’s incitement. When Trump first did this in California a couple months ago people were aghast. Now it’s normal.

Even more disturbing, numerous speakers from the dais, including some of the top speakers of the evening, called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned. At least two – and I think more – actually led the crowd in chants of “lock her up!” There has never been any evidence of criminal activity on Clinton’s part. An investigation with a lot of pressure to find something amiss concluded that no charges should be recommended against her and that no prosecutor would bring charges against Clinton for anything connected to her private email server

It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that their opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we’ve ever gone down.

To be clear: I’m no Clinton fan. I loathe everything she (and he before her) stands for, especially the safe triangularizations that she and her husband have been famous for over the past three decades. But it’s one thing to cynically creep up to and blur the lines between what’s right and what’s wrong — something she’s guilty of in spades — and quite another to obliterate anything that remotely resembles the law, democratic values, citizenship, common decency or facts — things which are today derided as “political correctness.”

I’ve been on the front lines of publicly confronting bigotry ever since I started this blog ten years ago. Some of that work has included going straight into the heart of some rather ugly conferences to hear, first hand, bigotry — there’s no other word for much of it — being spewed by some very angry people. My partner asked me again last night how could I just sit there and not run screaming out of those conferences. I don’t know. I guess I saw these people for what they seemed to be at the time: buffoons who were going against the tide and whose threat was diminishing, at least here in the U.S. (which is why many have been turning their attentions elsewhere in the world). They were on a sinking ship, and the really sad thing is that they knew it. Each year, their conferences were getting smaller and smaller, and they commiserated about the poor attendance in the hallways. Knowing that — keeping that long view — kept me sane and kept me sitting in that seat listening to their bigotry and lies. I wasn’t scared or angry, just attentive, shaking my head from time to time as I took notes on what they said.

And so I can’t say I’ve never seen anything like what we’re now seeing at the GOP convention before — of course I have, but it was always in miniature and never to this kind of a scale. It had its place, but it appeared to be contained to those specific places. Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush again, McCain, Romney — they were all anti-gay, but they were, to varying degrees, relatively nice about it. They were sometimes anti-other people too, though not always, not consistently so, and certainly not so publicly so. To the extent that they were, they were also, to varying degrees, relatively nice about them too. “Relatively” is the operative word here, of course. Also, because there was a whole range of motivations at play, from bigotry to cynicism to cold political calculations, they were always able to maintain a kind of a plausible deniability about whatever motivations they had that led to their policies. And by the way, Democratic candidates and Presidents during that period, I think, were just as guilty. And so whatever the motivation, the end result was nearly always the same, from marriage bans and AIDS neglect to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA.

But now it’s clear that the kind of bigotry I saw on display at those anti-gay conferences wasn’t as contained as I thought. My exclusive focus on anti-gay politics — what I now call my “gay blinders” — kept me from understanding that it was a symptom of something much larger. And that larger thing has now gone mainstream and expanded to include all kinds of those people. In the way they used to just blame gay people, they now blame all those people for all of our problems. Those people: gays, transgenders, blacks, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, Mexicans, Democrats, the media, public schools, unions, Supreme Court justices, academics, the Obamas, RINOs, #NeverTrumpers — does it even matter exactly who those people are anymore? They’re all — we’re all — enemies, according to a serious candidate for President of the United States and his supporters. That makes this a real and pressing threat to everything we know in our hearts to be true and right, even among those whose politics won’t let them say so out loud. And it’s because of that that I now have to admit that I am truly scared, in a way I was never scared before at those rather sad and poorly-attended anti-gay conferences. I know I’m not being temperate here, and I don’t take this as a point of pride. I’m afraid that recent events are causing me to lose that capacity. Or maybe, it’s a luxury I can no longer afford.

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